Fresh snow and a fantastic journey!
As I sat down to eat my ice cream in the IKEA outside of Dublin airport, I contemplated the trip I was about to undertake. Two years ago, I met a Finnish guy on the internet who was a wizard at video editing and elegant in speaking English (shoutout to @romjoseph04). We had chatted previously about the idea of me flying over to visit while I was in Europe, which would typically seem too farfetched. Yet, during my last weekend in Ireland, we were able to clear our schedules and make a last-minute but concrete plan. Now, all that was left was for me to travel.
One final selfie before Finland outside of a Swedish store!
The cab dropped me off right outside Terminal 2, where I had to check in for FinnAir. As I got to what looked like the check-in line, I met an incredibly nice Indian man who was also on the same flight. We chatted about our reasons for flying to Finland. He was going to visit some friends in Helsinki for a few days. He had also been living in Ireland for four years, which was far from his home village near Nepal. After going through security, we got drinks and chatted more about our jobs, our futures, and our interests. After about two hours, it was time for us to board the plane.
Shoutout to @tanzeebi on IG for sharing a pint and some good stories with me before the flight!
The flight to Helsinki, the capital of Finland, was only around two and a half hours. I spent that time finishing up some Theology homework and thinking of all the fun things my friend and I would do once at his hometown. The entire plane ride felt like 20 minutes thanks to a combination of doing homework and trying to figure out the Finnish words the captain would occasionally say over the intercom. Going into Finland, I only knew two words: “Kiitos,” which means “thank you,” and “Perkele,” which means “devil.”
Once at the airport, I tried to find a place to sleep. I was a little anxious that some of the people at the airport wouldn’t speak English, but I mustered up the courage and confidence to ask a person at a flight connection kiosk. She told me, in perfect English, that I could sleep in the area right beside the kiosk, which I am fairly certain was specifically designed for layover passengers. I thanked her, then made my way around the corner to the rest area.
An immersive place to spend the night…
The layover room was immaculate: it was a giant room filled with speakers that played nature noises at a peaceful volume with a 360º LED display of the Finnish wilderness above my head. There were padded benches for passengers to lie on as they waited for their next flight. As the different displays and nature noises echoed as background noises and lights, I passed out hugging my backpack, which contained everything I had brought for the trip.
Nordic themes abound! And not another soul in sight!
This reminded me of a wasp nest…
Santa wasn’t home… 🙁
I awoke a few hours later to an empty terminal. Nobody had disturbed me during my slumber, and I am confident that there weren’t even any night guards patrolling the place. The lights and sounds of the layover room had been shut off, mostly because it was still late at night. As I walked around the terminal, I passed by a Moomin Cafe (Moomin is basically the cartoon “mascot” of Finland), got jumpscared by the floor escalators roaring to life for the day, walked into a Santa House for tourists (apparently in much of Europe, many middle and upper-class families will fly to Finland to “see Santa” as that is where the parents tell the children where he lives), and saw a self-serve pizza machine. After loitering around and admiring the Nordic themes of the terminal, I decided to finally go through border patrol.
Horrifying creatures staring into my soul at 4:30am
Going through border patrol was a bit awkward: typically, most international travelers would go through customs first and then find another place in the airport to sleep. The lady at the kiosk that I had talked with previously said that it was fine if I stayed the night in the terminal even though I would not have my passport stamped until the morning. Since no flights had arrived for a solid seven hours since I arrived, I was the only person in the massive passport and security room. There was only one passport kiosk open, and the burly Finnish border guard looked at me with confusion as to why I was the only passenger at going through security at 5am. Even though he stamped my passport after I told him my reason for visiting, I could see the skepticism in his eyes as he continued to gaze at me as I walked past the checkpoint.
my first meal in 12 hours 😀 So nutritious!
My layover in Helsinki was 10 hours in total, and I had another connecting flight to Kajaani airport that morning. I had gotten the only flight into and out of the regional airport during my stay, so I prayed to God that there would be no delays. As I waited, I realized I had forgotten my charging adapter in Dublin for my phone. So, at 6:30am, I bought an adapter along with a Finnish protein bar and water to act as my breakfast for the day.
This was the first time I was outside of the airport building in Finland. It was cold, to say the least.
Shortly after eating my “scrumptious” travel breakfast, I heard the roar of a prop plane’s engines pulling into my gate. It was also my first time traveling on this type of plane, and I got a window seat right next to the beautiful fan blades. There were around 15-20 people total for the entire flight, which I expected for a flight that was heading towards a town in the middle of the Finnish wilderness. The small-ish regional plane took around five minutes total from gate push-off to getting in the air to my flight to Kajaani, which was by far the fastest I’d ever experienced such a turnaround. I fell asleep for most of the one-and-a-half-hour flight.
My first thoughts of Finland was that it reminded me of a flatter Colorado.
Five minutes before landing, the captain played a pre-recorded message in both Finnish and English saying that the plane would be landing soon. As I peered out the window, a massive lake appeared with its surroundings covered in six inches of freshly fallen snow. As the plane landed on the regional airport’s only (and snow-covered) runway, I took a deep breath of Kajaani’s fresh air. The entire airport building was no bigger than a typical American McDonald’s, and it had the city crests of Kajaani and all the nearby settlements in Finland’s Kainuu province. I texted my parents that I had landed safely and that the Finnish town gave off a vibe similar to that of Colorado. After waiting for twenty minutes in the five-seat large waiting room, I heard a whistle from just outside the doors. My friend and his mother had come to pick me up in their silver Mercedes-Benz, and thus I departed the airport and towards a weekend filled with fun and adventure.