Saturday, 18 August 2018

Bergen, Norway (Strandgaten 201)

As usual, I was awake and ready before my 6:00 a.m. alarm went off this morning. One of the first things I did was schedule a taxi to pick me up at 7:30. From there it was a matter of packing and cleaning up the place before I left. I never did find out where to take the garbage. I know that Jonas told me, and I thought I knew where it was, but guess I didn’t listen as well as I should. So I just took my two bags to a street garbage bin and dropped it in there.

I was downstairs to meet the taxi before 7:30 but she was there before I was. We got our wires crossed since she thought I wanted to go to the central train station, but I said I needed to meet the airport train at the Byparken stop. We quickly got the worked out. Timing was good and got to the station before the next train so I had time to purchase a ticket.

Check-in at the airport went well. After four times using Norwegian Air’s automated process, think I have it down now. I had a bit of time before my flight but thought I should get through security and walk towards the gate and maybe find a snack to eat before the flight. I should have held back a little since there were no shops or places to buy any food once I got to the gate. And it a long way back to where there was. So I just waited at the gate until I boarded the flight and would have a meal when I arrived in Oslo.

At Oslo I found a restaurant and ordered a burger. Actually one of the best non-McDonald’s burgers that I’ve eaten in quite a while. Also ordered a beer to wash it down. I camped out in the restaurant before I started to walk towards the gate for my flight to Helsinki.

I realized that this was going to be a long day for me. It hadn’t occurred to me that it will take the whole day just to go from Bergen to Helsinki. Travel to and from the airports and city centers take up almost two hours, then waiting for flights and the layover in Oslo all added up at the end of the day. Not much I could do about that. It is what it is.

When I arrived in Helsinki I looked for a place to buy vodka, knowing that you can’t buy alcohol after 6:00 p.m. and tomorrow the state run stores were closed. The duty free shops were located on a different level and I would have to be traveling outside of Finland to go up there. I supposed I could have purchased a couple of bottles of beer at a store once I got into the city, but I wanted vodka. It is so relaxing after a day of travel to have a couple of drinks while getting settled into a new place. Now it became an adventure to find how to make this happen.

As it turned out, I asked a conductor on the train into the city where we might stop where I could by alcohol. I was surprised that she took the time to do some research, with help from another conductor on the train. They concluded that I could find a nearby “Alko” shop if I got off after the 5th stop, which I did. But I only had 10 minutes at that stop to find the store. (This was turning out to be fun for me.) I asked a few people at the stop and then was sent in the right direction. I arrived at the Alko shop just as they were closing.

While I was in line a woman behind me decided she was going to be my new best friend. She showed me the way back to the train station and continued to talk with me while I waited for the train. She gave me a hug just before I boarded the train. We both said, “Until we meet again” as the train doors closed.

I sat down next to a couple who were from Germany and traveling with their twin girls who were sitting nearby. They were going to be in Helsinki for three days on holiday. We had quite a conversation for the next 20 minutes until we reached the Helsinki central station. They were slightly impressed that I knew the word,  Hauptbahnhof. (Thought I would impress them with my very limited German.)

I was planning to take a tram to the hotel but opted for a taxi. It was a 20 minute ride by taxi, but if I took a tram, plus a bus and more walking, it would have been another hour at least. It was a great decision.

I had booked a room at a Hilton that was just outside the main part of the city. It is near a lake and next to a forest. Because I used my Hilton Honor points, it will only cost me around $350 for the six nights that I’ll be here.

After checking in I went up to my room. I must have been tired because as I was looking for my room I came across one of my neighbors who had three very active children running in the hallway. I said to her that this wouldn’t work for me. They will have to be quiet out of respect for the other guests. She said it would be difficult because they were children. I just shook my head. She got the hint. I heard her talking with her kids that they needed to be quiet. I didn’t hear them the rest of the evening.

I was able to have a couple of drinks and as I was unpacking then fell asleep. For two hours! By the time I woke I only had 20 minutes to order food from Room Service. There was no menu in the room, so while on the phone to Room Service I decided to have another burger for dinner. Why not?

I didn’t stay up much longer after that. Not sure what I’m doing tomorrow, though I anticipate I’ll use my time in Helsinki to relax and just have a casual visit to the city while I’m here. We will see…

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