Call of The North – 3ème Étape

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Traveling by car ferry is quite an interesting affair. One receives instructions regarding the port, the opening and closing times for the check-in, the departure time, etc. when purchasing the ticket. Yet, as ferry newbies, we were unsure what such a procedure might actually entail. So, I called the German office of Finnlines in Travemünde to inquire. If the check-in opens at 21h, is it prudent to show up right away? Dear me, the voice chirped, absolutely not! Once you have checked in, you may no longer leave the staging area, she explained, but the cars won’t begin boarding until roughly 23h30. Do you want to sit in your car for two-and-a-half hours? No, not really, thank you, ma’am. In order to absolutely ascertain where we’d have to be in the Travemünde ferry harbor in the middle of a dark and rainy night, we did a dry run in the early evening under daylight conditions. As is expected in and around any commercial harbor, there was a lot of truck traffic which made for tricky driving conditions, worsened by detours and construction zones. We were glad to have investigated the area for our peace of mind – until we got home to find a traffic ticket in the mailbox. We were blitzed [photo recordings of speeding motorists] at 66 Km/h in a 60 Km/h zone which translates to driving 41 mph in a 37 mph zone. Bastards! During our entire trip, not a single driver in either Germany or Belgium obeyed the posted speed limits, not a one, not even in construction sites with workers present. Countless times, we were the ones impeding the flow of traffic by trying to adhere to the rules. As a reward for our concerted effort of traffic righteousness, we got a ticket. The Gods are neither just nor are they kind!

After our Travemünde port reconnaissance, we headed over to the Timmendorfer Strand nearby. This is a very nice area along the Baltic Sea shore with beaches, marinas, and a boardwalk with restaurants and shop where we spend a few hours window shopping and eating seafood tapas while listening to a somewhat aged Schlagersänger perform a medley of hits of yesteryear to the great delight of a gaggle of senior ladies. On our way back to the Finnlines pier, we filled up the car so we wouldn’t have to try to identify gas stations first thing in Finland. The check-in turned out to be a piece of cake, thanks to excellent signage and electronics. We simply pulled up to a booth with the kind of teller window we used to use in drive-through banking in Texas before the age of online banking. The “teller” scanned our reservation in my phone “wallet” app and our IDs which generated cardboard, single-use cabin keys and the meal vouchers we had pre-paid. After that speedy transaction, we only had to wait about 20 more minutes before the lead car with its revolving roof lights guided the snake of cars in our designated lane onto the ship.

By the time our car was slotted tightly into its allotted space against the curved hull of the vessel, it was well past midnight. The bright lights combined with a cacophony of noises and constant movement on the car deck was quite disorienting. The only thing I remember about walking from the car to the elevator for the passenger decks was a beautiful Maserati parked right next to the hatch in the bulkhead. By the time the cabins were finally ready for occupation, we just dropped off our luggage before heading for one of the bars for a nightcap. Here we are reflected in a window, observing the hectic activities in the harbor before falling into bed.

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We had a restful night in comfortable berths with nice, smooth bedding. Not a very long night, though, since it is apparently customary on ferries to make shrill announcements through the loudspeaker system for all sorts of reasons not related to safety issues, e.g. when the gift shop opens, or when breakfast is served. Since we were at Finnish time on shipboard, that was darn early. But the breakfast, brunch really, was definitely worth making an effort!

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Just one example of an amazing array of dishes!

From here on in, I’ll have to bore you to tears with pictures of the quintessential blue-and-white maritime scheme that makes my sailor’s heart sing but might very well not mean anything to you. For me, it’s all about contrast, shadows and reflections, lines and angles. However, if you wish, do sail straight past my infatuation with waves and clouds to the next post, still to be written, in which case I’ll see you in Helsinki!

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Enjoying an after-breakfast constitutional on the 11th deck.
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Sun-worshipers on the helipad of the 12th deck.
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Banister shadows and foam in dramatic juxtaposition.
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The windfarms along the horizon resemble anti-pigeon spikes on a windowsill.
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Beneath the polished bottoms of our lifeboats, the “Dog Park” on deck 7, complete with sandbox.

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Y’all know “Gummy Bears“, right? Apparently, this is the grim northern version 😱 as seen in the coffee shop on deck 7

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As the day wound down, we prepared for a second night at sea with an early arrival in Helsinki.

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Goodnight and sweet dreams! Hyvää yötä ja suloisia unia [google translate]

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