Last night I began my Great Railway Adventure. After a day filled with last minute errands and quickly hemmed pants, my dad and trusty airport chauffeur dropped me off at Dulles International Airport yet again- this time headed for Helsinki, Finland with a layover in Iceland. The planes were small, but I guess that’s alright considering that via Iceland, the trans-Atlantic crossing is split into two short flights.
The first flight last night was pretty. We silently glided through the darkness, with puffy white clouds below us hiding the choppy ocean waves I knew were there. The moon shown incredibly brightly in the sky, but it was not too bright to drown out the stars. I felt like I could be traveling to Neverland, following Peter’s directions: just follow the first star on the right and head straight on till morning and there adventure awaits.
The constellation Orion seemed to lead the way. I saw the full constellation out the window, just over the right wing, like I was looking straight across and not up at him like I have done from the ground so many times before. Were we equals last night, Orion and I? He seems like a good man to have in my life. He’s the only one I seem to look to for guidance, and certainly the only one I’ve chased around the world or even around the block. Aloof and unattainable, he has seen and known more than I ever will. Yet he has remained steady and controlled throughout his vast experiences, where I sometimes crave the chaos and instability that my travels offer me.
I thought I would continue this contemplation of my perfect star man, but as soon as I touch down in Helsinki I was overwhelmed by different thoughts entirely- mainly wonderful, “This is so EASY! This place is so BEAUTIFUL!” thoughts.
Because it was and it is. I landed, grabbed my backpack from the conveyor belt, and stopped by information for some directions to the Olympic Stadium, where I had reserved a bed at the hostel within- the aptly named Stadium Hostel. The bus ride was so easy that I barely had to focus on the stops and was able to let my mind wander out the window and take in the wide, amazingly clean streets of Helsinki. This was a city that was so green and blue! It was full of trees and lakes and streams. The weather was a perfect sunny 17 decrees Celsius. For 6.20 Euro I was dropped off a block away from the hostel, and the brief stroll told me that this might be called a city, but it didn’t smell or sound like one. I felt relaxed and comfortable immediately. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the stress and chaos that usually surrounds the first few moments in a new city when you’re trying to find your way to your lodging for the first time, disoriented from the loud sounds and unfamiliar landmarks and still groggy after a recent mind numbing flight.
I practically skipped through the front door of the hostel, checked in, and found my bed ready to be made up in the crisp clean white sheets I had been handed. I had so much extra energy, saved for the stressful first journey that was anything but, that I took a quick shower to wash off the last of my travel cobwebs, repacked my purse with the essentials, and hit the city streets once again.
I was in search of food. Finnish food. A quick stroll through a grocery store and I had an idea of what food prices might be like (expensive!) while I was here. I was also delightfully impressed with their large hard cider selection, a collection I shall be exploring in depth while I am here.
After wandering for a few more blocks I settled on a Nepalese restaurant, not Finnish, I know but a new cuisine none the less. It was a good decision. Nepalese coffee is AMAZING. It is everything I wanted Turkish coffee to be. It was strong and sweet and flavored with exotic spices that I couldn’t place. I think I detected cardamom, but I’m not sure what else.
Now I am back at the hostel and rapidly crashing. I think I’ll take a few moments to plan out the next few days and then I will turn in early. I was happy to find that the festival gods were favoring me again. I landed in Helsinki at the start of World Design Week 2012, celebrating Helsinki as this year’s Design Capital of the World. There will be a lot of fun, interesting and FREE things happening in the next few days. I can’t wait to find out what. When I know, you’ll know!