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At the beginning
After almost a year-long preparation, the 23rd day of September 1996 finally came. After getting up at 3 am, we packed our bikes into the car and set off for Warsaw. Luckily, at the check-in desk we were not charged for excess luggage (which was around 8 kg per each of us). Thus, thanks to Finnair staff's generosity, we managed to save almost 500 dollars. The flight to Helsinki was due at 10.30 am. It was a great deal of excitement for both of us, especially that we had never been on a plane before. In Helsinki we were picked up by a bus from "Bonus Inn" hotel, where we stayed overnight. In the evening we enjoyed some relaxation in a sauna. To be in Finland and not go to a sauna – that would have been tactless. Next morning we got up early enough to reach the centre of Helsinki (our hotel was situated around 40 km outside of the city). The trip was brief, but it did leave a few snapshots in my memory. There was a harbour with some nice boats, and a few truly remarkable sailing ships. Close to the Uspenski Orthodox cathedral we saw a film crew shooting a funny commercial. Two men wearing silly outfits (as if from a movie entitled "Russian cowboys go to Hollywood") played out the same scene ten times in a row. Very patient guys. Speaking of Hollywood, we met Arnold Schwarzenegger in Helsinki. He attended to the opening of his "Planet Hollywood" restaurant and shared out T-shirts with its logo (Sławek managed to grab one). Our impressions? Arnie seems bigger on the screen than in real life.

Helsinki did not turn out a particularly impressive place. You could tell it was a relatively young city. After coming back to the hotel we rested for a few minutes and went to the airport. Sławek's carry-on luggage was inspected very thoroughly. Probably the customs officer did not like what the mess tin looked like in the X-ray machine. A bit of aluminium and you can get in trouble.