Airfare to Faroes / Sweden / Anni Sinnemäki / Bookstores

Yesterday after I sent my travel post I called Scandinavian Airlines and booked a flight from Helsinki to Copenhagen at half the price of the Finnair flight. Finnair was charging 390 euros [remember that one euro is roughly the same value as one American dollar] while Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) is charging only 184€ ! That puts 200 euros back into my pocket.

I tried calling two hostels in Tórshavn, the Faroese capital, and unfortunately they are booked for the day I will be arriving (14 March). That means, if I want to stay in Tórshavn on my first two nights in the Faroes, I might have to stay in one of the pricy hotels (and at $164 Canadian a night!) but thankfully that will only be for two nights at the most. I plan to go from island to island, spending a night in a hostel or guesthouse in each place. I am curious why the capital is so busy during that week. The hostel staff told me that they had available accommodation later on that week. So…

I knew I had to be flexible with my plans when I was booking my Faroese holiday. Therefore, I might not visit Tórshavn immediately when I arrive. The Faroe airport is not on the main island of Streymoy. It is on the island west of Streymoy, Vágar, because Vágar is the only one of the 18 Faroe islands with anything resembling level ground. I am now thinking (and planning my journey as I type this) of starting my trip in Vágar, then going from island to island, only to end my trip in the capital when the hostels have rooms available. I can save about $100 Canadian if I postpone my visit to Tórshavn until the end of my trip. So in all likelihood I will visit the Faroes still according to my plans, but I will see the sights in reverse order. See maps of the Faroes by clicking here.

My friend Arto and I will be travelling to Stockholm, Sweden this Thursday by ferry. The journey is about 15 hours, so we leave Helsinki at 5 p.m., enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner, and arrive in Stockholm in the morning. We will spend the entire day in the Swedish capital, then return late to the harbour to grab the ferry home. We will be sleeping on board both ways.

Finnish parliamentary elections are coming up and Helsinki has, compared to the Canadian and American cities I have visited during election time, surprisingly very few political signs and slogans. The Eduskunta [note to the Scrabblers who read this, eduskunta is acceptable in SOWPODS], or Finnish parliament, elects 200 representatives from all over the country. Each Finnish citizen can pick only one, and the posters around the city have some 225 candidates, each with their political party (if they have one) and their voting number beside them. Arto tells me there are way more than 225 candidates running for the Eduskunta. Everyone from the Finnish Communist Party, to Christian Democrats, to the Green Party to some kinds of joky candidates (like Toronto’s drag queen candidate, Enza Supermodel) are running for election. One member of parliament seeking reelection is Anni Sinnemäki. Before coming into politics, Anni was known throughout Finland as one of the main songwriters in the top Finnish pop band Ultra Bra. The group broke up over a year ago. Anni was never a member of the group who appeared on stage or in interviews. But she was one of the leading songwriters, along with her ex-partner, Kerkko Koskinen, whom I told you about yesterday. While at home in Mississauga I checked Anni’s website, and learned that she would be appearing with her fellow Green Party candidates yesterday afternoon downtown. I was headed downtown anyway to see the Värttinä singers perform a cappella at Stockmann department store, and I hoped that Anni would be at the Green Party stall when I got there. She was, and I was so happy to chat with her and thank her for writing some of the best pop/rock songs I have ever heard. Anni was obviously prepared to talk to the people and try to win some new voters, so I do think her brief chat with me, a Canadian fan of the group she used to write for, a defunct musical group known only in Finland, came at her like a truck accident head-on. I stayed only two minutes, as I wanted to get a good spot inside Stockmann for Värttinä’s in-store concert. The singers, Mari Kaasinen, Susan Aho and Johanna Virtanen, performed songs from their new album iki, plus some older tunes, then stayed to sign autographs afterwards.

I had only half an hour before the huge book store, Akateeminen Kirjakauppa closed. The store had changed completely since January 2002 when I was there last, so even though I knew the place inside and out from the scores of times I had been there before, when I walked in yesterday, the renovations hit me like a ton of stale ruisleipä [Finnish rye bread]. Bookstore renovations are nothing new; in Toronto, Chapters and World’s Biggest have both relocated their subject departments and remodelled, so after four years of visits, one might say that it was about time Akateeminen remodelled. Akateeminen now resembles a former Chapters: there is a lounge in the middle of the store. So instead of using my half hour to look at travel and language books, I spent that half hour looking for travel and language books. Luckily I found a book that I had been looking at last year: a German travel guide to the Danish island of Bornholm. It was updated in 2003, so I am glad I did not buy it last year. One year (maybe next) I will plan a biking holiday in Bornholm.

There is a lot more to say, and believe it or not, I am holding back on writing it all here. I will save it for the postcards. On Sundays not much is open in Helsinki, except the stores in the underground mall at the main train station. A remainders book store, Kirjatori [ = Book market] is open, and they also sell postcards. I would like to spend some time writing to you and walking around this icy snowy city taking photos.

Thank-you for your Bon Voyage mails and thank-you too if you have gotten this far. I do tend to write a lot even when I attempt to “keep it brief”.

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