To be honest, setting off on a journey hasn’t been an easy thing for me to do in recent years. When I was broke and jobless, I used to love flying. Even passing by an airport was able to get me as excited as a kid in a toy shop. Planes were able to conjure up ideas that something new is waiting to be explored, and a new world is ready to be discovered.
But, nothing is perfect in this world. Now that I am not broke anymore and can afford a journey every 3 months (I should brag about that, huh), I’ve started to hate flying. It isn’t as pleasant as before, especially after some tragedies related to air crashes that have happened in my country and in Russia. I start to understand that turbulence is not as comfortable and indulgent as a rocking cradle when I was a baby.
Because of what I called a sudden but innocent conscience, I always make an effort to find other alternatives when I’m going on a trip. Thank God, Russia has a perfect railway system; they even have a railway to Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and, of course, Helsinki. To put it simply, I try to find a modest way to travel while ignoring the planes.
But, what about traveling to a country that is separated by an ocean?
Now that is a problem. So, giving an excuse and pretending that I am ready for a new adventure, I soft-soaped my husband to try taking a ferry from Turku to Stockholm.
Which one to use should I use – Viking Line or Silja Line?
I know pretty much nothing about these two companies. I first saw Viking Line and Silja Line in Katajanokka Harbour, Finland. They looked tempting and their size easily lured me to sail with them, which I did 4 months after that. Viking Line is a Finnish company, while Silja Line is a Finnish-Estonian company. According to what I read in TripAdvisor, many people indicated that Viking Line is just simply an old-fashioned ferry with less entertainment, while Silja Line appears to be more modern, more entertaining and, of course, a little bit more expensive. I am not the kind of person who immediately believes whatever people say in the forum. So, to ensure that my journey wouldn’t be horrible, surrounded by drunk people and trapped in a small cabin, I made my own comparison.
This is what I got after a long (3 days is enough time-wasting if you do it for 8 hours per day) study about both companies:
- Viking Line offers cheaper price for cabins in the same classes.
- Silja Line offers a more flexible timetable. The problem is I don’t like to sail at night and need to stay on the ferry for a day.
- The cabins in Silja Line look more comfortable and elegant.
- They have about 10 types of cabins, starting from the cheapest ones close to the engine with a really tiny room that look like a jail with a bunk bed, to a luxury cabin with a sofa, a television, a mini-refrigerator, a king-size bed, and a balcony overlooking the sea. To put it simply, that room I mentioned last is well-suited for newlyweds going on honeymoon. But, who wants to have a casual honeymoon in a ferry that sails for only 10 hours? I mean, I do, but who else?
After long consideration and a bit of constipation because I was in a panic to imagine the wave, the sea, and the wrath of Poseidon (if he does exist), we decided to choose the Premium Cabin that costs around 99 euro for two people. The booking process was as smooth as silk. Payment could be taken care of by credit card. And the ticket was as simple as ABC. Just print it out and take it with you when you embark onto the ship.
Going to Turku and ready to sail
For the sake of my sanity, we totally ignored the option of taking a plane and so our trip was designed creatively to accommodate my preferences. From Moscow to St. Petersburg we took a high speed train, Sapsan by RZD. From St. Petersburg to Helsinki, the Allegro train was ready to take us across the border.
As usual, the immigration check between St. Petersburg and Helsinki starts in Vyborg, the closest town to the Finland-Russia border. Russian officers check all of your documents first, give it a stamp, and, after they finish, the Finnish officers replace them. One of the advantages of traveling by rail is you don’t need to wait in line, don’t need to go anywhere. They do it all for you!
Checking my documents and itinerary thoroughly, one of the Finnish officers asked me where I planned to go after Helsinki and Turku. His appearance and tone made me feel a bit guilty for making Turku a transit town. He didn’t blame me for anything, though. But, yeah, I felt I gave the impression that I saw his country as a place just to pass through, even though that is not true. Finland is my favorite country and I have even started to learn their language after my first trip to Helsinki!
After a day in Turku, we were ready to sail. The harbor is a stone’s throw away from our hotel that lay in front of the Turku Castle.
Somehow I thought that we would use a ferry that looked like the Titanic
That was solely my uninformed assumption. I was really new to this game and thought that I could have stood with open arms like Rose on the railing of the ship while Jack held her from behind like in the Titanic, then have shouted “I am flying” with a super trembling voice afraid to die (me, not Rose). But when I was aboard, I found out that that was no more than my absurd imagination.
With freezing winds and limited-size decks on each side of the ship, I hardly survived the brutally blowing winter wind.
To avoid the wind, we decided to stroll around inside, trying to enjoy the view through the cold windows. If you are bored, you can visit some modest stores inside or even drink beers at the bars. It is said that every ferry has different restaurants; mine had about 4 restaurants — one that serves seafood, a bar and grill, a buffet, and an Italian restaurant. Be careful, it might be tricky and quite annoying to access them because they open for 2 hours, then close again and open again.
Arrived in Stockholm
Yay! We finally arrived in Stockholm. This new land that made me so stressed (and yet anxious) because I was enthusiastic to try out my broken Swedish. Overall, the journey wasn’t disappointing, except for how loud the passengers were after we disembarked. Most of them were too drunk to care about it!