In my last post I wrote that I had sent an E-mail to Scandinavian Music Group (and Ultra Bra’s former) lead guitarist, Joel Melasniemi. On Thursday morning, who did I run into on the street but Joel himself. I saw him on the street where I am staying, Hämeentie, and then he walked into a cafe. I followed him in and introduced myself. The funny thing was that he had just replied to my E-mail. Hämeentie is certainly my lucky meet-the-band-on-the street, since last week I bumped into Värttinä bass player Hannu Rantanen there. Arto worries that I might be perceived as a stalker, but I swear, I was just walking my merry way and ran into these guys!
Arto and I returned this morning at 11.30 from Stockholm. As I type this to you from Arto’s office, my body is still listing with the movement of the ship. Visit the web site of the cruise line, Viking Line, and see the ship we took there and back, MS Mariella.
On Thursday night on board we ate an all-you-can-eat buffet, and I focussed mainly on the smoked and grilled salmon, caviar, shrimp and octopus. There was Lapin Kulta (Finnish beer) and red and white wine included in the price. The ship crunched through the ice and it was mesmerizing (at least for me) to watch the frozen Gulf of Finland break away as we cruised to Stockholm. I took pictures of the islands in the gulf, each one wearing its own skirt of ice. Each skirt pattern was different as the ice cracked into its own unique design.
The Mariella had a disco on board and I danced till the wee hours of the morning. When we arrived in Stockholm, Arto and I walked from the harbour to Gamla Stan, the old town. I found a post office and, naturally, took photos of the new city mailboxes. The city had changed its internal and international mailbox design since the last time I was in the Swedish capital, in August 1999.
Arto and I had breakfast at a cafe and then went shopping and browsing. I picked up a hardcover Swedish translation of Le Petit Prince, at a cheaper price than in the stores in Helsinki. I collect this book in different languages, either in languages I speak or take an interest in learning, or in languages of places I have visited.
Downtown Stockholm is composed of narrow streets, many of them pedestrian-only. Everywhere you turn there is a McDonald’s. Some yellow-coated people were giving away free butter as a promotion and Arto and I each took a small tub back with us. (I am not taking it back home to Mississauga!)
I love to walk up and down the streets of a city. I am always looking all around me, trying to absorb the sights in 360-degree glances. Stockholm seems more international than Helsinki; I definitely heard more English and saw more racial diversity on its streets. I wore my new red maple leaf Canada wool hat and one young group of guys burst out in “O Canada” as I walked past! I’d bet they weren’t Canadian 🙂
Swedish, to my regret, is not a language I know, and I got around in Stockholm entirely in English. In the bookstores I did find Swedish language texts and grammars that were different from the ones I had seen in Helsinki’s two large book shops, but they were not worth buying. Finland, where Swedish is the second official language, had the better selection and I shall buy a Swedish grammar for English speakers before I leave.
We took a cab back to the harbour since we had walked quite a way from the Viking Line terminal. We were also exhausted! When we boarded the Mariella, Arto took a nap while I wrote seven postcards. Our dinner on the return voyage was in one of the ship’s restaurants, and I had a delicious plate of tapas and cod and mussels. Arto has got me hooked on an amazing Belgian beer called Lindemans Kriek. It is a cherry beer that tastes more like pop than beer. I hope they sell this at the duty-free at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. Unfortunately it was not sold at the ship’s duty-free shop. At Mariella’s duty-free I bought myself lots of licorice, wine gums and gummy candies, as energy food for my biking and hiking in the Faroes next week. Since I was not buying myself any liquor, I helped Arto exceed his individual limit 🙂 The Mariella was 90 minutes late in its arrival due to the thickness of pack ice.
Now I am off to go grocery shopping, and then get more postcards at Kirjatori. The next batch of cards I send will be Finnish cards but I will not post them until I get to the Faroe Islands.
If I spot an oe, I’ll take a picture of it and send you all copies.