Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Dutch guy from Sweden in Finland.....

5 nights away from home and family, facing long traveltimes, crowded airports, planes and trains, alone, to meet people I've never met before in a country which' language is completely not understandable... Yep, saying I was overstepping the borders of my comfortzone here would be a slight understatement. No, not just slight.... major. But the reward was worth it!!

Just to start at the beginning; I was going to travel to Finland in order to meet Matt, the Weekend Woodsman, a fellow outdoorblogger, with whom I had been having contact over the last few years, like commenting on each other's blogs and mailing back and forth. The initial idea came up a long time ago, but it kept getting put on hold, due to a number of reasons, until my wife finally decided I had to go. Period. And like any sensible, married man.... I obeyed. Reluctantly, but still.
The plan was to go to Stockholm airport by train, by plane to Helsinki, Finland, where Matt would pick me up for a 5 hour drive to Kuopio. So the necessary transportation and tickets got booked in advance, mainly to make sure I had a seat and to keep costs as low as possible.
While I was getting affected by pre-travel-stress, which I have everytime I travel, a last minute change of plans came in; Matt could not pick me up, but someone else would come and pick me up, deliver me to the central station at Helsinki and arrange for my journey to continue by train from there. That person would be Kai, known to me as Finnman, who also used to have his outdoorblog until 2 years ago. That did nothing to ease my apprehension....
The other non-contributing factors were luggage- and, as always, financial limitations. We probably would be hitting the woods in the Kuopio-area, so what to bring if you are limited to 20kgs in one bag? Backpack, outdoorgear, sleepingbag and -mat, spare clothes and other bits 'n bobs.... I tried and fitted, weighed and rearranged.... I felt I could not turn up emptyhanded, but the gifts I had come up with, either Danish flint nodules or a filled hipflask, had to stay.

On the day of departure my family followed me to the trainstation and the last view of my home was one, where the pink/blue/ grey sky of predawn was reflected in the lake, leafless trees rising above a light mist and white fields.... With a lump in my throat I boarded the train, taking a deep breath as the train set in motion. Strange how a man can change.
I looked out the window, seeing the Swedish landscape glide by, hills and forests, white with frost, banks of fog rising from fields, streams and lakes, cast in the glorious light of a rising sun. I could clearly see Mars and Jupiter high up in the sky. As I got closer to Stockholm the landscape grew boring, flat, with more traces of modern civilisation. The train started filling up more and more and I was glad I prebooked a seat. I tried focussing on my hunterscourse book, but realised I could not. Too many distractions. So I started looking around, noticing people plugging in their laptops and phones into sockets next to the seats. The last time I travelled by train, none of those came as standard. Many a head bowed down as in worship to the gods of communicationstechnology.

2 hrs. later I was at Arlanda airport and I was struck by the amount of sensory input I was confronted with; people, noises, lights and movement everywhere. I quickly checked in at a computer, where my boardingcard and bagagelabel were printed. No humans involved.... I did find one at the luggage droppoint and he was a tad suspicious at all the echoes the x-ray showed, while scanning my bag. No wonder; cookingpots, canteen, knives and a hatchet.... It had to be x-rayed a secondtime, before he was convinced. After that I quickly proceeded toward the gate I was supposed to be leaving from, thinking I might find a lesser crowd there. As I did..... I had to wait 3 hrs. before my flight would leave, because I chose to take a train earlier than strictly needed, since Swedish railways do not have the best record or name in arriving on time.... 3 hrs. of watching the zombie society; bowed heads, staring at screens, tapping away at keys. Long tables along the windowsides with powersockets every half a meter, so you can keep your devices powered up.
I sit there and read, write notes or just watch people. People walking by, dragging their luggage, phone in one hand, looking at it and not paying any kind of attention where they're going. Bumping into luggage or other people, looking up irritated as if they expect the other one to pay attention for them and clear their way. Travelcompanions sitting next to each other, not exchanging words, seeing a young man watching a young woman with more than casual interest, but she only sees her screen. What opportunity might have gotten lost there?

The flight is pretty uneventful. The closer we get to Finnish mainland, the more the clouds thicken; thin strips like waves turn into thicker bands until it all becomes one, the sun making it all look like a hilly landscape in winter. Than we descend through the clouds, always an interesting experience and we're through the clouds. Below us another layer of clouds with a large opening in it and as if intended the plane banks pretty hard right and I look right down through it, seeing a landscape in grey nearby. We're there.
As I leave the airport, there is no sign of Kai. He calls about 10 minutes later, saying he will be late. After pickup Kai drives to the trainstation, gets a ticket and escorts me to the train. We have to wait a good while and Kai turns out to be no typical Fin. He likes to talk. Thank God. So do I. We talk about all sorts of things and the first comparisons between what I know of Sweden and what he knows about Finland are made.
Then comes a long trainride toward Kuopio. Almost 5hrs that will take. It is very quiet in the train, despite a good deal of people on board. No one talks. Apparently a Finnish thing. I arrive late at night, exhausted with a bad headache. A sensory overload.
Matt picks me up on time and we talk almost as if we know each other until at around 23:00 all brainfunctions start failing. It's lights out....

The next day we will be going out to Matt's cabin in the countryside, so we start packing up. But not before we have taken a stroll through the city centre. It is nothing spectacular. Matt introduces me to his son, who is at the daycare and on our way back we visit a large secondhandstore. One I noticed on our way to the daycare. Why can't I pass one by?? I ended up buying a €3 mosquito jacket, an anorak made out of fine netting with a face covering hood. That will always come in handy.
After that we pack up the car and head out to the cabin; a 1hr 40 minute drive. But not after we did some grocery shopping and stopped over at a hardware store. There are some small things to fix at the cabin.
The weather is cold, grey and wet. It rains and drizzles most of the time and the temperature hovers around 4C. We arrive at the cabin at around 15:45, just before darkness sets in. It was pretty cold in there, so the first thing Matt did, was to light the stove.... Ahhh....
We throw together an omelette dinner and cooperation was smooth. We spent most of the evening having a beer and talking. It feels as if we have known each other for quite some time. Over the next few days I would learn quite a bit about traditional insulation in logcabins, the use and installation of off grid solarpanels and systems and composttoilets

We turn in early and sleep in late... sort of.


  1. Oh the first installment of your story! I'm sitting on the edge of my seat. Can't wait to hear more!

  2. Nice way to start off the series, Ron! Sorry I wasn't able to drive down to Helsinki the first day because of my work! BTW, the trip to the cabin is about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but that's just nitpicking. ;)

    Looking forward to reading more! :)


  3. Where can I find a wife who would insist I go to the wild for 5 days? :)

    1. Why would you need a wife for that? You are one. That should be sufficient.... ;)