My wife Mirja and I traveled to Finland last month. We continue our series.
A rainy, snowy mix Monday morning. We set out at 6:00 a.m. for Helsinki for an 11:15 flight to Lapland. This weather would shut down Atlanta for a week. Here, we just got in the car and drove.
Through town and onto the highway. Slushy and slippery. We sped along in the dark and I swore we’d slide off the road sooner or later, at a hundred kilometers per hour, with one lane good, the other ice.
Finnish law requires winter tires for winter. Winter tires wear out the roads, though, so Finnish law requires that they be changed back in summer. And the winter tires did the trick, and we didn’t slide off the road.
At the floating market in Can Tho, Vietnam, sellers hoist a bamboo pole from their boats and attach one of each of their fruits, to advertise that today, they’re selling pomilons or star fruit or coconuts. In the same way, totems rise at exits along the highway in Finland, lighting the fog that swirls around them in the perma-dusk.
Brilliant neon signs climb the poles: Pizza! Market! Gas! ABC! 24H! Credit Cards!
(When I thought ABC was the Finnish Alcohol Beverage Control, I was hugely amused that their logo is a hand flashing a thumbs-up. Alas, ABC is an ordinary store, and the government toddy dispensary is called Alko.)
Teboil! Neste! Those are both gas stations, often credit card only, with no attendant in sight. Teboil is part of the Russian Lukoil group.
Then we were back in the dark, and the big trucks (including those extended tandem jobs) threw slush, and I was pretty sure we’d perish on the way to the airport. But gradually it got warmer, motoring south, and all we needed were a couple of degrees to melt the ice on the road.