28 June 2011
Travels in Finland
0540: Newcastle airport is surprisingly busy at this time in the morning. The rest of the city looked quite sleepy as the taxi zoomed through, but the airport was jumping. There are lots of people heading out on holiday (folks, the hats and acres of skin are a bit of a giveaway), and even more business people standing around looking shifty in suits.
0755: BA’s scoring points for a very comfy aircraft for the trip down to Heathrow. Sadly it’s a bit cloudy, so you can’t see much en route – although by the time we’re coming into London you can grab a quick glimpse of the Thames.
0930: I’d forgotten how much I hate Heathrow. Terminal 3 is awful – far too many people, far too few places to sit, dirty and hideously expensive. Welcome to Britain, everyone. It does get better.
1045: I’m sat on a Finnair plane, en route to Helsinki. Or I would be had we not missed our slot for takeoff – we sit on the tarmac for a good 40 minutes. I manage to fall asleep and miss the safety briefing, so I’m hoping we don’t crash.
1130: Top marks to Finnair for their sandwiches. They’re edible – although that may be because I’m starving.
1522: We land in Helsinki. A top class landing (unlike the bumpy BA one at Heathrow, which woke the passengers up a bit). Helsinki is warm. Very warm. I’d even go so far as to suggest a national stereotype, and say it’s like a sauna.
1645: Not enjoying the packed bus from the airport to downtown Helsinki. It’s far too hot, there’s too much luggage stacked everywhere, and I’m desperate for a cup of coffee.
1800: Helsinki central station. The train bound for Moscow looks suitably knackered and Russian, and there’s a huge stall in the middle of the platform selling fresh peas, cherries and strawberries. You don’t get that kind of thing at King’s Cross.
1920 I’m in the middle of the Finnish countryside, doing 160km/h. More trees than you could ever believe possible are flashing past, making Kielder Forest look like a bit of a copse. I’ve just seen a ski jump (they look quite surprisingly concretey in summer when you’re used to seeing them on the telly covered in snow), lots of lakes, and more trees.
Finnish trains are pretty impressive – double decker, air conditioned and amazingly clean if you’re used to East Coast and Virgin. I’m sat in a ‘work cabin’ – a two-seater compartment with seats, electric sockets and tables.
2030: Ok, I might be a bit blasé about the tree thing now. Ooh look: lakes!
2200: Not dark
2245: Arrived in Joensuu! Hurrah!
2345: Still not dark…