High and Dry in Helsinki

There are ten-hour plane flights, and there are ten-hour plane flights. This, thankfully, was the former. I spent at least half of it watching Clash of the Titans and then Percy Jackson and the Olympians and crafting a messy and unreasoned analysis of the films' different interpretations of Greek mythology and its pertinent themes, because that is what my brain does on vacation. Charles plowed through the first two Harry Potter books and Zamyatin's dystopian We, all before the wheels touched down in Amsterdam. Seriously, why is it Medusa whos looking at a reflection here? Thats not how it goes, movie-based-on-book-based-on-myth!

Confidential to the waiter in the ridiculously upscale bistro on the second floor of the Amsterdam airport lounge: Despite the "Please Wait to Be Seated" sign, you work in an airport. If I'm ordering a Sauternes in an airport, it's a good bet I'm not really that picky about my Sauternes. You do not really need to warn me in hushed tones that the Sauternes is "far too sweet." I mean, as opposed to every other Sauternes, everywhere? It's a dessert wine! Sweetness is a desirable characteristic! Also, when you have a couple unfamiliar Dutch and Belgian beers on the list, and we ask you for a good beer recommendation, it is not acceptable to say, "Heineken, of course!" simply because you have cleverly deduced we are Americans. We are from Seattle. We know Heineken is not the best you can do.

The pumpkin soup, however, was delicious.

We went on to Helsinki. Our luggage, we discovered much later, decided to hang around the Netherlands for a bit longer. Probably getting irresponsibly stoned in a hash bar somewhere. Our luggage knows nothing about moderation.

So there we were, Charles and I, sans clothes, sans toothbrush, sans spare pair of underwear even though I knew I should have packed an extra in my carry-on like a smart and prepared adventurer. I reminded myself that we were newlyweds on our honeymoon and the underwear was probably mostly optional. To make change for the bus, we bought some surprising chocolates, chocolates that looked dark and delectable but which shattered as soon as you lay tooth to them and rained cloudberry liqueur over your entire hand. Sticky-fingered and now awake for upward of 20 hours, we took the bus to the central railway station and decided to find our hotel by means of our two sets of unshared, four-year-old memories.

Shockingly, it worked.

Hotel Glo Deluxe Room

Now all we had to do was stay up until our luggage arrived. It was 3:30 Helsinki time. Our bags were supposed to be on the 5:00 flight from Amsterdam, which would mean they'd be landing at 8:30, and certainly, the girl at the help counter assured us, delivered to our hotel before 11:00 in the evening. In between, we had a whole city to explore and a thousand possible options for dinner and entertainment.

We passed out cold at 6. The phone woke us at 10:45, groggily and gladly we greeted our errant bags, and returned to our ludicrously comfortable bed. (Though what is up with the two twin comforters on a queen-sized bed thing?) At 4 in the morning, Finland time -- that'd be 2 in the afternoon for Seattle folk -- we woke up, much refreshed, wide awake, and with three solid hours of quiet to kill until breakfast was served. The time change, she be a fickle mistress.

Helsinki is a town full of fiddly fa├žades, unexpected parks, and statues. Sometimes these elements combine themselves, like so:These guys have it so rough.

Today was a reconnaissance day, where we mostly just wandered blithely around until our feet hurt, then ate some things, then wandered some more, then ate some more things. We tried reindeer sausage, and some kind of tiny breaded whole fish, both of which were tasty, though the former made Charles feel evil. Soon it will be time for dinner, which will be fancy, because I insisted on doing the fancy dinner earlier in the week while my clothes were still in decent shape and not all sweaty from the heat.

Because, and this shouldn't have surprised me, it is fairly warm here. It rained in the morning, quite hard at one point, but now there is a wash of blue sky that looks like it's here to stay until the sun goes down at, I don't know, midnight, or whenever the hell it feels like it. Finland is balmy -- who knew? I am grateful for the dozen jewel-toned tank tops I packed, and might pick up another dozen at the H&M next door while we're here.

Up and coming: the Lutheran cathedral, the Russian cathedral, maybe Suomenlinna and fortress cannons, the waterfront park, a purported Lenin statue that I may have dreamed on the plane ride back my first trip, and any one of a hundred different museums.