Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finland VIII: Making a list, checking it twice...

(In this eighth installment of my blog series leading up to NHL Premiere 2010, featuring the Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, we look at preparing to depart the USA and some of what one must bring when travelling over 5,500 miles away from one's own bed.)

"If you pack it, you take it, and you're responsible for it."

I recently told my wife this in regards to the amount of items she was planning to take with us on our trip to NHL Premiere 2010 in Helsinki. She was worried about a hair dryer. "I would think that the hotel would have one, dear," I said. "Besides, that's one more thing to worry about, and have to deal with the changes in voltage over, and so on."

Yes, Virginia, not all electrical current is created equal. While the USA and Canada have standardised 110/120 volts, 50Hz electrical power pretty much everywhere, Europe runs on 220 volts, 50Hz power pretty much everywhere in the EU. You need adapter plugs for most every thing that is electrically powered (and the knowledge that most modern items are set up for dual voltage use). Computers, medical devices (such as a C-PAP machine, which I use while sleeping) and today's electrical gadgetry (Ipods, DVD players, etc.) require that the power keep on coming, no matter what. Since I didn't want to blow out everything I own, I proceeded to a local area travel store to obtain adapter plugs for the upcoming trip. What I got was a short course on adaptability.

"You don't need a converter for most of what you've got," the sales clerk replied. "Most of your electrical items -- computers, Ipods, etc. -- are dual-voltage. Just make sure you have the right plug for where you are, and you'll be OK."

(I wondered at that point if I could quote her on that, as my netbook computer suddenly blows up somewhere in Helsinki.)

Traveling in Europe will be an abject lesson in learning what's important to you, as there is no such thing as checked baggage on the European railways. 'You tote 'em' is the rule of thumb, so if you can carry it without assistance, you can take it with you onto the trains of Europe. Now, there are exceptions (skis on Eurostar, as an example) to that rule, but they are very few and very, very far between.

Planning for this trip has taken a sharply upward turn in the last week. The Wild have a pre-trip meeting scheduled at the 'X' for prior to the Philadelphia-Minnesota pre-season game this coming Saturday, where we all finally get to meet one another. (In other words, we have to admit, in public, that we are all, indeed, crazy screwed-up Wild fans.) The up side (should there be one) is that we will get the final itinerary for the trip, and meet the tour guides (for whom we shall be leaning on heavily, as neither my wife nor I speak any Finnish).

Not to mention the fact that we will be able to stay for the game that night in a party suite (the same ones where the major TV networks had set up shop, during the Republican National Convention in 2008) so I might finally, after all these years, get a crack at that five-layer chocolate torte I always see, while going up Minnesota's longest escalator to the 200-level at the 'X' on game nights. (I could never get one handed over to me, 'on the fly', as I go up the escalator, could I?)

Now that, dear readers, would be a way to welcome me back to the hockey season...

(to be continued)

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