Sleepless In Helsinki

Last modified on March 18th, 2007

Surprisingly, I actually was tired enough to go to bed sometime around 10:30pm Helsinki time last night. The last time I got any real sleep was Friday night back in Vancouver, so after 15 hours of travelling, I was pretty hungry and exhausted. I just didn’t have the strength to go find food when I got here, so I popped a couple over the counter sleeping pills and went to sleep.

Unfortunately, although I did sleep pretty well, I was up around 5:30am waiting eagerly for the 6:30am breakfast to start. Having just gotten back from eating, I feel well enough to finally do my first real blog entry out here.

I’m staying at the Radisson Seaside hotel here in Helsinki, which is actually a pretty nice hotel for a decent price. A full buffet breakfast is included with the nightly room charges, as is wireless internet access (although it’s not the fastest in the world — I think Tokyo gets that honour). The shower is nice and large, and I’ve already had two rather lengthy showers to relax since being here (they have all these fancy fruit scented shampoos to choose from).. Apparently there is even a nice sauna on the top floor where you can drink wine and look out over the city.

In terms of being “seaside”, I haven’t really had a chance to see it yet. Across the street there’s a small harbour, but it looks rather frozen over right now. Landing last night reminded me a lot of landing in Ottawa in the winter — everything was covered in a blanket of snow, and you could see the snow falling in the little aura of light around all the streetlights. For the most part, every one I’ve tried to speak english with has responded in english, which makes my life a whole lot easier. One guy got pretty excited that I spoke english, and wouldn’t really let me go away without speaking with him for a while (which was, as friendly as I am, a challenge considering how tired I was last night when I got in).

Taxis are pretty high class here — almost all of them I’ve seen have been fancy Mercedes or BMW variants. The one I rode in last night was a brand new fully loaded Volvo with leather seats. So far, my take on the prices here is that everything is pretty expensive compared to home. I still haven’t gotten over the Euro conversion factor in my head, but almost everything on the hotel food menu was 15-20 euros, plus a 10 euro delivery charge if you wanted it in your room. So, that seems pretty expensive to me. The cab ride was around 40 euros as well, but it was a fair distance to the airport, so that could be reasonable. In Heathrow, the ATM machines gave Euros, but everyone gave change in pounds, which seemed like a pretty easy way to screw tourists over. I’m easily one of those tourists that can be screwed over because I’m generally pretty trusting of people. When the price came up on the register, I just held out a wad of money and said “help”, and the lady took away some and gave some back. So, hopefully I don’t walk away from here completely hosed.

It’s 7:30am here, and I’m not scheduled to be on-site until noon, so I have a bit of time to kill. I’m going to spend a few hours working, and then maybe go outside for a 30 minute walk and try to find a SIM card for my GSM phone so I can have a local number. I’ll also, of course, snap a few photos for flickr in the process. I’m currently scheduled to fly out of here on Wed the 28th, passing through London on the way back to Vancouver. Depending on how things go this week, I may have a day or two at the end to see a few things around Finland, or possibly even get on a plane and go see Paris or something. I’m not counting on it at this point, so we’ll see. St. Petersburg Russia looked really close on a map, and I wanted to check that out, but the visa process is a bit complicated, and it’s not as close as I originally thought — so the reality is I probably won’t get to go there (although visiting Russia would be pretty cool in my mind)..

So that’s it for my first update. I hope the rain is still falling in Vancouver..

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