A Trip To Europe, Hold the Tourists Please

Blowing Off Steam -- Angry Notes in Nynäshamn

First of all, somebody should tell the woman at Sverigehuset that Stockholm-to-Nynäshamn trains do not leave every fifteen minutes. Secondly, the trip takes over an hour, not just forty-five minutes. Combine this with bad information about tracks and tickets and I wind up two-thirds of the way to Nynäshamn at 4:30 with no way to cover the rest of the distance to catch the 5:00 ferry to Poland. I take my chances on a 386Kr cab ride to take the place of the 16Kr train trip (ouch!) and the cabbie even calls the ferry operator to tell them that we're en route. As we screech up to the dock at 5PM, the ferry's line have been cast; it is on its way to Poland. Many heated conversations follow between Tobias the cabbie and several Polferries representatives, each one ends with the cabbie spitting out the word "Tack!" ("Thank you!") like a BB fired into an empty toilet bowl. Occasional comments from Tobias in English: "They are facking idiots!" In any case the result is that I'm at a vandrarhem in Nynäshamn over 400Kr poorer and only 50km closer to Poland than I was at breakfast this morning.

Later...

The Swedish playing cards I bought look great!

Found Nynäshamn's dive bar by accident. The Moulin Rouge is a restaurant that I went into for pizza but tonight was also home to a few people drinking whiskey and beer. I made friends with them (and they with me); learned a card trick and saw several more. I spoke to Leif, Roger, Hansen and an older fellow whose name I can only remember as Erik the Viking. He had long gray hair and a beard gracing a weathered fifty-five year old face. Put a helmet on his head and put an axe in his hand and he'd be straight off the Vasa.

Next day linguistic adventure: The woman at the Polferries ticket window speaks only Polish and Swedish and a word or two of English. But she has the standard-issue Swedish good attitude and between us we sort out the ticket details.

Ranfar told me that I would never blend with the people in Poland. "Why not?" I said. "They're sort of my people, after all." He just smiled kindly and said that he couldn't explain but that I would find out for myself. How foolish I was not to believe him. The Poles in the ferry terminal are obvious next to the Swedes.

Instant Eastern European KitTM
One (1) pack cigarettes
One (1) smoker's cough
Frayed jacket, jeans and beat-up sneakers
Two (2) rings, one under each eye
Two (2) slumped shoulders
One (1) cheap haircut that has been growing out for a while

Directions: Speak infrequently, in hushed tones. Focus on an imaginary point 3 feet in front of you about a foot off the floor. If you don't look in the wrong place or at the wrong person, you can't get in trouble, right? Broadcast a plea that you do not wish to be arrested.

If you do not wish to purchase the Instant Eastern European KitTM, you can get it for free by living for 30 or 40 years under an oppressive Communist government.

A scan of a Polish 20 Zloty bill A scan of a Polish 50 Zloty bill A scan of a Polish 100 Zloty bill Fortunately Poland has not leaped straight from Communism to conspicuous consumption. They still take the time to make art of their money. And each denomination has a different geometric shape embossed on the lower left so that you can distinguish one bill from another by touch alone.

Night on the Ship -- Ferry Notes

Beautiful sunset over the Baltic. Too lazy to get my camera. My roommate in my two-berth couchette has already said hello in some foreign tongue. He is in for a surprise if he tries to talk to me in the morning. I feel more away from home than ever. Most of the people on this boat are Polish, I think. Some huddle in corners or chairs trying to sleep. My fare was only 110Kr extra for a bed -- about $13 -- but this is apparently too rich for a lot of the people on board.

On the topmost deck where passengers are not allowed the ship lights are not so bright and I saw a shooting star.

Spoke a word of Swedish to the bartender ("Stängd?") to see if he was still serving; am I becoming Swedish? Said "thank you" in Polish to the money changer and was understood. First Polish accomplishment.

The bar TV is showing an Eddie Murphy movie dubbed into Polish. Everyone loves it, I can't understand it.

There are Swedish high school girls on board. They are tall and curvy wearing skin tight pants and they do not have cheap haircuts and they know it. A three-headed lion would attract less attention on this ship.

Here is a funny picture of the self-conscious Swedish high school girls from the ship

Morning...People drank heavily last night; there are empty bottles rolling around everywhere now. If I had to sleep on the floor, I'd want to have a lot to drink too. At breakfast the guy in front of me bought a bottle of water, a cup of coffee and a shot of Absolut.