Twilight in Sunset and Moonrise 6

Please read the previous post first.
After some time, since the panorama passing by consisted of nothing but water everywhere, we got back inside the ship to explore more of it. None of us had plans to sleep that night. As is obvious, the first thing that strikes us Indians is food. We went around to all restaurants trying to see what they had for our taste. ‘Pizza slice’ was the only thing that came close. After gulping some grubThe flaming horizon, we went around to the tax free shops to check out what all was cheaper than the mainland. Most things are, including liquor, chocolates etc. After just making a note, we postponed this activity to the return trip, because the sun was about to set anytime soon. Off to the deck we all rushed again. It was quite windy by now since the ship was at high speed. In fact it was so windy that we could barely manage to walk. Even breathing was difficult in that draught. Most people were on the deck, trying to click pictures while balancing themselves against the wind. The sunset was very beautiful to start with but got covered with clouds towards the end.

The moment the sun set down and twilight came, it got even colder. A couple of rather bright stars could be spotted in the evening sky. We all went back inside because on the agenda was a performance in the night club. There was some dance performance going on. At the same time, there was a bar, which had live music with an artist playing the guitar and singing some great rock songs. He was amazing! I could not budge from that place for a very long time, such was the way he strummed and sang. Eventually I realised that I had only as many hours in which I could see everything else. So off I went to the pub, saw the live band there singing some oldies and people trying their luck on ‘black jack’ and roulette. Next to it was another pub which had a karaoke bar. I have always had a wish to go to a karaoke bar and try something there. Though I wasn’t sure whether I would actually graduate from a bathroom singer to a public performer, I checked out the list of English songs. There was another colleague who was quite enthusiastic about the same. We both kept bucking each other up to go and perform. In the end, as expected, the karaoke bar closed down and we both lost our chance. But we were still hopeful of another chance while coming back on the same ship.

Some time later I had a ‘Wet Dream’. A disco drink with blinking iceI must mention that it was an Irish cream and vodka cocktail, before you all start getting notions, not fit to be put down here. It tasted great! For the first time I saw some ‘disco drinks’ which had ‘glow stirrers’ which emitted flourescent light and ice cubes which glowed and blinked! It was I who stopped blinking for sometime. After cocktails, everyone was charged enough to go and shake a leg on the dance floor. The night club was placed in a location on the ship which allowed an open view on 3 sides. It was a pleasure to be able to look outside and see the picturesque view float by in the daytime or the glowing lights of another ship in the night. It was during one such moment that we all realised that the orange blob outside the window was actually the rising moon. Again, a rush for the moon took us to the ‘sun deck’. The moon rise from the Baltic sea

Armed with cameras, a lot of people including us, tried to capture the beauty of the big orange moon, just rising above the ocean. I am afraid, all of us failed, not only because a camera can just not produce the real thing but also because the ship was jerking way too much for anyone to be steady enough to click something. The high velocity wind added to the obstacles. It goes without saying that the long wait for seeing the moon was worth it. It looked like quite the celestial body that it is. The face of the ‘man on the moon’ was also visible quite clearly. The man on the moonWe decided to wait for it to rise further and grabbed some grub in the meantime. Revisiting the deck and braving the freezing wind was again worth it. This time the moon was a little higher up in the sky and was beaming down on water. The orange glow had gone and so had the ‘man on the moon’. The ambience, consisting of the peaceful moon, shining down on a turbulent mass of water, no other sound except the swishing underneath, and no other light except from the moon, was a perfect thing to be experienced. It can give a very lonely feeling and also a very peaceful feeling at the same time.

It was time to go back again since we didn’t want to turn into icicles. To the bar, again it was. Some more music, some more dance and some more guitar. Eventually we decided to call it a day. After all, the cabins we paid for were also meant to be utilised. As I got down to bed, I realised that through the cabin window I could see the full moon again. It reminded me of my flight to Tokyo when I had slept off using 3 empty seats as a couch. In the interim, I had suddenly woken up, looked outside and found the big white moon right next to my window. It felt really close. Of course it was closer by several miles. This view from the ship’s cabin gave me a similar feeling to an extent, of the moon beaming down at me through a porthole, while I slept. I described the same to a colleague of mine on the opposite berth and we both concluded that such nights wouldn’t come again. We could sleep later. For now we wanted more of the moon. Out of bed in an instant, we again went to the sun deck. It looked really eerie now. It was absolutely dark and deserted. There were no lights anywhere at all except for the light of the moon. Everything looked black with just a little bit of white ghoulish glow to it. And of course it was windy as hell. As we took a 360 degree view of the spooky blackness amidst which we were, we suddenly realised we were not alone in that section of the Baltic sea. It took us quite by surprise. There were other ships as well at some distance and not one but many. They looked like pretty little lanterns from that distance. Some were going in the opposite direction and some in ours. It gave us a lot of comfort to realise that there *were* some other vessels at a short distance.

Our attention again went to the mesmerising moon. Eerie and peaceful at the same time.As we revisited the bow of the ship and tried to click some more snaps, we realised we were not alone on the deck anymore. Some other people had joined us and it was none other than the rest of my colleagues. It was again quite difficult to take pictures and was freezing cold as well. All of a sudden, there was a dragging sound and a huge mass eerily skidded towards us. It caught my breath. It took some time to realise that it was so windy that a bunch of plastic chairs piled on top of each other had skidded speedily towards us. With enough of midnight adventures behind us, we finally decided to call it a ‘night’. It wasn’t long before Stockholm beckoned us.

Continued: A day in Gamla Stan (old town)

Cruise to Stockholm 13

On 20th of August, M/s Mariella from the Viking Line sailed for Stockholm, Sweden at 5:30pm from Katajanokka terminal, Helsinki. Aboard were 8 desis excited about going to the land of Into the sunsetthe ABBA, and on a cruise at that. One of them was yours truly. Though an indescribable experience, I shall try to put it in words here.

Someone said, ‘Mostly, the quickest and often the best way to do it is yourself’. I sure believe it. Inevitably, it was I who made the bookings for all the ppl. I got two class A cabins booked. This link, though from another ship, shows exactly the same 360 degree views of not only the cabins but also the whole ship. The ship’s departure was at 5:30pm from the Katajanokka terminal (See this google map*).
I had a whole lot of tasks lined up before that. One of them being purchasing a music system which was on sale only till that particular day. After finishing off everything on Stockholm cruisemy to-do list, in record time, I reached the terminal at 5pm.
We all boarded the ship and as we got in, I suddenly felt as excited as a little girl, looking forward to one of life’s experiences, never experienced before. At the same time I also saw myself detachedly as if from above, (blame it on visuals from the Titanic), entering the ship, realising with awe that it was a whole new world inside – an entire multistoried building complete with restaurants, pubs and discos, casinos and shops, floating on water. The sight of uniformed seamen, gleaming interiors, buzz of activity everywhere, made me truly feel as if I was part of a movie! I only hoped that it wouldn’t have an ending like the movie.
Our cabins were on the 5th deck. After quickly dumping our bags in the cabin using the smartcards which were our tickets as well as our cabin keys, we all rushed to the ‘sun’ deck, where everyone was, to see the sight of the land moving past, our ship heading towards nothingness. On my visit to Soumenlinna island at the beginning of Folks at the Soumenlinna island waving at the shipmy sojourn in Finland, we had waved to the passengers going in such cruises. This time it was our turn to be waved at, as we sailed past that island. It gave us a very “sailor” feeling. After having seen the huge full moon during the fireworks display, I was eagerly awaiting nightfall so that I could see the moon again, from the middle of a water body, sans all artificial lights, with the moon beaming down in full glory over the water. Of course, there was a spectacular sunset over the horizon looked forward to, too. I had already checked the weather forecasts, which showed clear skies. We went all around the deck, trying to explore every corner of it. Unfortunately the bow of the ship was forbidden to passengers. But that wasn’t the end of our desire to experience it the way “Rose” experienced it. The sun beaming down as the ship surges forwardEventually we found one corner which was considerably in the front of the ship, though not exactly in the centre and not really on the top deck, but one deck lower. It was almost impossible to stand there since the wind was so strong. The sight of a vast sea, your vessel surging forward, with you at the very front is a very different and exhilerating feeling. For miles and miles around there was nothing but water and the sun gleaming on it. I felt very much close to nature.
Continued: Twilight in sunset and moonrise

* – the google map has my apartment (which doesnt exist in the maps) location, the Viking line terminals at Helsinki and Stockholm, marked.

Follywood? 5

I have often wondered in the recent past, how come the bollywood bigshots, who spare no country in search of locations and shoot in locations like Amsterdam and Switzerland, have not exploited Finland and it’s untouched, pristine beauty so far. I was not surprised when I read that some filmmakers are indeed planning to shoot over here.

YLE TV reports – A leading Indian director, Samir Karnik, is currently in Finland hunting for locations for new film productions. The Finnish Tourist Board hopes Bollywood enthusiasm for Finland might lead to a tourist boom.

And the Finns are actually considering it a shot in the arm for Finnish tourism! Read more here.

Midsummer eve 8

The 24th June was midsummer eve this year. This is a festival associated with the summer solstice. Midsummer is thought to be a very favourable time to find a partner. In addition, many weddings take place at Midsummer. Most of the Midsummer “spells” (more of a pagan ritual) have to do with seeing your future husband’s face. According to one of the spells, you were supposed to pick nine different flowers and to put them under your pillow and in this manner you would see him in your dreams. Tradition also has it that females wanting to see their future partners should go naked to a well and peer into the water to see the face of their future partner in the reflection. Needless to say, this would attract a lot of men around the spot and obviously these encounters might result in alliances for some. Shakespeare captured this night of supernatural wonder in his play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when humans and other-world fairies mingled on a night when love and mischief was definitely in the air.

In today’s day, the midusmmer festival is celebrated by ‘raising the pole’ or by burning a bonfire (much like lohri back home – Only this is done in daytime). (The picture is courtesy Wikipedia). During Midsummer Eve, i.e. the night before the longest day of the year, people light these huge bonfires to symbolize light triumphing over darkness, and life over death. It is also believed that they are driving out bad spirits by doing that. There is a lot of cultural stuff like folk dances, games, songs, fortune tellers etc at this event. The date is not fixed. The government decided that they would choose the closest friday to midsummer solstice as the midsummer eve. This way people get a long weekend. They also have a tradition of hoisting the finland flag (Almost every building has a pole for that) on this particular day. This is a much awaited event especially in Finland. Nature is one of the main elements of Midsummer. Practically everyone who has the chance will spend their few days off in the countryside. This is the time when people go out to their summer cottages and have a nice time just relaxing. The city wears a deserted look all of a sudden. This was one day when we noticed that only the ‘foreigners’ in Finland were left behind as they didn’t go anywhere.

Midsummer is an ecclesiastical celebration, the celebration of the mid point of the summer and it has also been the National Flag Day ever since 1934. The funny thing is that all these are celebrated on the day before – Midsummer Eve is somehow more important than the actual Midsummer Day. This day has actually been a battle field for religion in Finland: it has been debated as to whether it is originally a pagan or Christian celebration. This is a popular day for getting married.

Midsummer is the time when you are allowed to go a little crazy. Some people do that by trying out the magic that their forefathers were so ready to believe in. Other people may try to achieve that same feeling with the help of alcohol and that causes trouble for the police and hospitals. One can see shards of broken bottles everywhere and people lying drunk on the streets.

Though I didn’t go “out” anywhere and neither did I visit the Midsummer celebration in Seurasaari island here, I enjoyed my long weekend. On midsummer eve, the weather was absolutely great and I was walking on the streets till 1:30 am (something I have been doing quite often). The sky was a deep blue and was covered with clouds as seen in the pic I have clicked of the Esplanadé at that unearthly hour. The next post would be on what I did on the weekend.

Töpsy türvy 10

A lot of things here are quite the opposite of what my senses and sensibilities are used to. The traffic is obviously right hand driven with the driver’s seat on the left hand side (unlike Japan). It takes a while to get used to it. Some of my colleagues have in fact been so baffled, that they have ended up taking transport in the wrong direction – the very direction they came from in the first place! Thankfully I am still sane. People walk on the right hand side of any street. They stand on escalators on the right hand side (Unlike Japan where they stood on the left). All doors open on the outside. That’s a real mess. We have made fools of ourselves several times by pushing every lever attached to the door in every possible direction (at times there are some weird ones attached), when all we had to do was ‘push’ the door knob instead of ‘pull’! Even the handles are pulled up (anti-clockwise) instead of being pushed down to open any door.
The electrical switches here function in exactly the opposite way. The ‘Off’ position would mean ‘On’ here and vice versa. Those who don’t know this, get quite confused at first.
The letter ‘j’ is pronounced as ‘y’ here. So the name ‘Jari’ becomes ‘Yaari’ as in “yaari hai imaan mera yaar meri zindagee’ and not “jaa ree”. Similarly ‘Jani’ becomes ‘Yanni’ as in the composer and not “jaanee” as in “jaanee yeh chaku hai”. Well at least they write it with the same letter. The japanese even *write* ‘r’ for ‘l’ and ‘English’ becomes ‘Engrish’ there! It’s written that way and pronounced the same way. In fact as a conclusion, ‘Rohit’ becomes ‘Lohit’. I dont know what a tongue twister ‘Rahul’ would become!
I have barely been able to pronounce the name of the place I am staying in. It took me two days to get my tongue used to other words apart from Helsinki (where I stay), Espoo (where I work) and Vantaa (where the airport is). ‘Pursimiehenkatu’ is not such a big deal now. Neither is Leppävaara. Nor is Linnavuorenpuisto. Want some more tongue twisters? You would be barely able to pronounce these words, when they assume that your memory is volatile and vanish from your memory. It takes a while to learn to pronounce a word and then *remember* it so that you can reach that place.
The first thing that every PC user from India asks is – where the @ symbol is. Obviously everyone has to send email and the @ symbol is not visible in the first look or in the second (neither are a whole lot of other ‘normal’ keys). Some ppl assumed that finnish keyboards don’t have a provision for one, so they started the ‘typical copy/paste from other mails and make do’ kinda stuff. My typing skills have gone töpsy türvy as well! Normal symbols like even <> / etc are now typed with a different key combination! The ‘normal’ places are now occupied by ö ä å ü € and the like.
The TV remotes here seemingly didn’t function. Only later we realised that the power does not come on by pressing the same button which was pressed for switching it off. Instead you have to press any channel button and it comes on! Weird.
Thankfully one thing is still not totally awry. The toilets here are equipped with jet sprays and toilet paper both! Phew!