Our fourth day in beautiful Finland brought us to the capital city of Helsinki. In the morning, we split up into several groups to explore different aspects of this vibrant and historic city and its surroundings. In the afternoon, we added new activities and repeated some so that everyone had a chance to see all the highlights. Some of us went foraging for wild foods in a nearby forest, some visited the famous fortress island of Suomenlinna, and others made the trip to the Mannerheim Museum, home of Finland’s most famous soldier and statesman.
National Geographic Explorer
This was the first time National Geographic Explorer has visited Ahus, a small city of 11,000 people in southern Sweden. It certainly won’t be the last. This charming community is the world headquarters of Absolut, the iconic vodka brand. After a lovely Zodiac ride through the morning mist, we divided into two groups, one that toured the factory (and got a lesson in how to make a Cosmopolitan cocktail) and the other that strolled to a nearby beach where they learned about the town’s historic eel fishing tradition. After a delicious lunch together at the Absolute Home, an ornate building that was once the office of Absolut’s founder in the late 1800s, the groups switched places. It was a lovely visit to a picturesque community that we will “absolutely” add to our regular list of destinations. This was the last day of our expedition across the Baltic Sea, and we ended the day with the Captain’s Farewell in the lounge. I was moved to recite this fitting poem by Swedish songwriter and bon vivant, Evert Taube. I think it speaks to all travelers – those who literally take to sea and those whose journey is the voyage of life: While still the boat sails along While still the heartbeat is strong While still the sun’s rays on waves are a glittering throng Though you should suffer, perform each endeavor There will be rest soon for ever and ever! But that’s no reason at all To not be glad and stand tall It’s time to strike up a quite irresistible waltz! It’s such a great stroke of luck you’re alive now, my friend And can waltz through the day around Havana! And when your last money’s gone, go to sea once again With the trade wind your sailor’s bandanna Do your duty aright Go on land that’s in sight Take a kiss maybe two in the dance’s swift flight! While still the boat sails along While still the heartbeat is strong While still the sun’s rays on waves are a glittering throng