I wasn’t sure what could top our evening spent watching the Finnish Navy so it was with great trepidation I awoke the next day. I wondered: What more could Vaasa have in store?
Well… The day itself was an ordinary day. Tiina and I headed to the mall where we went book shopping (we found, after being told it didn’t exist in the store, a Finnish copy of Alice in Wonderland but it was rather pricey and heavy so I didn’t get it) and then we went to lunch at a place called Amarillo. That’s right, I went all the way to central coastal Finland to have Tex-Mex! Wasn’t bad, either. But you’d really be amazed at how much Americanization is taking place all over Europe. As much as our politics and leaders are reviled, deep down, it seems like the American Business Model is the standard by which everything else is set. We make money and that’s a good thing. There’s some interesting stuff going on in the Eastern Bloc with communism and how it’s killed the drive and ambition of the citizens.
Anyway, lunch was good and then we met up with Antti and Jussi. It was raining out and we didn’t know what we were going to do. Then someone mentioned The Bridge.
You remember the bridge, right? We saw it on the expensive boat ride to the bar – the largest bridge in Finland (which, in a country of 60,000 lakes and waterways and stuff, is nothing to sneeze at). Yeah, that bridge. So the story behind the bridge is that it connects the mainland with a large island (the other side of which is only about 30-40 kilometers away from Sweden). There used to be a ferry which covered the distance but an assemblyman or some other sort of well to do politico who lived on said island didn’t want to wait for the ferry so he did whatever it is politicians do and voila (which is French…er…Freedom, not Finnsh) a bridge was built.
Finding the bridge can pose a slight problem if you don’t have a GPS… or eyes, really. There’s only one road out of town and
that road leads right over the bridge. Honestly, you can’t miss it, even in the rain. You don’t even have to worry about looking for landmarks in the Finnish countryside because, as Antti will tell you, there are none. There’s trees and… trees. It looks like Alaska or Northern Canada (ironic, really, since they are both at the same latitude).
So, there we were, four wet people in a car and we’re driving over a bridge. We’re also getting hungry. Being the American (and yes, I’ve used the phrase “In America, a 100 years is a long time and in Europe, 100 miles is a long way” so many times I’m thinking of having it tattooed on my belly and just lifting my shirt at the appropriate time), I ask about the Ferry to Sweden. My thought is that we can maybe hop across the Gulf of Bothinia (which, I’ll admit, I just looked up) and grab a bite then come back. After all, we are going across the bridge so why not go all the way? Nope, I’m informed the ferry doesn’t run that often from here and what
am I, crazy? Fair enough.
By now, we are approaching the bridge. The rain is coming down in buckets, it’s hard for the car’s windshield wipers to clear it fast enough. Being the tourist (different, yet similar, to being the American) I whip out my camera to take a picture, timing it so I catch in between wipes when Antti stops the car in the middle of the road.
“There’s no one else here, we can stop for a picture,” he says. So I take my picture and we continue on. The bridge is looming ahead of us, coming out of the fog like a ghost ship in a John Carpenter movie. When we finally get on the bridge, there’s
nothing to be seen on either side, the rain is too thick.
We drive on.
There it is, The first support tower… then the second. Then dry land. We’re off the bridge and on the island! We all breathe a sigh of relief.I think we’re all feeling a bit like the cast of Scooby Doo and we’ve just escaped from Zombie Island (although in that scenario, Antti would be Fred, Tiina would be Daphne, Jussi would be Shaggy which makes me… Velma – strike that analogy, I’ll come up with a better one soon). Once across, we all look at each other. What now? What great adventures await on the other side of the bridge?
About two kilometers further, Antti sees something we don’t and turns the car sharply onto a side street. What’s this? We’re in Europe after all. Maybe there’s a castle, a church, the home of the assemblyman who built the bridge? The car keeps turning like Linda Blair’s head. It completes the cycle, having gone a full 180 degrees before straightening out. What’s this? What’s happening?
“Well, that’s the bridge, nothing else to see here, let’s go back and eat.”
NO… that can’t be the end of our bridge adventure! I haven’t taken nearly enough photos for my blog I complain (that’s a post modern device, being self-referential like that) so we stop at a gas station to get a good look at a map and figure out exactly where
we are in relation to the rest of Finland. I admit, I was hoping for a Stephen King moment where the “you are here” arrow pointed to somewhere in the middle of the water or something but no, it showed us exactly where we were, the bridge looming big just next us.
We continue on…As we approach the bridge again, something draws our attention, something we had seen on the outbound journey but now seemed more ominous. Berny’s… a diner located under the bridge. No one in the car had ever been there, just heard the rumours, whispered silently around town. We lamented the rain for it might have been a good place to stop if only it were open… but then, maybe not. Who knows what lurks at Berny’s? Were we the crazy kids to stop him from getting away with it? I didn’t know if we should find out.
We got closer. There was a car in the parking lot. Two. Through the fog we could make out several vehicles. “Let’s stop,” someone called out (it might have been me, it might have been Jussi – either way we wondered if it was a decision we would regret. Antti deftly maneuvered the car amongst the others and found a spot near the water front. I knew we couldn’t all be crazy since there, just outside the driver’s side window, standing in the pouring rain, was a man with a camera, pointing his lens into the fog. Was this the future we were seeing? Was this some sort of vision of me, coming back to warn myself not to get out of the car? Was it just another daft tourist?
We opened our doors slowly, waiting for the right moment, then ran like demons through the downpour, hoping the door wasn’t locked. It wasn’t. Inside the building was lit with hideous
fluorescents, accenting every flaw. The patrons already in looked at us suspiciously. If this were the UK I would have expected them to warn us to stay on the path and not go into the moors. As it was summertime in Finland, they just ignored us, but they did it ominously! There were a few open tables, so we grabbed one, hoping to get some food. It wasn’t THAT kind of a place. Sure, there was an actual restaurant, but it was long closed (about an hour at that point) so we were left with the café, coffee and danishes. Tiina had a dessert pancake. We assumed the girl behind the counter was Berny’s daughter. “Is she on the menu,” wondered
In the end, we left with our sanity intact and only some wet clothes and photographs to show for our passing. I looked behind us as we once again crossed the bridge and watched as Berny’s disappeared into the rain soaked night. Had it really ever existed at all? Only time will tell…