Interlude: The Train of Hate

Continuing the trend of taking transportation+ accommodation trips, Brian and I took it upon ourselves to find and book the train from Stockholm->Copenhagen that was an overnight trip. Rick Steves claimed it existed, but we weren’t so sure.

This train seemed to be some mystical creation that didn’t actually exist on any site. After fighting the Swedish train website for hours and clicking different things in a manner in which we still don’t fully remember, we finally found this train of lore and booked it, jokingly making references to the fact that it may all be made up and we just handed the company cash for no particular reason. While booking, it claimed that we had something called “couchettes,” which seemed to be what we were looking for. There weren’t any options to downgrade or upgrade our seats, and since the name of the seats matched our expectations of a cheap sleeper car, it all seemed okay.

That is, until I actually looked at the receipt. In Europe. It said “chairs+table.” This might have thrown up danger signs, but I didn’t fret too much. The couchette myth seemed too prevalent. Come 2200, we went to Stockholm Central and printed our tickets before going to the spar that held our awaiting chariot. We checked in and started walking past car after car of sleepers.

It’s at this point where I should point out the collective mental state of our travelling group. Brian was beginning to get what would be an extremely high fever, and his energy level was slumping fast. Tracey had the misfortune of sleeping in the bunk below me the night before, and as it was a squeaky IKEA bed, my constant tossing and turning meant she was up most of the night and somewhat pissed at me. Oury, well, Oury was just looking for a bed to sleep in. I was pretty full of energy, and was planning on spending most of the time on the train planning our Copenhagen adventures.

We come to our car. Which looks different then the rest. It’s a little more dilapidated than the others, and as we enter the main aisle, there comes the sinking feeling that we may not be in a car like the others. There were no sleepers here, only chairs. Red chairs. Dirty red chairs from the early 1990s. And an interior that could have come out of the Soviet Union. As we approached our assigned seats, I felt the red hot glares of death upon me.

I make some sort of explanation about how it said couchette, and there were no upgrade options. This did little to placate Tracey, who was leading the charge of hate at this point, with Oury right behind her.

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Less than amused.

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Brian is pleased. For these were cheap tickets.

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Oury immediately falls asleep.

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I spent most of the night planning while everyone else had fitful and wholly unsatisfying sleeping experiences.

Brian and I, fighting the inevitable battle towards illness, were popping cough drops like they were candy, and tried to remain nonplussed at the situation which we now found ourselves in: a good night’s sleep which we all needed was no longer an option, only the train awaited, and our transfer at 6:00am.

The Aftermath

Stockholm: Swedish Fortress of Awesome

I had high expectations for Stockholm. Despite being at most 1/8th Swedish, it was a country I always identified with due to our still having family roots back “home” and a strong agreement with their culture and politics. Clearly Stockholm is a utopia for all that is good and right in the world, and I would be immediately be swept away by its grace and charm. Perhaps this strong build up led to a bit of disappointment.

We arrived at around 0800 to Stockholm and had to walk about an mile to the nearest subway station, where we were immediately forced to use a new currency and try to figure out how to get on a train and pay for it so we wouldn’t spend the night in a Swedish prison. We got us some nifty 24-hour passes and wandered downwards to the train, which proceeded to take us precisely to where we wanted to go: central station. There was only one, slight, teeny problem: we had no idea what to do after we arrived there.

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Subway station.

After much hemming and hawing, we figured that we’d go to the hostel super early and see if we could drop off our luggage. Tracey then proceeded to whip out a map and get us rallied up and travelling.

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The streets are rough, yo.

After dropping off our bags and settling in, we hit the streets hard, and went to the old town metro station to go on a walking tour. Except we got lost. And went somewhere else instead. Such as the city hall.

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And then walked along the waterfront to the Vasa.

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The Vasa was a stop we all knew we’d be taking, and it was an absolutely stunning experience. She was beautifully restored and documented, and I often found myself staring at this piece of history sitting a few feet in front of me.

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After leaving the Vasa Museum, we took some more Subway trains and mistakenly went to a suburb before quickly finding a train back to downtown and dinner.

The following day, we were determined to actually go on the old town walking tour that was our original destination the day before. Stumbling upon one of the royal palaces, we snagged a view of the changing of the sentries, which, while not quite as awesome as the changing of the guards, was still a fairly impressive ceremony.

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Guard them buildings.

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Exploring streets that often resembled Rome in their nature, we soon found signs that trolls were afoot. These were just figures that were set in random alleys and on fences.

We had a reservation for the Stockholm Ice Bar that evening, so after killing some time viewing some local churches, we booked it for a very cold drink. The ice bar was at a nice and toasty 23F, and we all got gloves and jackets to protect us from the all-ice decorations and cups. It was an interesting concept, but I’m not sure if I’m a fan.

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Stacking the used ice cups. The best thing is, no cleanup! They just melt away.

After the ice bar we went to a rather fancy pants restaurant to spend the rest of our Swedish cash money. I decided to get a rather interesting sounding fish dish that came with a little extra surprise: a whole crayfish was also on my plate when it arrived. Now, there are two things that I have nightmares about: zombies, and crustaceans. Their crunchy exoskeletons, their creepy walking, and their eyes just freak me the hell out. AND AN ENTIRE ONE WAS JUST CHILLING ON MY PLATE. FREAK OUT MODE ACTIVATED WHAT THE HELL IS THIS THING DOING HERE. I DON’T EVEN REALLY LIKE EATING FISH IN THE FIRST PLACE. Finally some nice soul took it away from my plate and I was left to eat my food in relative peace. If anything, this really reinforced why I don’t like eating meat, and now that I’m back from Scandinavia, I’m going to start cutting back on my twice-a-month fish allotment

Stockholm was a very intriguing mixture of classical elements of the old city with the ultra-modern styling of downtown. Yet the overall effect was cluttered. Everything was mottled and crammed together, and there was no real cohesive architectural element.

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We hung out at the hostel with the Hamricks before getting on the train, which shall be the subject of my next post.