Day 5. Saturday 18 May. Helsinki to Iceland.
A gremlin got into the post yesterday and inserted the photos of the Rock Church after those of the Wintergarten. No idea why, and no idea why we couldn’t correct it!
Helsinki continued to bless us with fine weather – a very sunny 21 degrees. Our early start had us packed, breakfasted and out by about 8 AM – that’s very early for us. First stop after dropping our bags at the Central Train Station was the Old Market Hall for a coffee and a shared cinnamon bun from Story – taken in the sun overlooking the South Harbour ferry terminal.
To get there we walked through Saturday markets in the park, which included celebrations of the 100 year old Finland-Japan relationship. Lots going on, but as we understood neither Finnish nor Japanese it was a bit over our heads.
T had a senior’s moment, and began talking to a bystander who had a remarkable resemblance to D. Furthermore, like D, he didn’t talk back. It was all sorted out eventually.
And what an appropriate name!
It is the name of all the Government liquor stores (yes, truly, trust me).
Then on to an exploration of Finnish design and manufacture (although D noted that some was made in China) at Marimekko, Artek and Tre. Lovely work, although very expensive, a bit like everything so far! T had a few moments of temptation, but couldn’t quite find the right item. At Marimmeko, the women went one way and right next door the men the other – something for everyone.
Walking in circles, we visited the Lutheran Cathedral overlooking Senate Square. Huge and impressive, but understated, without the gilding and stained glass of some equivalents. It was actually a far more spiritual experience, as much as could be had sharing it with the selfie-snappers from tourist buses, because it invoked less questioning of what else the money could have been spent on.
Returned to the Old Market Hall to share two seafood lunches on rye bread – one smoked salmon and the other crab meat. Delicious.
But by now we’d had enough, so back to the main railway station to catch the train to the airport. D stressed almost all of the way there ‘is this the right train?’ but T calmly reassured him that it was passing the same places we’d seen on the way into Helsinki. She was right, of course.
Check-in was smooth – except that T was inspected for explosive residue rather than D for a change – but our flight was delayed about an hour, so T would have had time for that exhibition at the Art Gallery (a local resident had told her it was a must-see)!
Boarding was chaotic, with a group of Chinese passengers jostling for position and avoiding the otherwise orderly queues as we got on buses to take us from the terminal to the aircraft. The jostling continued along the gangway, the time taken to stop to take a photo outside the aircraft obviously necessarily made up by clambering past the rest of the passengers patiently waiting their turn on the steps!
We recognized an Aussie accent in the queue and passed on the early election results but they were distracted (as you would be) by having left their duty -free scotch behind in the terminal. Although they explained the loss to the cabin staff, who tried to help, it could not be retrieved.
There were no formalities on arrival – no immigration or customs, just baggage collection, duty-free wine and scotch purchased, and car pick -up and we were on our way to our Borgarnes Cozy Apartment. Outside it was 8 degrees, breezy and gentle, intermittent rain.
Google maps (bless them) advised that it was a one and a half hour drive to Borgarnes, north of Reykjavik. We stopped for essential supplies at a Kronan supermarket and were on our cautious way, seemingly the only car on the road travelling at the speed limit – as much as anything trying to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Lots of roundabouts – D had to concentrate as he had horror memories of trying to enter one in Spain years ago on the left! ‘Keep right, give way to the left….keep right, give way to the left…..’ was the mantra. T’s knuckles were white. The guidance was simple – Route 41 until it joined Route 1, then continue. About two hours later doubt started to creep in – were we on the right route? What does Route 1 N mean as opposed to Route 1 S? Why are the signs pointing to Reykjavik when we had left it behind half an hour ago? D was confident – well, outwardly. Pulled over to check the map in Lonely Planet, which was of no use, so took the next roundabout into a Service Station to check. ‘Yes’, said the young girl with a wave of her hand in the direction we were heading, but with a look that said she was surprised that anyone was going to Borgarnes, ‘straight on and into the mountains’. T was wondering at the choice of location, but the idea of being ‘in the wild’ had been appealing back in the January planning phase! After two and a half hours we arrived, found our cottage (a recently converted garage) but it is warm, super-quiet and very stylishly appointed: T’s first comment was ‘its like being in an Ikea showroom’, but later revised to observe that this seemed to be very much an interior designer’s project – which has worked beautifully.
Tomorrow will probably be a rest day, as we try to adjust, once again, to different time zones.