Thursday, June 21, 2007

The farewell parties at GPD are legendary.

—By Matt Slovick, Glass Magazine editor-in-chief

This was my first, but I believe the legend continues.

Attendees were instructed to pick up their costumes before they left Tampere Hall. Brown Onduso, marketing coordinator for GPD, wore his most of the final day, letting us know we must be “dressed like him” to attend the party.

It was a Royal Party, and women, the princesses, wore capes and crowns (cardboard). Men were knights and also wore crowns. The garb came in different colors. I chose black.

Transportation to the party was by bus (10 minutes) or boat (40 minutes). I selected the marine route along with many others who filled two boats.

Jorma Vitkala, GDP chairman, made sure we weren’t disappointed upon arrival.

The medieval theme continued as Jorma, dressed in an old-time military outfit, greeted us at the dock. Villagers, including hags (some with beards and hunchbacks), roamed the grounds of the mansion while minstrels played in various spots.

The food was plentiful, and the drinks flowed freely.

About midnight, when I finally experience darkness in Finland, the group I was with decided to head back to the hotel. I had spoken to a few people who had early-morning flights and planned to stay up all night. When we got off the bus, we decided to have “one more” drink at the hotel bar.

The conversations continued and at some point, it was really time to get to bed. I still had a few blocks to go to get to my hotel. As I was walking, it seemed as though it wasn’t that dark anymore. And then I realized I was experiencing my first sunrise in Finland.

One more day
After four hours of sleep, I packed and headed to the airport. I was on the plane, along with Denise Sheehan, vice president of industry events at the National Glass Association, when we were told to go back to the terminal. Our plane had technical problems.

Many Europeans were able to take a bus to Helsinki and make connections. After a two-hour wait in line, Denise and I weren’t as lucky.

Our trip home was to go from Tampere to Stockholm to Frankfurt and then Dulles. The woman with Scandinavian Airlines could not find us flights that worked.

We were booked for a 6:20 flight the next morning that would take us to Copenhagen and then on to Dulles. The airlines picked up the tap for our taxi, hotel room, dinner and breakfast. They also upgraded us to Economy Express, which was a first for me.

So, I also got one more evening of daylight.

Our flight home was generally uneventful, until we arrived at Dulles. Another technical problem, this time with walkway used to get passengers off the plane. We waited for about 30 minutes before unloading.

It was now after 4 p.m. And after a week in The Land of the Midnight Sun, I was back to familiar territory – crawling along in Beltway traffic. There’s no place like home.

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