So yesterday we were up at 4a.m. to drive into Stockholm along highwzy #73 to arrive at the Viking Ferry Terminal....at 5.45a.m. Like the airlines being there 1 1/2 hours early is a must. The 'Grace' left at 7.30a.m. Grace is a huge wind-powered new ship with back-up engines. She holds a lot of cars and trucks....and passengers. Trucks at the cargo area were backed up the street. We thought the trucks and cars coming off when she arrived would never stop...but they did. We were the first car to board. We were on the 5th floor.
We found our way to our berth, settled in and went to explore the ship. There were at least 5 restaurants from very pricey to cheaper....buffet to cafeteria and table service too. There was 4 bars...but drinks could be bought in any restaurant. The 9th floor was dedicated to shopping...with shopping carts....and people shopped. We couldn't believe how much they were buying...especially the alcohol. There was a spa and hot tubs to use. A dance floor in the bar on level 10 had live entertainment...a band, singers etc. There were outside decks for smoking and relaxing....with bars. At least 2 play areas inside and 1 outside for children were there. A large gaming area with slots, roulette and who knows what around the corner....all for a 12 hour voyage.
We were 5 times from deck 5 were our berth was up to 12 were the Martini Terraza was...that's walking...or should I say climbing.
It was outside. We took pics, read about the wind powered turbine that powered the ship, walked around the deck, watched the islands, many with summer homes, pass by. All were quiet as yet. We watched the cruise ships arrive...for the day as we cruised down the channel. We passed 2 more Viking ferries and 2 Fintek ferries...returning to Stockholm, I presume. At lunchtime we were still in the Swedish archipelago. Lunch was leftovers from our cabin days. We had a short nap. Danced to 70's music. Watched as 'Grace' maneuvered into port at Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland Archipelago at 2p.m. After there were a lot of young people...sports teams maybe?
I must explain...the Aland Archipelago is part of Finland but has its own parliament, postage and flag.
We tried another outside stint but the temperature had dropped as we sailed into a bank of fog...and the fog horn sounded. But not for long. Soon we were back in the sun. But it remained cold. We wandered the decks inside. Danced. Listened to one band. We read. We wrote in our journals. We read. We even watched the children's entertainer who looked like a giant white cat...a Viking cat....along with at least 30 children. We are so bored! Others drank away their boredom....who is driving?
When we've sailed through the mostly flat uninhabited rocky Finnish archipelago and disembarked in Turku, Finland we see cops waiting, peering into each car. We thought they were customs but no. They are checking for drunk drivers. I hope they caught them all.
We drive through and to the north of Turku. We find the Lalvahostel Borea. It is a huge complex of light grey buildings. We register and find our room. We make the bed...yes the linens are there but the beds are not made...twin beds. Gord takes his thin mattress off and sleeps on the floor as the bed was too soft for his liking. We have a quiet sleep despite there being a young girls' soccer team in residence.
In the morning we strip the beds, place the used linen in the used linen hoppers in the hall....first time for everything...then we go for a buffet breakfast...a good one...for a hostel. It is raining heavily as we pack the car and leave.
Next we drive into the center of town to see the Turun Tuomiokirkko a cathedral from the 13th century...burned and rebuilt and added to. The central tower appears original. We entered but as a service was due to start we along with others were asked to leave..and did. Inside we could see huge 10 X 10 wooden columns.
Next we went looking for St. Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel. It looks like a huge ship...was closed till summer...so a wasted trip...but it reminded me of the Titanic museum in Belfast.
From here we drove through gentle rolling hills with huge outcroppings of rock...maybe granite and feldspar judging by color. Tunnels seemed to take us under knolls so the road was flat. There were rest stops with all amenities along the highway...not like Sweden. Restrooms were free! And clean too.
The GPS guided us into the outskirts of Helsinki to the Winterhouse Hotel. There was a huge white building complex...no signs. Then we saw a small reception sign. It seems the very busy hotel is on the 3rd and 4th floor of a building...and about to move. The room is average size and whooee the bed is made! And it is sunny out.
We drive to Porvoo...the 2nd oldest town in Finland. We wander the streets, go into one very interesting museum in cityhall...with English explanations being one of six languages. The other museum we visited was all in Finnish. It included an old manor house layout on the 2nd floor.
The old cathedral...1300's ?...is under construction and has a wedding in progress...so...we go back down the hill. The buildings are brightly painted...some dark red, yellow, white, light pink and blue.
As a dark heavy cloud threatens to obscure the sun we head back the 46 kms to Helsinki. We explore our little section of town, grab a burger for dinner and go back to Winterhouse to journalize, watch hockey on TV and settle.