A short trip to Finland with a chaser of crayfish.

9/04/2007 03:16:00 am

If there's one thing you can generalise about Scandinavia, it would have to be alcohol and a general love of drinking it. And, more specifically, tax free alcohol: allow me to introduce the booze cruise.

The Swedes go to Finland, the Finns to Estonia, the Norwegians to Denmark, and the Danes to Germany. It's a cultural thing.

But don't be fooled into thinking that by 'cultural' I mean they go to soak up some culture in these other places. No. I mean that the ongoing search for cheap alcohol is so ingrained in the collective psyche of Scandinavians that on Saturday morning I found myself waking up at 6.30am to cycle to a bus stop somewhere near the station, which would take us to a ferry terminal somewhere near Stockholm, to get on a ferry with 300 Swedes (young and old alike) which would go to an island somewhere in the Baltic Sea that is technically part of Finland, but actually exempt from the alcohol-tax restrictions placed on the rest of the EU.

And just so you know, there's nothing quite like seeing 3 full buses arrive back in Uppsala and begin unloading luggage when that luggage consists of 1 litre of liquor, 2 litres of wine, and 16 litres/14 cartons of beer for every person on each of those 3 buses.

The ferry itself, along with the 1.5 hour transfer bus was 60 crowns, about 12 AUD, return. These ferry companies make their money off the duty free and the restaurants on board. We went as a group of 6 and all of us had the breakfast buffet (although, since we went in there knowing we had to eat ourselves stupid to get our money's worth it's probably fair to say they didn't make a profit on us), while around us more than 100 Swedes ate and drank copious amounts of tax free beer and liquor for two hours, and probably did the same on the return leg as well.

The B Team.

Oh, my kingdom for a breakfast buffet.

Quick, look now, we're in Finland..quickly, before we have to get back on the boat.

And before you know it, we're back in international waters, enjoying what turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day of trans-Baltic sunshine.

After a fairly random day at sea, I have to tell you that I wasn't really surprised to see, as we cycled back to Flogsta, many Swedes dressed in suits and other general cocktail attire, festooned with paper hats and pictures of crayfish. At one point in my life that would have made me look twice, but I merely glanced and said to myself, "Oh Sweden".
It follows then that I wasn't really surprised either when later that night I found myself at a Kräftskivafest...a crayfish party. Apparently it's quite the massive summertime Swedish tradition, and to be honest, things should have started to fall into place last week when I noticed massive boxes of prepared crayfish filling up the freezer section of ICA.
While the party Robin and I were invited to didn't involve paper crayfish hats or lanterns, it did involve massive amounts of alcohol, paper bibs, and singing (followed by more drinking of hard liquor) in true Swedish crayfishfest style... But with so much work involved in getting to meat out of one crayfish, the most amusing thing ended up being the look on Robin's face (a vegetariam) as she tried to dodge the juice flying across the table every time Anders whacked his fist on a claw to break it open. Ah, the memories.

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