25 Jul Sightseeing Helsinki
Our ferry to Helsinki was scheduled to leave at 12:20. Like usually, we arrived at least an hour early. At the gate, we were told to bypass all the cars at the passport/ticket control and to head to the ramp so we could get situated before all the trucks and cars boarded. Once at the ramp we met a group of other bike tourers, a father with a couple of daughters and their friends–must be a brave man to tour with a bunch of teenage girls! We all boarded the ferry together.
In the past all the ferries had a some sort of railing to tie our bikes to, for some crazy reason this boat did not have such an area and the crew somehow expected for our fully loaded bikes to miraculously stand up on their own in the middle of the deck. It took them a moment to realize that we do not have bike stands and that we needed a place to lean them against to secure them. After clearing a small area near a heavy crate, we got the bikes situated and headed upstairs to find a spot with an electric outlet, where we could charge our electronics for the next few hours and hang out.
Once in Helsinki, we found our way to the metro station, where we caught a ride to the campground, which was located right outside of the city. Taking the bikes on the metro was easy! There were elevators for bikes at every metro station and once the metro pulled up we could just push the bikes right on. There are no special times reserved for bikes, nor are there any special cars just for bikes…any car will do! Oh, and the bikes ride for free! Fantastic!
At the campground, we set up our tent in a small secluded area. Since the weather was nice and we felt like relaxing for a while, we even set up the hammock, which we almost forgot we had with us. The campground was very nicely set up, there were several shower/bathroom blocks as well as kitchen blocks, where one could cook on provided hot plates and store food in a refrigerator. There were also several areas with picnic tables outside and indoors as well as a TV room.
After relaxing the rest of the day at the campground we decided to sight-see Helsinki and the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress the next day.
We bought a day-ticket for the Helsinki transit system at the metro station which also covered the ferry to and from the sea fortress. Later on, we still used the ticket to tour the city. We’d just jump on and off the trams, buses and metros all day…Kind of like the “Hop on Hop off” buses, only for a fraction of the price.
We also found out that the National Museum was free to enter on Friday afternoons…lucky for us, we were in Helsinki an extra down day, which happened to be a Friday, so we took full advantage of the free entry. However, before going back into Helsinki to visit the museum, we planned our route north and did some research on what there was to see and visit. Double checked the GPS and ensured the maps and route were indeed loaded.
Time to go visit Finland’s National Museum and learn a little bit about this country.
As we returned to the campsite in the evening, we met John, a British bicycle tourer, who just came down from Northern Finland. He told us all about Finland and the midnight sun and how amazing it was to witness it:
“For over 57 years I’ve seen the sun go down on one side of the sky and come back up on the other side. For the first time in my life it’s gone down, almost to the horizon, and I expected it to disappear. But then..suddenly, before it disappeared it just hovered over the horizon and then it rose again. Fantastic!”
He was worried that he would miss seeing it because of all the trees and sometimes bad weather. However, he finally got to see the midnight sun from a high hill top and he was very excited about it. He even made a time-lapse video of the event. His excitement was amazing and he said that we should try and not miss seeing it. He also told us that there really was nothing very exciting to see south of Lapland except long roads, lakes, and trees. In fact he rode nearly 100 miles that day, just to get it over with.
We have ridden crazy long miles and raced up here to Finland, because we really wanted to see the midnight sun all along. Listening to his story, made us want to see it even that much more.
But to see it we’d have to make it within the Arctic circle in a week or so and all the way to Nordkapp before the end of the month However, Finland is very, very big and super long and if we don’t hurry, we’ll miss it.
We did the math and mulled over our calculations a few more times and although we had a couple days to spare we did not want to chance missing it by a day. We have missed a few things during our journey by a day or two before and we would hate for this to happen again after coming so far. So in the morning after sleeping on it, we decided to get on a train to get us up further into Finland. Our 24 hour Helsinki metro-ticket was still good until 15:34 and to our surprise, we did not have to be off the tent pitch until 15:00. Was this a sign? Regardless, we quickly had breakfast and took the subway back to the main train station to inquire about a train going north. We were not looking to get all the way up into Finland, but rather to a spot that gave us a few more days to spare, so we had time to reach Nordkapp and to see the midnight sun.
After arriving at the main station, we take a number and wait to be called. Within a minute we are up at the window and a few minutes later we had two tickets for the night train. Although we had plenty of time, we jumped on the next subway train back to the campground and began packing up. With about 4 hours to spare we hung out at the campground and just chilled out until it was time to catch the subway back into town.
Midnight sun, here we come!