Finland: take two
It was another early start, the same as last time, to begin the journey to Finland. My flight from Birmingham at 6pm, I had to be up before dawn, and the coldest day of the year was there to greet me. How pleasant the views were this time taking-off as the sun was rising on the horizon — the lights of London twinkling as those vacant expression-less city workers haed for the tube.
Sleep reigned over the majority of the journey as little can be recalled of the transfer in Schipol International Airport, except that the flight to Helsinki was delayed. Mental note: I must visit Amsterdam sometime; this is my third passing through Amsterdam without stepping out the airport. Each time I have thought that the Dutch are at least as disorganised as me — it must be the weed.
On arriving in Helsinki I noticed a distinct change in scenery. Two months ago it had been all green with trees but now the leaves are gone on all but the toughest Christmas trees. Winter is setting in. Just looking outside gave me the chills. Although there is no snow, there is an icy look about the trees, the roads, the lakes, and even the people. Once I stepped outside I knew why: one o'clock in the afternoon and the temperature is below freezing. Now where is my hat?
I headed off to the train station, bought my ticket, and then began wandering around as I had done two months ago. I didn't find an adaptor for my laptop (as I forgot to bring one), but I passed the same coffee shop and found the same cute girl working there as last time. I went in and ordered an extortionately-priced, miniscule-sized cappuccino. She didn't remember me. I decided she wasn't that cute after all.
The train to Joensuu departed just before 4pm, by which time it was getting dark. I had made sure I left the coffee shop at the last possible moment to minimise the time spent in the cold. I played it just right, the train arrived minutes after I found the platform. Once again I was on the top deck of a double decker train. It was fairly full, and quite warm which was by far the most important feature. As I sat contemplating the five hour journey ahead, I wondered if the sauna would be open when I finally arrived at the hotel.
After some period of time, I don't know how long as I have learnt to ignore time on long journeys, I gazed out of the window to find a white covering on the ground. It was a pleasant surprise, but unfortunately short-lived, for the next stop had no sign of snow. I hoped that they had some snow in Koli — the location of the conference and one of Finland's most famous national parks. It would be at least another hour on a bus after I arrived at Joensuu. I hoped that the sauna was still open!
To keep me entertained, and warm — the temperature was getting noticeably less comfortable — I took a walk down to the food cart. Not much option, so I ordered a coffee. I didn't have the patience to try my hand at the liquid substance they call 'tea' here. It doesn't have the same qualities as the mighty drink by the same name that powers the British empire. However, warm and refreshed, I returned to my seat and gazed out into the darkness where an expanse of trees lay under the (near) full moon of loykratong.