It was fascinating to see how the ferry from Umea to Vaasa was boarded by trucks and cars. Cars can drive straight in and go around the corner inside the ferry so that they can drive straight out again. But some trucks are too long for that and they have to back into the ferry - with all the waiting passengers watching.... The ferry ride was uneventful and I did not even get sea sick as expected. My CS was already waiting for me at the harbour to pick my up. He had also come with his bike: a 50$ Indian bike he had bought in Nepal. It was quite a sight. My hosts turned out to be very interesting. Together with 3 of their children they had travelled a whole year in India and Nepal and become Buddhists. Of course this caused me to ask millions of questions and we spend the first evening talking about Buddhism which was quite enlightening for me. Next day was quiz hour for Finnish history and mentality and again I learnt a lot. But the definite highlight was an evening trip into their home sauna. I had nearly forgotten how refreshing a sauna can be and felt totally rejuvenated. I enjoyed the warm atmosphere in their family tremendously and again I was amazed what generous people you meet through Couchsurfing.
Next day brought another social visit. Hendrik Morkel, the author of the blog Hiking in Finland is living in Vaasa and had invited me to meet him. Meeting point was the famous statue on Vaasa market square that reminded me more of the Soviet Union than of Scandinavia. As outdoors people Hendrik and I had a lot to talk about, first at a coffee shop and when breakfast hour turned into lunch time we moved to a Sushi bar before eventually moving to the library to get a bit of work done after so much talking. I even manged to squeeze in two museum visits before I returned to my CS hosts. The weather that had looked like a total disaster on the forecast had turned out to be a slight rain shower only followed by sunshine.... Hopefully it stays that way.
I have now also planned the rest of the trip. From Vaasa I will follow the Via Finlandia bike route via Tampere to Helsinki from where I will take the ferry to Travemuende in Germany and then back to Berlin. I will come back earlier than expected but I rather start my upcoming hike earlier than dink around here - because I know I will soon come back....
Vaasa has already made me very happy - not only by all the interesting people I met. Of course there is a Lidl here! (No Aldi again in Finland....) I spent a whole hour shopping and comparing prices and to me great relief it is not more expensive than Sweden. Finland will not be cheap, but it will be doable on my budget. Chocolate is affordable, thank God! So now I am off to do my first bit of cycling in Finland.