Paul's Northern Europe 2002: Transfer

After Paul's Berlin Journal

May 30-31, 2002

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Our next destination city is Helsinki. If we were leaving two days later, a direct ferry from the north coast of Germany to Helsinki would have begun its seasonal run. Because it's still May, we don't have that option. Therefore, we are driving to Rostock and catching a ferry to Trelleborg, Sweden ... spending a night in Lund ... driving to Stockholm ... and taking an overnight ferry from the Swedish capital to Helsinki. In other words: ROAD TRIP!

The drive from Berlin to Rostock is not especially long - only three hours or so - and our ferry wasn't scheduled to leave until 16:00. Therefore, we were able to sleep late and organize our packing in a relaxed manner.

We bid farewell to the Adlon Hotel, which had definitely treated us very well during our week-long stay, and we hit the road. Traffic in Berlin was heavy, and once we hit the open road there were a number of construction zones that slowed us somewhat, but we made pretty good time.

We made one of our trademarked stops at a petrol station along the way. As our various tanks were topped off, we all scrambled into the shop and examined the local offerings. Burger KingThere are such interesting items available at these roadside establishments! We all loaded up on various snacks, handing them to Mike and letting him deal with the details of purchase. Then we were off.

We arrived in Rostock with a couple of hours to spare, and so we decided to seek out lunch. After considering the various local options, we settled on an old favorite: Burger King. As I snapped a number of photos inside the establishment, I recalled how Alf and I had gotten in trouble for photographing inside a Stockholm Burger King a year and a half ago. Apparently, BK was concerned that we might be burger espionage agents, attempting to record their staff's secret ketchup-squirting techniques. Today, perhaps because of my careful attempts to be discreet, my photos were snapped without creating an international incident.

Our ferry to Trelleborg was the TT Line's Tom Sawyer. Even after our return from lunch, we still had an hour's wait before boarding the boat. This run seems to be primarily geared toward truckers: Not only the hold, but also the decks of the boat were available for truck parking. The load was fairly light on this run, however. Another interesting feature of this boat: a large litter box for the resident pets, conveniently located on the observation deck.

It's always fun to pull out of port, and we went out on the deck to watch the land recede. We were numerous other ferries, but more interesting were a couple of very nice cruise ships that were docked in port. There was a very lovely vessel of Japanese registry. Even more special, though, was the Aurora out of London. We waved at its passengers, with their individual stateroom terraces and reclining deck chairs; they waved at us and our tractor-trailers.

We arrived in Trelleborg at 21:30. The Tom Sawyer's sister ship, Peter Pan, was moored in the harbor. From here, we proceeded to Lund, which was about forty minutes away.

Our home base in Lund was the Grand Hotel, a wonderful and very old building with wonderful rooms. My room was at the top of a turret at the corner of the building. It was essentially round, with square wooden beams angled up to the ceiling for support. It was just the sort of place where a troll might choose to imprison Rapunzel, although it was perhaps better appointed. A few steps led up to a marble ledge inside the window, where one could gaze out and think deep thoughts.

We happened to arrive at the Grand on a night when it was hosting a large formal party. Apparently it was either prom night or graduation. These youngsters were extremely well dressed and in a very celebratory frame of mind. Our arrival at 22:30 or so was well-timed to catch them at their happiest. Although they were quite loud - due more to their large number than their rowdiness - the hotel was very solidly built, and no indication of their festivities penetrated into our chambers. Their presence really added a very nice touch to our stay in Lund.

This was to be a very short visit: We arrived late, and tomorrow morning we would have to leave early. Nevertheless, Stephani, Robin and I went across the street to an Irish pub for some large and small glasses of Guinness. Stephani left after one or two half-pints, but Robin and I remained until they tossed us out and closed up. Back at the Grand, I stayed up for yet another hour, attending to some email. I finally went to bed at 2:00.

Friday, May 31, 2002

The morning came very early: I awoke at 5:59, just a minute before my alarm was set to rouse me. Accordingly, I turned it off ... but then immediately went back to sleep. I woke up again at 6:30 and groggily pulled myself together and went downstairs for breakfast.

Now that we were in Scandinavia, the breakfasts are wonderful! There were salmon, herring, cucumbers, cold cuts, tomatoes, olives, and all sorts of wonderful things set out in an excellent buffet. Hideous artery-clogging vats of bacon, eggs, sausage and other instruments of death were also available and snatched up by all the others in our party.1

By 7:30 we were ready to hit the road. As we were preparing to board our Previas, we saw a few of last night's partyers on their way home.

This was to be another day of transfer. We had to drive across Sweden to Stockholm, where we would board our ferry to Helsinki. We estimated that the drive would be six or seven hours, but the vagaries of traffic and the lure of roadside establishments can play hob with any predictions.

We hoped that we might catch sight of a moose or two. During our last trip through Sweden, when we drove from Lillehammer to Stockholm, we had seen "Moose Crossing"signs all along the way, but we never spotted a single antlered behemoth. Surely this time we were due.

Our first stop occurred when we drove within the magnetic field of the golden arches. Ice cream was the prescription, and for some, it came in multiple doses. Happily, the restaurant accepted our Euros, even though Sweden (unlike Germany and Finland) is not a Euro country.

Subsequent stops at rest stations brought us additional snacky items although we always kept thinking that we would wait for "lunch" until "the next stop." As it turned out, we snacked our way the entire way to Stockholm and were in line for the ferry before we knew it.

Our boat this time, the Silja Line's Serenade, was a major step up from the Tom Sawyer: Not just a means of transportation between two port cities, this was an extremely luxurious cruise ship. In fact, it was very similar to the Prinsesse Ragnhild, the ferry we took from Kiel to Oslo in September 2000.

This would be an overnight ride, and so Mike had booked us cabins in "Commodore Class," at the front of the ship. Alf's "Silja Suite" had (among other things) a dining room table that seated eight, plus three bathrooms with a sauna and a jacuzzi. Our other cabins were a bit simpler, but wonderful in every way. In addition to the large bedroom, each cabin also included a sitting room with a sofa, a few chairs, a television, a mini bar, and a fruit-festooned coffee table. We were confident that there would be no lack of comfort for us during our passage.

The rooms were not the whole story, however. The ship had several restaurants and bars, plus a large duty-free and an entire shopping mall. The latter was located in an internal atrium that ran nearly the entire length of the ship. The shops were on Deck 7, and the windows of internal cabins on Decks 8, 9, 10, and 11 looked out into the atrium that rose above the mall. It was pretty impressive.2

There were a number of deck levels that were open for viewing our progress through Swedish waters. This is an amazing route: Traveling from Sweden to the open sea requires a passage through miles and miles of little islands. While Stephani was eager to hit the shops, I thought I'd stay on deck for the first half hour to watch as we passed through these channels. As it turned out, though, we spent hours quietly weaving through beautiful islands. Although photographs cannot capture the splendor, I made dozens and dozens of attempts to record it all. Actually, I have come to realize that, at times such as this, having the eventual recorded image is not the only purpose underlying photography for me: Aiming the camera, watching through the viewfinder, framing the scene and snapping the shutter all constitute a ritualistic homage to the subject. Through this process, a personal bond is forged between me and what I photograph; the film in the traditional camera and the flipped electrons in the digital one cement the experience and create a physical record to complement the emotional one.

Perhaps it's clear that traveling through Scandinavia triggers deep resonances within me. I felt it in Lund and during our drive through Sweden; I felt it on the boat. This is the area whence came my genes, and they wake from their sleep and can sense it. The hundred generations whose genetic imprint I bear are stirred, and inside me they vibrate like a tuning fork. Being on the ship adds even more: Leaving this land and heading out to sea ... well, that's what we did for over a thousand years.

Mike made us a 20:30 dinner reservation in the nicest restaurant on the ship. We began with an appetizer buffet; it included many wonderful choices, including broiled salmon, roast beef, various salads, and pickled herring in a marvelous garlic cream sauce. We tried to leave room for the main course, which in my case was reindeer with an astonishing reduced cranberry sauce and mixed root vegetables.3 Robin decided to wait until we hit Finnish soil before he ordered reindeer ... but I think he made a mistake in passing this up!

Dinner ran late, as it always does for us, and after a couple of nightcaps we retired to our cabins. We are now at a latitude of 60º, where we will stay for the remainder of our trip.4 We have also just entered the month of June. Taken together, these data mean "midnight sun." The days are extremely long, and even during the brief "darkness" that tries to gain a toehold in the wee hours, there is still some light in the sky. At 2:00, from my bed in the dark cabin, I looked out the window at the dim blue sky and the darker waters, and I fell asleep.

1 This Anglo-American greasefest is what makes breakfast Dr. Kevorkian's most important meal of the day.

2 Had we not been engaged in other pursuits at the time, we might have caught the trapeze performance that took place high in the atrium at 20:00.

3 This is apparently a standard Finnish preparation method, as we would later see the same entry on menus in Helsinki.

4 Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg all cling to this parallel.

Next: Helsinki

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