Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ruotsi ja Syysloma (Sweden and Autumn Vacation)

Our ship, the Silja Serenade
Last week was syysloma, autumn vacation. It was a week long holiday to do whatever. As I mentioned in my last post, my family went to Stockholm, Sweden.
Monday morning we drove to Helsinki. We stopped twice: to have coffee with Jarmo’s aunt and then a bit later for lunch. I passed the car ride by reading The Life of Pi. It’s not the first time I have read it, but it was so good that I decided to bring it here to Finland so that I could read it again. It was refreshing to see more than a handful of traffic lights when we entered the city. We drove to the cruise ship terminal, parked in a reserved parking spot (reserved for us!...because Jaana booked it in advance).
A Muumin and me!
Many people referred to the ship as a ferry, but when I think ferry I think I am on the boat for two hours to Vancouver Island. This was definitely a cruise ship, although there were two decks for drive on passengers. Once checked in with our boarding pass/room key (one card served as both), we loaded. I was expecting to show some identification of some sort; I came prepared with my passport, but it wasn’t necessary. When we boarded, the first crew members we saw were some photographers, but then there was a giant Muumin. The Muumins are a huge children’s franchise in Finland; it started out as books, then television, and now they even have a theme park! Apparently we were on the official Muumin Cruise Line, so of course I posed for a picture!
The main promenade.
Once on board we quickly found our cabin and deposited our bags. It was the smallest “hotel” room I have ever slept in; when we looked it the bathroom (1 m x 1.5 m) my host mom exclaimed it was pretty big compared to their last cruise. Next we explored. The boat had 13 decks and among them included: a main promenade, several restaurants with varied cuisines, perfume and clothing shops, a few bars, a large duty free store (it basically had only candy and alcohol for sale), a theatre, a casino, a large buffet, a lounge, and several hundred private cabins. There was a very talented string quartet who gave several concerts on the promenade. Later, we ate dinner at the buffet and watched the midnight show: a magic/dance show (which was way too much dance and not enough good magic).
Royal Palace of Sweden. Princess Victoria (the
crown princess) recently got married. It was a big
deal in Finland and all of Scandinavia
The next day, we ate breakfast at the buffet and signed up for a bus tour of Stockholm. We also exchanged some currency. In Sweden they use the Swedish Krona. One krona is about 10 euro cents or 15 Canadian cents. The bus tour was on a double decker bus, we were upstairs, and entirely in Finnish. I didn’t pay attention at all to the tour guide. Along the tour we saw the major sites of Stockholm: the Royal Palace, the Royal Opera, the Swedish National Museum, and the House of Parliament just to name of few. I realized from both the tour and my map that Stockholm is made up of several islands; needless to say there are many bridges. At the end of the tour the bus stopped at the Vasa Museet (Vasa Museum). The Vasa was a bridge built in Sweden and named after the king in the 1600s. On her maiden voyage in 1628, she sunk in the waterways of Stockholm. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and was rebuilt using 95% original material. After we ate lunch at the museum, we walked backed to the cruise ship terminal and reboarded the vessel. Total time on land in Sweden: maybe 5 hours. Although we spent little time in Sweden, I was surprised how much Swedish (at least the written language) that I recognized. Swedish and English are both Germanic languages, so they have many similarities. Many more than English and Finnish.
In the afternoon, my host family did their tax free shopping on the ship. My host brother Iiro bought lots of candy and my host parents refilled their liquor cabinet. For dinner we went to El Capitán, a steakhouse, courtesy of my parents back home. When the bill came, I was shocked to see such a high price. Then I realized that the price was in both euros and in kronor, the kronor price approximately 10 times that of the euros price. That evening we spent some time in the karaoke lounge (I am embarrassed to say that I sang… my host mom did too). Afterwards, we caught the tail end of the magic show (a different one than the night before) and went to bed. The ship docked in Helsinki the next morning just before 10 am. It was a great trip and I am thankful to my host family for taking me. I just wish it had been a bit longer.
Me at the Hämeenlinna castle. It had a moat!
We got into the car and started driving. My host mom wanted to drive to Turku, the former capital city of Finland, but the family decided to go home…not without stops, however. We stopped at a glass museum which gave plenty of information about the glass industry and artwork in Finland. It was in an old glass factory where, according to my host mom, my host father’s mother and grandfather had both worked. The other stop we made was at the Hämeenlinna castle in the town of Hämeenlinna. The city of Hämeenlinna is to be the birthplace of world renowned and Finnish national composer Jean Sibelius. Jaana and I both explored the castle which is from the era of Swedish rule of Finland. It was pretty interesting and I enjoyed it. We ate lunch in the city and then continued back to Kauhava.
I didn’t really do anything very exciting during the autumn break. I tried to study Finnish, but I wasn’t very productive. On Sunday, after eating lunch at Rolls, I went to Kalle’s house and helped him prepare metso. I have been informed that metso is “wood grouse”; Kalle went hunting when he was at his cabin in Lapland during the break and he came home with this 2 kg bird. I helped make the meal by washing, peeling, and dicing several root vegetables. It was a very nice meal and I am grateful that I was invited to join.

Now for a bit of Finnish:Viime viikko oli syysloma. Minä menin Tukholmaan perheen kanssa. Se oli lyhyt matka Ruotsiin, mutta se oli hyvä. Sunnuntaina, minä söin metsoa Kallen taloon. Pidin siitä.
In English: Last week was autumn break. I went to Stockholm with the family. It was a short trip to Sweden, but it was good. Sunday I ate wood grouse at Kalle’s house. I liked it.

This is Elvis, the King.
On a more melancholic note, my cat Elvis who has been a good and faithful friend for many years has wandered off from my house in Canada. Unfortunately, the circumstances do not look promising and he may not return home. Please think of happy thoughts for him.

Enough about me, remember that I want to hear from you: my family, my friends, my acquantences, and even the people I haven’t met.


  1. Peter, I live about 30 mins from Hämeenlinna! We should've meet up since you were so close! I'm glad you got to go to Sweden.


  2. Peter you lucky duck!
    Sounds like it was a fun trip, and I'm also jealous of your autumn break.
    Here in Toronto we have to wait until Xmas for our next stretch of days off.
    Loving the blog, keep it up:)
    -Rachel K