European Maritime Day is one of the biggest events in the EU calendar if you work in – or on – the sea. Over a thousand people come from all over Europe to debate the latest issues in marine development, conservation and governance, from cruise ship owners to research universities and national navies. This year #EMD2016 is in the picturesque Finnish port town of Turku, on the Baltic Sea. And WWF-UK is there!
Together with colleagues from our network offices in Finland, Sweden, the UK and the Mediterranean, we’ve been setting out the case for putting the environment at the heart of a ‘Blue Economy’. You just can’t have economic growth without healthy marine ecosystems. Many people see the ocean as the next frontier for growth, even worryingly as some sort of fourth industrial revolution, which needs to be very carefully managed. We’re trying to give the environment a voice in these discussions and provide a moderating viewpoint.
Attending European Maritime Day is half the story. Getting there is the other!
When I found out I was going, my first thought was can I get to Turku without flying? Is there a low-carbon way of getting me there? I should admit at this stage that as well as wanting to save the planet, I just love trains. Or rather, I love the nature of train travel, the idea of pausing your hectic life while you get from one place to another. Time to think, time to reflect, time to observe the landscape and wildlife around you. When I found out there was (thanks Seat 61 and Loco2) and that the cost was reasonable, I was off!
Here’s how it went:
Day 1: London to Hamburg (9 hours)
St Pancras is a great place to start any train journey isn’t it. I love that station. My Eurostar got me to Brussels in two hours, then it was a 20 minute connection to the shiny ICE train to take me to Cologne, and then a proper bruiser of a train on to Hamburg, arriving around 9pm. Unfortunately Europe has been slashing its night trains in the last few years, otherwise I would have continued on to Copenhagen from here, but so far all trains on time, no problems at all.
Day 2: Hamburg to Stockholm (at least 18 hours)
After a great breakfast I was back off to Hamburg station for the high-speed train to Copenhagen, particularly exciting as this is one of the few trains which actually goes on to a ferry to take you to Denmark. Very surreal!
Three hours later, and after a quick coffee stop in Copenhagen, it was off to Stockholm on the very stylish high speed train. Recently, Sweden cancelled this service as it was seeking to strengthen its border controls, but happily it’s back on and the view from the Øresund Link Bridge between Denmark and Sweden was spectacular.
Then, in the middle of a Swedish Forest, we stopped. Then the lights went out. Then trains started overtaking us. And we stayed there for hours, three hours in fact, as the light of the day faded into pitch blackness. Then we started and there was a signal failure. My love of train travel was now in grave jeopardy as the train inched into Stockholm after 3am, more than five hours late! I have to admit, this was a low point in my journey.
Day 3: Stockholm to Turku. (11 hours)
No one does great on two hours sleep. It’s just not recommended. And stepping onto the ferry at 7am, I wasn’t in a good place. This was going to be a long 11 hours across the Baltic to Finland! But yet again, I was saved. Not just by the beautiful scenery as we sailed out past the Swedish islands, but by the cabin I decided to invest in (and it was a good investment!) for a nap and a hot shower. I was revived!
The Baltic is such a magical place – from my ferry I saw terns and porpoises feeding, and even an otter playing around the islands. Yet under the surface, it’s always had a problem with nutrient pollution and agricultural run-off, which remains a major issue and is one of the themes of the #EMD2016 conference. Trying to save ecosystems like the Baltic from too much human pressure is one reason why we go to events like European Maritime Day as all the key marine decision makers and industries are also there, and we need to engage them in proper debate on what’s best for our shared marine resources.
Day 3: total countries visited: 6, arriving in Turku in time for dinner
In total it took me three days, five trains, two ferries, two tube trains and one bus to get to Turku. Would I do it again? Absolutely! Yes, it took time, and that moment in the Swedish forest was a definite low-point, but it was an adventure; I met lots of people and I was doing my bit to help the climate. What’s not to like?
I proved that you can get to Scandinavia easily and in comfort without flying, with a lot more special marine wildlife to see along the way. And sometimes, the journey can be as important as the destination.
By the way, next years European Maritime Day will be in Poole, Dorset… much closer.
Do you have any sustainable travel stories to share? Let us know by commenting below.