London to Lahti (and Stockholm, Copenhagen and Hamburg)April 4th, 2012
I flew to Helsinki-Vantaa on a British Airways flight from London Heathrow. It took me 3 hours to get from rainy London to cold and snowy Finland. I had a lovely and traditional Finnish Christmas in Lahti with my family and friends. Lahti is my hometown as well as the home of Finland’s greatest footballer of all time, Jari Litmanen.
We have some international trains passing through Lahti, and also the high-speed train Allegro which runs between Helsinki, Finland and St. Petersburg, Russia. I checked the timetables for that train as I wanted to get some pictures. There I was, waiting for the train at the platform and it was -24 degrees outside!
The train finally arrived 15 minutes late and I decided to have a look inside too, just a quick look. I took a couple of pictures of the seats and then headed back to the doors only to realise that the train was actually moving! I found a ticket inspector and he believed my confusing explanation, that I wasn’t trying to get to Russia without a passport or visa, but I actually got trapped inside when I was just taking some pictures of the train to show them to my colleagues! Luckily the train stopped in Kouvola, which is about 25 minutes away from Lahti, and I didn’t need to go all the way to the Finnish/Russian border. It was nice to go to our warm Sauna when I finally got back home!
After all the endless eating around Christmas time I headed to a coastal town of Turku, which is the oldest city in Finland and also the former capital. I spent a couple of days with my grandparents there and then caught the Silja Line ferry from Turku to Stockholm. The ferry departed around 8pm from Turku’s harbour. Checking in was really simple, they just checked your passport and then printed off a boarding pass. I located my room easily on the 10th deck. I had a nice twin cabin with toilet and shower, all for myself. After settling down in my cabin, I headed to the tax free shops! They have a large selection of perfumes, sweets, alcohol, accessories and lots more. I was stocking up with lots of Finnish salted liquorice as you can’t find it easily back in London!
After having walked around the ferry I went back to my cabin to get some sleep before an early arrival in Stockholm. We arrived into Stockholm before 7am when it was still dark outside.
The easiest way to move around in Stockholm is the Metro (Tunnelbana) and luckily my hotel was just 2 stops away from the harbour on the metro! I got off at Östermalmstorg and my hotel was about 2 minutes walk away from the Metro station. (My friend told me that Östermalmstorg was the “poshest area” in Stockholm! Not a bad start.)
My hotel was called STORY HOTEL. Check in was quick and easy, and all the staff were really helpful. They even offered a “self check-in” using a PC at the reception. When planning my trip I had spent hours looking for a hotel in Stockholm, but as I arrived at the hotel I realised that the Story hotel was everything I had been looking for: it was really a trendy and bohemian small design hotel and it definitely was different from all those chain hotels( like Hiltons and Novotels for example)! My room was a standard double room and I loved it! There were some beautiful pictures and photographs on the walls and the toiletries were provided by a famous Swedish cosmetics company called FACE Stockholm.
There was a nice small restaurant and a bar downstairs, and I noticed that among all the hotel guests there were also lots of local Swedish people enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.
Stockholm is a lovely city and actually it is one of my favorite cities in Europe! I was very lucky as I had my Stockholmer friend as my guide during my visit to the Swedish capital. We went to the Photographic museum Fotografiska to see very interesting exhibition about Andy Warhol as Lady Warhol, we walked around Gamla Stan’s (Old Town) narrow streets and visited lots of nice boutiques. I also got to see the Royal Palace which is the biggest palace in the world still used by a head of state! (King Carl XVI Gustav)
I think Stockholm is very beautiful city and I can warmly recommend it to everyone! If possible I want to return to this gorgeous city in summer when I can leave my woolen hat back home and take a pair of sunglasses with me instead.
The Central train station in Stockholm is just about 15 minutes away from the Story Hotel, which was great, as I was early at the train station and I had plenty of time to print my pre-booked tickets on one of the ticket machines before catching my X2000 train to the west coast of Sweden – Gothenburg. I had been waiting for testing this train as I had heard lots of good feedback on it. Luckily I had purchased a first class ticket, so I had a nice spacious seat, and there were some complimentary snacks and drinks available at the end of the carriage. And not to forget – passengers travelling first class were provided with free internet access! Before I even noticed my 3 hours journey had come to its end and I saw my friend waving to me outside the train – I had arrived to Gothenburg!
I welcomed the New Year in Gothenburg watching beautiful and colourful fireworks with my friends.
Gothenburg is a great place for shopping – they have “något för alla” (Something for everyone). Trams and buses are a good way to see the Sweden’s second-largest city. They have lots of nice cafés there, where you can for example try a delicious Finnish-Swedish Semla –it is a wheat bun, filled with whipped cream and jam or almond paste. Once in Sweden you should also try those yummy traditional Swedish meatballs!
From Gothenburg I jumped on a regional train to Falkenberg. Falkenberg is a nice small town of 20,000 inhabitants only 1 hour away from Gothenburg. They have a beautiful beach which is worth visiting!
Next I jumped on an Intercity train to Copenhagen. It was due to take just over 2 hours, but it actually took me a couple of hours longer as there was a train in front of us which broke down. We were then transferred onto coaches in order to get us past the broken train. The coaches took us to the next station, and from there we continued our journey on a comfortable and warm train. I was glad to travel in first class as it was much quieter there compared to the second class.
After my overnight stop in Copenhagen I was looking forward to my four and half hour train journey on the Intercity Express (ICE) to Hamburg. The train was on time (as all the trains on my trip were), and I easily found my seat. Soon the train was on the move and the ticket inspector came to check our tickets. Here again – I was lucky enough to travel in first class as we were given vouchers with whom we could get a free coffee or tea and a snack from the bar car. I can warmly recommend upgrading to first class especially on longer train journeys like this, as usually you get a comfy large seat and more space for stretching too! After a couple of hours of travelling on the train I experienced something exciting – the train got on a ferry! It was time to cross the Baltic Sea!
Once we were on the ferry on the way to Germany all the passengers were asked to leave the train and go to the upper deck. We spent around 30 minutes off the train so you had time to wander around the shop or have some lunch in one of the cafés. When we were approaching the coast of Germany we were asked to return to the train. Soon the ferry arrived into Germany, and the train continued its journey without any problems through the harbour and to the first station on the German side which is Puttgarden. I was so surprised how everything worked like clockwork! After 2 hours of more travelling we arrived to Hamburg.
I spent 2 days experiencing the harbour city of Hamburg with my German friend. We stayed at Crowne Plaza, which is a nice hotel approximately 15 minutes walk away from the main train station (Hamburg Hauptbahnhof). Our room was spacious and the bed was extremely comfortable. Not to forget mentioning the breakfast – it was superb! You can have anything you can wish for. I even had lots of pancakes!
We walked a lot during our 2 day stay in Hamburg – we got to see the beautiful harbour with lots of ships and boats, we found trendy cafés and shops and we also had time to take some nice pictures of Hamburg’s historical buildings.
After all that walking around I was keen to see my next and second-last train of the trip: the City Night Line from Hamburg to Paris! I had a single compartment booked for myself, which I highly recommend when travelling on your own. You get the compartment all for yourself and it guarantees you a good night’s sleep as you don’t need to worry about strangers. I had a washbasin in my compartment, and the toilet and shower were located at the end of the carriage/corridor. In the morning I was amazed by friendliness of the sleeping car attendant. He served breakfast into my compartment, and he also set up my table as I had some difficulties trying to do that! The breakfast was simple but tasty: the breakfast box consisted of two rolls, butter, juice, croissant, jam, paté and cup of tea or coffee. After having finished eating my breakfast we arrived at Paris Gare de l’Est Station. Luckily the Gare de l’Est is only about 5-10 minutes’ walk away from the Eurostar terminal at the Gare du Nord. I decided to leave my heavy suitcase in the lockers at the Gare du Nord.
After a good night’s sleep on the City Night Line train I was ready to explore sunny Paris for a few hours before my 14:13 Eurostar departure to London.