Stories

Public transportation is not public

by Stacy Siivonen - 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I was set out to geocaching in two municipalities in Eastern Finland. It was going to be a rough trip with little sleeping. 

At Hanko railway station there was an announcement that the train leaves from platform one. There is no platform one in Hanko. It would be a nice surprise if the trains worked once. If Stalin had used Finnish railway company to transfer prisoners, nobody would've reached Siberia ever. 

Finally the train arrives at platform two and I am relieved. It is the only platform there is in Hanko. 

I go to Karjaa, where I learn that the connecting train to Helsinki is late, 30 minutes to be exact. I come to Helsinki railway station just in time to exchange my money at Forex. It was closing in five minutes. 

I take the night bus to Kuortti. I have hard time sleeping, after all, it is a short distance, like 100 miles or something. The bus station in Heinola is right next to the zoo. Actually they keep birds there which have been recovered wounded from the nature. I wondered if the owls are active. If I stayed in Heinola longer, I would go and find out what the owls are doing at night. 

I leave the bus at midnight in Kuortti and find geocache pretty soon. Kuortti has a shopping center that is open 24/7. The lady at the restaurant said that it would be ok if I slept at the couches until my next bus arrived. That is really nice. She also said that she did not like working the night shift. I encouraged her by saying that the mall in Kuortti is really good for people that travel at night. I could not get any sleep, but there was a playground for kids with books that featured animal babies. They have coloring books for adults, when are they having this cutesy for adults as well. 

I went out to wait the bus early, since the stop in Kuortti is unscheduled, they only give approximate time. The night was totally silent, even the dogs were quiet. No owls, either. Kuortti is part of Pertunmaa, which is mostly known for the second highest sale of alcohol in Finland and strong support of the Center-party. I think that the people who support that party are rednecks and wife-beaters, and religious and incestuous. Never vote that party. When the hated Coalition party lost the election last time, many of my friends were elated, but I told them, you know, for all its faults, the supporters of the Coalition are cosmopolitan and liberal. I took the bus to Mikkeli, where I arrived before the dawn. Since I had time and all places were closed, I went to see a small medieval church. There was also a geocache there. The small church, really a sacristy of a church that was destroyed ages ago, is between modern buildings and you have no way of finding it unless you know where it is. To my surprise, the railway station was open and I tried to sleep a little bit. The bus station was next door. I had a schedule online, but I wanted to check the platform. Then I noticed the printed schedule. It said that the bus to Hirvensalmi left five minutes ago, at 7:30. when my schedule said it leaves at 7:45. But, wait, there is a bus that has "Hirvensalmi" to it, I will ask the driver. He said that the bus leaves at 7:50. 

The story is briefly: in the good old times, there was the web page https://www.matkahuolto.fi/en/ and it had a search for bus schedules for the whole country. Then the state messed things up and made competitive bus rides and Matkahuolto, of course, would not advertise their competitors. Therefore there is the ministry of transportation web page http://www.matka.fi/en/ that has its own search, which includes also trains and planes. However, these elusive Waltti-buses are not included, but they are on pdf-sheets, http://www.ely-keskus.fi/web/waltti-ita-suomi/talviaikataulut#.WJcIBryUfIV . That is, like, returning back to printed schedules and to 1950's, because they forget to mention WHERE in Hirvensalmi does the bus actually go. There is no map of the bus stops, anywhere. I asked the dirver and he said that sometimes they do not know, either, but have to ask the passengers. However, the bus goes to Hirvensalmi. Hirvensalmi has wilderness and lakes and AFAIK many summer cottages, and why not. It also has a holiday resort that is beyond my budget. A famous political figure from the center party, Ahti Karjalainen, was born there. He challenged the president-for-life, Urho Kekkonen, from the same party. Kekkonen was somewhat like a dictator, you didn't go and challenge him. The party did not nominate him to a candidate and social-democrat Mauno Koivisto won the election. That only happened when Kekkonen was senile and caused embarrasment and absolutely had to be removed. Ahti Karjalainen was also alcoholic so in a way, he drank his promising career. Now I see him as a sad figure, back then people made jokes about him. They did not joke about the president like that so it makes me wonder, whether his own party stabbed him in the back. That wouldn't have been the first time. There is a saying: "Never trust the Center-party".I attend geo event there in a cafe and feel bit drowsy after being up all night. But the bus comes back. And I have learned that you cannot trust their schedules, so I leave the party and go to Mikkeli. Only this time I leave the bus at Otava, which is by the road between Mikkeli and Lahti. I find local geocache and sit at a local cafe that has a bakery. I buy a freshly baked bread that is still warm.  Then comes the bus and it takes me to Lahti, where I switch to train and switch trains in Pasila, Helsinki and come to Karjaa. In Karjaa there is an announcement that the seat numbers are all messed up for the train going from Turku to Helsinki. I wish the Russians pulled the railroad network back to Russia when Finland has never been able to make trains run normally. 

At Karjaa I took bus back home in Hanko and rest in my own comfortable bed. 

 



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