To Russia With Love: Helsinki to St Petersburg

To Russia With Love: Helsinki to St Petersburg
Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

15:45 Finland local time. The endless green begins outside my triple glazed window as deciduous trees and conifers abound in dense neat forest blocks framing the Finnish countryside. I’m onboard the high speed Allegro train, the first high speed service (a joint project between Finland and Russia) between the EU (Finland) and the Russian Federation. In the quiet of this modern interior (who’s ever seen a hand held shower nozzle at the side of the toilet (see photos)), as we approach maximum velocity 220 km/hr, I can hear a polite but intense conversation between two Russian academics and two Finnish academics. They speak in English in deep thick measured accents. “Your assumption fails to account for central theorem where we have x substituting y….”, says the older bespectacled man to his younger counterpart. It seems fitting that my land journey to Russia commences in the aural context of such deliberations, as I’ve always fantasised about the profound intellect amongst the Russian academics. Outside we pass rail yards of rolling stock covered in cyrillic characters and I turn my attention back to my Russian lessons. The train slows. The electronic information board on the wall at the end of the carriage reads 217 km/hr. And I see the Finnish border officials making their way through. Stern in their demeanour I double check my papers and I feel anxious with my ‘business’ visa and the unknown nature of my supposed inviting company. I’ll know soon whether I had anything to worry about!

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