Guest Post by Hadley

I am always cold. You know that question “would you rather burn to death or freeze to death?” Hands down, knock on wood, I would choose burn to death. So when I went on a trip around Northern and Eastern Europe during the 2012 European cold wave, basically the coldest winter most of the continent has seen in the past 1000 years, I wasn’t exactly the happiest camper. Plus, I was living out of a carry on duffle bag for three weeks, and for those of you who’ve had the pleasure of flying with Ryanair, you know how small your bags have to be. Luckily I had my fur coat (faux, of course) which allowed me to wear every possible item I packed under it. During the coldest of the trip, -30 Celsius (that’s NEGATIVE 22 Fahrenheit), I became the Michelin Man with three pairs of compression leggings, four sweaters, and as many socks as possible to fit under my boots. A week into the trip the zippers on my boots broke from being too tight with sock — I think you get how cold it was.

silja line scandinavia
Setting sail in Scandinavian winter.

I went on my three week adventure with two friends who shared my same interest in traveling. As many fellow travelers know, getting from place to place on a long trip can be quite costly, so we thought of cheaper, more exciting  alternative: the ferry. I asked my Swedish friend about ferries in Northern Europe and she told me she takes often to travel. She also mentioned that “it is what you would call…white trash.”

The first leg of our trip we planned to go from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland via Silja Line Ferry then from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia via Tallink Ferry. The ferry from Sweden to Helsinki is an overnight voyage and with three of us in one cabin it was approximately 51 euros per person, a much cheaper alternative to an airplane.

After taking the bus from the center of Stockholm to where we thought the ferry was docked, however, we realized we were at the completely wrong port. Stranded on the edge of Stockholm, with 10 minutes until the ferry left the dock a good 2 kilometers away, we were screwed. So at 5 pm in the pitch black (it is Sweden in the winter, after all) we began power walking up a hill towards the correct dock over a mile away. After wandering with no cars in sight we finally see headlights — and though hitchhiking is very unsafe, especially in a foreign country, there were no other options and 4 minutes on the clock so I made my friend stick out his hand and thumb for a ride. Thankfully the man stopped for us to pile in, and we made it to the ferry with 2 minutes to spare.

silja line entertainment
The "show" on board the Silja Line

We arrived at our sleeping quarters in a state of utter shock to find a bunk bed I imagine astronauts would sleep on and a pull out bed. Not ready to settle into those luxurious accommodations we decided to explore the main promenade area, which was similar to a mall with tacky shops on either side as well as overpriced restaurants. I ate what was quite possibly the worst and most overpriced cheeseburger of my life while my friends had Swedish meatballs, and they weren’t fans either. Later on that night we went to the bar for a “show” and oh, what a show it was. It reminded me of one of the dance routines you would see at Disney World, and also of my friend’s “white trash” comment.

The final ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn even more entertaining, if that’s possible. Our boat left at 11 am and was only a two hour trip (and 20 euro ticket), and during this time we had no seats and sat on the floor of the promenade area for some people watching. I love to people watch anywhere you can observing the ways of strangers: at an airport, a café, etc. On this ferry, I observed that about 50 percent of the passengers were drunk. At 11 am.

Looking back on my three week adventure with the record breaking temperatures, I’d have to say the ferry trips were by far the most entertaining part. Like they say, it’s not the incredibly cold destination but the journey.

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