Stockholm from the ferry
Today we left Stockholm and made our way across the Baltic towards Estonia. I was sad to close the Swedish chapter of our Journey for Jane: my old lecturers had been so kind, and it had been great to be back in Sweden.
I knew that stage two of our journey, the Swedish section, would be particularly poignant for me. Uppsala was where I lived at the time of Jane’s death, and I connect it to the early stages of my personal journey of first accepting, and later learning to cope with the reality of my sister’s passing.
Today was time, however, to move towards the third and closing stage of our journey – the Russian Federation. Before we could get that far, we had to contend with the small matter of crossing the Baltic.
A little boat we spotted from the ferry (our boat was larger, just so you know)
My dad had booked the ferry to St. Petersburg early in the planning stages of Journey for Jane. Even so, as we stood in Stockholm trying to figure out the location of the ferry terminal, we realised we knew very little about the crossing to Russia. We didn’t know where it left from, how long it stopped in Tallinn, if we would be able to get off the ferry, how large or small the boat might be, or the composition of our fellow passengers. It was on this last point that I was most surprised.
One erratic taxi ride later, and we were at the ferry terminal. As we stood in the long queue to board the boat I noticed that we were the only native English speakers within earshot. Perhaps this is unsurprising in Sweden, but then neither could I hear any Swedish: we were surrounded exclusively by the flowing rhythms of the Russian language.
As it happened, the Princess Anastasia ferry is very much a Russian ferry for Russian citizens – the clue was in the name. There is a small German tourist group, one Swedish family, my dad and I, and a lot of Russians. Not that this is a problem, but it is the first time in my life when I have felt very much the foreigner.
The Princess Anastasia is not a normal ferry; it doesn’t merely shift its passengers across the Baltic. Instead, it is more a long weekend cruise. Many of the passengers boarded in St. Petersburg, visited Helsinki for the day, went on to Stockholm (where my dad and I joined), before moving on to Tallinn, and finally back to St. Petersburg.
After frequenting the bar on the sixth floor, you can try the two bars on the seventh floor, the bar on the eighth, the bar outside on the deck; or, of course, if your drink is running low between the bars, you can top up at one of the numerous small stalls selling alcohol. If, after all this entertainment, you feel like testing your stamina against your fellow passengers, you are – well, sorry ladies, only the men were – invited to take part in a vodka drinking competition!
As we walked the corridors towards our room, the music was being delivered through ceiling speakers. You knew, as sure as night follows day, that the cruise would be bouncing come evening. In all honesty, I was terrified we would be shedding passengers over the side as the effects of the alcohol blended with the already disorientating rocking of the boat.
Jane would have loved this experience. I can see her now, how she would have giggled at the old lady who walked to her bedroom before us, banging off either wall like a pendulum from one too many drinks. Or the incredulous expression she would have worn as she realised that the first ten drinks on the restaurant’s menu were different brands of vodka.
Jane might not be here to enjoy this with us, but I can have a wry smile and a small chuckle thinking about how she would have enjoyed crossing the Baltic, visiting the stunning city of Tallinn, and then fulfilling her dream of reaching Russia.
This trip, our Journey for Jane, allows her dream to live on.