Travel preparations

The most important thing to pack is of course an eTravelogue! I was planning on blogging from Australia but then my domain expired and I’m stuck between hosts. I’ll have to settle for a hosted blog where I don’t have a say over what my blog looks like. Agh.

Oh well, the main thing is I’ll remember what I did in Australia after my feet have lifted off the ground on February 25th and the whole trip is over. And that is what this blog [my blog at] is for.

Sydney, Sydney

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it — Sydney, Sydney
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it – Sydney Sydney

(Adapted from Frank Sinatra’s New York New York)

First day

My plane landed almost on time around 6.20-6.30 am in Sydney. I had a transfer in Frankfurt and a stop in Singapore. My suitcase got here with no problem, too, which was nice.

The people in Frankfurt seemed to think every traveller is German. There was this mean-looking lady at the security check gates and suddenly she just pulled me over to the chair. I couldn’t catch what she was saying (asking me to take my shoes off) even though I know a bit of German. I had to sit down, take my shoes off, and have them ran through a scanner.

I boarded a 747 in Frankfurt. It was rainy, so when the engine (turbine?) started all the water on the runway splashed backwards. The pilots on the plane (both from Frankfurt to Singapore and Singapore to Sydney) were really good, the landing and breaking went very smoothly; unlike on the Finnair flight to Frankfurt… (the pilot had to slam on the breaks)

So, I got through the customs and out of the airport around 7:15 am — my friend and her fiancé picked me up. The temperature felt really nice from the very start. Even though it’s warm, it’s also humid so I seem to be handling it better. It got quite hot and sunny on our way from a grocery store (I should’ve worn my sunglasses…).

It’s so different here! All the sights and sounds — the trees and the birds make me feel like I’m walking in a tropical zoo.

There was a dinner tonight with a bunch of people, and I was nicknamed Finland or Finnie. :)

I didn’t get any sleep on the flights because it was so loud on the plane. It didn’t matter though; I slept for 5 hours today after lunch, it’s 12:30 am now, and I’m properly tired. Will the jetlag hit me later because now it feels quite normal? We’ll see…

The wedding

My reason for coming to Australia was of course my best friend’s wedding (not the movie). The wedding was held on Sunday 11th. It rained on and off all day but towards the evening the sky cleared out and things looked very promising. The ceremony happened outside and most of the time the weather was really nice but right at the end it started pouring again and we had to go inside.

I drove to the venue with the bridesmaids in a white Chevrolet Impala (convertible but they kept the roof on) — don’t know which vintage but one of the older ones — and carried the throwaway bouquet.

They seated me at a table with some of my friend’s friends but her parents had me moved to their table. From the first moment they met me they kept an eye on me — a bit too closely in fact. :-) “Minna, don’t stand there, come with us.” “Let’s go outside.” “Do you know how you get home?” (twice) “I looked for you on the bus [that took some guests home] and you weren’t there!” (I thought I was going home in the bus, but the groom’s parents took me home in the bridal car.) They were also appalled that I was going to stay home alone in a city that I don’t know. My friend’s mum said she was going to have a word with her but I hope she didn’t…! They even said they would take me to Queensland with them (!) — luckily they didn’t because I’m supposed to be on holiday! Without parents! ;-) Besides, I offered to be the house-sitter and dog-sitter a year ago.

There was a lot of food at the wedding (ever since I stepped on the airplane in Helsinki there’s been a lot of food, geez) but no wedding cake for some reason (perhaps it’s the tradition). I think in Finland we just eat some snacks with coffee (etc.) and then the wedding cake. I’m not sure though, because it’s been ages since the previous wedding I’ve been to.

After the eating there were the speeches. Both my friend’s father and her husband mentioned me in their speeches (thanked me for coming such a long distance) — I was probably blushing.

I didn’t catch the throw-away bouquet which is a good thing because it would’ve gone to waste. ;-)

Here food, there food, everywhere food food

On the plane we were fed 4 meals (two breakfasts, two dinners) plus a snack bag (which I lost, but that’s alright cause I probably couldn’t have brought it into Australia) — that’s insane! The food was alright but there was too much of it and in the end I had to leave a lot good stuff on the plate and skip the last breakfast completely.

On Thursday (Feb 8th) we went to a local restaurant/bar in the evening. I had chicken schnitzel which was really good. On Friday (Feb 9th) it was the bride’s-to-be hen’s night (= bachelorette party) and we were at a Chinese restaurant. The food was alright, but I was full. The last dish smelled like toilet, though. We had mudcake (chocolate) which was extremely good (it wasn’t from the restaurant)! Then on Saturday (Feb 10th) we had barbeque by the pool at a motel where a lot of the guests were staying.

Saturday night we celebrated my friend’s friend’s birthday at a Japanese restaurant, Asahi Teppanyaki. There the food is prepared on a hot plate in front of you and the chefs do a bit of comedy too. The beef was doused in oil and set on fire (watch your hair!), they gave us bowls and threw a raw egg which we had to catch (I didn’t try that though because I didn’t want egg all over me), and at the end they threw several bowls at us and a rice dish in the last bowl (I did that, and caught the bowls — they were easier on the ladies, the men got all the curve throws). One of the men in our group decided to throw the rice back at the chef. The chef ducked and the rice landed on me and my friend — twice. Yuck. :-) They also prepared an omelette which they then launched at everyone and people had to catch the bits right in their mouth (some of it stuck to the wall). I didn’t try that either because I don’t eat plain eggs. It was fun but a bit too messy. I actually ate a prawn which I never do. The kids had the best time, I’d imagine, because it’s not usually allowed to play with food.

Some photos

Australia vs. Finland (vol. 1?)

I’ve noticed some things that are different in Australia — besides the obvious of course. It could very well be that I’ve been hanging with the “wrong crowd” to do generalisations on the Aussies, so if that’s the case I apologise.

I just came back from the local store because I bought some food for the next few days and on my way there I had to cross some roads. I stopped at the zebra crossing to wait for a car to pass but instead it stopped! Now, in Finland they don’t do that very often. Then at the cashier they put the groceries in the bag automatically! Of course, I’ve only been to this one shop but in Finland I’ve never been to a grocery store that bagged the food. There is a “fancy” store in the centre of Helsinki where at rush hours they have grocery baggers but that’s the only occasion I’ve seen the sort of customer service. Of course, other kind of stores put the purchases in plastic bags if you’re not fast enough to stop them.

Don’t know if it’s an Australian thing but they seem to like their food salted and seasoned. On the plane I had some salad with cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, the normal stuff — it was “pickled”. It had some sort of vinegary taste in it and I couldn’t eat much (I picked out the tomatoes and ate them but left the rest). Also, the butter was salted (mentioned especially on the pack). In a conversation one of my friend’s friends mentioned that she doesn’t like plain salad, there has to be salt and things in it. I know fancy chefs (like Jamie Oliver :-) ) always put salt and pepper in the salad but I don’t like it. To me, vegetables have to be fresh and unseasoned or cooked and seasoned.

I’m most amazed by how polite — in a talkative way — people are here. It struck me as a little silly at first to hear ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ all the time in a crowded store, but that’s always better than to have bruises on your sides (or face and shoulders, for people my height) from getting hit by elbows…

Cronulla Beach

My friend’s mother-in-law took me to Cronulla Beach today. On the way there we drove through a national park and it was like in a jungle there! It was all green even though there had been a bush fire a few years ago. I got an amazing look at the area because there were loads of steep hills. Beautiful!

At the beach we walked through the rocks that are under water at high tides.
Cronulla Beach, rocks Cronulla Beach, more rocks

We stopped for a bit in the shade
Cronulla Beach, waves

When we got up from the rocks onto the pathway we came across a palm tree!
Cronulla Beach, a palm tree

Quite beautiful, isn’t it?
Cronulla Beach, horizon

After the walk we went for a lunch at South Beach Seafood. I had my first taste of fish and chips and also tried some crab. The crab was in a funny looking dough ball with the claw sticking out. Really good though, quite sweet. Then we walked down a street full of shops and I bought some things to take home. Can’t tell what they are yet because my sister’s reading this. ;-)

Baked dinner

I was invited to dinner Friday night. It was a traditional Australian baked dinner apparently. We had lamb, chicken, sweet potato, potato, corn, broccoli, peas, and I think one dish was pumpkin. It was really good. Baked dinner can contain anything really, I suppose it’s just the cooking that makes it ‘baked’. Later, I got the best coffee I’ve ever had and some carrot peanut cake. Yum!

I was asked what is a traditional Finnish dish. I couldn’t really answer. I did tell them we usually eat beef, fish, pork, chicken, and turkey, and that lamb is perhaps a bit special food (for Easter) — I’ve never had it before. And that we like potatoes, pasta, and rice. But I couldn’t explain a traditional Finnish dish. The only really Finnish thing I can think if is mämmi, Easter pudding. Wikipedia doesn’t offer very much information on Finnish cuisine either… Oh well.

Busy busy busy…!

This week has been really busy. On Tuesday I went in to the city for the first time when we had dinner at Sydney Tower (Centerpoint Tower).

Sydney Tower

The food was really good; I even tried some kangaroo and camel. The camel meat was really tough but the kangaroo was alright. I wouldn’t eat it regularly though. There also were tiny octopi (octopuses) but I wasn’t feeling quite that adventurous. We saw the fireworks they had arranged for the cruiseships Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2.

On Wednesday we went to Stanwell Park for some nice views

Nice view

and then to Scarborough for some lunch (I had fish and chips — how boring am I?! It was delicious, though). Then we drove down to Wollongong for some more views and choc tops (soft ice with chocolate coating).

On Thursday we went into the city again. We walked through the Rocks (the old part of the city) to the Opera House.

Sydney Opera House

Strolled through the Royal Botanical Gardens to the Library of NSW. There were some nice exhibitions there about old books and escaped convicts. The last stop was the Sydney Aquarium where I saw the platypus! I didn’t know they were so small — only 30 cm (about a foot) long. It was a fast bugger so I couldn’t get a proper picture…

Platypus in motion

We were knackered from all the walking so we decided to leave the Wildlife World for the next day. So, today we went to the Wildlife World where we saw all kinds of insects, reptiles and of course…

the wombat
A wombat

the wallabi
A wallabi

and of course, the koala
A koala

Unfortunately there were no kangaroos, probably because they need so much space to live in.

I had good luck in shopping too: found a book on Stephen King’s unpublished stories (I forget the name and it’s safely wrapped up) and Dreamfall (PC game). I can’t buy much more — I only have 20 something dollars (AUD) left!