Post scriptum 1: Gear
Here are some highlights of the gear I used on the trip. The trip would not have been possible, or at least not as enjoyable, without any of these.
Macbook Air 11”
It’s safe to say that this blog would not have happened without this tiny powerhouse of a laptop. I used it in train rides, hotels, cafes and park benches to edit the photos with Lightroom 4 and to type the blog posts. Nor would the actual journey have been possible without the laptop: it was an indispensable tool in planning the next steps of the journey throughout the trip and booking the accommodations, connected to the Internet via hotel WIFIs. And it brightened up a dull hotel room with my favorite music and provided much needed entertainment in the form of the episodes of The New Girl and Game of Thrones when I was down with flu. All this in tiny package that’s light enough to carry around the whole day in a backpack.
I bought the laptop just before the trip with a plan to sell it right after with a small loss (in essence leasing it for a month), but it proved to be so damn nice piece of computing equipment and definitely fast enough for my photo editing needs that it will actually replace my old Macbook Pro as my primary machine at home.
iPhone4 & Navigon app
No app replaces a good, real map for getting an oversight of the city and the neighborhood you’re in. But when you arrive at a train station late at night in a completely unfamiliar enviroment and need to get to the hotel you booked on the previous night, iPhone with a decent navigator app like Navigon comes really, really handy. I bought the Navigon app a year ago primarily for holiday use car navigator in foreign countries, but the app functions well enough as a pedestrian navigator as well. I was able to get myself a walking route from train stations to hotels without much of a hassle (I had booked 90% hotels in 10-20min walking distance from train stations).
And best of all, as the map data is pre-downloaded in the app, there’s no need for expensive data roaming when using the app (getting the location via GPS-signal can take a while though without the assistance from data network).
On way too many previous trips I lugged around heavy & big Canon 5D setup, that could easily weigh nearly 2kg - and that’s even with a limited travel setup. Carrying something like that on top of everything else with you on a holiday started to take the fun out of vacationing. So when Olympus EP-1 came out late 2009, I was eager to jump on board the micro4/3-train: finally a camera that didn’t compromise the image quality too much on the expense of small size, but still offering clearly lighter & smaller package (clearly less than 1kg even with multiple optics). The perfect travel setup.
And indeed it proved to be, I’ve rarely touched the 5D ever since Sept 2009 I got the EP-1. So that’s the body I used in all the photos on this blog too, using various optics from standard zoom to tiny primes and old manual focus lenses with tilt-adapters. It’s not without faults (what camera is?), e.g. the really slow autofocus can sometimes make you miss a shot, the screen is really hard to see in bright sunlight, the dynamic range could be better just as the high-ISO noise. All those aspects have improved greatly on the new Olympus OM-D I’ve preordered but that didn’t yet make it to the trip. Somehow knowing that I’d soon be using something much better made the limitations of E-P1 seem much more annoying this time around than on previous trips. ;)
Swiss army pocket knife
Peeling a juicy orange, slicing some delicious country cheese, cutting a piece from a fresh baquette, opening a local wine bottle, clipping a split finger nail, opening an iPhone cable package. None of those things would have been possible without this stainless steel multi-tool.
Rimowa Salsa 4-wheel luggage
No, you don’t have to do the Interrail backpacking your way through hostels! You can also choose to travel like an adult, with some style & dignity. ;) But as there was going to be more time spent on city streets with the luggage than on a normal air-travel oriented trip, I wanted something light and easily movable. So I got myself a polycarbonote 4-wheel luggage from Rimowa. It’s waaaay lighter than my old luggage of similar size made of standard, heavy-duty plastic. And the 4 wheels actually make a surprisingly big difference compared to the more usual 2-wheel trolley: on a good surface (think smoother type of pavement, larger stone slabs, metal) you can tug the luggage almost effortlessly by your side, instead of dragging it behind you like you would with a 2-wheeler. And if the surface is rougher, like cobblestone or uneven pavement, you can always tilt it to trolley-position to get it moving.
I was slightly worried about the durability of the zippers and the bendiness of the casing, but everything proved out to be made to match the price & image of German engineering.
This one is for sale now that the trip is over, since I have no continuous use for this kind of special luggage. So if you’re in Helsinki area and want a light, high-quality luggage that’s already been tested on the road for you, get in touch.