Monthly Archives: May 2012

Stockholm. Wow.

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…

 

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Turku!!!

I have just arrived in the coastal town of Turku!

My time in Tampere was wonderful.  I CouchSurfed with a wonderful woman, Tuula and her 6 awesome roommates in an amazing big, old, yellow wooden house – “The Yellow House” – in a beautiful part of town on a lake.  Communal living at its finest.  A hammock in the living room and intelligent, kind and creative roommates (who the day before had gone dumpster diving and filled the fridges and pantry with tons of yogurt, cheese, fruit, bread, chocolates and other goodies – yes!!!).  Tuula and I kayaked out to a little island the first evening I was there, sunbathed and I helped her study for her big English entrance exam that she takes in a couple weeks.  I intended on only staying one night, but the urge to stay at this great place, and an invitation from Johanna who was graduating the next day with a degree in architecture and would be throwing a party that evening, beckoned me to stay one more night.  The party was great – lots of traditional spongecake (but not like we know it), grilled veggies, champagne, singing and toasts.  Johanna’s sewing machine band performed, and the night also delivered improv on a makeshift stage, crepes cooked on the fire, and a bedtime story.

From Tempere I peddaled a short 45 or so miles to Sastamala where I camped in an awful campground with a bunch of RVs.  Not so much to tell this day.  Lots of down time and relaxing away from my campsite and my “view” of recreational vehicles with attached canvas living rooms and grass.

Sastamala to Turku yesterday – I knew it would be a long day, and it was – made even longer by the fact that I took a wrong turn around mile 50…  105 miles after beginning my day, I found a lovely camping spot on a hill of granite, blueberry bushes and pine trees just off the highway.   Mosquitoes buzzed around me, reminding me of home,  until I retreated to my tent and started to read The Corrections – good book so far!

This morning I awoke, rode a short half mile to the nearest gas station.  Splashed some water on my face, filled my water bottle and headed the remaining 5 miles into Turku!  So far, what little I’ve seen of this small city is lovely!  I had a cup of coffee, wrote in my journal, charged my iPhone/internet lifeline and proceeded to the tourist office to get information about the Äland archipelago where I will head tomorrow, then onto Stockholm!  I am now at the library using a real computer!  I am going to the Marimekko store next to possibly splurge on a new wallet (coin purse) and scarf (mom, you were right.  They sure do love their scarves here!).  Tonight I plan on checking out the hostels to see if they have space or camping at the campground just outside of town.

The sun has been shining bright every day since I arrived.  I am definitely getting spoiled – and tan – woo hoo!  Life is good!

The Yellow House

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Biking and eating and repeating!

today begins day 5 in finland! (excuse my lack of caps – i’m typing on my iphone) i am currently in the second largest city, tampere. Beautiful city with lots of beautiful old buildings surrounded by lakes with a river running through the city center. So far i have had an awesome time here! I stayed with a lovely woman, leena, in helsinki, and met up with alexis, a friend of a friend from seattle, who showed me around helsinki and was an awesome tour guide and buddy for a day! From there i peddaled 75 miles northwest to Hamenelinna where i camped at a funny little campground on a lake. Tourist season is definitely not here yet. Tourist facilities along roads and trails are boarded up and look far from being alive again.

Finland is very interesting! Scandanavia meets russia i think is how i would best describe it – though i’ve been to neither place! Home of marimekko – alexis and i happened upon a marimekko store in helsinki: heaven on fabric! Design mecca, but also a bit dreary in places. The people are very friendly once engaged, but casual hellos, smiles and eye contact aren’t in abundance. I’ve also spent 4 of 5 days in large cities, so this could be part of it too.

Foodwise, rye bread is king! But not like i’ve had before. Small slices or dense, lightly leavened ‘buns,’ for lack of a better word, that are usually eaten open faced with margarine, lettuce, cheese, meat (salami, lox – the best i’ve ever had!), and traditionally, cucumber, tomato and red pepper. Really delicious, simple and fairly healthy.

Restaurants are the two extremes – either order at the counter or fine dining and quite expensive. In tampere pizza and kabob places (in one restaurant) are some of the only restaurants to get a cheap meal for around 6€. I had a very interesting ‘kabob’ last night for dinner. I’ll try to insert a pic.

One more interesting thing. There are these great department stores in the city center that sell designer clothing, appliances and food in a huge 6 story store taking up one entire city block. Nordstom meets sears meets whole foods! I am across the street from one right now and plan on stocking up for today and tomorrow when i finish my coffee!

Today i am meeting a new couchsurfing host who live on a lake and is taking me for a paddle around the lake! I, unfortuately, underestimated the intensity of the northern sun yesterday and got really burnt on my bike ride! With the wind keeping me cool i had no idea how hot it really was. Oops!

Off for more fun! Yay finland!!!

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Last Supper in Anchorage!

For a while at least!

In between packing, I went to dinner at Sacks with Mom and Dad.  Holy Jesus that was an amazing meal!!!  Alaska Sockeye Salmon Tempura Rolls and Alaska Red Crab Salad for appetizers, we shared the House Salad, and for dinner we had the Alaska Side Stripe Shrimp Risotto, Confit of Duck Leg and Fresh Alaska Halibut.  Service was awesome and the food was all well-balanced, thoughtfully plated and delightful.  The company was great, of course!

Sacks Dinner Menu 05.15.12

A great last night at home.

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Leaving tomorrow!

All of my stuff – 35 pounds – yikes!  Definitely splurging on some clothing – I have to have my cotton hoodie!  Went on a super quick bike ride to test out the set up.  My Long Haul Trucker rides like a gem weighed down!

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Getting Ready! Social affairs, eating, shopping, tinkering, sorting

One week and a day until I leave for Helsinki! When I decided to ride my bicycle around Europe, I never imagined there would be so much preparation! Get on your bike and go, right?  Sure – but not realistic.  Ultralight gear, a bike makeover, and tools and know how if my bike has issues have been my obsessions over the past few weeks. I just seam-sealed my tent in the gorgeous sun, and now I’m about to pack my panniers for the first time and hope that all my stuff fits with room to spare!

IT’S REALLY HAPPENING! I’m actually having to say “bye” (see you later!) to people which is weird, and I’m getting a bit nostalgic too, realizing that I’m really going to miss people – and my dog.

Alright, enough stalling.  I’m going to put a bunch of crap in a couple bags, then go for a bike ride, drink some beer and have a picnic with my awesome friends in the sunshine.

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