A decade ago for us it was a remarkable achievement to dive in the Adriatic Sea, we after all the pain of many and challenging dives in cold water, at the Festival “Walking beneath the Sea” learned a new alluring location, the Finnish Gulf of the Baltic Sea. Most divers dream of a colourful underwater world of the Red Sea or of the Great Barrier Reef, but our dreams came to life with the help of a photography taken by Badewanne group, and many interesting tales of artefacts hidden in a time capsule of the Baltic Sea. The driving force of the group Badewanne is Immi Wallin, who thereby provided that we, by an excellent lecture and beautiful photographs of mysterious ships in the Baltic Sea, were hooked by the idea of our this year´s project.
So a fairytale team of seven was born. To the north of the Mother Europe, we bravely drove in one car and one van together with all the diving equipment on 22 July 2015.
Day 1: Slovenska Bistrica (Slovenia) - Warsaw (Poland)
The first day was reserved mainly for overcoming kilometres. The route took us through the border crossing Sentilj to Austria, bypassing Graz and Vienna, to the Czech Republic. We drove past the Czech towns of Brno, Olomouc and Ostrava. As soon as we found out that, as in Slovenia, in Czech Republic near the church good old inns are at home, where they use recipes of grandmothers and great-grandmothers for generations, and that beer is very cheap, it was immediately clear that the steering wheel belongs to the gentler part of the team. This was the case all the way to Warsaw.
A bad mood did not overcome us either because of some small twists or outdated maps on the navigation devices. We accommodated in the spacious rooms of the new modern hotel and went for a walk around the city centre. The instructions gave us the concierge but the guidance unfortunately, has proven to be incorrect. Mr. Concierge had precisely no sense of distance. Nevertheless, we felt some real urban atmosphere, and a walk after a day sitting in the car has also been beneficial.
Day 2: Warsaw (Poland) - Tallinn (Estonia)
We slid down through the vast wheat fields surrounded by pine and birch forests, accompanied by a variety of small houses, like from a fairy tale. The first were made of brick, then wood, and were much smaller and more modest than the first. In the middle of Lithuania Gaber informed us that it is necessary to adjust watch indicators, because of the time difference, which quite spoiled our plans. Along the coast of the Baltic Sea in Latvia we have agreed to a mandatory gastronomic stop, which we used for the purchase of certain important foods in Finland, too expensive for us.
Day 3: Tallinn (Estonia) - Espoo (Finland)
Early in the morning we boarded a ferry to Helsinki, conquered some room on the sun deck and enjoyed the domestic breakfast, which was only lacking lard and onions. In Helsinki, at the main railway station, we picked up the eighth member of our expedition, Elena Tapyricheva, who arrived by train from St. Petersburg. A walk in the fresh and windy weather with a visit to Helsinki was the exact opposite of sitting in the car, after two days of marathon mileage. We photographed at the largest cathedrals staircase, followed by buying first souvenirs and finding out why Finns do not drink as much beer as Slovenes do. In order to have a little rest, we went to a small town of Espoo, where we spend the night in a hotel with no reception, where everything is online, done by guests using computer keyboard and inserting different codes. After a Russian snack we went on a short walk to the seaside and to see the sunset, all of which for us, wheelchair users turned into a real trail test.
Day 4, 5 and 6: Espoo (Finland) - Hanko (Finland)
On the way to the coastal town of Hanko we drove on roads where signs warned us that we will soon leave the land of the deer, and enter into the land of elk. For the path, taking into account the Finnish traffic culture, we needed almost two hours, while in Slovenia, the ride would probably last an hour. We were warmly received by Immi Wallin, Kari Hyttinen and Toni Nevalainen. First we had a short tour around the marina. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the next few days was not exactly promising, so we got to the hotel and went to the eagerly awaited dive.
Poseidon gave us calm seas and under the watchful eye of Immi the voyage went on smoothly, and in spite of observing many interesting islands passed (too) quickly. The islet, where we moored at the pier has always been a refuge for seafarers, who were waiting for fine weather to sail to the high seas. That they were not bored they carved their names and dates in stone and everything has been preserved to the present day. Immi has described the three ships lying nearby, which could be explored. We decided that we investigate the two wrecks nearby, Kaapelihylky I (Cabel wreck I) and Kaapelihylky II (Cabel wreck II). This was followed by our run-in procedure of preparation of the dive. Toni went to a preview of the two locations meanwhile Kari has prepared his professional camera. Ship Kaapelihylky I is about four hundred years old made of wood. It lies at a depth of 17 meters and is quite well preserved. Visibility was according to the normal conditions in the Baltic Sea perfect, for us accustomed to the situation in the Adriatic Sea, not to such a great extent. During the dive, it turned out that the distance to the ship Kaapelihylky II, for divers who swim only with their hands was too much, and as divers unaccustomed to the cold sea, we also quickly froze. Therefore the majority of us could see one ship only. We were surprised that their sea is quite dead and does not have a lot of marine life. The fish are practically nonexistent. Klaudija found out that the temperature of 7 degrees Celsius is not suitable for diving in a wet suit and shooting, regardless of the fact that that you are accompanied by top SeaCam camera. Fingers quickly go numb from the cold. After we were lifted on board of our ship with a special crane, we warmed up and refreshed ourselves with a delicious fish soup. Miha, while awaiting our return, has done some wonderful photos of the surrounding area, but when we returned, it was Alenka´s sacrifice and in cold water she waited patiently for thirty-two minutes for him that both could submerge on the second Wreck together. The ship is resting at a depth of 14 meters and is somewhat less preserved than the first.
In the evening we baked delicious sausages exchanged a number of rich experience and chatted until the early hours.
Bad weather the next day was very beneficial because we´re finally able to gather new strength. In the afternoon, we analyzed the recordings of the dive. Immi, Kari and Toni have described some of their greatest diving adventures and broadcasted to us some very interesting films from their dives. Kari also introduced a computer program that accurately captures the remains of the ship, and on the basis of the recordings makes a 3D model of the shipwreck. He promised that he will prepare a 3D model of the ship Kaapelihylky I also.
On the third day of our visit we went to a tourist tour of the city of Hanko, which was built as a summer resort for the Russian aristocracy in the time when Finland was not yet an independent state, but was part of the Russia. We climbed a water tower, from where we had a great view of the entire city and the nearby bay. We could also observe the location of our dive from a bird´s perspective. This was followed by a visit to the restaurant of four winds, where we warmed ourselves with tea and coffee and sweetened with Finnish pastries. Due to the cold weather (16 degrees C ) we did not climb to the oldest carousel in Europe, which in her early years, was a popular place of entertainment for Immi also. So we could only observe two brave girls who had a problem to dive into the cold water, and with an even a greater problem to cope with the carousel. The ferry brought us to a nearby island, where is the main part of the local marina and finally we stopped at the restaurant, where we ordered, among us so popular fish soup.
Unfortunately the time between friends, as always, elapsed too quickly and we would all be happy to extend our visit even for a day, but a pre-paid ferry to Tallinn and quite a tight schedule did not allow us to prolong a pleasant stay, so there was no time even for a Finnish sauna.
Day 7: Hanko (Finland) - Riga (Latvia)
In the morning we drove to Helsinki, where we left Elena at the railway station. While we drove to the ferry-harbour, we were all asleep except for the drivers. Driving through Estonia did not make any good to us, because most of the time we just stared out of the car window in silence. Early in the evening we arrived to Riga. Due to the storm we were not able to carry out a city tour, so we went to dinner and the tour was postponed to the next day.
Day 8: Riga (Latvia) - Kaunas (Lithuania)
In Riga, we visited the city centre by car and a little bit on foot. Threatening clouds predicted rain all the time, but nevertheless we could, prior to the shower; visit the old part of the town with the famous Cat House, mighty cathedrals and some other impressive buildings. We wanted to see some museums too, but unfortunately ran out of time. After the obligatory coffee we departed to Lithuania. While driving north for the first time we obviously missed a small nice restaurant, but this time we noticed it just in time. We have decided to take time, so we indulged a real feast. Sisluk and much more, with many to us unknown delights ended on our plates. In Kaunas we arrived very tired and in needed of bed, where we unfortunately before bedtime experienced an unpleasant surprise. In front of the hotel we were greeted by countless steep stairs. We were also disappointed over the dutifulness of staff and appearance of rooms, but it was too late for any kind of more appropriate accommodation.
Day 9: Kaunas (Lithuania) - Katowice (Poland)
We did not visit Kaunas because there was no time. We had to overpass the longest stage on our way home. The ride took place with only the most necessary stops, such as the satisfaction of physiological needs. In the evening we arrived in Katowice. For a change we stayed at a hotel close to the city centre this time that deserves all of its 6 stars. Alenka a day earlier found out, that she accidentally booked rooms for 2016, therefore she made the change immediately. Due to the occupancy of normal rooms in the hotel, we were placed in prestigious apartments, fortunately for the price of regular rooms. I suppose it is granted that none of us complained. This was followed by the traditional walk around the city centre and a great dinner with local specialties.
Day 10: Katowice (Poland) - Slovenska Bistrica (Slovenia)
We drove toward the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, where we were forced to pay a very expensive parking ticket, and for the first time in history found out, that our parking cards for people with disabilities are no longer valid. The museum is very apparently afraid of terrorist attacks because check at the entrance is really detailed and does not permit the intake of practically anything. The museum by using photos and comments describes in detail the atrocities that took place during World War II, but unfortunately we could not recapture fully all the shocking contents of it because the museum is anything but friendly to people with disabilities. Auschwitz II we therefore previewed from the car and drove home. In the centre of the Czech Republic we enjoyed the obligatory beer and snack. Our favourite restaurant was unfortunately closed due to the holiday, so by finding another one we wasted some of our precious time. Before we departed back home we bought stock of Czech beer and their meat specialties and in the evening after 4370 kilometres finally returned to Slovenska Bistrica.
For Finns they say that they are known to be among the most introverted and closed people, but Immi, Kari and Toni proved that this is not true. Their reception was very warm and cordial.
This time, the expedition team consisted of
- Branko Ravnak, our dear and only beloved leader,
- Alenka Fidler, our indispensable girl for all,
- Miha Matavz photographic eye 1,
- Gaber Guna, Navigator, control and logistics,
- Elena Topyricheva, Russian snack,
- Klaudija Poropat, photographic eye 2,
- Damjan Peklar Slovenian snack and main cutting machine,
- Ales Povse-Yoda, the owner of the car and chauffeur No. 1
On this occasion, we would like to thank to Harald Hordosch from SeaCam, to Elios, to AP Diving, to Suunto, to Renata Klancnik form the Library of Slovenske Konjice for super a fast vehicle, to a reliable car of Yoda who brought us saftly home, to good people from Ptuj and Porec who always provide a basket of delicious salami and a bottle of wine, our credit cards, by which we could easily spend a lot of money, online portal Booking.com, who accepts reservations for 2016 already, and especially to Immi, Kari, Toni and Mocce for their very warm and adorable reception.
Text: Yoda and Alenka
Foto: Miha Matavz, Klaudija Poropat
Production & design: Creativ, Novi mediji d.o.o.