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Me & my girlfriend, Gabriella, we were sitting in an Irish bar in Cascais, close to Lisbon, Portugal in the summer of 2011. We were having our last night in Portugal. Our two weeks long beautiful trip was coming to an end. As we listened the live music, we were thinking what would be our new destination next summer. I looked my Scottish ale and I said: "Why don't we go to Scotland? Or Ireland?" Gabriella liked the idea, but we didn't agree anything specific. The next day we flew to Hungary where we spent another two weeks checking on friends and relatives and then we flew back home to Helsinki, Finland.
June came and the first day of our trip arrived. Our ship was departing from Helsinki where we lived, so for the very beginning I didn't have to drive more than 20kms. We didn't even had to leave the town. Helsinki has several harbors and our ship was departing from the cargo port, Vuosaari, because the ship was a kind of a hybrid - partly a cargo ship, partly a passenger ship. Although we arrived several hours early, after 20 minutes of waiting they let us drive into the ship. We had a normal cabin with a window. The ship was quite modest. It had lack of entertainment, but because it was partly a cargo ship, I guess everybody could expect that. There was only one bar on the ship, one cafeteria and a buffet restaurant which opened three times in a day. It also had a small duty-free shop which was open only for a couple of hours in a day.
The ferry tickets were unfortunately quite expensive, over 600 euros for two persons & a car, including all meals. I have to admit that it was a very long sail, over 1,5 days (two nights) with a few hours long stop-over in Gdynia, Poland. Although the other parts of ticket were expensive (the cabin, the car and the ticket itself), the included meals were amazingly cheap, 120 euros for two persons in a buffet restaurant. That included a dinner, a breakfast, a lunch, another dinner and a another breakfast for two of us.
After occupying our cabin, we went to the ship's bar for a couple of beers. The alcohol was quite expensive on board, even for Finnish prices. There was still almost three hours until the departure. A summer storm came and also went away in that time. Gabriella, who is afraid of big waves and storms on sea, was a bit concerned about the weather. After all, there was 1,5 days long sailing coming up and in that time the weather could change several times. Luckily, when we departed it got sunny and as it turned out, it was full sunshine and starry sky during the whole journey.
Although it was a boring 1,5 days sailing on a ship where nothing happens and we could only see the open sea most of the time, I still enjoyed it. We watched some movies with Gabriella on our laptop and had good long conversations by our window meanwhile watching the beautiful blue sea & sky. Not talking about the wonderful, pure summer the sunset.
Believe it or not, but also funny things happened on that sail. On the first evening, they showed a soccer match in the bar. It was a European Soccer Championship, which is a quite serious sport happening in Europe. Russia was playing against Poland. For those who are from outside of Europe, I have to tell a short background info: Russians and Polish don't exactly like each other. It's a historical thing. This issue itself wasn't a big deal, however, I saw some Russian plates on the car deck so we had Russian passengers on board and because the ship was sailing to Poland (after that to Germany), guess what, there were plenty of Polish passenger on board as well. ;) And that's on a small ship in the middle of the Baltic sea, where's no land at site. We were very curious with Gabriella, is there gonna be a bar fight and how the crew is going handle it. So we definitely went to the bar to see the match. :) Just in case, we occupied a farther table from the people. There really were Russians and Polish waiting for the game to start. Well, I have to tell you, that the game itself wasn't that exciting. Russia beat up Poland, but the game was quite boring actually. Some of the Polish and Russian supporters changed a couple of louder words during the match - I guess NOT praising each others achievements - but physical contacts were avoided totally. We were actually surprised. Mostly these supporters however were families on vacation (there were also kids around), so only the dads got sometimes a bit excited. After the game when I was getting another beer a talked with the Finnish bartender and said that I was surprised that nothing happened. After all, we are talking about two passionate nations and a very important sport event in Europe. The bartender said that he was surprised a bit too how nicely everybody behaved. Although the crew seemed to be very calm and casual the whole time, the bartender told me that actually the ship's security guard was standing by in the crew's quarters right next to the bar, just in case.
The next day we arrived to Gdynia, Poland in the afternoon. The ship exchanged some cars, passengers and containers. After two or three hours we were good to continue our trip towards Germany. Close to the border of Poland & Germany we saw a Polish sub standing by.
Approaching the harbor of Gdynia, Poland.
Next morning we were approaching Rostock, Germany. We went for our last meal on the ship, which was the breakfast. During that 1,5 days everybody in the buffet restaurant was having always the same table, so we got to know the picture pretty well: behind me an old couple, behind Gabriella a bigger Finnish family, on my right the window and on my left a Nordic looking guy with a bread and eyeglasses reading a book while eating. We also noticed if somebody was missing or temporarily switched place. During that long sail, passengers got to know each other and the staff at least from sight. Most of the people hailed each other but rarely had longer conversations. Then came the last breakfast. The climax of the sailing. We collected the food from the buffet and sat down to our table. The gentleman from the old couple, behind me, turned around and asked me in English, what language are we speaking. I replied that Hungarian. It's a quite strange language in Europe. It is relative to Finnish and Estonian, but many times other Europeans have no clue what it could be when they hear it randomly somewhere. The old couple were from Spain. They admitted that they were listening our conversations during the whole trip at every meal just for guessing what language we might be possibly speaking. We quickly updated each other where we are going to. They were on a Nordic round trip by car and now they are heading back to Spain. I told that we are going to Scotland, then to Hungary and then back to Finland. So wished a very good trip to each other and continued our breakfast.
Then, just a moment later, the Nordic looking guy with the book stood up and stepped over to our table. He very politely apologized in English for disturbing. He said that he has been listening our conversations for the last 1,5 days every single meal trying to guess what language we are possibly speaking. :D I was almost saying it, when he asked permission to guess it. He guessed right, Hungarian. He was very satisfied. He never talked to us during the voyage and seemed that he didn't even care about the outside world when he was dining, because he was reading always his book. But he told us, that at the same time he was trying to listen very carefully to our speech. He was wondering our mystical language sometimes even in his cabin. So I asked him:
-Why didn't you ask it earlier? You could have got the answer a lot sooner. Why only now? - So he replied:
-What would be the fun in it? I decided, that if I can't guess your language until our arrival, I will ask it at our last meal, so now. I have to tell you, mister, that you dodged me a bit yesterday at lunch when I heard you speaking fluent Finnish to the staff.
-Oh yes, that's because I grew up in Finland.
-Yes, I see that now. But then you got back to your table, to your girlfriend and again, I heard that mysterious language of yours. But now, I am fulfilled. Thank you for that! :)
We talked another 20 minutes about his and our upcoming journey. He was Finnish and his wife was working at the EU and he was driving to Belgium or to Luxembourg to see her. It was so strange, that the people who never talked us during that long sail, suddenly, just in 15-20 minutes they opened themselves to us completely. That was amazing.
After we rolled down from the ferry, we started to head Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Once we stopped for small lunch at a McDonald's close to Bremen, Germany. (On the road we usually have just a light lunch.) Unfortunately we experienced a not so good customer service. We ordered two similar (small chicken wrap) meals, but we got only one. After waiting for a while, I asked in English when we are getting the other one. First the shift manager girl said that we ordered only one, but after showing her the receipt, she said that we already got everything. Well, apparently not, because there was only one wrap on the tray at our table. Unfortunately my word wasn't good enough and they went to check it twice. Then the manager showed up and they started to speak German, which I partly understood because I had a German beginner's course in school and I also speak Swedish. The shift manager girl, to cover her back, said to the manager that we claim that they haven't delivered one of the two meals, but that's not true. Then the manager said to her "Fuck it, give them the damn meal if they so want it!" If we'd have been in Finland or in Hungary - where I don't have to use English - probably I would have made a big deal out of it, but in this case, I guess I was just satisfied that we got what we were payed for. I also didn't want to loose time and energy to revile that the girl didn't speak the truth. My German is very weak and the girl refused to speak English in the conflict. But the situation was pretty obvious and Gabriella had exactly the same impression.
We arrived to Rotterdam a few hours early. We had a coffee in the port and then we checked in. The Dutch police was quite strict to check every document (vehicle's registration paper, our passports, driver's license), but in the same time he was also very polite. After a short waiting, we rolled onto the ferry. On the car deck a member of the crew - who was guiding and helping our vehicle to park - after finishing it, he came over and asked with a British accent: "Guys, are you really from Finland?" I was about to say: "Yes, but we both are Hungarians, we just have lived in Finland for quite some time now." But I managed only to say "yes" when he continued: "That's great! I love Finland, that's my favorite country. Hope you two will have a very nice trip!" And at the same time he was already gone, guiding the next car coming behind me. We looked each other with Gabriella and I said:
-That was quick. I didn't even had time to say that we're Hungarians.
-Yes. But at least he's happy now.
-I'm sure he is...
-Well, you have lived almost whole of your life in Finland so... In a way you are Finnish. Kind of a... Finnish. I think this is a lot better than the other way, if he would have said: "Let this be the last time I see you on board!"
We went up to our cabin. The ship was a bit old and we could see that also on the cabin. But for one night it was okay. First I didn't want to come out from the cabin, because I was afraid that I'm not going to understand the English accent. (It's okay, I have my weird childish things, but usually it's only temporarily.) Then Gabriella talked me over (for example having nothing for dinner and so on, would be very uncomfortable...) so I changed my mind. :) A strange thing was, that despite of the fact that the ship appeared to be pretty old, most of the passengers were taking it as a one night luxury trip. Many people had put on their best, meanwhile we were dressed very casually. Just like Nordic people do when they are on a ferry.
In the restaurant it turned out that our waiter was a Portuguese guy. He reminded me a bit of Hercule Poirot. He was very very formal with the guests, unlike the Portuguese usually: temperamental, cheerful and very talkative. After some time we started to talk with him and we told him that we visited Portugal a couple of times and in the future maybe we move there for a year. Believe me or not but in the end of our dinner I melted his heart so much, that he even wrote down some places where we should move. I was very proud of my self for breaking the ice. :)
After dinner we had a drink in a bar and I played a slot machine with pounds for the very first time in my life. Fancy that, whatta achievement one gets in his life! :) And I managed to win a completely nothing. So we retreated to our cabin and were very much looking forward to visiting the UK for the very first time.