Baltic Cruise and Northern Europe
• 1217 words
• 6 minute read
Tags: Finland, Helsinki
We woke up at about 8:00 today, ate breakfast, and got ready to get off the ship. Mrs. Coco had booked a kayak tour for us to go see the city by boat. So after the ship docked at about 10:30 we all walked out and met the guide for our kayaking tour. His name was Marti (with a rolled R). We rode by car to the shore of an inlet to the bay where they had already put the kayaks. I went with mom, Hannah and Sebastian (the oldest Coco boy) went together, and Mr. and Mrs. each went with one of the twins: Nico and Sergio.
I will pause for a second here to say Nico and Sergio are identical twins. It is so difficult to tell them apart. I think I’ve figured out some things that differentiate them, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to mess up fantastically pretty soon.
The bay itself is a protected part of the Baltic Sea which is itself a protected part of the North Atlantic. Because of this, the Baltic Sea isn’t very salty, normally only about 10% of the salt concentration of the Atlantic. Because of this, the water freezes much more easily. Finland has the second largest (after Russia) fleet of ice breakers to cope with the ice.
The weather was extremely pleasant today. We had looked at the forecast and it said there would be rain and wind and be rather miserable, especially out on the water in Kayaks. Fortunately, that was not the case and we had sun, no rain, and relatively warm weather. Our guide said jokingly to his assistant “we should charge double on nice days like this”. I’m pretty sure we went on one of the two days this summer that they will have nice weather.
Throughout our tour, we paddled past a bunch of private boats docked at both large and small piers. We also paddled under four different bridges. One bridge in particular, Long Bridge, was very interesting as it symbolizes the divide between the rich and poor. To this day, one side of the river houses the offices of the Democratic Socialist party and the union headquarters whereas the other side is the business centre and the location of more conservative organizations. When negotiations occur between businesses and the labour unions, the Finns still refer to it as “crossing the bridge”.
We paddled further out into the bay where we could see an island with a zoo on it. I think they called it Zoo Island, but I’m not sure if something was lost in translation there. It is one of the only zoos that is built on an island. We didn’t go to that island, rather we paddled to a smaller island called Tar Island. They used to get tar from trees on the island.
Sergio and Nico decided that they wanted to go together in the kayak so Mr. and Mrs. Coco went together. We all headed back to the shore where we had started from. Hannah and Sebastian and Nico and Sergio raced most of the way, but the guide kept on having to blow his whistle at them because they were getting too far ahead and were wandering off in the wrong direction. The parents wanted to stay closer to the guide and since I was attached to one of them (mom) I had to stay back also. We talked some about politics as we paddled, the guide appeared to be a conservative. I think the fact that the kayaking company is a small family business helped contribute to his views. The Cocos are conservatives as well, so it was a bit of a complaining party about the more liberal elements of society (the media, labour unions, etc.). When we mentioned that we were going to Russia, he told us “oh, be careful”. The Finns have never liked the Russians, and the memory is fresh because Finland fought a bitter war after WWII against the Soviets who were attempting to take over the region. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia fell, but Finland was not taken.
After disembarking from the kayaks, we walked towards a church called Stone Church. It was about 13:15 at this point, and the Coco boys were getting hungry. We passed a bakery and Mr. Coco made the executive decision to go get lunch there.
After lunch we went to the Stone Church which was kinda interesting. It was built inside a rock. We then walked to the Lutheran Cathedral it was very Romanesque in layout, but the decor was pretty bland (no paintings on the walls or ceiling). There was a huge organ in the back. I would have liked to have heard it being played.
After the Lutheran Cathedral, we went to the central market. We shopped for a while (I use the “we” pronoun in it’s most exclusive-of-I sense) and then decided it was about time to go back to the boat. The Cocos wanted to go by taxi, but we asked and it was going to be close to $70 to get to the port. Mom suggested we go to the tourist center to see if there was public transportation to the port. There was and we walked down to the tram which took us straight to the port.
We were the first ones to dinner again and only the couple from Stuttgart came. (Mom talked to the other couple and they said they had taken a nap and missed dinner.)
After dinner, Hannah and I went up to the teen room for an Amazing Race activity. We had to go around to various places on the ship and make videos. Some of the challenges include: singing and dancing the YMCA song in the elevator, pretending we’d lost a contact in the photo gallery, tricking someone into thinking there was a whale, dancing through a lounge area, etc. My team won and our prize was 100 minutes of free internet (which is at a premium onboard).
After that, I went down to watch the show. It was four guys who were very good singers, but not very dynamic. The most entertaining part of the show was when they had a volunteer come up from the audience. She really got into it. They sang a song to her and she didn’t want to leave. It was rather amusing. I can’t serve it justice in writing so I will just leave it up to your imagination.
After the show I headed up to the sports deck to wait for the teens to come for a soccer shootout at 22:00. There were some littler boys playing soccer so I joined them while I waited. They were from Utah, the oldest was 14 and I’m guessing the others were 11, 9, and 7. Finally, at about 22:15 the teens came down and the boys left. We did a shootout on a little net we had three shots and had to make them from about 10 metres. It was really easy and I made all three.
Tomorrow we are in St. Petersburg, Russia. It will be interesting. I don’t quite know what to expect. We have all the stereotypes of Russians, but I don’t know if they are true. I’ll find out tomorrow.