Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Experience: Viking Grace + Turku

This is the 2nd part of a trip report; The whole story can be found under the tag I Must Travel Otherwise I'll Die 2014; First part can be read here.
My beautiful journey is over now, which means that I can finally focus on making it into a story and writing it down for you to read. I left the last post off at continuing to Turku, which I did the next morning. When I first arrived in Turku, I felt a bit confused because the railway station is not exactly the heart of the city and I really had no clue where to go. A quick look at the map fixed that and I headed towards the river where my hostel ship is docked. I stayed on board the Bore, who has a long history connecting Sweden and Finland as a steamship since she was built in 1960. In 1987 she was rebuilt into a cruise ship and her steam engines were replaced with diesel ones and until 2010 she was operated by Kristina Cruises. Although I never got to sail on her, the hostel experience was quite lovely. My cabin was a rather compact one with one bed and an even smaller bathroom. After leaving my suitcase there I went exploring, but since it was Sunday many places were closed so I didn't stay in the center for very long. Instead I chose to kill some time in the hostel common room, which turned out easier than expected. I ended up going for a walk late at night with an Italian I met there.

My home in Turku
Perhaps a nicer view
Suomen Joutsen, a ship with a very long and colourful history that started in 1902, now a museum ship.
Turku castle
Aura river and Turku Cathedral
The heart of the city. For some reason Turku is known as the rear end of Finland, thus the awesome slogan.
Look, I found a flower!
Sigyn, also a museum ship, built in 1887.
Fountain sculpture Harmonia, by Achim Kuehn.
Föri, the southernmost way to cross the Aura river. 
She has been in service since 1903, every day almost all year round. The crossing is free and takes about a minute. Therefore I think it's obvious why I didn't write a separate "Experience: Föri" post.
Several tall cranes stand on both sides near the river mouth of Aura. 
At night Turku was just as beautiful.

Aura river and ships at night
 I had planned the next day for some nice shopping, which I did until I found a really nice small shiny typewriter at a thrift shop. Since I've wanted one for years it was a must-get. The next several hours were spent rearranging my suitcase to squeeze it in.

Quite nice, huh?
One more reason to like Turku - Almost the whole city is somehow sea-related, including several stores. The Forum Marinum store sells postcards of old Viking Line and Silja Line ships. I was so tempted.

In another store I found a rather helpful pair of socks - green for right, red for left, a simple way to avoid arguments between crew members. I wonder how many accidents have been caused by people wearing these on wrong feet.

Welcome to the very heart of Turku

The park on the east bank is actually really nice...
...allowing some wonderful views over the west bank and the center.

When I left the hostel heading for the harbour, I was given the most beautiful farewell. 
After two eventful days in Turku I took the Viking Grace to Stockholm. She started service in early 2013 and even though I've visited the Legend of the Seas, she still really impressed me. In fact, although I'm yet to try the Silja Symphonade sisters, I dare to say that Viking Grace is probably the nicest floating thing on northern Baltic Sea. I'd also give two extra points to Viking Line for free candy, one for each bed in the cabin - quite nice when you're alone in a cabin of four. I started my voyage in the Wellness Spa. Located on Deck 11 in a room with panorama windows, it was really nice to relax in a jacuzzi and watch the rainy weather as we raced past a small tugboat towing a barge. There was also saunas of all kinds and a real snow cave which was a great place to go after a hot herbal sauna. After my spa visit was over there wasn't so much to do besides shopping and looking around - the performance on board that night wasn't exactly my taste and I was hopelessly late for karaoke.

Baltic Princess nearby, taken before boarding
My cabin
The cabin corridors have quite a clever design.
Mandatory funnel picture
Leaving Tallink's Sea Wind behind
Kids' playroom
Staircases have also become something I always take pictures of. 
Entrance to the Shopping World
The renowned atrium of Viking Grace...
.. next to a panorama window extending through three decks...
the neatest sitting area in the whole ship I'm sure

Quite a necessary addition to every cabin in a ship that arrives at 6:30
Awards for "Innovative layout for the handling of stores in combination with the practically designed food preparation areas", "Innovative interior design" - totally earned it - and "Environmental qualities; Being the first long-distance ferry with a dual fuel engine". During the first few months of her service she had to run on diesel but now she's running on LNG (liquefied natural gas), which means that she's silent and runs very smoothly. 
Deck 10 (obviously)
Outside Wellness Spa
The whole ship was looking as if she had popped out of a design magazine
Rockmore bar, where they played the best music
Retro bar, where the karaoke took place
Entrance to Vogue club
inside Vogue club.
What was the ship again?
Bye bye.
After disembarking early in the morning I continued my journey, boarding another ship; I'll tell that part of the story in my next post.

Next post - daycruise to Mariehamn

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