Bus Schedules, Finnish Scrabble and Finnish Christmas Music

Hello Friends and Family

My first batch of postcards has already gone out. When I was visiting the northernmost town in Finland, Nuorgam, two summers ago, I brought along seventeen postcards that I had written yet had not yet mailed. I wanted to mail them from the northernmost post office in Finland. Even though the postcard scenes were of Helsinki, at least those seventeen of you could say you received a card from the far Finnish Arctic. So will be the case when I go to Tana Bru (sometimes known just as Tana), Norway, this week. I will mail my next batch of Helsinki cards from Norway. If I am fortunate to find any Tana postcards, or Vardø or Vadsø cards, I likely will buy them and write them later, unfortunately when I am no longer in those towns.

From home in Mississauga I checked the on-line schedules for two Lappi ( = Lapland) bus companies. I enquired yesterday at the main bus station about routes from Rovaniemi, the capital of Lappi, to Vadsø and Vardø. The on-line schedules did not include every route, and I was happy to find out that I was able to travel to the Norwegian Arctic Ocean coast five days a week instead of three days a week as what I had read. My plan is to take the all-night train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, arriving there in the mid-morning, then I’ll get the bus at 5.05 p.m. to Tana Bru. There is only one bus a day that covers this route and it departs at 5.05 p.m. I will arrive in Tana Bru at 12.25 a.m. Norwegian time ( = 1.25 a.m. Finnish time, so you can figure out how long this bus ride is!) and stay overnight at either Turisthotell or Comfort Hotell. I will phone them after I send this off to make a reservation. The following morning I will take the thrice-each-morning bus from Tana Bru to Vadsø. It’s a 67-km ride to Vadsø. The buses from Vadsø to Vardø (76 km away) run twice each morning, and when I get to Vadsø I will enquire about taking this trip. I will need accommodation in Vadsø and there should not be a problem trying to find a place to stay there while I am in Tana Bru. I however have not had much luck finding winter accommodation in Vardø. I’ll have to wait and see when I get there. One thing is for sure: there’s no way I’m going there, 76 km away, with no place to stay!

Even I get my five-letter Norwegian Arctic towns mixed up: Vadsø and Vardø. They’re 76 km apart on the globe but jumbled up in my head!

My friend Arto, my host who has generously let me stay at his Helsinki apartment, will be very busy translating a new film script at the end of January. He therefore will not have any free time to join me at the end of the month, when I had originally planned to visit Estonia. I have now changed my plans to go to Estonia with him after Arctic Norway, and will delay my trip to the Åland Islands until my final week in Finland. I am taking my bicycle with me to Åland but I likely will leave it in Helsinki when I go up north.

Unlike in the summer of 2000, neither bus nor train passes are available for travellers. I therefore cannot buy a pass that entitles me to X number of days of unlimited train or bus travel. Those offers are only available in the summer. I will have to buy individual train and bus tickets to my destinations. It won’t be expensive; my return bus fare from Rovaniemi to Vadsø (600 km) will cost me 110 euros, and the conversion (geez I know I’m gonna screw this up) is something like $157 CDN. I think 🙂

The foreigner wins in Finnish Scrabble. Arto and I went out to dinner at the home of his friends Jari and Riikka. Arto had told Jari about my love of Scrabble, and Jari already had a Finnish Scrabble game set up when we arrived. He and his girlfriend Riikka play all the time, and they were keen on playing with me. I told them all about the recent World Scrabble Championship and they wrote down the National Scrabble Association web site address for its extensive coverage. We played a four-person game in Finnish. Now, as my Scrabble friends know, a four-person game is not a true indication of one’s Scrabble skill. Even an expert can lose a three- or four-person game, and one can only demonstrate one’s skill by playing one-on-one. Since I was at a social event with friends, I was aware that anything could happen, and the game would be fun first, and serious second. Er, yeah, that’s what I told myself 😉 The final scores were: Craig 156; Riikka 142; Arto 139 and Jari 138. I played the only bingo, tennistä, the partitive form of the noun tennis. Riikka cleverly hooked oikealla (“on the right side”) with S- to make soikealla (“pertaining to the oval”). Finnish is vowel-heavy and I had no problem getting rid of vowels. My first rack had only one consonant and I was able to dump UEA around an open P to make upea (“magnificent”). The funniest thing was I kept on adding up my scores using English point values! It was extremely fun to play Scrabble with Finns. Jari wants a rematch, and I will oblige.

Christmas Music. At home I have three CDs of Finnish Christmas music, both carols and instrumentals of Finnish songs, performed on the kantele (check your OSPD!), the national instrument of Finland. I went music shopping yesterday, and found Finnish Christmas music still on sale (at discounted prices!) and bought seven new CDs. I will play them when I get home, in February, cuz I won’t want to wait till Christmas 2002 to play them for the first time.

Now to phone for accommodations way up north. I haven’t set any dates yet for my departure since it will depend on room availability. But safe to say that I will be staring at the Arctic Ocean (which does not freeze) by the end of the week.

Good luck to all at the Mississauga Scrabble tournament. Please post me the results!

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