Helsinki AgainSeven days later, and I am sitting in the same terminal in Helsinki as before. Still no wireless service, nor blackberry service for that matter. My blackberry worked great in St.Petersburg, much to my surprise, and was very useful. A couple of times I was able to get in touch with my hosts via email on a short notice, something that would be otherwise difficult as I did not have a mobile phone while on this visit.
I really should get a GSM phone, or just get a GSM card and service for the blackberry before I go over to Europe the next time. While prosaic to some, I am finding this seamless ability of devices to work in different countries, different continents pretty amazing. "It is because of the GSM standard," I heard repeatedly, but to me it goes to a whole other level. Sure, technically it is "just because of the standard", but that never stopped Russia from making rail width different from those in Europe, or USA not adopting the metric system. It is not the ability to receive my email that pleasantly amazes me, it is the fact that this device, the network it is on, the software it runs on would be pretty inconcievable fifteen, maybe even 10 years ago. The sheer fact that Russia, as in the former Soviet Union repoublic of Russia, now gives one an opportunity to choose among 5 different GSM providers for a Blackberry device without ever having to show your passport is a miracle in its own class.
St.Petersburg is pretty phone crazy. Mobile phone stores are everywhere, many are even open 24 hours a day. As a somewhat indifferent consumer I fail to grasp the reasons for a 24-hour place to sell you mobile phones and service, but I can still wonder at the fact.
Conspiracy Theory: Russian government promotes GSM because it has weaker security than other protocols. I cannot substantiate this at all, but that is what conspiracy theories are for.