Although we were prepared that reaching the heart of Finnish lakeland from Warsaw on a budget would be a tiresome endeavor, we were not truly able to face what finally happened on our effort to get there. Our original plans were to take a bus from Warsaw to Gdansk, where we would spend the night, fly to Turku and then take a bus to Helsinki and finally another bus to Heinola.
Check out the first days of our trip here
So, we got a cheap (thank you Polski bus) four hour ride to Gdansk, which was tiresome, but as we arrived in the afternoon enabled us to experience a small taste of this delightful city, although our intentions were being shadowed by the cloud-filled grey sky, which seemed as if threatening us that as we were heading northwards, the bright summer days of the South would soon become a fading memory.
After exiting the bus station, we faced a monument depicting five children of different ages standing on a platform, waiting for the train to leave. We instantly thought it was about the hardships inflicted on children during the ww2 era and it turned out we were spot on. It is about the effort to save Jewish children from the Nazis taken by the UK and there is a similar monument in London, commemorating the arrival of these Kids on the run to Britain.
We walked towards the town center, where we found an open air market, part of some festivities taking place at the time and we enjoyed a relaxed stroll around benches loaded with various goods. We saw most of the city’s landmarks in a great haste as the sky was getting more threatening and we were carrying our luggage since we deemed it a big fuss to reach our hostel, situated next to the airport, half an hour away from the city and then return back to Gdansk. Hence, we got very few pics and if I thought I was on the run during my solo visit to Wroclaw, this time we really were making a run in a desperate attempt to capture some of the place’s beauty.
The old arsenal was a great site, and the Green and golden gates were also beautiful. The city itself is pretty and the cloudy weather didn’t threaten Gdansk’s beauty, rather it revealed it under a different perspective. Still, the sky’s threats were not empty and raindrops began to warn us that we had better take cover if we didn’t wish our baggage to get wet. Consequently, we wisely decided to reach our hostel near the airport and we were lucky to reach the bus stop on time. The sky burst open and I am sure that if anyone was paying attention would hear the Meows and Woofs of cats and dogs falling from it. So, we settled in our hostel, thankfully dry enough and although the rain stopped, we decided to sleep, since our flight was scheduled to leave at 6.00 (or so we thought).
In the morning we woke up and walked the conveniently short 200 meter long route from our hostel to Gdansk airport. We wandered around for a while and we checked in anxiously awaiting for our flight as we were eager to view a new place and Finland was a country we had very high hopes of. Suddenly, as we were impatiently checking the time, a soft voice announced: “Flight numbersomething to Turku will be delayed for an hour due to a minor technical problem”. Well, that was a major problem, since our plan to reach our destination included some pre-booked buses and they were a bargain compared to the prices offered by other companies in Finland.
A delay meant that following up our schedule would be a perilous affair but after a while the same soft voice firmly announced that we would delay for another hour and our arrangements were blown away. At least the consequent third hour delay wasn’t affecting us anymore. We watched as technicians were checking an engine and the air company distributed some snacks, which would probably never be our first choice, even if we found ourselves on a shipwreck (I guess one could call this day a wreck though).
Finally, our plane took off and we found ourselves in the company of a nice Finnish guy, who seemed as if recovering from a hungover. So, he ordered a beer to prevent that. I had heard that many Finnish folks leave the country for a brief visit to Estonia to enjoy alcohol, which is sold cheaper than Finland, but I wasn’t expecting that someone would fly to Poland from the same reason. Still, that guy proved a great company and even provided some info on Finland, which he described as a rather expensive land of unheard beauty. Luckily, we mostly witnessed the second aspect.
Finally, we arrived at Turku and at the airport we were greeted by one of Catherine’s childhood fellows. A mumin. These are a children targeted show and series of books that Catherine enjoyed and that was probably the best experience she had all day so far. There was no time to waste on childish memories and fun though and we got on a bus to reach the local bus station and try to figure a way to reach Heinola.
We were kind of hoping that we might be able to present our tickets, explain the situation and get on the next buses, provided seats were available. Our hopes were instantly disappeared though as a bus driver informed us that this was impossible and pointed us to the ticket office, which sadly wasn’t dealing with the budget company we had booked tickets. Stuck to our plans, we inquired the price of a ticket to Heinola through Helsinki, thinking that we might find accommodation at the Finish capital, in a worst case scenario. We were informed that these tickets would cost us a little over 100 euros though and that would be a big blow in our budget…
…and then it hit me! Why on earth should we go to Helsinki in the first place? The only reason we picked this route was that the company we had booked our tickets with offered this as the shortest way to reach our destination due to their scheduled routes and timetables. I remembered that during our research the maps we saw mentioned Lahti as the city closest to Heinola. I asked the lady behind the counter and she confirmed that this was the best option at a cost of nearly 50 euros, half the price that is and a faster way to get there. The bus would leave in an hour and we would have to take another bus at Lahti to reach Heinola.
Eager to get back on the road but relaxed as we had figured our way out of Turku we thought about having something to eat and we spotted a place where they would serve burgers, a Hesburger (a name which sounds a bit funny in Greek and doesn’t really makes you wanna eat) and before we knew it we were on a bus enjoying the Finish countryside. Finally, we reached Lahti and we tried to figure our way out of there while Catherine began to get a bit anxious.
There are times when people simply exhibit how magnificent they are and that was the case at Lahti bus station on that day. Two girls appeared out of nowhere and noticed that Catherine was getting a bit worry, so as they were waiting for a bus on their own, they started talking to us, reassuring us that the bus would certainly come and they even kept our minds busy so as not to worry about anything. It seemed strange to them that we would visit Heinola. They were both working in a field dealing with taking care of people’s problems and quickly I realized they were actually exercising their craft to our benefit. One of them even went away for a while to free a trapped bird! Their kindness left us in awe and we only wish we could thank them enough for what they did. But that was not the only time people showed us their good side on that day.
Finally we arrived at Heinola just before it got dark and we made a quick stop for a beer and a pizza. The city didn’t seem like much, but we had no intention of staying in it, since we were trying to get a small taste of a Finnish lake. So, after resting we walked to our destination, a camping site situated in a peninsula outside the city. We arrived when it got dark and thankfully the good people running the place were waiting for us, even though we hadn’t informed them of our mishaps. Furthermore, an Austrian family offered to show us to our cabin and around the place. During these long days we had failed to do any serious sightseeing and we lost lots and lots of precious traveling time, but we had earned the most valuable thing one can find on a journey, meeting great people. They are all around us and they are the world’s best attraction. We would gladly consider the trip to Finland successful taking into account the help offered by all these people even if we wouldn’t get to see anything else during this journey. But Finland was not gonna leave us like that. She had lots more to offer and a look out of our window in the morning offered us a small taste.