My Summer 1998 Trip To Finland and Other Places

Coming soon--pictures!

July 29th, 1998--Day 1

We arrived at Port Columbus International Airport ready for our flight, with the reccomended time to allow for an international flight. After getting our seats on the plane and starting to settle in, we learned that because of thunder storms in St. Louis, we would not be leaving for another hour. After spending the first couple hours of our European vacation enjoying the ammenities of Port Columbus, we were finally able to take off for... St. Louis!

Our flight out of St. Louis, also because of the afternoon storms there, was also late in departing. Luckily it was the middle of summer and everyone was going off on vacation for the most part, and no one was in a terrible hurry. When the same delays happen in the winter, even when people are going on vacation, it gets so ugly.

We finally left for Paris. I forget what the food and movie were, but we never watch the movie, anyway. The food was pretty good, though I don't remember what that was, either... Right before going to bed my mom and I bought a big chocolate bar that looked like a bar of gold. We managed to ration it over a considerable portion of our trip.

July 30th, 1998--Day 2

We woke up somewhere over Ireland. It was somewhat cloudy, so I was dissappointed not to be able to see as much of the British Isles as I'd hoped. My favorite part of flying into Europe is seeing the countryside down below as we fly in. I got to see plenty of French countryside, though.

Unfortunately, Wednesday's weather in eastern Missouri caused problems for us on Thursday in northern France. Our flight arrived at Charles-de-Gaul a half hour late, which caused us to miss our Finnair flight. Jet lagged tourists, flight delays, and French airline clerks are not a pretty combination...

The next flight for Helsinki didn't leave for seven hours, so we weren't entirely sure what to do next. After some washing-up and contemplation, we decided that Disneyland Paris, an eight minute ride on the TGV from the airport, would be a good destination.

At the train station outside of the park gates, we found a room with lockers to store our luggage, which we were unable to find at the airport. Lugging carry-on bags around Disneyland wasn't our idea of a relaxing day. Once we got the bags taken care of, we went outside and looked around. It was a clear, sunny day, and quite warm for Europe. We took some pictures in front of the Disneyland Hotel, which sat right above the gates.

With the exception of the hotel, after the entry gates the park looked remarkably similar to Disney World and Disneyland in California. We walked down Main St., USA, and eventually stopped at the last shop before the park in front of the castle and bought sandwiches. The sandwiches were very french, with nice ham and cheese and funny little pickles.

After lunch, we headed over to "Discovery Land," which was more or less the equivalent of Tomorrowland, except making no claims to look like the future, but rather was styled after Jules Verne. We rode on "Mont de L'Espace" which is much more interesting than Space Mountain. The ride actually goes outside, and there's a loop. We also got to buy a photo of our fear and terror on the biggest drop of the ride (plus the fear and terror of the nice English man sitting next to my dad).

While in this land, we saw a panoramic movie about time travel and going to find Jules Verne. We had a choice of listening to it in French, German, English, Spanish, or Italian. We chose to just watch in French. This was a very wise choice, since my mom, dad, and I all understand some French, but not enough to truly grasp the cheesiness of the dialogue.

After our discoveries, we cut over to fantasy land, where we saw a parade. The floats looked almost like Mardi Gras floats--fancy with a lot of details. The music was all in English. After the parade, I led us all on a whirlwind tour of the rest of the park, running through fantasy land, adventure land, and frontier land. Adventure land in Paris is quite different from Florida and California. However, we had to postpone further exploration to Another Trip.

We got back to the train station and got our bags with little difficulty. In a few minutes we were back to the airport, and got to our gate and flight with plenty of time to spare. When we finally started bording, we found out that we weren't getting directly onto the plane, but rather loading onto a bus to take us out to the plane sitting in the middle of the runway.

As the plane taxied on its way to take off, we saw lots of rabits running around the grassy areas of the runway. They were easy to miss at first since they were somewhat camoflaged, but it was quite obvious when they ran. Once the plane took off we could see a lot of countryside below. Even though it was already nearly 8pm, since it was summer in Europe, it was still quite light for several hours. I was able to identify the Ruhr region, and then it looked like we flew over the Baltic.

In front of us on the plane was sitting a Finnish family who had a 3 year old girl who kept peeking back at us. I began to practice my Finnish on her. It must have worked, since she started laughing. Her mother tried to get her to use some of the English she knew, to which she protested (in Finnish) "I don't want to speak French."

On the 747 coming over from St. Louis, my mom and I had been practically the only people to buy from duty free. On this much smaller Finnair jet, however, practically everyone bought something from duty free. Quite a lot of alcohol, and all the children (there were a lot of them) got a box of candy with a Moomin inside and Moomin scenes. We bought some Fazer chocolates.

As we started flying over Finland it had just begun to get dark. We landed at nearly midnight, and the sky was still light. It had just stopped raining and everything was wet. The passport check was trivial, our bags arrived almost immediately, and we soon had a cab to our hotel.

We had heard about Finns not being very talkative, and indeed, our cab driver made no attempts at conversation on the fairly long ride into town. We were still tired, anyway, and wanted to take in the scenery. At midnight, though, the main thing I noticed (beyond the simple fact that there was still a glow in the sky at midnight!) was that everything (surprise!) was in Finnish.

The first really different thing I noticed was an orthodox cathedral which turned out to be right near our hotel. We arrived and checked in fairly quickly, and got our stuff into our room. Our hotel was right on one of the harbours in Helsinki. We took a short walk along the harbour before going to bed. The sky was still glowing a bit at 1am when we finally turned in.

July 31st, 1998--Day 3

We started out our first full day in Finland by going downstairs for breakfast. The hotel had a buffet which was fairly typical European breakfast fare--several kinds of meat and cheese and bread, as well as hot cereal. They also had some eggs, both hard and soft boiled, and several kinds of fish.

After breakfast we decided to walk to the city tourist office, which was a few blocks from our hotel. We walked toward the market along the harbour--the same place we'd walked the night before. We crossed a short bridge and were at the market. Lot of fruit, vegitables, meat, and tourist trinkets.

The trolley went along the edge of the market square. We had to cross the street, and tracks, to get to the tourist office. We bought a special tourist pass, and as we were coming out of the office, we saw a tour bus that was included in our pass just starting to load across the street, so we got on board.

Our tour was in Finnish, English, and Swedish. I had studied enough Finnish that summer to pick up a few words here and there, and Swedish was similar enough to German and English that, with no background, I could pick it up fairly well. Luckily, though, I only really had to rely on my English.

The bus drove along the harbour to the embassy neighborhood on the other side from the market. Then we were driven past a shipyard where a lot of large cruiseships are made. We then stopped at the Sibelius monument. It looked like a bunch of vertical steel beams, and was supposed to be organ pipes. However, this monument is slightly contravercial because Sibelius didn't really write organ music...

We then loaded back on the bus and were taken to the rock church, which is a church that is inside a big rock. After this, we were driven by the other main sights of the city--the national museum, the olympic stadium, Finlandia Hall, and the Opera. The opera demonstrates the Finn's love for coffee--they're the top per capita consumers of the beverage worldwide--their word for opera, "ooppera," like many Finnish words, suffers from a doubling of vowels and consonant as a result of this over-caffination.

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March 22, 1999