Wednesday, August 11 — Helsinki
Our Lufthansa flight arrived late at 1:13am. I had already stamped into Shengen in Frankfurt, so after a pee in a Finnish airport bathroom with bird sounds (I must get these at home) and a quick walk to the baggage claim, I end up waiting about 20 minutes for my bag. Are these guys sleeping back there? The bag finally comes out at 1:45am. I grab my bag and trot over to the bus station to catch the 615. The bus pulls up quite soon and when I try to get on, the driver points to a machine and says, "We don't take cash." I look over at the one machine, and there is an old lady there struggling. The driver says I am going to miss the bus. I'll be damned if I am going to wait the next bus at 2:25am, after traveling all day, because a lady can't figure out how to use the only machine. The bus driver and I bicker a bit more, but eventually I pull out about 6 euro in change, perhaps more, well above the 4.10 Euro needed for the zone C to Zone A ride, leave all the change on the over tray by the driver and just simply get on board.
For the first time Rome 2 Rio has let me down, and I get off one stop too early, in quite a sketchy, abandoned neighborhood. I am forced to walk the last kilometer on foot, mostly alone, but occasionally drunk kids walk by, and then this skinhead, who I for some reason make eye contact with, and at that exact moment, he begins to walk right for me. My heart skips some beats, but he changes his mind, and continues walking passed me. I find the hostel, check into my single room, a corner room with windows on two walls-- Finnish windows, with the blinds built inside the glass, and crash for the night.
Thursday, August 12 — Helsinki
I wake around 10:30, shower up (more bird sounds in the toilet), pack up, check out, store my bag, do some Internet research, and walk into downtown Helsinki. I walk by the Asian neighborhood, then the sex bars, then the up-and-coming neighborhood, and then into the downtown mall area. I'm having trouble connecting with Helsinki so far, but I will give it another chance.
Meet Dan at the conference area
Stay at friend’s home
Friday, August 13 — Helsinki
Check into GLO Hotel Kluuvi
Saturday, August 14 — Helsinki
Walked over to Allas bistro and sat outside. Nice views of seaside pools, some with salt water, some with fresh, with many Finnish people enjoying the August summer. I order a Finnish long drink on tap; also called a Lonkero. The brand we got I believe was Hartwall Original Long Drink. A band called Blind Channel is playing next door, underneath the Eye of Helsinki.
We hop into Tim's Porsche, and motor out to his pad on Suino Island, have a nice wander down to the Baltic Sea cove, and have a great BBQ dinner of chicken, sausage, corn, potatoes from up north, salad, Swedish Parmesan chips, Fidel Castro drinks (basically a Moscow Mule, but with rum instead of gin) and some Lodi California Zin.
After taking the metro back to town, I walk around downtown and the Esplanade for a bit.
Sunday, August 15 — Helsinki
Funny, now that I've been in Finland for a bit, when I see "Finish your booking", like on Booking.com, I now instead see, "Finnish your booking" instead!
I walk to the Vanha kauppahalli and buy lunch. The I walk to the dock, buy a boat ticket, and we sail to the Fortress of Suomenlinna.
Monday, August 16 — Helsinki
I head to the airport, I drop an insane 150 euros on an airport covid test with 9 Lives, and I board Finnair flight AY 1073. Our ATR 72-500 (OH-ATK) takes off at 12:40pm. We have a nice flight through partly-cloudy skies and land in Riga, Latvia at 13:50.