Long time readers will know I have a thing for Baltic Sea ferries. Ever since Dieter, Adam and I too Eurotank Mark I from Stockholm to Tallinn these ferries have been a regular part of my travel, connecting the three cities which I have revolved around for the past 4 years: Stockholm, Helsinki and Tallinn. I love the ferries, they are an odd form of expression for each of these three cultures and as well as providing scenic transport, give me some time off to write or get some work done.
For the first time I took Eckerö Line from Helsinki to Tallinn. I used to be strictly Tallink-Silja man, then I started to get complimentary rides on Viking Line so I expanded my world view and for this trip I thought Id go mad and try the last company. It also helps their terminal is a 10 minute walk from my apartment.
Some Baltic sea ferries are for transport, some are for partying but after two trips on Ecekerö Line, I think this is definitly the Helsinki Tallinn party boat. It makes Viking and Tallink look like luxury cruise liners. The boat feels like its come straight from the 70’s, its small and the decor looks like it was designed to be viewed through a smokey haze which has long since been banned by the EU. The tickets are the cheapest you can get, 19€ and so this attracts the lowest of the low. The people who wanna party. This aint no fast Lindaline in 90 mins either, this ferry takes 3 and a half hours. A 2 hour Tallink ride starts at about 30€ and its not like most people couldnt afford the extra, but its that people WANT to spend time on the ferry. The ferry is part of the adventure, the party, the fun.
My trip was perfect in that I went to Tallinn one morning and came back to the next evening so I had many of the same people. The way there is quite subdued but still the biggest 8am party you have ever seen. Round of Lapin Kulta for breakfast? If you are on the ferry then everything is alright. On the way back the trip was really special, people had spent a big night partying in Tallinn and then seemingly had got right back onto it the next day so by the time they hit the ferry they were well and truly baked.
Contrast this to me however. I was having a bad day. I was hungover as shit and I started to feel an anxiety attack coming on. Thankfully this isn’t something I have too often these days and I have been fortunate this winter to not really suffered from them but given a lack of sunlight and a hangover to down a horse, I was feeling terrible. Like I wanted to jump over the side, swim back to shore and go to Tartu, the city which time forgot, and hide forever. I sat down and had some food, tea and chocolate and after listening to Henry Rollins on the latest WTF podcast I was in recovery. Order was being restored to my mind again.
I then went upstairs to the dancefloor to hear In The Navy pumping on the dancefloor and the Fins were in full swing. Having almost thrown a chair at a guy at the table across who wouldnt shut up earlier, I was surprised how taken I was by this sight, so I sat and watched them for a while. To me the scene was amazing. The Fins were happy. It may have been booze inspired or that they just had a great party in another country but they were genuinly and outwardly happy. Dancing, smiling, jumping up and down. I was taken in by it because this is not behaviour Fins are known for. You wouldn’t be either if you had to live with a Finnish winter 364 days a year. They are good hearted and generally stoic people who get on with the job. However this was something else, they were happy and watching them be happy made me happy too.
It was lovely to see them having such a good time. Heaven forbid its usually me who is the first with the drunk finnish jokes or maybe its some perverse Stockholm Syndrome kicking in but it made me feel good. As Bon Jovi clicked over from the DJ, I felt like everything was going to be alright.
I have a recollection of a similar moment last year around this time on the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. It had been a long hard winter and for the first time in months I saw happy Swedes. The Fins still werent happy and the Estonian workers definitely were not but like the flower that blooms first in spring while there is still snow on the ground, these Swedes were the harbinger of the life saving end of winter which was about to come.
So maybe like those Swedes, this was my end of winter moment. These people had fun and god bless their state sponsored religious souls, I had fun with them.