Tails of a Travelling Cat
The Finland-Baltic Edition
Greetings, humans! So, today we begin our trip around Finland and the Baltics by flying into Helsinki. Our day started horrifically early (why is this always the way with these trips?), leaving the house in the harsh light of 6am for Charlie’s mum to drive us to Gatwick. Although we did get stuck in a roadworks related traffic jam, this afforded us the wonderful opportunity to sit only several cars behind a Dorree Bonner removal van with the most beautiful three letters in the Latin alphabet – CAT – in its number plate. Anyway, soon we made it to Gatwick, it only took us two hours instead of the hour fifteen it should have done, we zoomed through security, no hold luggage, bag or body searches to hold us up and we were soon in to the departure lounge. This was what Charlie had been waiting for! Breakfast! Yes, my food obsessed human hit Waga’s (Wagamama’s for the uneducated) first for a wonderful full vegan breakfast of shitake mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potato, sausage, maple glazed ‘bacon’ (Charlie has finally found a good vegan bacon, mostly because it didn’t taste anything like bacon) and scrambled tofu on toast with a bogey green smoothie which thankfully didn’t taste like bogeys and hopefully didn’t contain any either. Round 1 demolished, Charlie moved next door to Spoons for a huge box of chips to take away.
As our gate had now been called, we took our chips on a walk through the airport to Gate 2 (have we ever flown from a gate so close to the departure lounge, I think not) which we got slightly lost finding. Charlie maintains this is because the sign was misleading. Unfortunately, getting lost inside buildings became the theme of the day, as you will see later. Quickly we were on track to the gate where Charlie ate a few of the wonderful (yet scalding hot) chips before boarding. The plane, misleadingly named Norwegian (well, it’s a Scandinavian country I guess), immortalised the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel who I’m sure is very famous in Norway, but alas is largely unheard of in the UK (by me at least).
We boarded and as the plane decided to be late taking off, Charlie polished off the chips. Fifteen minutes late, we were cleared for take-off and we were in the air! We’re off on another adventure! As this was a three hour flight crossing two time zones, we decided to have a nap. This worked out well for me (as a cat I am evolutionarily adapted to napping anywhere, including at 38,000 feet at a moment’s notice) but not so well for Charlie who woke up after an hour and decided to read a book. It’s a very good book, I’ll let you know, it’s a history of the Vikings, who didn’t have as much to do with Finland as the other Scandinavian countries, but as we have visited the old Viking strongholds of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland on previous adventures, it seemed fitting enough.
So despite taking off a bit late, Neils’ plane landed right on schedule at 2:50pm. We were through security quicker than it took to walk through the airport and then we were outside, officially on Finnish soil (ok, tarmac and concrete pavements…). After not being able to find the bus we should have taken to the city centre (due to the fact this bus might actually have been a train), boarding the wrong bus and wandering aimlessly for a bit, we finally found a Finnair coach which took us into Helsinki for 6.90€.
The coach journey gave us some great views as we approached the city, including Leninpark, which appeared to be a roller coaster theme park, a scary frozen lake (on which more later, to my disappointment) and arrived at the combined bus and train station. After a short walk which involved a bit of exploring (we found the Hard Rock Café Helsinki, which we may investigate tomorrow seeing as Charlie recently visited its Amsterdam cousin without me), we arrived at the AirBnb.
We’ve got the entire place to ourselves, a wonderful little apartment which includes a kitchen (which the bathroom leads off) and a dressing room which lacks both light and door. No matter, the important thing is that the bed is very comfy and like all good AirBnbs, the room contains the obligatory Ikea products.
We removed everything but the important stuff from Charlie’s bag (passport, money, tablet, book, me) and headed off to that frozen lake I promised you more on earlier. It’s called Töölönalahti Bay (Finnish words have lots of accents) and is pretty large. On the way to the lake, we stopped in a small square which had once been grassy but was now icy and smelt strongly of horse poo for no identifiable reason. Despite this, there were some headstones (but I don’t know who they memorialised) and some nice buildings around it.
Distraction over, we made it to the lake, where we found some cat art, many, many dogs and a large number of ducks. I liked two of these things. We then decided to walk all the way around the lake. Why? To admire the view from all conceivable angles? Who knows. Let’s walk around a huge lake, Charlie said. It’ll be fun, Charlie said. It was not fun. Despite my misgivings, our circumnavigation of the lake brought us in close proximity to a rather derelict but still eerily beautiful pink (!) wooden house. I’m assuming it was abandoned, but other houses in a similar state of disrepair were inhabited so who knows. Near to the house, perhaps related, perhaps not, was a memorial stone inscribed with many names and the radioactive symbol. I don’t know what the Finnish said, so I’ll have to translate it later.
Well, now is later, so this is what it was about. Its title, Itsekkyyden muistomerkki, means Monument for selfishness. It was made by Greenpeace and lists the names of the Finnish MPs who voted for nuclear power in 2010.
Our walk around the lake took an hour, by which time it was after 6pm and we decided that meant it was dinner time. We headed to Kippo, a sandwich and juice bar in the Forum shopping centre. Shopping centres are neither mine nor Charlie’s favourite places, but as it was evening it was relatively quiet on the top floor, away from potential noisy people. Charlie had the Sir Pesto sandwich – cashew and pine nut pesto with salad and cheese and a wonderful ice coffee shake. Both were fantastic, but as Kippo didn’t do pudding, we headed off in search of the sweet course. On leaving the shopping centre, we got incredibly lost, unable to find the exit or even work out if we were on the right floor… After consulting a map, finding an exit and leaving by it (by chance it was the right one) we managed to leave the building and headed off to the Kampi shopping centre (the only two all vegan places in Helsinki which were open were both in shopping centres) in search of Bun2Bun, our dinner plans for tomorrow. Completely unable to find it, we ended up buying a superb looking brownie from a place called Story. As we were on our way out, we had an epiphany, E wasn’t the fifth floor, but perhaps the initial letter of the Finnish word for basement. Although we had our brownie to take away in Charlie’s bag with me, we thought we might as well have a look for this place, at the very least so we’d know where it was for tomorrow. After searching the entire basement, we finally found it, and although Happy Cow informed us it should have been open for another half hour, it was shut up and seemed to have been for a while. No matter, if it wasn’t open tomorrow, we’ll go to Story instead because Charlie ate that brownie while writing up today’s Tail and it was apparently amazing, a beautiful gooey brownie.
So, we left the shopping centre, struggling to find the exit (again) and headed back to the AirBnb. Well, that concludes today’s adventure, join me tomorrow as we visit a sea fortress (why?) and other historical and cultural delights which hopefully don’t involve water.
Until then folks,