Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Trains in Finland

I spent a lot of time on trains and buses while I was in Finland:

Helsinki airport - Turku (two separate buses)
Turku - Vaasa (three separate trains; more on that later)
Vaasa - Helsinki (two separate trains)

Since I had several appointments to keep in a short amount of time, these train rides were scheduled with little margin for error. I was especially worried about the trains from Vaasa to Helsinki - if I missed a connection, or if the train was delayed, I would have missed my flight home.

Luckily, everything ran spectacularly on time except for one train ride. And happily, it was the one train ride where I had a time cushion (Turku to Vaasa). The only thing that suffered from the two-hour eventual delay was some kick-back time in a hotel room by myself in Vaasa. Here is the story of the delay - it was a crazy experience taken up by a notch due to the fact that I don't speak Finnish.

First train: Turku - Tampere. Fifteen minutes in, the train came to a stop and the conductor made a lengthy announcement in Finnish over the intercom. I did not understand a word of what he said (except for "Tampere"), but when he said it, all my fellow passengers groaned collectively so I knew it was bad news. A nice young woman took me under her wing and explained that the track was broken, so we'd have to get off at an earlier stop and take a bus the rest of the way to the Tampere train station.

At that stop, I hustled off the train with 120+ of my Finnish co-passengers and we sorted ourselves into two buses: one for those with connections in Tampere, and one for those finishing their journey there. I and 59 others had connections - the reason I know the number is because we filled the bus to the exact seat. To this day I don't know if this was some kind of spectacular planning on the part of the Finnish railway authorities, but it certainly struck me as being providentially efficient that the bus fit us perfectly. There were lots of announcements and negotiations and discussion, all in Finnish throughout all of this - I just smiled and nodded and ran when they did, and sat down on a bus when they did.

Once we pulled up in Tampere, those of us trying to catch a connection to Seinäjoki ran to the terminal, found the track number, and then ran to catch the train. Personally, I was in heels, lugging a rolly suitcase. (Side note: heels while out and about are so impractical in Finland - aside from the obvious cold temperatures and unsuitability for walking long distances, the heels got stuck in the holes of all the scrape-your-boots-off grates outside building entrances! It was awful! Here in the UAE we are very spoiled to wear pretty much whatever we want without regard for weather. Anyway.)

The original train had left more than an hour previous, but we made this later train. Phew!

My original helper was getting off in Seinäjoki, so I found a new friend to follow to Vaasa, still from that first train in Turku. She didn't speak English, so we mostly just made eye contact and smiled at each other. Of course we had long missed the original connection, but there was (thankfully) a later train that we both got on. I think it had even waited a few minutes for us.

Finally, around 9 o'clock that night, we arrived in Vaasa, I got to my hotel room and took off those awful high heels. I decided to take it all as an adventure rather than an inconvenience, even as I sincerely hoped that was all the train-delay I'd experience in Finland. I really really didn't want to miss my flight the next day.

That next day in Vaasa, by the way, I dressed up but wore flats as I walked the 2km to my appointment. Around the corner from the building, I changed into my heels. Win.

In general, the trains in Finland were fantastic. The longer-distance regional trains all had Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi! It was like living in the future! I even video-chatted with Jeremy and the kids while riding one. The smaller city-to-city trains were a little more rustic - more like what I remember trains in Russia being (but the nice trains in Russia), with no Wi-Fi. So instead I sat back and read O Pioneers as the fields flew by my window.

And then once I transferred to a train with Wi-Fi that last morning on the way to Helsinki, I logged into my email and saw a job offer and knew that whether I accepted it or not, I had just entered Tomorrow, When Our World Changed territory. In a train, in Seinäjoki.

Steven and Kristi

Concerts this week and last