Once the circus that was Eurovision had moved on for another year, Helsinki returned to its quiet little self, albeit with a few more stains on the stairs of the big white church. Sofia was taking off on a three week holiday to the Denmark and Hungary, so it was time to do a bit more Couchsurfing. I stayed with Aikku and her four or was that five.. No, six. No, three flatmates around the corner from Kamppi. Unfortunately, the sneezing I had earlier in the day had turned into a bit of a loogie by the next morning, turning me into a snot monster for the day. The weather was cruddy and I spent most of the afternoon hiding out in the music library, occasionally escaping for fish soup and coffee. I trawled through a bunch Suomi labelled music, finding fuzz rock, electro and the all important obligatory Finnish metal. Talk about melancholy and the infinite sadness. This country is a very cold and dark place during the winter, which has rubbed off on some of the musicians. I get back to the flat and tell Aikku what I’ve been doing and her and her flatmate hand over even more music. One group who have been getting fairly good play on my MP3 player is Magyar Posse, who produce a sound pretty similar to Mogwai and Godspeed – I recommend listening to this while walking around shopping centres.
The next day I pack some clothes into my Eurovision satchel and bus the 50kms East to Porvoo, where Sid, Ninnu and Ronja reside in amongst the forest. I stayed with these guys last year through Couchsurfing after Pip and I emerged from Russia. They were a breath of fresh western air after the three months of Japan, China, Mongolia and Russia I had endured and now I was back in Finland, I would have been quite the bastard if I didn’t pay them a visit. Sid (American), and Ninnu (Finnish) met six years ago while they were backpacking separately through Eastern Europe. They fell in love, married, with Ronja coming along a couple of years later and now they live in beautiful little Porvoo. They feed me and we chat for a couple of hours about what’s been going on over the last eleven months. Ninnu already has plans to go out on a ladies night and Sid and I hang out at the flat, playing with cameras, drinking wine and talking shit until the wee hours. In the morning, we drive out to Ninnu’s sister’s place, where some of her family have assembled to help build a patio deck for the summer. Sid mixed concrete and Ninnu's dad built foundations with bricks and holes in the ground. Not of any use to the construction site, I went on a bike ride through nearby forest. Did you know that 61% of Finland is covered with forest? I guess this is why their paper is so good. In the forest, I sat with the trees and lounged with the grass, listening to bees buzz around their hive while I watched the clouds slip by from the perspective of the weird moss that only seem to grow up here. Lots of sun and laziness. When I got back, I was put in charge of looking after four girls, all under the age of four. No one is mortally wounded under my watch, but a piano was played, cars clambered upon, trees climbed and cake & tea was enjoyed.
I stay another night in Porvoo, using the next morning to hang out with Sid, Ninnu and Ronja to say my goodbyes. It'll be a long time before we see each other again. We ate porridge, drew postcards, drank from Moomin mugs and rode through the forest (much greener and lusher than the one from the previous day), a place where I enjoyed riding through so much last year. It felt a bit weird saying goodbye to them, especially when it got to the bit "you're welcome any time you come to Austr..".I pause half way through saying Australia, and in a split instant I consider my future. Coming to Porvoo again has allowed me to reflect on the year that was. The adventures on bikes, other people’s couches and far off lands. It really has been a crazy year, filled with extreme highs and lows, exploring the four corners of my head and seeing plenty of the world along the way. Now that I've reflected on the last 12 months, thoughts on what to do with the next 12 begin to solidify. Eee gads. There are long term plans afoot.
When I get back to Helsinki I head to Aikku's to pick up my main pack, and out of the half dozen people that frequent her house, no one is home. I phoned and get no answer. I killed a bit of time at a cafe across the street and call a few more times, getting an empty line. About an hour later, I try knocking at the door again and a rather hung over Aikku answers the door. A big night. I collect my stuff, say my goodbyes and walk to the Viking Line office near to the centre. When I get there, they can’t sell me a ticket as the boat is too close to departing and tell me to get my arse down to the terminal to buy my ticket there. Arg… I speed walk with my pack the 3km to the terminal and the girl sells me a ticket for travel, but says she can’t sell me a bed spot as it is too close to the departure time. She says I need to ask on board about upgrading my ticket to get a bed and wishes me a safe journey. I walk up the gangway and think to myself, “Great. No place to sleep. This is going to be a fun night.”