What an amazing city this is! The most beautiful I’ve ever visited, perhaps?! Overwhelming amounts of beautiful, old architecture, teaming with stylish people riding old, picturesque bikes across picturesque bridges, their scarves blowing in the wind. I walked and walked and walked today. Over cobblestone streets, through narrow alleyways, past the opera house, the royal palace, countless museums, churches, cafes and, unavoidably, gift shops. Ah, the gift shop. I have no commentary on this, just saying… they happen!
My last week in Finland was lovely. From Turku, I took a ferry to a small and magical little island, the southernmost that is serviced by the ferry system, called Kokar. I arrived around 6 PM – that’s 18:00 here, set up my tent and had a bite to eat, then ventured out to explore a little bit on my bicycle. My first turn ended in a small old church set atop rounded granite rocks that extended into the ocean, and next to it, a small and very old cemetery. The history of the place reverberated around me. Sun setting, hundreds of birds singing, I had a moment. I slept IN the next day and when I awoke, the wind was howling and the sun was gone. Moment… not the same as last night. I had a great, if chilly day though. I rode my lightweight bicycle, sans panniers, to the ends of every road on the island, fought against a headwind much of the time, visited a prehistoric seal hunting camp from 1000 b.c. where I saw a FOX, had my first and last sauna in Finland: awesome, and met a great guy from Tampere, Pentti, who was staying at a little cabin in the same area I was camping. He comes to Kokar every spring and stays for a week, doing the same things I did. We agreed – there’s something enchanting and ‘special’ about Kokar.
From Kokar I took the ferry – oh, I forgot to mention the ferry! I really need to get some photos up on the WWW! Ferry was so great. It had a 70’s style lounge inside the cabin as the one and only place to hang out. Accompanied by your standard ferry cafe, but it was really classy. And the old people drinking their wine made it that much more authentic. And it’s free for cyclists and foot passengers! I could have ridden around all day on that thing. With the little islands outside to keep me entertained if the velveteen upholstery and people sitting in it got old – not in age… So Kokar to Aland Island where I spent a night, and from there, I took a big ferry, which was actually a cruise ship, also from the 70’s or 80’s, to Stockholm. I had never been on a boat so huge. 8 stories, a nightclub, cafes, bars, duty free shop, this thing had everything. It was 8 AM however. The coffee was really good.
And now, Stockholm. I think I’ll stay one more night in this super expensive, but super great hostel http://www.citybackpackers.org/ Great website. What they don’t tell you on the website is that they have free and really good coffee, the latest issue of Vice magazine, and hundreds of old National Geographics for your relaxing and exploring the world from your hostel instead of exploring the city pleasure!
Riding a bike! I don’t think I’ve said anything about it. It’s really great! I love traveling on my bicycle. The second I get on my bike, I feel like I’m at home. I can stop when I please, go when I feel, and I’m getting some pretty sick tan lines on my legs where my shorts end. I’m getting a little attached to my bike too. I take pictures of it, adore it from afar… I haven’t named it, or assigned a sex – I don’t think it’s my thing – but we’re pretty tight. It does have an annoying squeak coming from the headset/ stem region and I can’t figure out how to eradicate it. That’s my only beef. Otherwise, it’s a wonderful way to travel and right now, I wouldn’t do it any other way! I highly recommend it. It takes a lot of preparation and gear thinking and route planning, but it’s all part of the fun!
Tomorrow, I’m off to explore more of Stockholm, and the next day, I’m heading south. Not sure where yet…