- I traveled halfway across Finland, from Pori to Helsinki, using its state-owned rail service.
- The amenities were great, from a restaurant car with swivel chairs to private cabins onboard.
- A 3-hour ride cost $60 (R948) with some extras.
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My ride was from Pori to the capital Helsinki, with a change in Tampere.
I'd been on a reporting trip and needed to get back to Helsinki for the flight home.
Pori to Helsinki by car is about 151 miles (243km).
By car that's about three hours, or half an hour more by train.
I got tickets online. It was about $60 (R948) to book at short notice.
I left Pori at 10:00 and was due to arrive at Helsinki at 13:35.
The base cost of the ticket was €45 ($47 or so — a euro is worth $1.05) or R751.
I also got upgraded seats on the first leg for €6.90 (R115) and on the second for €5.90 (R98).
That gave me a total price of €57.80 or $61 (R948).
The train was a double-decker. Like every passenger train in Finland, it is run by the state.
The train was operated by VR, the government-owned Finnish train company.
My extra fee for the first leg meant I could ride on the top floor to get better views
On my way!
The upper section was up a little stairway.
This is what the cabin looked like.
There were functional toilets at the end of the carriage
On the bottom, the seats were similar. The train also had a place you can park your bike if you book ahead of time.
Between the main carriages, you could book little private booths.
These are two-person booths that were empty when I boarded the train.
Finns like quiet — at the end of the carriage there was a special booth for taking phone calls without disturbing people.
This is what the phone booth looked like on the inside.
There were little onboard locker for valuables.
They could be used for a small deposit.
The seats were functional and comfortable, with adjustable headrests.
The seats could be reclined. There was a little foldaway table and a trash bag next to each chair.
I'm pretty tall and even I could fit well in the seats, with decent leg space.
The train was lovely and quiet. Though it was quite busy, people kept noise to a minimum.
Being quiet is a Finnish national trait, and Finns are known for avoiding small talk.
From here I could enjoy the Finnish countryside passing by.
Finland is full of lakes, like this one we passed.
These huts by the tracks are in a classic Nordic style.
And we went by a river near some woods.
The trains made several stops between Pori and Tampere. Here was one.
And I had time to chat with a Finn!
A friendly Finn sat down next to me halfway to Tampere.
I had read that it could be construed as impolite to start a conversation, but he initiated the chat, so I went along with it. We talked about Finland, Tampere, traffic laws, differences between French, British, and Finnish cultures, and other things for about 20 minutes.
I learned that just because a Finn hasn't spoken for a few minutes it doesn't mean the conversation is over.
Finns seem to be much more accustomed to taking a moment to reflect on their thoughts before carrying on.
I made a change in Tampere and waited 24 minutes for the new train.
Onto the next train.
On the train from Tampere to Helsinki, I booked a ticket for the restaurant car.
I sat on one of the single chairs that faced the windows.
The seats in the carriage were leather-bound and comfortable. They can also swivel all the way round.
The chair swivel is practical if you want to face more towards the direction of travel.
It's also a way to stay sociable with your friends if they are sitting at a table near you. The person next to me had her chair turned all the way around to join in with someone else.
A little pull-away table was tucked under the desk in front of the chair.
It was a great place to get a little work done.
Power outlets at the table came in handy.
The atmosphere was definitely a little more lively than on the quiet countryside train from Pori.
The carriage filled up quickly, and people were definitely a little more animated. Some were playing cards, others having a laugh around a drink.
A sign on the wall said that you can rent the whole carriage out for a party or a conference.
At lunchtime, I headed to the lower level of the carriage to buy food.
Below the restaurant carriage is a bar where you can buy food and drinks.
This one had a phone booth too.
There was a queue at the bar. I learned later that you can avoid this by booking food to be brought to you.
In the meantime, I could still enjoy the view.
There was a wide selection of foods available, with a menu in Finnish and English.
I saw other passengers eat hot dishes, but I stuck with the sandwiches I could see in this case.
I decided for a rye bread sandwich and some wine.
The sandwich was €4.90 (R82) and the wine — famously expensive in Finland — was about €10 (R167).