The Baltic sea
Journey to countries around the Baltic Sea
Accompanied by Yang-Beom Shin, Bu-gun Choi, July, 2003
It’s 4:20 am. Me-Ok Kim awakes me. A minicab is to come at 6. This time, we makes a trip to northern European countries. Have a wash, finish breakfast, and wait for the cab. It’s late. The very Master’s yell that the mini doesn’t come makes me feel the trip has already begun.
The traffic is light early Sunday morning. It took 25 minutes to get to Stanstead airport. We seem to have been big customers of Ryanair airline. This airline serves well in terms of Master’s teaching that every penny must be saved. Anyway, the airline must be running this business because it makes a profit.
The staff at the airline’s check-in counter is unskillful. He seems like a new employee. The departure is delayed 20 minutes, and the airplane takes off at 8:50 am. In about three-hour flight, we arrived 20 minutes later, at 11:50 am, than scheduled at Skavsta airport, a country village which is located to the south of Stockholm. The female staff at the immigration desk doesn’t distinguish between South Korea and North. She looks surprised at Master’s big reaction. During her life time, how has she been able to meet any persons like him? Later, Yand-Beom said that Skavsta had been an unknown countryside village until Ryanair airline began to use it as their airport in Sweden. It isn’t until 12: 30 pm that the bus bound for Stockholm starts to move. The bus has waited for being full of customers because of few bus services. The departure time of the cruise for Helsinki is 4:30 pm so I thought we’ll have enough spare time. However, the reality almost always betrays our expectations. That might be the reason why Master is in a hurry all the time.
After arriving at Stockholm bus terminal, we looked for the ticket agency of Viking Line, a cruise ship company. Wandered about a little bit but Yang-Beom, whose Swedish is fluent, can easily find the agency. Even though it is the holiday season, tickets were too expensive. Two cabins which are the cheapest and one cabin which is the second-cheapest cost 180 euros, which is over ￦200,000. With 130 euros, we purchased a ticket for the cheapest cabin and two standing-seat tickets. There is no proper place for lunch. After looking around in the bus terminal, we catch sight of a small bench in the remote corner. Lunch menu is home-made Kimbap(Sushi), cooked rice rolled and wrapped with seaweed. The amount is so much that three rolls are left for dinner.
The first visit is worrying anywhere and anytime. Even when getting on a bus, several confirmations for the destination must be made. It takes a long time for a bus for the ferry terminal to come. The size of our ferry is much bigger than expected so lots of passengers are waiting in line for boarding. The ferry departs at 4:50 p.m. and will arrive 9:50 a.m., which means that we have spend one night on it. Boarding has just begun. Tathagata and Yangbeom run for a better bed in the cabin and I hurry to look for the room for the passengers who don’t have tickets for cabins. After going up and down the stairs with heavy luggage, I find a small room with 20 seats. I look around the room, while wondering what to do. I find a sleep-in(an empty space whose floor is carpeted and which is for the passengers without cabin tickets). After confirming the location, I go down to Tathagata’s cabin on the second floor. Yangbeom who was waiting for me take my luggage under the bed. We don’t have to worry about the safety of our luggage because the cabin ticket is a key.
The ferry leaves Stockholm harbor. There is a outdoor coffee shop on the 8th floor. Lots of people are in the queue to buy beer, beverage, etc. We seat ourselves around an empty table. We have dinner with leftover Kimbap, bread, cheese and milk. Youngters like Yangbeom and me can get by with such humble food for one meal but I worry about if it is enough for Tathagata. This is one of his teachings that he goes through harships himself. It took quite a long time after leaving the harbor but I can see the land on the both side. This must be so-called fjord, which is observed in the countries like Norway or Sweden. After enjoying surrounding landscapes leisurely, Yangebeom and I go to the sleep-in at 8:30 p.m. We lie down on the floor to sleep. It’s around 10 p.m. but the sun hasn’t set yet because of the high latitude. I see the sun setting on the horizon in the open sea for the first time. We fell asleep after having a chat.
A chill wakes me up. People I didn’t see when I fell asleep are sleeping around us. A sheet of map covers me. Yangbeom must have done it. It is like a sheet of blanket. Now I can understand that homeless people can sleep warmly with newspapers. This night is passing by.
Monday, July 7th. It’s about 6:30 a.m. Tathagata came up to the sleep-in. The cabin was the cheapest so it doesn’t have the window. He cannot have had sound sleep. Breakfast is leftover bread and cheese. I check the schedule in Helsinki. We changed the hotel we booked on the internet to a downtown hostel. We have to take tram 2 at the harbor and transfer to subway at the Helsinki train station. I study the Helsinki map.
The ferry has arrived at Helsinki Harbor. Another war begins when we get off the ferry. The matters of communication facilities, accomodations, meals, the information for our activities, etc. I can see buses and trams outside the harbor. There is a ticket box for bus and tram in the harbor terminal. Three tickets cost 3.6 euros. When I found tram 2, Tathagata is already running toward the tram over there. I hurry to get on. The hostel is located around the next subway station from the train terminal station. Helsinki is quite a small city as a capital city. There is only one subway route. The hostel is near the subway station. We can’t check in until 1 p.m. Tathagata tells Yangbeom and me to go to the newspaper company, Helsingin Sanomat, whose location we already found. Later, I come to know it is the biggest newpaper in northern Europe.
There is a guard at the gate of the newpaper as expected. I tell the receptionist the objectvie of our visit. I introduce Tathagata as the one who has the world-class intellectual ability in the fields of philosophy, life science, etc. and ask for a meeting with the chief editor. A middle-aged woman who introduces herself as an editor in the travel sector. She says that July is the best holiday season in Finland so most people are taking vacations these days. She has just come back from her holidays. She gives us the contact numbers of editors in charge of science and philosophy. I try to contact them only to find that they are on vacation. The editor of the international department say he will send down a reporter to us. As listening to his explanations about how they gather news, we are shocked.
They put the criterion on choosing news onto the outcome of scientific study and collect materials from the websites of news agencies or broadcasting stations. He says he could find a news about Helsinki university from BBC’s website and then made contacts with the university to collect the information.