Saturday, March 8, 2014

Iceland Day 10 ~ Journey back home... Oslo - Helsinki to one of the most amazing Norwegian dinner.

Almost couldn't make it to the airport off Reykjavic...

Finally, we were on our way home.
Before 5am, all of us gathered at the main road just down the slope from Welcome Apartments.  Our bus was to be arriving at 5am to send us to the airport.  But strange.  There wasn't any vehicles on the road except for a stocking-ed Icelandic lady in heavy mascara walking towards us from her car, reeking of alcohol, meekly asking for a lighter.
Jiaklat.. the frown line on Adrian's furrow suddenly grew deeper by 10 years. If the bus couldn't come in time, we literally had to grab the taxi across the road parked at the petrol station and get him to mobilise his whole brotherly fleet.

If not, we might just have to spend one more night seeking aurora here in Reykjavik.  Between our quiet discussion of alternative plans and Adrian's frantic calling on his handphone, the bus chugged along, manned by two elderly Icelandic gentlemen, one of whom Adrian later mentioned was probably the boss of the company.  Good for us, served by the boss himself!

So we bobbed on the Finnair plane from Reykjavik to Oslo, and waited in transit for a while in the wifi-ed but not internet-access Oslo International airport, where everything was super expensive.  But thankfully we had some Bakkwa, courtesy of Michelle and Eddy.






Helsinki!
 And we arrived at Helsinki International Airport for a many-houred-transit.  Our plan was to grab a bus at about several Euros, leave our luggage in lockers in the airport, also cheaply for a few Euros, and go gallivanting in Helsinki for a dinner.  Man, did it turn out to be a dinner!


Very jiaklat, this Serene just couldn't get enough of pretty Ang Moh girls and she kept pestering to have a photo taken with this Finnish girl at the bus ticket counter.  She was so smitten by this girl that she even made me buy a blue bandana for her from this young lady.

Out of Helsinki Airport!
Soon we were out of Helsinki airport and were excitedly awaiting the bus.  This was very very systematic and the timing was very regular.  Hannah was so overjoyed that I saw for the first time on this trip, her open display of emotion.

OK, let's get up the bus!

A nice smooth journey on this comfortable coach... at least no one forced us to clip-in our seat belts. Hahaha... Serene kept shooting in the bus on the way to the city centre.

And we arrived at the train station.



First thing was to look for a place to eat.


Adrian was very on the ball.  With a map in his hands, his furrow got real deep trying to look for the exact position of the restaurant he was planning to bring us to.


Lai Peng was really good with reading the map and getting around...

A few more minutes of deliberation...


And we were finally off, walking along the streets of Helsinki.  Here, there was many more people as compared with Reykjavik.


This Helsinki is kinda exciting, with Europ style buildings, and significantly more human traffic.  Nice and cool was the weather which made it just nice for nicely strolling along.  The people seemed to be walking a little faster here too.


And buskers abound too, as Carren found out.  Generously she put in some encouragement into his box.


We walked and walked and walked.. and walked.. took left turns and right turns...




Until we all came to Hard Rock Cafe.  Ho sei liao lah! Time for dinner...

While waiting for the boys and girls to negotiate for a table inside, we stood around outside and shot some more pictures..

Of trams...

Of naked men...

Of Finnish children...

And of Finnish teenagers...

... and.. HUH?!?! Not going to eat at Hard Rock Cafe?
Oh.. apparently not.  The stop here at the Hard Rock Cafe was merely for shopping, for buying the much coveted Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt.
Serene asked me: "Dar, you want to buy a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt?"
I looked at her and frowned: 'What? I never wear T-shirt one lah. Don't waste the money!"

So off we went in search of that elusive FInnish restaurant..

Senaatintori - Senate Square
And we turned right here, walked through another street... and viola an square opened up in front of our eyes.. and we all gasped at the scene.  It was a majestic Helsinki Cathedral on a huge square. It was the Senaatintori - the Helsinki Senate Square.  The University of Helsinki was on the left of the cathedral in the picture, and the Government Palace on the right of the Cathedral.  The time was 4:20pm and it was starting to turn dark already.  We all just wandered around the square shooting...


We found an Islamic lady wandering the square in her blue headscarf...


And she went onto take some more pictures of the Helsinki Cathedral...

The weather was turning very cold also.  And for many who had a little too much water to drink, they found it difficult to hold their urine... especially in the presence of such an awe-inspiring statue of Emperor Alexander II


And as we looked to our right, we see the Government Palace...


So here we were, arriving at the famous Finnish Restaurant called Ravintola Savotta...

And Adrian's reservation ended up in some Arabic-sounding name.  But that nice little Finnish waitress was kind enough to let us place our orders first while preparing the restaurant.  We just waited out.  And waited.  And waited...



















A shot by Acrux Pang of the ladies waiting at Savotta, hungrily, for them to open...
Photo: Courtesy of Acrux Pang

Apologies. The liquid-papered parts were due to typo.

Here was Alex Kaan, wondering if there would be a blue-eyed Finnish beauty for him to shoot inside this restaurant.  That was why his 24-70mm was prepared way before-hand.

And poor Hannah simply stood, weakened, hungry and tired...


What did Savotta mean in Finnish? It referred to a logging place, a logging site.  And in this very unique Finnish restaurant, the nostalgic mix of decor paid tribute to the logging community, of lumberjacks and their mates, who laboured in the Finnish lakes and forest.  And many photos showed times of old.  Here, everything was authentically Finnish, from the Reindeer from Sodankylä, Bear Steak to  Lammin Sahti, which was a strong traditional home-brewed Finnish beer.

Ravintola Savotta!
We walked into the warmly-lit restaurant.. and all ten plus of us squeezed into a tiny little cabin-like private dining room where once we were in, those sitting all the way inside could hardly excuse themselves to go to the washrooms.

Looking up, I saw the old, traditional style of decor...
Despite the difficulty getting out of the small room, we still enjoyed the fresh water of Finland...

And Michelle enjoyed herself video-ing the romantic dining setting...

Our waitress brought in something which she said was complementary of the kitchen, and we all made a grab at them...

The food was out of this world, never had I tasted Reindeer meat and bear meat.  But more importantly this was one of the most unique, smooth, full-bodies tasting home-made beer I had EVER drunk.  Fortunately I only took a few sips from Serene's mug.  I thought nothing of the alcohol content because it tasted so gentle on the palate.  But apparently the alcohol content was not low.


We all kind of gotten pretty friendly with that fair little Finnish waitress called Ronja.  She told us she came from a small village from the countryside.  But in many ways, her self-confidence belied that fact.  Her charm must have rubbed off on some of the unattached male members of our troupe.  Because the conversation throughout dinner revolved around her. Haha..


Ravintola Savotta by night...
We finished a most MOST memorable Finnish dinner, significantly lightening our wallets in the process, and walked out to a night refreshingly cool evening, in the heart of Helsinki.

Bidding bye bye to Ronja...
The one shot of Ronja and the ladies.. Alamak, how come Carren got hidden behind?


Our somewhat haphazard zig-zag-ing walk in Helsinki, as captured by my Garmin Oregon.

Could see that the 'End' was where our bus stop was right next to the Train Station. Savotta was somewhere on the right, next to the Square.
Walking back to the Train Station...
Yupe, the sky had turned dark.  And we were simply walking in the nice cold of the night, all our stomachs warmed by the food and the beer.


We finally managed to arrive at the Train Station.  All safe and sound.  Except one member, who was at that moment, suffering the side effects of the potent beer.  Haha.. who could forget Adrian's semi-tipsy state at that point?  This good man almost slept all the way in the bus journey back to Helsinki Airport.


TO BE CONTINUED