Distance travelled: 3133km
Number of lifts: 32 cars, 6 ferries
Number of countries passed through: 7
Days on the road: 15
Money spent: 168,9€
After the relaxed day and the bonfirenight at the lake just outside of Stockholm the road called again, and also Lisa and Oli prepared to start their returnjourney to Belgium with a stop in Malmo. We packed our stuff, got on the bus to the city center and headed to one of the museums, of which we had heard they had free lockers. The last thing we were waiting for was lugging our huge backpacks through town the entire day. This is quite a big issue in general in big cities, or at least for people who don’t want to spend there entire daily budget on luggage rooms or lockers (especially in Scandinavia!). Of course the museum was closed and we were punished for the human tendency to take overweight backpacks on long trips. We strolled around for the rest of the afternoon until 6pm, when a train would bring the others to Malmo and a bus would take me to the ferry terminal of Kappelskar, a small town some 100km north of Stockholm, from where I would finally reach the most north-eastern point of my trip. Waiting involved an American-style shoppingcenter lunch, some groceryshopping for the road and witnessing an unbecomingly twisted game of petanque, where the balls were replaced by dildos in a desperate cry for attention of the Stockholm gay community.
We said our goodbyes, and suddenly I was on my own again. The last couple of days I had really enjoyed some company, but now I was also happy to continue my journey solo, taking time to read again while losing myself in my favorite iPod playlist. Although this sounds incredibly romantic I lost myself to such an extent that I didn’t notice the ferry had arrived already in Mariehamn, capital of Aland, and was almost on my way back to Stockholm when the personel found me in a corner of the lounge, reminding me that I had a one-way ticket only and that I really had to get off their boat or else I’d have to do the dishes during the returntrip. I ran, and after crossing the small Mariehamn peninsula on foot found a nice park to crash for the night, despite the fact that the park was overflowing with snails, and bugs and sinsects in general for that matter. Fortunately (?) I only found out about this the next day, and was able to keep the tent snail-free territory for the night.
The following morning I woke up by the sound of a huge tractor-lawnmower immediately next to me, packed my stuff, ignored the several crushed snailbodies on the place where it had been, and walked for a few kilometres to have breakfast in a bus stop. Immediately after a chimneysweeper picked me up and dropped me some 30km further on the other end of the island. The Aland archipelago is an autonomous region of Finland, consisting of around 6500 small islands scattered between Sweden and Finland. My day would consist of some serious islandhopping.
Since I arrived at 8am and the ferry didn’t go until 11 I found a nice spot and continued reading Jack Kerouac’s On the road and also started in The adventures of Huckleberry Fin. When I went to check if the ferry had arrived already a couple of hours later there was nobody however, and through a quick conversation with a crewmember of the nearby cargoship I learned that there’s an hour difference between Sweden and Finland, and that I had missed the ferry by one hour. The next one came only 4 hours later so I decided to have a siesta on the quay and to not care too much about the whole situation. In the end they say it’s only a holiday once you realize that you don’t know which day it is, and that time being long passed I decided it’s even a better holiday if you have no clue about the time either.
4 hours and a tanned (reddish?) colour later than planned I finally started moving again. The ferries connecting all the islands on this part of the archipelago are for free for foot passengers, making it a pleasant afternoon watching islands float by, some big enough to host a few villages, some barely big enough to build a house on. I changed ferries twice (each of them took about 2 hours) and talked for a while with an old Finnish lady who was drinking tea next to me and who told me about her flowerpower hippie period back in the sixties, while I told her my roadstories and future plans for life. She looked back in time with a big smile, I looked forward with the same dreamy smile, and for a while no one had to say a word to feel a huge connection to the world. I loved that moment.
When we almost arrived in Turku, a city on the Finnish mainland, I started to prepare my sign for Helsinki, which I hoped to reach despite the late hour (9pm) and the remaining 170km between both cities. A guy my age approached me and asked if I was hitchhiking, and if I needed a ride to Helsinki where he was going to drop off his friend, who came to say hello a little later. I gratefully accepted and we left the ferry in their car which showed clear signs of the roadtrip only boys would ever make in this style. Instead of taking suitcases or backpacks they had just thrown all their stuff in a huge pile covering the backseat, the trunk and even part of the windshield. There were wakeboards, a slackline, several GoPro cameras, half empty crates of beer, a tent, unfolded sleeping bags, clothes, sigarettes, a kite and I noticed even a small box filled with walking sticks, the insects. ”New pet,” they explained with a smile when they saw me looking rather perplexed.
They drove their old opel corsa through fields and forests and while day slowly collapsed into night we made a short pitstop to have a quick swim in a beautiful lake while the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon. Later we drove and drove and eventually I fell asleep in the backseat where I had managed to dig a hole in the pile of stuff. When I woke up and pulled my head off the soft canvas of the tent the car had stopped and my kind drivers told me we were in Espoo, a city in the suburbs of Helsinki, where they would leave me. I thanked them and wandered around a McDonald’s restaurant until I found a quiet and dark camping place a few 100 meters away from the noise of the motorway.
The next day I had a McDonald’s breakfast (it wasn’t as bad as it sounds) with coffee and a McToast, a sandwich that had gained an almost legendary status for me and a friend after trying it a couple years ago during a holiday in Croatia. From this moment onwards it became the standard every ‘delicious’ snack was compared to, but time and the rarity of McDonald’s breakfasts had slowly faded the memory of this delight for the palate. To eternalize the moment I took a picture with my phone and sent it to him through the free wifi. And jealous he was. Then I messaged my Finnish friend Tiia that I would arrive in Helsinki today and we decided to meet at 5pm in the central train station.
Next I got a ride from a guy heading to Helsinki, and because I had a few hours to kill and no desire to go on another exhausting sightseeing quest he brought me to the beach of Helsinki, where I enjoyed a few swims, some reading and completed my roaddiary.
In the afternoon I decided to take a look in the center and walked there, bought some lunch in an extremely expensive supermarket and enjoyed it listening to an open air jazz concert that was part of a jazz festival taking place this week. Afterwards I met Tiia and she took me along on a very casual sightseeing tour, apparently as clueless as me as to what places to see. Lovely day indeed.
As dark clouds filled the sky we took the train back to Espoo to meet a friend of hers in his appartment, where we spent a few hours talking and relaxing. The sky cleared and I said goodbye to both of them, took the train back to the center and camped in a park filled with drunk people. Fortunately they left me in peace, and I survived yet again to live another day.