105. Edinburgh-Copenhagen (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 09/12/15: On my way to Finland yet again, with a few friends commenting that it had now taken over as my new Australia. As it happened, my seventh visit there had been for a ridiculously short time (six days), and it was mainly to see a redhead. And my seventh visit to Finland would also be for a ridiculously short time, (barely two days), although in this case, the hair was only dyed red.
Any of my overseas trips have to be accompanied by a little movie, preferably soundtracked by a local artist, (I mean, if I went on holiday to Canada, I would seem a bit odd to use an Australian band’s music for the movie soundtrack). So, despite struggling initially with their huge volume of unlistenable heavy metal, I had managed to find some good Finnish artists whose music I could use for my little travel films. Paavoharju was my preference when it came to slightly creepy time lapse films, but, for radio friendly indie pop, Anna Puu was definitely the go-to choice. I had first heard one of her songs whilst I was sitting in a pub in Toijala; I was so keen to know who the music was by, I was prepared to foot the considerable cost of Shazaming something whilst using roaming data to find out. Now she was on tour with the noted UMO jazz orchestra, performing a set of Finnish christmas carols. This tour would include a show at Temppeliaukio, an underground church in Helsinki. I’d visited it several times, hewn out of solid rock in the middle of the city, and it was one of my favourite buildings. I knew that any concert there would have fantastic acoustics, and always wondered what a concert there would be like. And if it was going to be my favourite Finnish singer, in one of my favourite buildings, doing christmas carols? I couldn’t miss this.
Unfortunately, when you’re the manager of a fast-food business, taking holidays in December is a bit of a no-no. So the best I could manage was a flying visit for a couple of days. It wasn’t easy getting flights at a decent price at this time of year. SAS would obviously have been the preference so that I could continue to accrue more Eurobonus points, but they had no cheap routes on the days I wanted. So I had to settle for Norwegian Air Shuttle again. They were a decent airline, but the route would involve a long stop at Copenhagen, as well as arriving late and departing early from Helsinki. But I wasn’t going to miss Anna Puu singing Pieni Rumpilipoika in an underground church.
106. Copenhagen-Helsinki (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 09/12/15: Five hours is a long stop in any airport, though there are a lot worse than Copenhagen. Money wasn’t really an issue, the WH Smith’s sold Irn-Bru and there was free wi-fi after all. But you can only film so many time-lapse segments of aircraft landing and taking off before you get bored.
When my connecting flight finally left, I wouldn’t be arriving in Helsinki until around eleven at night. And as I was departing at seven the day after next, I had decided not to even bother going into the city. If I stayed in town, it would be too late to really go out and do anything after my arrival, plus I would have to get up really early to get back out to the airport for the flight home. So I opted to stay in Forenom, the budget hotel five minutes walk from the terminal buildings. I’d stayed there before, and I knew each room provided a fridge, kettle and microwave. So I could pick up some groceries from the twenty-four hour supermarket at the airport on my arrival, and just base myself out there for two days. I would go into the city in the morning, do some shopping and sightseeing etc. Then I could leave any bags in a locker at the railway station, go to the concert, retrieve my stuff aftrerwards, and head back to the airport for my morning flight home. That is, unless the Aussie Bar was doing Little Creatures Pilsner for four euros…
107. Helsinki-Oslo (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 11/12/15: Despite only having had effectively a single day in Helsinki, I’d enjoyed my flying visit; Anna Puu had been great, I had my first taste of a Finnish christmas market (and glögi), and my bag was full of all my favourite Finnish groceries. Although the stop at Copenhagen on the way out had been fairly long, the stop on the way home would be the opposite, just forty-five minutes. Although I’d flown with Norwegian a few times, this would be the first time I actually flew through Oslo with them. On paper, the transit time looked alarmingly short at less than an hour. But I figured that, since this was Norwegian’s main hub, they must know what they were doing.
I was very nearly caught out on arrival as, not knowing the airport, I almost missed the small sign directing me to my onward connection. And for some reason, although I was transiting through two airports inside the Schengen area, I would have to go through security screening again. This was a complete surprise, and not a small inconvenience, especially as there was a large group of teenage school kids in front of me. Practically every single one of them had something in their bag or on their person that they shouldn’t, slowing the whole process at the small checkpoint down to a maddening snail’s pace. And as it turned out, when I finally got my turn, I still had something in my hand luggage too; two bottles of napapiiri flavoured Jaffa. If I have any loose change on leaving a country, I’ll usually stick them in a vending machine at the airport or whatever and grab a few drinks or sweets. It was better than simply wasting the money. I’d forgotten all about them now, understandably not expecting to go through security again. The offending bottles were binned, and I had about ten minutes left to catch my connection. My gate looked pretty distant judging by the size of the terminal, and I knew that I must have to go through passport control at some point beforehand too. So I reluctantly had to sprint in the direction of my flight, and hope that there wasn’t a sizeable queue at border control. Fortunately there wasn’t, and I arrived at the gate during boarding. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow such a short stop at Oslo on my itinerary again.
108. Oslo-Edinburgh (Norwegian Air Shuttle) 11/12/15: I was slightly out of breath as I boarded, and definitely could have used one of those bottles of juice; I would have to wait until the cabin service began though. But the flight was pleasant enough; spectacular views over the dramatic Norwegian coastline at sunrise, which I happily shared around the world using the free wi-fi