The way my time in Europe has been going, I just roll with the adventures. If someone or something comes along and suggests something, unless there’s a reason, I go with it. With Tiina and Antti, they had several things they wanted to show and do so I put myself in their hands and let myself see a Vaasa I’m sure very few others get to see.
With that in mind, on Sunday, Antti had gotten ticket the Housing Exhibition. Of course, when he said this, my first thought was “home and garden show.” And while I wasn’t terribly excited, they seemed to be so I put on my game face and we headed out.
Turns out, the Housing Exhibition is a home and garden show re-envisioned by Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. It’s held every year somewhere in Finland and this year happened to be Vaasa’s turn. The city hosting usually works on it for several years prior
because what they end up doing is actually building a neighborhood! All the different housing developers in the country each build a house and fill it with state of the art products (I saw a toilet with a control panel Mr. Spock would have had trouble figuring out -thankfully the button for ‘enema’ was in English!). You’ve heard of concept cars? These were concept houses. It was impressive, except the penthouse on top of a 6 story apartment building which looked like it hadn’t been started yet. This was also a place where I discovered a difference between me and the Finns. Of course, when I say “me” I’m actually referring to ME not to Americans in general. Yeah, I got yelled at by Antti because as we were coming down in the elevator after looking at this unfinished mess of a construction site (and had queued for the priveledge) I said something to the other people in the elevator about being disappointed. They kinda mumbled something back. Now, you all
know me (and if you don’t, you will after reading all the entries herein) and I’ll strike up a conversation with anyone at anytime but when we got off the elevator and were alone Antti explained that in Finland, “we don’t talk to other people.” I knew they didn’t talk to other people in the winter time, but this was summer, right? So no more talking to other people (for the day – I can’t NOT talk to people). The three of us, though, since we already knew each other, had some great conversations about housing (and windows since Antti’s company supplied a number of the homes’ windows and doors) and the Finnish market, paid entirely too much for parking and then Tiina had an idea for what to do next. After lunch she wanted to take a cruise around the archipelago.
See, Vaasa, and the western portion of Finland, is part of a huge island chain called an archipelago and there was a cruise which took you through some of the prettier parts and then to a small bar only accessible by boat (are you getting the impression the Finns take their water sports
seriously?). I thought it sounded great so off we went.
The ride itself was slightly uneventful. We did see the largest bridge in Finland (which I only mention to get it into your heads – it will come back in another adventure) and some fantastic scenery. There was only one time, though, that the captain said anything (a bit of trivia) and then the stop at the bar was an hour and twenty minutes. Thirteen Euro for a trip to a bar seemed a little steep to me, but it was still fun and I got some great pictures out of it. The payoff,
though, came when we were almost back to port.
In the distance, a Finnish naval ship appeared and started heading in our direction. Naturally, everyone took pictures and pondered it as a curiosity object. After we docked, though, the ship came closer, eventually pulling in directly behind the ship we’d just come off. Even though we had to try and get to the store to get food, we stayed and watched the circus that is the navy docking a ship.
Now don’t get me wrong. I fully respect the boys in the military and I support the job they do, but these guys were hysterical. They come into the pier all formal, everyone standing at parade rest as the ship comes to stop. Then
the docking crews get to work. Everyone has a job to do and boy, do they set about doing it. First you’ve got the guys tying the boat down. It takes two or three guys per station (thick, heavy rope here) but even then they don’t get it right and have to untie it once or twice before it’s made fast.
But the best part was the barricade. A side hatch opens and a couple of guys emerge carrying flat, rubber octagons with circular holes in the middle. The proceed to walk the length of the ship, casually tossing these things down as they go. We, of course, are watching in rapt attention. What are these and what are they for? One of our answers comes when the guys disappear back into the hold of the ship and re-emerge with orange poles which, it so happens, fit right into the circular holes. Ahhh… we say. They’re going to put up some sort of barricade (which naturally leads to speculation about who they could possibly be carrying on board). Then they start lining up the poles and the rubber bases. There’s a guy at one end of this row of about 15 poles and he’s directing the guy at the other end (about 50 meters away) which way to nudge the pole until it lines up. I look down at the surface they are working on and immediately realize they have a tiling pattern and really, all they have
to do is start at one end and follow the straight line of the paving bricks and it’d be done in 30 second.
But nope. Why do it easy when you can do it hard. We couldn’t take too much of this so we left before they had finished. We never did find out who the special cargo was. Any guessed? Best answer gets a special postcard.