Saturday, September 15, 2007

Finland - Aland - Stockholm (9/10/07 & 9/11/07)

Sept 10th We woke up early on our last morning in Finland so that we weren't late for our boat out of Turku to Aland (an island between Finland and Sweden that belongs to Finland). Kassu loaded up our bags and dropped us off – curbside service – at the boat terminal in Turku. The boats that cruise between Finland and Sweden are miniature versions of cruise ships – like Royal Caribbean or Carnival and the like. Since we were getting off the boat at the half way mark we only paid for the “deck class” and did not have a cabin. We stored our big bags in the luggage room and spent most of the 5 hour trip in the Panarama Bar – it is a dance club on one of the upper decks in the ship that is closed during the day but the doors remain open and passengers can sit in the booths that face outward toward the sea. They also make great resting places because it's quiet and has cushioned seats, making for a comfy lounge area. Chris and I were able to take a nap and wake up to beautiful scenery just outside the window. Chris could even walk out onto the outside deck of the ship and take pictures of the archipelagos as we sailed by.

We arrived in Aland around 5:30pm and took a cab to the hotel. The skies were gray and there was an intermittent drizzle of rain so we checked into our hotel and headed out for dinner. Luckily we found a cafe in the main shopping area of “downtown” Mariehamn (one of the main towns in Aland) that was open. Most of the little shops were closed already and so we decided to eat there before everything closed and we ran out of options.

Once we were full we bundled up and walked around town and along the harbor. We didn't stay out long though because everything was closed and it was cold! We went back to our warm hotel room and watched a couple movies on our laptop before heading into dream land.

Sept 11th

When we woke up this morning the skies were still gloomy but it did not seem to be raining so we had breakfast and headed out on the town. We were only in Mariehamn until early afternoon so we wanted to see as much as we could before we headed out to Stockholm. We walked over to the shopping mall and peeked in the stores as we passed by. We wandered around the streets of Mariehamn but without a bike or moped there wasn't a lot to do. A lot of the stores or tourist attractions are seasonal and have closed up shop already – most close in mid August until May or June of the following year as there are not many people visiting in the Winter. We walked around taking pictures until our ship arrived to take us to Stockholm.

The boat ride to Stockholm was just like the one to Aland – relaxing and quiet. We found the same seats and took advantage of the time to catch up on the blog and take naps.

Coming into Stockholm by boat is an unforgettable experience. Like many other coastal cities we've visited, many of the larger buildings and church steeples are visible and Stockholm's skyline was a beautiful sight. We were very excited to get off the ship and head to the hotel so that we could start exploring the city and planning our route for the next day – our only full day in Stockholm.

From the ship we took a taxi to the Hotel Rival, which is owned by a former member of the popular Swedish group ABBA.

Once we were settled into the room we went out to walk around Soder, the area of town we were staying in. We walked around for about 30 minutes trying to find a good restaurant for dinner and eventually ended up back at the first one we had passed, The Viking Restaurant. We weren't exactly thrilled when we first walked in but they were the only restaurant with an English menu! We were pleasantly surprised when our food arrived and Chris definitely won for best meal. He ordered the Chicken & Curry Pasta which I'm hoping to recreate at home :) We returned to the hotel and set our alarm. We had a busy day planned for Stockholm on Wednesday!

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