We’d arrived rather late after leaving Stockholm quite late in the evening. The ferry wasn’t until 9:15, but we still needed to be there one-hour prior for boarding. It was only a 10-minute drive, so I set the alarm for 8AM. Somehow I managed to sleep right through the alarm, and all the repeats, which eventually gave up. It was 8:30AM when I noticed, and after freaking out for a few minutes, we drove out to the port, only to have no-one actually care – and end up parking in the prime position to be the first car out the gate.
We grabbed some stuff for lunch – interestingly, our journey included buffet breakfast and dinner, not lunch – as well as towels, as there is a sauna on board. We had nearly 8 hours to kill, which for me meant a chance to catch up on this blog.
I brought my own cereal for breakfast, as I quite like it, and wasn’t sure what the buffet was going to be like. It was actually better than I could have guessed, and made a pig of myself eating two breakfasts – and living with the discomfort for the rest of the afternoon.
Right on time, the ferry departed. It was so smooth that we didn’t even notice that we were moving. We watched the small islands slowly diminish. They started out mid-sized, with small houses and trees, then it was only trees, and eventually just rock before being surrounded by open water. I’d forgotten to bring sunglasses (I haven’t used them much the past month) and struggled a while with the unfamiliar sunshine before retreating the comfort inside and staring at my computer screen.
Around lunchtime we started seeing islands again, which started the same way the Swedish archipelago ended. We were approaching Årland, a chain of Swedish speaking islands owned by Finland – curiously, they have their own top-level domain .ax. These islands eventually increased in size, with trees, then huts, and eventually towns. These islands were in the distance, but were slowly getting closer and closer – we didn’t realise that the ferry was going to make a stop here. We went out to the viewing deck, but a port is never the greatest introduction to an area. After we departed, the islands of the archipelago did the same slow fade into the sea.
It was several hours before we approached Naantali. It was a little surprising to see such heavy industry here, with giant refineries and other enormous industrial plants as we approached Finland.
We read about this town in our guidebook, but were originally going to give it a miss, as the main attraction was Moomin World. I’ve heard of them (from when I was living in Japan), but I didn’t know the first thing about them. It wasn’t cheap, so I hadn’t been interested in visiting. But, now that we were already in town, we went to go have a look – at the closed gates of the park. I hear it’s more of a children’s attraction anyway.
We had a quick visit to the old town, whose cobbled alleys of wooden houses were as quiet as a ghost town. They were pretty, but not exceptionally so. It was quite small, and didn’t take long to run out of street to walk before we were back on our way to Turku.
We read about a free park on the waterfront in Turku, just outside the centre of town. It was easy walking distance to some of the floating bars, but we didn’t have the energy tonight, even with a day of sitting on a ferry, and instead closed the curtains and relaxed inside before having an early night.
We finally left the van and made that walk along the waterfront in to town. We passed the lovely parks along the water, and saw all the floating bars, safely moored on the banks of the canal. We grabbed a quick coffee from Café Art, admiring all their trophies, and went to look at their famous cathedral.
The cathedral had a strange appearance from the outside, with a rather eclectic series of windows and other shapes in the giant bell tower. Stepping inside the light, airy, cavernous space, we were greeted with wonderful sonorous sounds of a man playing what I thought was a trumpet – it turned out to be a giant horn of some variety, and I had no idea that such an instrument existed, or that it could sound so amazing. Someone else was also practising on their enormous pipe organ, which also sounded incredible – there is something so visceral about the sound, felt deep within your body.
The centre of town, like most old towns, is quite compact and easy to walk without getting too tired – we’re getting in pretty good walking shape after nearly five-months of this, too.
Soon we were in the central market, and had feelings of being back in Russia, rather than Scandinavia. This feeling was amplified by the smell of salmon, and especially dill. It was a small market, mostly selling fresh fruit and produce. I eyed up the berries, but decided that I didn’t need 1kg of blueberries – I’m sure smaller quantities were possible.
The next evening, while we were safe down in Nuskio National Park, I was confirming the names of some of the places that we visited. It was only then that I realised that there had been an attack in the market, with a man killing two women, and injuring eight others before being arrested. I know that violence can happen anywhere, and it seems that no European city is safe at the moment, but it was shocking to think that it happened in such a small and peaceful city – and one that we’d been in the day prior.
It was a pleasant enough place to wander around, but eventually we’d had enough – with just one further visit on the way back to the car and then the castle. There is a local brewery that is set up inside an old school building. Even though neither of us really drink, it sounded far too interesting to pass up. The beer was tasty, and the surroundings were calming, but there was something about drinking during the day that gave us near instantaneous hangovers that lasted well into the afternoon.
The castle was walkable from where we’d parked, but we chose to drive a little closer. By the time we’d arrived, our hangovers were in full swing, and we weren’t really in the mood for walking the halls of a castle all afternoon. Ashamedly, instead we walked through the interior courtyard, and around the exterior walls. It was quite a nice interior space, looking fantastically authentic and original.
I tried again to get parts to fix our toilet, but again the shops we visited didn’t stock the spares that we needed. I’d buy it online, but I don’t know where I’m going to be – and would prefer to replace it as soon as possible, as a broken toilet could potentially be miserable.