A Trip To Europe, Hold the Tourists Please

Notes on the Water (the Ferry to Malmö)

The ferry schedule posted outside the Copenhagen airport doesn't tell you that the bus arrives to take you to the ferry 20 minutes before the posted time. But I couldn't find veg food in the airport so I was serendipitously sulking on the platform when the ferry bus pulled up. One more reason to be a vegetarian.

Sweden - Notes on the Train from Malmö to Göteborg

I suddenly remember how lonely it can be in a country where you don't speak the language.

A scanned image of some beautiful Swedish playing cards

Most Swedes under 40 speak excellent English and most over 40 speak it passably, but sitting on a train full of conversations that I can't understand reminds me that I'm an alien. This is where travelling alone can be difficult. My biggest enemy is not funky European toilets, it is loneliness. OK, Philip, don't panic, make friends with dogs and little children, they don't care what language you speak! So I spend about 45 minutes handing playing cards one by one to a little girl who carries them to her Mom sitting in the seat behind me. When I run out of cards she hands them back to me one by one. I practice primitive Swedish on an uncritical subject: "Tack tack tack", "Tack så mycket", sometimes "Varsågod". Stare out the window at the countryside.

Telephone adventure on the train. The phone honks and beeps. Do I dial zero or not? Is that a busy signal or did I misdial again? Whatever...I call Slottskogens youth hostel in Göteborg to tell them that my train arrives at 9:30; I will do all I can to get to the hostel before their 10PM closing time.

Notes from Slottskogens Vandrarhem

Cultural note: In Sweden time is commonly kept in 24-hour format, so 10PM is simply twenty-two. Me and my backpack lumbered across Göteborg and arrived sweaty at Slottskogens at exactly twenty-one fifty-nine.

Cultural note: In Swedish, youth hostels have the charming appellation "vandrarhem" -- "Wanderer's Home".

The Rough Guide calls Slottskogens "superbly appointed" and they're right. The only downside is that my bed is in a room of 16 guys and if my eyes hadn't told me that, my nose would have. For US$10 per night in an expensive country, I can deal with a little body odor. Within 10 minutes I meet Paul from Liverpool who he tells everyone he's from London. Everyone gets to know each other better that night when the fire alarm goes off at 5AM.

Cultural note: Swedish false alarms in the wee hours are no more fun than American ones.

Paul and I have stumbled on the last three days of a big festival/party that Göteborg is throwing to compete with Stockholm's Water Festival. Out until 7AM last night, walked home happy despite the rain and disappointment at not getting to know Ms. Swedish Babe "M" as well as I would have liked to.

A scanned image of a postcard-sized water-and-ink painting

Why Is Sweden So Cool, Part II

So what happens when you put lots of beer and thousands of Swedes together? Happy drunken Swedes. No fights, no ugliness, although someone threw "No Parking" signs into the canal. I reach an emotional pinnacle while in a crowd of happy drunken Swedes watching a fabulous band play George Clinton's "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow". This is the Swedish national anthem. Dig it, try it, live it, love it. Your ass will thank you.

Cultural culinary notes: Swedish jogurt is thick and tasty. Vegetables are considered edible as long as they don't contain chlorophyll. Cabbage, cabbage, endless cabbage, sometimes tomatoes, red bell peppers. Pizza is served unsliced and on crust as thin as newspaper. It is almost impossible to eat with your hands, but I am Ugly American to the core and I try anyway. Not recommended.

Cultural drug note: Swedes indulge in tobacco in a little cotton pouch that you put in between your lip and gum. Sort of like a Red Man sachet. It gave me an immediate sore throat and no buzz; not recommended.

Sunday, August 15th. Notes from the Göteborg-to-Stockholm train; Paul headed off on his own adventure from Göteborg

Incredible loneliness sets in as I get ready to venture out on my own. Bummer, dude! In Göteborg I met Paul, Vieng, John, another John, Martina, Martin, Marie, Pamila, Emma, Emma the beautiful, Anna, Hanna, Manuela, Sara, Daniel and Anders. Also two guys from Catalan and countless others whose names I never learned.

I am glad I'm going on to Poland after Sweden. Leaving Sweden for home would be depressing. Poland is fresh and exciting yet, something to look forward to.