As you all are aware; My wife and I did a bit of a pre-tour before the Finnish AGM in Seinajoki, so please bear with me, while I run through our whole European tour with you all   .
After being selected to represent RTSA at the Finnish AGM in Seinajoki, I decided to expand my tour slightly and make the most of my very first International Table experiences. This led  to an extended stay in Germany, with one of my International guests that I hosted way back in 2014 for the Croc Tour (Pre- ARTSA tour 2014)
Christian Budde from Hannover 117. He extended his invitation to me and I decided to take him up on his offer. This kicked off an amazing week, touring through Germany and experiencing Table hospitality in the first degree.
Upon arriving in Frankfurt, we had to take the train to Hannover, as Christian could not meet us there himself. Upon arrival in Hannover, Christian took us to his home and left us to wonder the city of Hannover by ourselves. What a beautiful city! The evening was filled with an amazing Barbeque (Braai) with a few of the Hannover 117 Tablers. A great evening of Fellowship, Fun and Friendship. A few pins were exchanged as well as a new inductee into the Buffalo club.
Next morning, with a massive hangover, Christian had us pilled into his BMW and off to Norden to meet up with some of the Aurich Norden 51 Tablers. Chris home hosted us on his farm, where I felt right at home, between barley fields and tractors. Tommy, their Chairman, was joined by Martin (Their latest inductee) to join in one amazing day and evening filled with laughter and a lot of beer drinking. Norden is situated on the North Sea and Christoph Marten’s farm is situated behind a dyke and I was very interested as to how they farm in those areas. Very interesting time spent with them.
The next day we headed off back to Hannover,as we were expecting one of our Douglas Tablers to join us. En route, we stopped over at Groot Siel; A small fisherman’s village, with a lot of German history. This is a typical area for tourists to buy all kinds of curios and low and behold; Johanita and I fell into that trap. Lol.
We were back in Hannover by that evening, where we met up with our fellow RT Douglas 224 Tabler (Michael Jacobs) and were invited to another Tabler for dinner. Chris Ikemeire treated us to an amazing feast. Straight after our dinner, we headed of to the city center, where we joined in on the Beer Festival in Hannover. This took us into the wee hours of the next morning, where we had little time to rest, as Christian Budde (Our Host) had another jam packed day for us in Berlin. Berlin to me, must’ve been the highlight of my German trip. We visited the Berlin wall, The Holocast Memorial, Brandenburg Gate and so much more. The History lessons and just the feeling you get while walking the streets of Berlin, was unbelievable.
That evening we were treated to a dinner with the Berlin 44 Tablers. Bjorn (Berlin 44 Chairman) organised for us to stay at one or other Table friends vacant flat in Berlin. What an amazing time we had, chatting to the Berlin 44 Tablers.
The following day, we headed back to Hannover to see District 4 (I think) battle it out in their annual Action Soccer Tournament. Hannover 117 placed 6th in the tournament, with Hannover 77 winning the Tournament. Great to have met so many Tablers at once, especially from all Hannover Tables, as well as neighbouring Tables ie. Wolfsberg RT.
An early night was on the cards, as our time in Germany was coming to a close.
Following day, we had a very lazed back day, exploring the Baroque Gardens of Hannover and of course our host, Christian, had contacts to allow us to explore some of the Buildings. What an experience. Not may people other that the Royals have seen the inside of these buildings and we were fortunate enough to have experienced it. Awesome
That evening we attended yet another barbeque at one of the Hannover 117 Tablers homes and we presented him with a fellowship trophy that he had to hand over to another member within 3 weeks. What a great way of getting Tablers to know each other and to organise a social once every 3 weeks.
The morning of the 19th May 2016, Christian drove us to Frankfurt to catch our flight to Helsinki- Suomi Finland.
Johanita, Michael and I, arrived in Helsinki, shortly after 13:00 and had very little time to explore, as we had to catch the train to Seinajoki.
After a 3 hour train trip, we were welcomed by Toni Keranen (Finland IRO) and escourted us to our Hotel. After getting registered and booked in, Toni took all International Guests to raid the Finish National Council’s final meeting before their AGM. Kaj Kostiander (Finland President, as well as IRO Vice president) welcomed all international guests to Seinajoki- Finland. We were 3 of 15 International Guests. Countries that were represented at the Finnish AGM, were RSA, Iceland, Germany, Nepal, Marroco, Israel, France and Russia.
That evening was spent on a boat, moored in a lake and fellowship was the order of the day (Night!!!) We weren’t sure what time of the day it was, as the sun never set there until 00:00. Very confusing for us Saffas!
The following day, we explored the town of Seinajoki and our tour leader was none other than the Beautiful Anna-Maria Kankaanpaa (LC- Seinajoki) After we explored Seinajoki, it was time to drink a lot of Salmiaki and play some Finnish Baseball. Here we were joined by the AGM Convener (Tuomas Antilla) and many more Finnish Tablers. What an amazing day we had and of course the South African team won.
That evening, there was a traditional dress party at an ice hockey rink, where all the Tabler and Circlers got together for a night filled with fellowship and friendship, go cart racing and trying your luck at shooting some hockey puck’s. Here I met up with a new (Old Friend of mine) from Kangasala 117 near Tampere. Mikko Niemi. Mikko and I met at ARTSA 2016 in Margate and became great friends during his stay in South Africa.
The following day, all international Tablers raided the start to the Finnish AGM and introdeced ourselves to over 1000 delegates. Straight after that we were taken by bus to a forest, where we spent the day, walking through the forest and seeing WW2 bunkers (Tukikohta Vuori) still hidden under the brush in the forest. Kari Raikonen, our tourguide for the day, ensured that we were well fed, kooking sausages in a Finnish traditional way, drinking coffee with some type of liquor in it. Really an acquired taste!!!
After our trip to the forest, we headed back to the hotel, did a banner exchange and had to get ready for the Presidential Cocktail party at Seinajoki Manor.
We were dressed in our best and here we met the Mayor of Seinajoki as well as many other Finnish Dignitaries. After the Cocktail party, we headed off to Presidential ball. This was a very Stately affair and not that we understood much of what was being said, but still had a ball. Once all formalities were out of the way, seeing Sami Manninen being inducted as President and Ville Kinnunen as Vice President, it was time to Party again. Lords and ladies were on the Tables dancing and ending off an unforgettable weekend in true Tabler and Circler style.
We made so many new friends; Tablers and Criclers alike and I want to thank RTSA for allowing me to experience this type of fellowship. Definitely on the top of my Table career.
The Sunday morning, we said our goodbyes and returned to Tampere by bus, where my good friend Mikko Niemi was waiting for us to show us a bit of his home-town. What a beautiful City and what a way to end off our amazing journey. Mikko treated us to an amazing lunch at one of the cities main tourist destinations, (The tower of Tampere), where we met up with another Tabler from Kangasala 117. I feel really bad that I do not remember his name, but we met for a very brief moment.
That evening was spent lazing around Mikkos home, having a quiet evening with a Sauna, before heading off to Helsinki early the next morning. We so badly wanted to experience Helsinki, but when we arrived at the train station, the weather turned foul and we decided to head straight for the airport, where we waited for our flight to Dublin- Ireland. Ireland was to visit relatives, so I don’t think I’ll be reporting on that part of our trip.
Once again, I would like to thank RTSA for granting me this opportunity to do International Tabling and experiencing International fellowship in such a way.
This was my first International Travel and it will most definitely not be my last. While I was in Germany, I managed to make contact with Rottweil 224, to maybe set up a twinning agreement between us. The guys from Rottweil sound very keen to start up a Euro Meeting. We will keep you posted as soon as something has happened. Heres to hoping!
Hilton Megaw
RT Douglas 224 IRO