Going to Helsinki - the planning
I've just finished doing all my bookings for travelling to Helsinki for this year's Worldcon. Should have done this ages ago, but first there was a trip to Scotland then a trip to Germany to plan and I never got round to starting the booking till I got back from Germany.

I did book an hotel for the convention at the beginning of the year, which was a start. I knew when I wanted to arrive in Helsinki and when I would be leaving.

It will not surprise people that I'm travelling over land to Stockholm and then getting a ferry to Helsinki. The Man in Seat 61 gives two routes from London to Helsinki by train and ferry, one via Hamburg and Travemünde and the other via Hamburg and Stockholm. I thought I'd go to Stockholm again. There are two ferry companies that do this route, and they both have overnight sailings. Turned out to be very easy booking the ferry over the internet. I even have reservations in the restaurant for dinner both nights.

Now, theoretically, I could travel by train from London to Hamburg in one day and then from Hamburg to Stockholm the next, but to get to the Eurostar terminal I'd have to leave Guildford early in the morning, which would mean a train crowded with commuters going to London, and then crossing London with a heavy suitcase during the rush hour. I decided to break my journey both ways in Cologne and Hamburg.

So I worked from the middle out. Next I needed a return trip from Hamburg to Stockholm. That sounded easy. I'd done it a couple of times before. The problem was that the ferry gets into Stockholm in the early morning so I thought I'd be able book the return trip late enough in the day that I could go straight from the ferry terminal to the central station in Stockholm. I went to the Deutsche Bahn website, which I've often used, and there was a return train at about midday. This seemed perfect. The trouble was, this involved an additional change. Going out, I'd change only at Copenhagen. The return trip involves changing at Lund. And the DB website couldn't sell me a ticket, only give my a quotation in an e-mail.

The e-mail arrived the next day and had a phone number to call to book the ticket. Unfortunately, the person at the other end spoke only German. I think she said she was transferring me to the English speaking line, but I then found myself on hold for half an hour before I hung up.

The DB website did give a number for English language help, but that too was busy. I wasn't on hold for long, but then asked to leave a message. At this point, I started looking into flights from London to Stockholm, just in case. A couple of hours later, not having got a return call, I tried the English language number again and immediately got through to a helpful person who was able to book my tickets and post them to me. They arrived this morning.

After that, it was just a matter of booking the Cologne-Hamburg return trip, which I could do via the DB website, and then London to Cologne, done on the Eurostar site.

The final step was booking some hotels via Hotels.com. There's an hotel in Cologne right next to the station that I've stayed at before - I was there last month on my way home from Berlin - and I was able to get rooms there for the two nights. There's also an hotel I know in Hamburg that I stayed in a couple of years ago and I was able to book there for the outward part of the trip. Alas, it was full for the return part and I've had to settle for a different, more expensive hotel. As I'm getting in to Hamburg fairly late, I think I'll find out where it is when I get into Hamburg the first time, so I don't have trouble finding it.

And finally, two nights in an hotel in Stockholm near the station. It's fairly expensive, but that's Stockholm for you.

It's going to be a long trip. But probably more fun than just flying straight to Helsinki.


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