“Damn, I wish I’d brought my hat.”
That was the theme as soon as we exited the Tampere train station and stood out on the sidewalk. It. Was. Cold. Much colder than in Helsinki. The wind was not helping anything with its constant flow of decently fast air, either.
“See, that’s how much the weather is affected by the sea. You get away from it and it gets colder and colder,” Anj told me rubbing her arms for warmth. The main focus in Tampere was going to see the Spy Museum, which we knew closed at 6PM. It was just after 5PM, so we had some time, but not a lot. We stood for a moment and waited for a cab. Two in a row had just come by, and after another five minutes, Anj suggested we walk. This wasn’t a thrilling proposition, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss the museum, either. Plus, it was indoors, and *anything* indoors was preferable. Just as we were waiting for the light to change, and I noticed big hunks of ice hanging from cars, I noticed a Mercedes taxi pull around into the line. I grabbed Anj and we hopped inside. She gave the man directions off the back of the brochure.
It was the nicest taxi I’d even been in; this was a big Mercedes luxury car with leather seats, but for some bizarre reason was being used as a form of semi-public transportation. It had a big heads up display, and I knew immediately just how cold it was. Negative 6.5 degrees celcius. Bugger. We rode down a couple of streets, and only a few minutes later arrived at a big, brick, warehouse-looking building. I saw a couple of prime photo ops along the way, but wasn’t about to stop the cab. Fortunately, most of them were right down the street from where we were dropped off. Anj paid with credit card, and then we threw ourselves inside out of the freezing weather.
The building had to have been a converted warehouse, by the looks of things. It was now a large mall-like place, with several businesses, coffee houses, restaurants, and a dance studio. We followed the signs for the Spy Museum, and went down a short flight of stairs to the entrance. From the front, it looked more like a Kinko’s, but inside, one could see lots of items being displayed. It still didn’t appear to be a traditional museum, in any case.
Anj told the man we knew we didn’t have much time (it was 5:30) but asked if we could see it anyway. The man, who was very pale and very bald, and initially was scary looking, said it wasn’t a problem. He then proceeded to give us the kid’s price, since it was so late. That was nice of him! We picked up an English guide to the items, and he directed us to where the exhibits started. It was a little difficult to figure out which path to take, as the items in the guide were numbered, but the real things were not. There was a sign next to a curtain stating “do you DARE enter the Spy Tunnel??” and I chose to throw caution into the wind and go inside. It was a large plywood tunnel which was relatively devoid of light. A window allowed one to see the outside, but further down, it became pitch black. Being the intelligent, resourceful spy that I am, I used my camera’s preflash to illuminate the path. I could see some sort of round dot on the wall ahead, and as I approached, a strobe light started to flick on and off in a path to the left. I ignored this and walked around to the right, firing off a white shot of light every so often to get my bearings. It wasn’t very long and led to a curtain out. I reversed course and took the strobe path to yet another exit. Nothing special, really.
Anj and I examined item after item, most of which were cool and ingenious. The descriptions were hard to follow, however, and I’d see something labeled in the guide that would take me about a minute to locate. Various pre- and Cold War paraphernalia was displayed, including watch tape recorders and a palm gun. An infrared scope was attached to the side of the tunnel; that was what the dot was inside. Probably one of the most interesting things was a big map of the world with push pins denoting where known spies were over the years, and for which country they worked. Up at the front was a big parabolic microphone that Anj tried on, and once she figured out how to make it work, I walked to an X on the other side of the museum.
“Ve vill meet you in ze square,” I said in a Russian accent. “do not allow yourself to be followt.” Anj grinned and nodded indicating she would be able to intercept the meeting. Dum dum duuuum. On the wall was an Apple IIc computer, and above it was the game Hacker, a text adventure I’d played as a kid. To the right were three computers, allowing you to send email from the museum. I think it might have been a demonstration of how easy it is to intercept email, but I’m not sure. Just to the right of that was a keyboard and a small PS/2 device that would record keystrokes for later retrieval. Woo, sneaky! Trojans that do that are common, but I’d never seen a hardware device. Around the corner, a secret room was hidden behind a wall.
We stopped back at the front, and I picked up a few items. When he rang these up, he ended up giving me a huge discount on them, including one item he gave to me for free! I was very thankful and handed him my credit card, as I was low on Euros.
“I’m sorry, we only take Finnish credit cards,” he told me after seeing my Bank of America logo. Uh oh. Anj chimed in and located her credit card to pay for it. PHEW. I was going to feel bad if he’d gone to the trouble of giving me a discount and I couldn’t pay for any of it. Anj asked about the music we were hearing, and he said it was a dance studio nearby, and the music always filtered in. As we left, waving goodbye to the very nice man, Anj suggested the drops in price could be that they don’t get much foot traffic in there during the winter, and therefore we would be good advertising for the museum.
We walked through the mall and out into a very open area with two Italian restaurants, a candy shop, and a coffee place. I needed to use the restroom, and discovered that you had to pay a Euro to use it! Upstairs, we both got sodas at the coffee place, then took a seat. She called D’Arcy to see if he was ready. He was in a cab, headed our way, and would pick us up outside. We finished our drinks, then walked back out to where we’d come in. I used the opportunity to run back down the street a little and capture night images of the area. It was FREAKING COLD, mind you, and my hands were not appreciating the weather one bit. I hurried back the entrance, where Anj was waiting inside the little space between the outer and inner doors. A big heater would come on occasionally and blow warm air into the airlock and I used this to reheat my chilly hands. We kept looking for D’Arcy and the cab, and Anj went outside and waved at one point with him on the phone. We realized he must have been at a different entrance, so we walked across the mall and out the other side, where we found D’Arcy.
As we rode to our destination, he mentioned his co-worker, Matt would be joining us. We went underneath an overpass, and I immediately knew where we were going. A large space needle-like tower was up ahead, and I recognized it from the website logo. Below it were several currently-closed roller coasters; it was an amusement park in the summer. We drove closer to it, and a small waterway was frozen solid below, locking in several boats. The drive leading up the small hill was creepy and foreboding, and the whole area reminded me of something out of Silent Hill 3. We arrived at the entrance and went into the base of the massive tower.
There were lockers inside, and I deposited everything except my two cameras into one, placing the key into my pocket. My shoulders thanked me. We got onto the elevator, and I was thankful it wasn’t a glass one! D’Arcy commented how he liked elevators with only two buttons. The funny part about this one was that it had two buttons for floors, but five buttons for opening and closing the doors, as there was a front and a back door. We couldn’t figure out what the fifth door button did. The elevator released us onto the observation deck below the restaurant. We took a quick spin around the view, and I noted how the abandoned amusement park looked like it should be in the end of an action movie or the middle of a post-apocalyptic one. The bathroom signs here were funny, since they appeared that the cartoon people were crossing their legs to hold it!
We took the stairs up to the restaurant, which was very fancy, and I felt bad being in blue jeans and a sweatshirt. We decided to wait for Matt, but each ordered different aperitifs before dinner. The restaurant, as expected, was rotating, and we could see all the way around us. I’m sure it’s nice during the day as well. The lights of the city were beautiful below us at night. Our server, who was blonde and wearing little white gloves, was extremely polite, and brought our drinks a few minutes later. The drinks looked exquisite, and I noticed how nifty they looked in the table light, so I snapped a zillion pictures of them, stealing D’Arcy’s yellow one for contrast. Mine was a blueberry cocktail, and the purple really stood out. D’Arcy attempted to order wine at this point, but the two choices he’d made were not available. The woman suggested another.
Matt finally arrived, and he initially reminded me a little of David Schwimmer. He was so late, in fact that he just took D’Arcy’s recommendations for appetizers and the main course so that we could get started. We were brought three different types of bread in a large basket, and I took two of the three types initially. One was a malt bread, which was a little sweet, and the other was a tough and chewy toast with a sour aftertaste I wasn’t fond of. Matt is here in Tampere working for Nokia for three weeks, then he’s taking my same thought and taking a vacation, but his is longer – three weeks. He’s going to go around Europe by himself, which I don’t think I could handle for that long!
The appetizers arrived; Anj and I both had chosen an artichoke cream soup with mushrooms and truffle oil. D’Arcy’s was a veal tartare, and Matt’s was a Russian blini, a type of deep-dish pancake with crème fresh and caviar. We each traded bites to taste. The blini reminded me of a fritter, and without the crème fresh, it probably would have been too oily for me. D’Arcy’s tartare was tender and very flavorful, but our soups, whoa Nellie. They were delicious. “It’s amazing what a pint of cream will do for a soup,” D’Arcy noted. There were probably 8,000 calories in that bowl, but I would have licked the sides if it had been couth. Initially you didn’t taste any artichoke, but it suddenly would swarm your mouth, and the mushroom’s pungent flavor would creep in as they were chewed. The truffle oil too added a strong additional flavor which mixed perfectly with the other complexities. Anj asked for a little more bread with which to wipe the bowl clean, as did I.
I thought I heard Matt mention he wasn’t very fond of the blini, and so I asked if he minded if I had another bite. “I’m still working on it, but you’re welcome to one,” he said. I felt bad! Eventually, though, he ended up giving the remainder to D’Arcy (after offering me yet another bite), who finished it off for him. It turns out, randomly enough, that Matt lives a few hundred *feet* from me in the area behind the HEB at Parmer and McNeil in Austin! We thought it was funny that we were meeting in a place so far away from there.
The food arrived, and three of us had gotten the same thing. We’d each ordered the reindeer filet with carrots, artichoke mousse,and what looked like a Greek dessert pastry. It turns out that this was in fact also made of inner artichoke leaves, which really blew my mind! The filet had a red berry sauce, and was very, very rare. I had expected it to be like venison, but it wasn’t remotely gamey, and was so soft I almost didn’t have to chew. Anj was the only dissenting order, which I think was a beef filet and a ravioli. I did manage to get a picture though. I’ll ask her later. Matt said that every time I took my camera out, he was kicking himself for not bringing his with him from the hotel. I told him I’d send him the pictures. Once again, I wiped my plate clean. Everyone else almost did the same outside of Matt, who wasn’t a fan of artichoke.
We were full again as usual, and chose not to order dessert, although I’m sure they would have been fabulous. I pulled out my Razr to show Matt, and offered it to him to check out. “Oh good, cause I was going to ask,” he said. Since he was in the Nokia crowd gladly accepted the playtime and was amazed once again. I can’t believe how much they are impressed by it! Well, Motorola, you’ve done a good job, Nokia is in awe. Matt pulled out his huge near-PDA Ericsson, and D’Arcy did the same. Suddenly we each were pulling out phone after phone. Between the four of us, we had six cell phones, and D’Arcy wasn’t carrying one that he usually does. What geeks we mortals be.
The maitre’d called us a cab, and we rode down the elevator to the ground floor. At the lockers, I tried over and over to get my key to fit, it just wasn’t happening. Anj pointed out my stupidity – I was using the house key. Durrr…. The locker key also wasn’t going in initially, but at least it was made for this lock! I managed to overcome my lack of coordination and retrieved my items. We crammed ourselves in the cab when it arrived, putting our things in the trunk. Matt says he’s usually the tallest one, so he tends to get the front seat. D’Arcy is a bigger guy though, so Matt got reduced to “everyone else”. Along the way, D’Arcy gave him a Finnish lesson, and the cab driver assisted, very amused about the whole thing. We dropped Matt off at his hotel first, which is small and quaint. He was jealous of D’Arcy’s hotel. He also pointed out his rental car, a brand new Nissan Primera, which I’d not seen before. We waved goodbye and drove to the train station. We passed a bunch of lofts that D’Arcy said she and Anj should consider if they have to move to Tampere. The station showed up quickly, and we said our goodbyes then headed into the station. Anj and D’Arcy made little kissy noises, silly newlyweds.
Inside the station, the office was closed. We expected this, however, and went to the automated ticket machines, which had signs in multiple languages, including English, to buy tickets there. The interface, on the other hand, was in Finnish. Very deftly, Anj used what she knew and deductive reasoning to not only get us both tickets, but even got her student discount applied! Go Anjanette! I would have been clueless. We took a seat on a bench nearby and waited. I was looking at a sign and deduced it meant “automatic ticket machine”. Easy to remember, because ‘lippu’ is ticket in Finnish, and ‘kippu’ is ticket in Japanese. Also it has the phrase ‘automat’ in it. Simple. We went over what little Finnish I’d gleaned since my arrival.
Around us was a very weird collection of folks, but probably typical of what you might see in any late-night train station: the guy checking for coins everywhere, a group of drunk guys, one with a sliced-open, bleeding hand, the vagrant wandering the halls. Oddly, though, this collection also included a very upscale, attractive Finnish girl with trendy clothes. The train was finally announced, and we went outside and up to the platform. We had different rows on the same car, but, even when the ticket taker came by, he didn’t care that we sat together anyway. The ride was the same as last time, an hour and a half, but this time we got off one stop earlier. This was the station that she normally drops D’Arcy off at, and it’s the same distance as the downtown one is from their house. We rode a cab back to the apartment and lugged our tired carcasses upstairs. It was nearly midnight, but I needed to get ready for Stockholm. I packed my backpack with necessary supplies. At this point, I realized I’d not heard from the girls in Stockholm, and was nearly sure that their phones weren’t working. I sent Kelly and email, using the address had for her, and hoped I’d hear back. I quickly finished up the log from Sunday and posted it, but as quick as I was, it still took until 2:30 to be done. I leapt into bed for what little sleep I had before having to get up and catch a plane in the morning.