Lars Wirzenius: Travel report, 2004


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Travel report: Almere, the Netherlands

Last night, I returned from a four day work trip to Almere in the Netherlands. Almere is, I think, a fairly large area, but I'm afraid I don't have a more exact location. I just sat in a taxi and my boss, with whom I went there, handled all travel details.

On Tuesday, our arrival day, it was very warm, about fifteen degrees Celsius, or about twenty degrees warmer than in Helsinki. Very nice. Unfortunately, we spent all four days pretty much completely inside. The room I was in did not even have any windows. No working heating either, until the last day. But it was nice enough anyway. We got lots of things done.

On Thursday evening our hosts took us to Amsterdam for dinner, and we spent a little while walking around the city as well. Again, I've no idea which part, but I know there were canals. Apart from that, it was pretty much all work, so we didn't get to partake in any of the things the Netherlands is famous for these days: prostituion, drugs, or euthanasia. (Actually, I think I'm happier this way.)

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Travel report: Stockholm

I have returned this morning from a trip on the ferry to Stockholm, together with Ville, Vera, and Mikko. For those not familiar with the custom: there are a few large ships, called ferries, that travel between Helsinki and Stockholm. Nominally, they are for transporting cars and travellers, but in reality, mostly they are floating restaurants and the only reason for moving between Finland and Sweden is to have tax-free shopping.

A ferry.

A ferry. This is just a decorative picture and has nothing to do with this trip. In fact, we didn't even take Silja line, but their competitor, Viking line.

The ferries can take thousands of people, plus cars and cargo. They have restaurants, pubs, discos, dance clubs, gambling, and so on. Oh, and tax free. It is fairly common in Finland to take an occasional trip to Stockholm and stock up on booze from the tax-free shop on the boat. Not that it is possible to stock up very much, since the Finnish import restrictions for alcohol are quite limiting.

That's OK for me, though, since my primary interest is Stockholm itself. I don't even drink alcohol at the moment, and I rarely enjoy sitting in pubs full of smoke and noise.

We visited the Royal palace. It was moderately impressive. Obviously much money has been spent to build and decorate it, over the centuries, and it certainly is big. On the other hand, everything felt like having been built primarily for display, not use. It seemed to me designed to impress visitors (previously ambassadors and heads of state, now tourists), not to rule an empire from. It is similar to swords: a sword glittering with gems and gold is never as impressive as one built to kill people with.

The building also showed some signs of, well, not exactly neglect, but less than perfect upkeep. There were some rooms with paint hanging from the ceiling and such. These may be quite deliberate, but they felt out of place.

Afterwards, we visited Science fiction bokhandeln, a bookstore that specializes in science fiction, fantasy, roleplaying games, and such. It was fun, though not particularly exotic. I still managed to burn away too much money there: I should probably be prevented from visiting bookstores.

Sleeping on the ferry was not very successful for me. The beds are small and the mattresses are bad. They're built for low total cost of ownership, not comfort. Accordingly, I didn't get much sleep and my back started aching. This isn't the first time that has happened. I may have to consider not going again because of this.

I still feel the gentle rolling of the ship. My sense of balance still thinks I'm on sea. I expect the return of dreams of living in a sail boat tonight.