29 Oct The race back to Germany: about trains, bikes, and ferries
It is not that we do not like Norway or Finland. The scenery is beautiful and people are nice. Not to mention we still have almost 24 hours of daylight and can do whatever we want whenever we want. However, the prices are killing our budget and the crazy amount of relentless, aggressive mosquitoes make it close to impossible to really enjoy what nature has to offer during this time of the year.
So we left.
At times traveling can feel a little bit like the “Amazing Race”.
We catch the overnight train from Torneo to Helsinki. Since we travel on the cheap, we do not have a bed, but travel in the “cattle-car”.
Generally, we are able to sleep almost anywhere, but getting some shuteye on the train is a difficult thing to achieve. The seats do not recline, the lights stay on (although the sun is blinding us most of the time anyway), there are several stops along the way to load and unload passengers, and people keep talking while walking by to make it to their seats, to the food-car, or to the bathrooms. Luckily, we manage to curl up on two seats each with some clothes rolled up for pillows and our jackets used as blankets and eye covers and get a couple of hours of sleep between munching on sandwiches and snacks.
As we finally reach the station in Helsinki, we quickly get on the internet, check the ferry schedule and the location of the port one more time and figure we have plenty of time to ride our bikes there. Apparently, this ferry leaves from a different port than the one we arrived on. This one is located way outside of town. We grab a quick breakfast with coffee and take off.
As we follow the directions of the GPS to the general location of the port, we are not sure it is leading us the right way: there is nothing out here! There are no more houses and we encounter hardly any traffic. Relieved, we finally we spot some signs pointing us into the right direction. It seems that there are several ship terminals out here in the middle of nowhere. As we reach the correct port, we notice a big tower with our ferry’s logo on it. Ron heads inside to buy tickets, but then returns empty handed. He was told this terminal is only for truckers and that it is not possible to get tickets, we should try at the passenger terminal about 100 meters down the road. To his disappointment, the lady also told him, she did not think it would be possible to buy tickets there either and that we should have bought them prior to arriving here. Yet, she is nice enough to give Ron the password to the internet, should we have to buy tickets online.
Well, we have taken a few ferries before and have never ran into this problem. So far we were always able to buy our tickets upon arrival at the terminals, why should this be different. We head over to the other building, ask about tickets and a few minutes later we are the proud owners of two overnight ferry tickets back to Germany.
Since, we are going to spend the evening, night, and the entire following day on the ferry, we take off to buy enough food supplies to hold us over for the next two days. Luckily, there is a grocery store nearby and we do not have to ride all the way back into the city. We return with a backpack full of food, eat a couple of sandwiches and wait to board the ferry. Bikes and motorcycles get to board first, followed by cars and trucks. We quickly head upstairs in hopes to find a couch we could call home for the night. Unfortunately, we are not that lucky, apparently motorcyclists are faster. Nothing left to do but head to the uncomfortable pull-chairs to claim a spot.
The room is still empty, so we call the first two rows with an electric outlet ours and spread our z-lite mats between the rows of seats. A few of the motorcyclists and other bike travelers follow suit and spread out in the back rows. Another German couple is confused by their tickets and look for their seats. We tell them, what we were told before boarding: that the seat numbers on the tickets are not valid, because the numbers on the seats are non-existent and everybody is just supposed to find a spot wherever possible. I even let them on that they might want to find a spot where they can plop on the floor. They give me a confused look that partly said “what do you mean?” and “how could anybody suggest plopping on the floor?!” They go ahead and take up the seats right next to us…although more than half the room is still empty. We can never understand why people always want to be right on top of other people when there is so much room to spread out. Yet unconcerned, we continue to build up our camp while the German couple is watching over us and sits properly in the chairs.
Soon the ferry takes off. Since we are still crooked and tired from curling up in the train last night, we blow up our air-mats and get comfy. I read a book that I found at the Alta-campsite, Ron watches movies, we snack on chips and fruit and the German couple still watches us. They sit nicely in their chairs, pull out food to make sandwiches, and try out how far the uncomfortable airplane seats recline, then they give us another look and state like they see us for the first time: “They brought air-mats!”.
Yup, we’ve learned how to travel on the cheap in style!
During the night, we watch all the other bikers and other travelers slowly move from their seats onto the floor. Most of the budget travelers come prepared with mats and sleeping bags, our German neighbors are not so fortunate and have to deal with the hard floor, which is still more comfortable to sleep on than the airplane seats.
The following morning, we get coffee, eat our breakfast, and walk around the boat. We watch a couple more movies, I finish reading my book, and of course we eat more.
As it is getting late, our ferry docks in Travemünde. Just in time for sunset. This is the first sunset we see in a month! I feel kind of happy and sad at the same time. Happy to see a beautiful sunset again and I look forward to sleeping under a dark sky with sparkly stars again. Sad, because the sunset so strongly symbolizes the end to another chapter in our travels and reminds me that we are slowly reaching the last phase of our adventure.
Well, at least it looks like we finally get to sleep in the dark again.
We deflate our mats, pack up, and head downstairs, where everybody else is waiting to get to their vehicles. Once the door to the car-deck opens, we pack up our bikes. We get a few funny looks and a bunch of thumbs up for our reindeer head and antlers from other travelers before we roll off the boat.
We punch in the coordinates for the campground in town. It is only a mile away and it looks like most everybody else from the ferry is heading the same direction. Worried to arrive late and not getting a spot to sleep for the night, we hurry there. At the reception, we encounter a long line of travelers. We wait our turn in the dark and are eventually lead to a spot in the campground, which is not officially a tent spot, but we like it. We are somewhat away from the busy, crowded area.
We buy us a good German beer–the first affordable beer in a month! Set up our tent and pull out the chairs.
Ahh, to sit outside and enjoy a beer under a starry sky…without mosquitoes!! Prost!!
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