THE PARIS

Bonjour Paris, here I am finding my way from the airport to Nord Gare and then on into the city.

Paris metro seemed easy enough at the start but then it got hard and I was lost in the underworld getting unhelpful advice even from the police but in the end I bit the bullet got on my third connection hoped it right and headed for the surface and daylight.

Bang I was in Paris, golden coloured stone buildings, motor scooters, baguettes under arms and life everywhere.

The Seine, the laneways, the endless shops and people. People everywhere.

This is Paris and these are the Parisians!

Food, I need food now!

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Näkemiin Helsinki

Time to leave the “Cool City of the North” and travel south. I very much enjoyed my Finn experience and would recommend Helsinki to anyone. Especially if you want to travel Europe from Australia or via Asia..

The Check-In clerk couldn’t believe I’d come to Finland in the winter leaving an Australian summer behind.

But when I told him I was on an IceCapade he really got confused.

Hei hei !

Today i will be in France

This morning here in Helsinki I finished reading “The Great War” by Les Carlyon.

Today I will be in France.

It is truly well worth reading, a fine book which tells the stories of some of the hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women who went to Europe in the Great War. “The war to end wars”. He tells the story from many viewpoints.

I’ll be thinking of the men my mum told me about, her dad Alex Gibson, her uncle Jack and men I met like Gerald Boës who was my great aunt Gloria’s husband. He was an electician from Sydney, a trade unionist and a Dutchman. He had served in the Dutch Navy as an apprentice electrician.

Gloria came to Helsinki with her political work in the women’s peace movement.

Mum loved her dad immensley and she remembers him everyday. I never knew him, he died young from the results of mustard gas shelling. He spent 3 years in France and Beligum. It is impossible to contemplate.

I asked my aunt Gwen recently whether Alex Gibson said much about the Great War to her. She said all he said was those who talked about it weren’t there. On another occasion during the Great Depression on seeing a workless mate from the AIF walking towards him in the street he said, “here comes another workless victor”.

I know that both Alex and Gerald were politcally active and there is the story of Uncle Jack throwing down his war medals at a protest in the Sydney Domain in the depression only to threatened with a charge of destroying the King’s property.

So today I will be in France and I will remember them.

I will also think about Duncan McCallum, a railway fettler of Redfern who grew up in Lakemba. He is my Dad’s uncle who is buried in Belgium near Passchendale. My great uncle.

My grandfather Donald McCallum was opposed to conscription and he lost his brother Duncan to that war to end wars only to watch his sons go off to the next one.

Duncan was 35 when he died, the father of two little girls. He’d been in France and Belgium less than a year when he was killed in that terrible battle. I will visit his grave.

So this part of the reason for my journey. Lest we forget.

My 4 days in prison about to end

Some say it should have happened long ago, others that the 4 nights was grossly underweight.

Nevertheless I’ll be out tomorrow and sadly be leaving the “Cool City of the North” for Paris.

Tonight I’m celebrating my pending release with a good dinner in a cool venue eating a creamy crab soup and a medium rare beef steak. My first in 5 weeks or more.

How come? Eating prison breakfast and no lunch means making big saves on the travel budget. (Thanks Kev07, for the extra tax return, I’ll spend it all in a foreign land and save the world economy!)

The steak was a wee bit ordinary, either the steak knife wasn’t sharp enough or the cow was working out a tad too much.

The desert was “to die for” as they say in the classics. Those berries sneak into everything. I’ve never seen or tasted those small round red berries in .au they’re YUM. They’re around every corner here. As is licorice.

However the hot chocolate was something else. Everywhere does things differently and Finns are masters of the different. The left of the centre left, are they.

Here is a hot chocolate of massive proportions! Did I mistakely order a swimming pool? A chocolate hot tub? And another thing, they overdress for dinner! or they don’t go out much. Formal stiffness.

So that’s my final nights’ eating experience in Helsingfors.

So what does a coffee cost an Australian in Helsinki?

The snow stopped coming down last night and gradually through the day all the accumulation that was all over the footpaths melted or got pushed away by workers.

The sun even made a brief appearance low in the southern sky. It made my experience a little easier in that I could get about and even see outside the hood on my jacket.

I went to a glorious place today, a former fort on an island called Suomenlinna. It was a ferry ride from Market Square (the Victoria Market of Helsinki) through the sea ice to the island beautiful buildings and colours I’ve never seen. All set against a blanket of snow. I took a very long way around, through the ramparts and scattered buildings like cafés and churches to a snow covered headland.

There were old cannons mounted there behind the thick walls to protect the town from her enemies and impress her friends and allies.

The colours and hues were stunning. I saw this little frog, black against the snow hopping along bound for god knows where.

Helsinki is famous for music. Just ask the Finn Brothers. Wednesday night I went out to find some. Hard work but I tracked down a jazz place called Storyville. They had a special night with a New Yorker called Gene Taylor. It was good music, I enjoyed it.

Here people start talking to me in Finnish, just asking something or whatever. I must look shocked and then I say, “sorry I don’t speak Finnish, I’m a traveller” then we try to work out some English words.

But I have learned Kippies – Cheers, Salute, Kampie, Chin Chin etc.

The price of a good coffee in Helsinki, €3.80 or $A7.53 so don’t complain about the price in Melbourne, have two. And to the coffee snobs, it’s better kohe here than Melbourne which means anywhere in .au

Killing Rudolph

ISO QLUT

Beer, very dark in a very big glass

JARVIKALAT

Starters, white fish, smoked salmon, sardines, crispbread, a creamy cheese block

LÃHDEVESI

Still water,

GESTOS

Red Argentinien cab sav

HIRVEN ENTRECOTE

Elk, gamey, rare, tough but tasty. Wild mushroom, tough very tasty. Potato, cooked in half it’s jacket, creamy and YUM

CAPPUCCINO

As it should be !&

Finnish food

Trudging through the snow today I decided to take a short cut back to waterfront. Well that didn’t work out.

I took instead a detour of some kms in the opposite direction and then promptly did a circuit of that spot! The snow came down heavier and away I went, lost.

The people I spoke to weren’t fluent in Eigo and my Finnish hasn’t progressed much since yesterday. Anyway lost is always fun and eventually I found an angel in the form of an old man who got me on the right track. I started the long march back.

On the way back I was dreaming of lying in a hot bath and getting the aches out of my weary legs. I’m having hotel delusions at the moment like Frank Zappa’s 200 motels I’ve forgotten what’s what.

It was in Japan the bath, in Finland you get the designer shower! No soothing bath I’d grown used to even in the most modest lodging in Japon.

Of course the Finnish shower comes with a choice of shower heads gushing out gallons of water per second. It would make any Australian cringe but this country is two fifths fresh water not counting today’s snow so somehow it doesn’t matter.

Japan is like that too. Loads of the stuff running everwhere into baths and onsens.

That reminds me about Chiiori where Paul told me that in winter they have leave some of the taps running otherwise the pipes freeze up. Then along come the Australians who sometimes stay there. They turn the taps off. Can’t help themselves, gotta save water but wreck the plumbing. Horses for courses.

Tonight I decided to head out to try some local tucker. This time I really consulted the map. I new exactly where I was heading and how to get back, consulted the Lonely Planet and put all the thermals on.

“Finnish Food ” the sign said across the way from the little mermaid statue. So in I went with no Finnish and a hungry stomach.

To be continued.