Day Eight: Would you die tonight for love? [July 11th, 2018]

Funny story, when I first got into the band HIM, my cousin was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I was listening to them on my iPod and especially loved the song “Join Me In Death”, which is what the title of this entry is from, and she asked to listen to my music. I didn’t really see any harm in it because it’s really a beautiful song, but my Uncle got all defensive and told me that he didn’t want his daughter listening to my suicide rock. [I’ll link the video if you want to listen to it yourself]

Anyways today was Helsinki, Finland, home of HIM, and so many other bands I like… The 69 Eyes, Nightwish, Battle Beast, and Apocalyptica, to name a few, and Helsinki has been on my bucket list since I discovered HIM [and I was a REAL fan, I liked them before Viva La Bam made them “popular” in the USA], and now that I’ve been there, I can totally see where HIM’s music gets their influence… Helsinki, it’s Gothic yet beautiful, and I can’t think of a better way to describe HIM’s music than that.

Anyways, here are some facts about Helsinki:

First of all, all then men are hot. Anyhow now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Helsinki was originally called Helsingsford. It was built by King Gustav Vasa in 1550 to become a major trading port. However, it remained just a town until the late 19th Century. Finland became a presidential republic in 1919. Helsinki is the capital and the largest city in Finland. Helsinki itself consists of lots of little islands  and is scattered across peninsulas and bays at the southern end of the Gulf of Finland, which is part of the Baltic Sea.  The city is made of one-third land and two-thirds of the Baltic Sea with 315 different islands.The Longitude of Helsinki is 24.9410248 and the Latitude is 60.1733244.

Russians invaded Finland in 1808. Helsinki became the capital of the autonomous Grand Duchy [are we talking about Bravely Default and Eternia now?] of Finland and was remodeled to resemble the Imperial City of St. Petersburg. A lot of Russian-influenced buildings were erected in the 100 years that Russia occupied Finland including Senate Square, Uspenski Cathedral, and the Helsinki Cathedral. Having been to St. Petersburg basically a day before, I could really see the Russian influence throughout a lot of the buildings that were near the harbor.

Helsinki experiences all four seasons. Summer has almost 20 hours of daylight, and is generally pretty warm [it was in the high 60s today]. Winters are below 35 degrees, and fall and summer temperatures fluctuate between 40 and 60 degrees.

Random Facts about Finland: The official animal of Finland is the brown bear, and the official bird is the swan. The country’s official fish is the perch, and the official flower is the Lily of the Valley.  In terms of Helsinki, the official animal is a little squirrel and the maple tree is the cities official tree. Finland is also responsible for the evil cell phone games of Angry Birds [which I always sucked at] and Clash of Clans [which I’m pretty sure my friend Brian used to play obsessively, maybe he still does].

There are 632,732 people, who live within the city limits, and 1,400,000 in the greater metropolitan area, which includes the cities of Vantaa and Espoo. There are also 1.5 million saunas in Finland. The currency is the Euro. And bathrooms cost Euros. That was also the common theme in Russia. So if you’re going to Europe, make sure you have Euros for the bathroom. Eighty-One percent of people speak Finnish [Funny story, I once decided that I wanted to learn Finnish and even bought a Finnish-English/English-Finnish dictionary that is still probably in my childhood bedroom, I should find it next time I go home], and six percent of people speak Swedish, but almost everyone knows English.

When I woke up today, the first thing I did was throw open the curtains so I could stare at Helsinki, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Right next to our ship was a sky-wheel [like the London Eye] and a public sauna. The sauna had an exercise yard with all sorts of funky looking structures, two pools- one for laps, and one that was shallow for younger children, as well as a part of the Gulf of Finland that was roped off into a pool that you could swim in. It was probably seven-thirty in the morning, and people were swimming, and probably off to the sauna afterwards. One of my biggest regrets about my visit to Helsinki is that I’m recovering from my surgery, as well as an infection post-surgery, and I wasn’t allowed to swim. Had I been allowed to swim, I totally would’ve paid the Euros, and swam in that public pool and had a proper Finnish sauna, all of which are on my bucket list… I guess that means I’ll need to go back.

Also from our balcony we could see all the Gothic architecture [and the Russian influence was easily recognizable in the architecture throughout Helsinki, but it lacked the bright colors that so many buildings in St. Petersburg have], as well as Market Square. I called Justin to tell him how excited I was about being in Finland [it was 11 pm back in Houston, the day before my day today, which is such a strange concept to think about, time zones are weird], shoveled my breakfast down my mouth [a cheddar cheese omelet and hash-browns, as well as hot chocolate], and could not fucking wait for my tour to start.

We did an easy bus tour of Helsinki. It was a popular tour, there were four different buses doing the same tour. However, I did not listen to any of the commentary that our tour-guide made, instead I put on my headphones, and rocked out to my Finlandian Rock throughout the tour on my iPod, it seemed to be the best course of action to do a tour through Helsinki listening to the music of Finland, no regrets. There was something magical about hearing “Heartache Every Moment”, “Devils”, or “Everdream” while driving through the twisting streets of Helsinki.

I am such a Finland Fangirl.

One of the first places we went to was  Sibelius Park and Monument. The park was dedicated to Jean Sibelius, and the monument that represents him was the weird silvery curvy thing that looked like it was made of pipes. Apparently the monument was supposed to reflect the rugged beauty of Finland, and was inspired by his work Finlandia, but I did not personally see the resemblance.

The second big tourist trap we went to was Temppeliaukio or Rock Church. It’s literally a church in a rock. It’s a Lutheran church that was built into a solid rock. “Natural light pours in from the church’s glazed dome [which sounds like glazed doughnut] and the rough stone interiors, which amplify sound, making is a unique concert venue.” Umm it was a church in a rock? I really don’t understand why we spent 45 minutes there. I wasn’t very impressed with it. Though I do think it would be a cool venue for like a HIM show or something, but people were acting like it was the coolest thing they had ever seen.

The third tourist trap we went to was Senate Square. “This is a center for arts, culture, religion, politics, and education. Carl Ludvig Engel designed its four main buildings, including the famous landmark, Helsinki Cathedral in the early 19th century.” There were so many buses there that we had to park really far away. Then they only gave us 15 minutes to look at it, and the bus driver said if we weren’t back in fifteen minutes, we were walking back to the harbor ourselves because it was A 15 minute walk [and I mean we could see it from our ship, but still]. And sure enough in fifteen minutes, he just shut the door and drove off. And when we were in Sibelius Park, he almost left somebody’s husband behind as well, and the tour guide didn’t do a head count or anything. He wasn’t exactly the friendliest person in the world.

I don’t really know what else we drove by. There were a lot of statues, a lot of cool looking museums and universities, but I was too busy in Finlandian Music land. I did learn, however, that tomorrow, President Trump and President Putin are meeting in Helsinki to discuss NATO. All I can say is that I’m really glad we came to Helsinki when we did instead of tomorrow because I can’t even imagine what a mess the city would have been with secret service agents everywhere, and Russian security everywhere, so I’m very glad our trip landed in Helsinki when it did.

We got back to the boat after Senate Square. My mother’s knees were hurting her, so I went to Market Square myself. It wasn’t too far from the boat… Maybe a quarter of a mile, if that? Market Square has rows and rows of tents that sold fur clothing, jewelry, food, and souvenirs. I bought postcards, a magnet, a bottle opener and a shot glass for Justin, a Finland sweater for Cruizer [my mom’s Facebook group’s official mascot], a hot plate sort of thing for my grandmother that was made of wood and had reindeer on it, and a snowglobe for Justin’s mom, since we have a habit of giving her snowglobes from our vacation that she puts on her kitchen windowsill. [And we still have a Disney one for her from January, we’ve really got to remember to give that to her]. I went with a Helsinki snowglobe for her since Helsinki was the city I was the most excited about on the entire cruise.

When I got back to the ship, mom and I to the lunch buffet, and we bumped into Tom and Mike from Chicago, on the line, and they told me they found the Helsinki Starbucks and it wasn’t that far from the ship. They tried to give me a directions, but I have a horrible sense of direction and was afraid to really try to find my way around Helsinki alone since I’ve gotten lost in Texas before and this is an entirely different country! So I appreciated the directions, but thought maybe I’d try to eBay one when I got home.

Gerhard, our assistant waiter from dinner was working the buffet, and my mom asked him if he was allowed to go off the ship with passengers. [The crew has strict rules they need to follow, one of which is that passengers can never go into staff quarters even if they are invited by a crew member, not that crew members are allowed to invite them there either]. He said he was, and my mom asked him if he would walk with me to the Helsinki Starbucks after his lunch shift because she was afraid of me walking alone in a strange country, and the dining room staff is well aware of my quest for country mugs because my dad had gone out of his way to get me one in Oslo, Norway when they were in Norway. Gerhard said he didn’t mind and we made plans to meet at 14:15 [2:15].

After lunch, I went back the room, saw I had blisters from my Doc Martens [my own fault I didn’t bring the right socks for it], and finished Brief Cases by Jim Butcher. Speaking of injuries… I either broke my little toe on my left foot, or the toenail will be falling off shortly because I tripped on the balcony trying to take a sunset picture yesterday. I mean it’s fine. There’s not much you can do about a broken toe to begin with, and I can still walk and stuff, it just hurts. It’s just so typically klutzy me.

I met Gerhard off the ship, and we started walking downtown towards Starbucks together. It was actually very interesting. We talked about education in different countries. I was saying how I don’t think US Education is that great because we focus too much on academics, and don’t give the children enough time to be children, we just expect them to be scholars all the time, and how children learn things too early. I mean the stuff that first graders are learning now, I don’t think I learned until at least a grade or two later and it’s too much pressure on the children. He was saying compared to South Africa [where he’s from], US education is seen as one of the best educations in the world. His dad was also a high school math teacher, and Justin is a high school math teacher, so we talked about that. We talked about music, he hasn’t heard of any of the bands I’m obsessed with, but that’s pretty much typical for me. He said he’s more into club music, but he likes Linkin Park, which I also like.

He goes back to South Africa the same day I fly back to Texas, and he’s really excited to go home because he has an older sister, and she recently had a baby, and named him godfather of the baby, and he hates missing all the milestones in his nephew/godson’s life. He’s also going back to university to major in accounting. He talked about seeing all the different countries on the cruise ship and how cool it was to see so many different places. We talked about tipping. He says that Europeans don’t really tip on cruises because they’re not used to tipping, whereas in the United States, we’re very used to tipping, and he says that it’s the same thing in South Africa. We talked about a mutual love for Broadway shows. We talked about idiots on social media, who tell way more than anyone needs to know just to get attention or whatever, and abusing the hashtag #foodporn on Instagram I talked about moving to Texas, and how people are always asking me when Justin and I are going to have kids, and it’s annoying because I can’t have kids thanks to cancer, and it’s annoying when people try to put expectations on you that aren’t your own. I had a good time walking and talking with him, it was nice to talk to a waiter outside of the dining room. It was nice to talk to somebody close to my age [I mean I’m probably 7-10 years older than him, but when everyone else on the ship is basically 60 or older, 7-10 years younger than me is considered close to my age].

We did make it to Starbucks, it was located in a book store. It was cool to see all familiar books in Finnish. I was almost tempted to buy a book I had read before in Finnish as a souvenir [and maybe I could learn more Finnish from it], but stopped myself. Finnish Starbucks sell the exact same drinks that US Starbucks do. I got myself a Helsinki mug, and Gerhard got a Finland mug that I bought for him as a thanks for walking with me to Starbucks. I hope I didn’t start him on a deep and dark path to Starbucks mug obsession like I follow. I got a caramel frap, and it tasted the same that they do in the states. I’m so thankful that Gerhard was willing to walk with me to Starbucks [it was maybe a mile from the ship], and I actually got a Helsinki mug in Helsinki since Helsinki is my favorite place on the Baltic so far, as well as a bucket-list location. After we got our drinks/mugs, we walked back to the ship.

Helsinki reminds me a little of Spain. There are all sorts of plazas, gardens, and fountains in the middle of town, sort of how Madrid has Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Espana, and Plaza de Oeriente, for example. It also has all sorts of parks like Helsinki did. I really enjoyed walking and exploring Helsinki [with a guide, so I wouldn’t get lost], and I really enjoyed walking and exploring Madrid like I did in high school [where I think we did get lost]. I wish Texas was more of an outdoorsy place. We have parks, and places like that, in fact we have tons of them like Hermann Park and Buffalo Bayou Park, but the weather in Houston, especially in the summer is just so gross and unbearable that it makes it really hard to enjoy the outdoors. In Helsinki today, it was probably in the high 60s, and it was just beautiful out, and it was summer. If the temperature in Houston was cooler, I think I’d like it a lot better because I could spend more time outdoors and actually enjoy the places in the city.

After we got back to the ship, I read another book, Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider, which I really enjoyed, I don’t think she’s ever written a book I didn’t like, and I started a new book, Speed of Life by Carol Weston, which is pretty good, so far. I showered [well my version of a shower since I can’t get certain areas of my body wet] since I worked up a decent sweat walking to and from Starbucks with Gerhard, since in the sun, it was pretty hot, and read until dinner.

BOOB TALK WARNING

I was pretty sore today and itchy. I was itchy mainly because I sweat in the sun, and bandages and sweating, don’t always play well together, and I hurt just because I was fairly active for me. Though to be straight, I am an active person, generally speaking, but recovering from surgery has not allowed me to really be active, which has been strange to me. But walking a little over two miles today, going up and down stairs at Senate Square, and walking to and from the tour bus to destinations was a pretty active workout for somebody, who’s recovering my surgery, and my surgery wounds hurt from that. Other than that though, I feel fine, no fever, no abnormal heart-rate, no not feeling like myself. I get my bandages changed again tomorrow, hopefully I’ll continue to show improvements.

END BOOB TALK

The sail out of Helsinki was beautiful too, there were tons of islands, and peninsulas, and lighthouses and things to look at.

It was Italian Night for dinner in the dining room tonight. The waiters and junior waiters all wear striped shirts [red for regular waiters, green for junior waiters] like gondoliers wear in Venice, and Italian music plays throughout the dining room, and the meal itself is Italian themed.

As an appetizer I had a fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad, and for a meal I had something with this really long and complicated name that I couldn’t say or remember, but was basically scallops and shrimp in a garlic sauce. For desert I had tiramisu. Our table was very active tonight. I thanked Tom and Mike for telling me about the Starbucks and told them about my adventure with Gerhard, and we talked about Helsinki, and since I had my cell phone in the dining room [I was showing Gerhard some pictures of my Starbucks mug collection that I had on Instagram], I showed everyone some pictures from my wedding since we had talked about the wedding a few days ago, and we told some funny stories about the wedding.

Tomorrow we go to Stockholm, Sweden, we’re docking overnight there. I don’t really have an opinion of Stockholm. I read the Millennium series, a few years ago [Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I stopped after third book and haven’t read any of the newer ones that were written by another author, and don’t plan to] and I know parts of that take place in Stockholm,but that’s basically it. I’m pretty neutral about that port. We don’t really have any definite plans for tomorrow, we may or may not do a hop on/hop off bus, if we feel like it, but mostly it’ll probably be another non sea-day sea-day like the second day in St. Petersburg was. The second day, we’re doing a canal cruise. I’m more excited about Amsterdam and Latvia than Stockholm, but it’ll be fun to see Stockholm.

Anyways, Helsinki was AMAZING, and I wonder how hard it would be to get a visa to live there… cuz I would totally move there in a second.

I loved Helsinki, loved Finland, and so far today was my favorite day of the cruise [followed by Estonia], and it was super awesome to cross Helsinki off my bucket-list, though I am totally going back one day!

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