We arrived in Helsinki, Finland on a sunny day, the first for a while. It was a good thing since we went on a walking tour of the old town. Finland was a relatively new country, as it was occupied by the Swedish and then the Russians up until the early twentieth century. The Finns have kept a lot of their Swedish heritage however, and everything from road signs to cereal boxes are printed in both Finnish and Swedish. It was also interesting to observe the architecture in Helsinki, for all of the important buildings were designed by one man, Bjarke Engles.
Our next stop was Stockholm, Sweden, where we went on a food tour to learn more about the country’s culture, and the first thing that was abundantly clear was how multi-national it was. Our tour guide for example was of Russian/Polish descent, but moved to Sweden. Many employees at the places we visited were immigrants from other European countries. The draw for most of these immigrants is the free university tuition. Like Copenhagen, taxes are very high, but through that everyone gets the services they need. My favourite dish on the whole tour were traditional Swedish meatballs, served with potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce, it was delicious.
Life on the cruise ship itself was an experience. We spent many an evening relaxing on our deck watching the sun disappear over the horizon. I also enjoyed the scenic sailing, where we would sit on our deck and watch the shore sail by. My favourite of many “scenic sailings” was through the Swedish archipelagos, a cluster of around 24,000 islands located right outside of Stockholm. It took around 4 hours of sailing through a narrow shipping lane, with small islands on either side of the ship. There were many decks of excitement to be seen, but Ryan and I had a favourite spot which was the ping pong table. We played many rounds of ping pong, and were able to see the views around, often followed by an ice cream!
We finished our cruise back in Copenhagen, Denmark. This gave us a chance to go to all the places we had had to miss visiting earlier. We went on a free walking tour of the city, as well as a walk through Christiania, a tiny “free state” or hippie commune, founded on an abandoned military base island, and run with the ideal of a law-free territory, the only “rules” are no running and no photos. The reason is because Christiania is a haven for marijuana drug dealers to sell their products. Because of this, there are frequent police raids, and people run only during one of these raids. Despite all of this, tourists come from all over the world to see this “social experiment” and to see what a lawless (no taxes, building laws, or education laws) yet peaceful country would be like.
This concludes the end of our travels, at least for the moment. This last trip has been amazing, visiting some old and familiar places, and touring around a whole region that is new to us. I would like to thank my family for taking me on this wonderful experience, it has been a truly unforgettable trip!