Monday June 25, 2012

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It’s midsummer here at the northernmost point of our cruise, and I’ve already mentioned the weird lack of darkness. But winter in these parts must be equally weird, when the sun comes up at 10am, darkness falls at 2pm, temperatures drop way below zero, and everything freezes-over. Which probably explains why every Finnish house worth its salt has a sauna (usually down on the water’s-edge – so, after turning red like a lobster in the steamy heat, you can plunge into the icy sea and turn blue).

It also explains why Helsinki builds more big-bowed ice-breakers than anywhere else in the world – to ensure its waterways stay open through the thick sea-ice.

Finland’s capital is loved for its striking architecture, wide boulevards, parks, market square and open-air cafes. But we couldn’t see much of those today, through the rain-splattered windows of our coach. Instead, we drove out into the sunnier countryside to the medieval village of Porvoo, featuring cobblestone streets, quaint wooden buildings, and a divine chocolate shop that saw most Mad Midlifers parting with Euros and putting on weight. (Please understand: we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast!)

From there we found our way through rolling farmland to the Savijarvi Homestead – famous, amongst other things, for its equestrian horses (which we got to meet, pat, converse with and be nibbled by) – where more food (a traditional home-cooked three-course Finnish lunch) awaited us.

En route back to our ship, we capped off a very pleasant day with a visit to the Temppeliaukio Rock Church (blasted into solid rock and topped with a stunning copper dome) – where a talented girl’s performance on a grand piano gave us all goosebumps.


The quacking of little yellow Midlife Madness ducks (see pic) can be heard all over the ship these days – and their popularity continues to grow:

The Behind The Bikesheds Award was won by Pamela – who wanted to compare her purchases with those of others in our group who had been in the same serviette shop. What Pamela meant to say was, “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine …” but what she actually said was, “You show me mine and I’ll show you yours …” (You had to be there.)


Roy hasn’t got another rubber ducky – but he has, finally, got his BAG back. Roy’s suitcase failed to join us on our flight from London to Amsterdam, and hopes of ever seeing it again were beginning to fade. But, thanks to persistence on Roy’s part and help from the ship’s purser, it was there waiting for him in his cabin (balloons tied to it and all) here in Helsinki. Roy much-travelled bag (we’ve since learned) went from London to Amsterdam (on a later flight), then back to London, then to Pisa, Venice, Tallinn and, at last, Helsinki!



We wake up in one of Europe’s most impressive cities, Stockholm … view a 17th century Swedish warship … and enjoy an hour-or-so on a small-boat tour of the waterfront. The show’s far from over, so don’t go away!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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