Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SE - Göteborg

June 22                 Wednesday                        Sweden                                                Göteborg                           

Ug… my worst sleep of the trip.  The door had just enough slack that the pressure gradient caused it to keep knocking back and forth, exacerbated once folk started waking up (first at about 5:30am) and left the door open just a touch.  While everyone was personally quiet as they went about their business: that door soon became my nemesis.  In my highly intermittent sleep for the next three hours: I came to hate that door; to despise it; I wish ill upon it; I tried to lull myself back to sleep by thinking of the things I would like to do to that door… an axe; a chainsaw; a flamethrower!

I ultimately rose with a pounding headache, but of course I had no idea where I’d packed the painkillers that I’d been given at the hospital.  I hadn’t used any during my time there, so I knew I had some stowed away somewhere, but it hurt to think… so I tried not to.  It was like being on the Vogon homeworld.  Fortunately reception would come through on that end: sweet nourishing drugs!  My headache gone about 30 minutes later & the action of the day helping to keep it away.

The first step was a train north to Frederickshavn, a small industrial town at the northerneastern reaches of Jutland.  I slept a good deal of the train ride, albeit slightly distracted by another twin of my friend Svitlana sitting across the aisle from me.  I saw a twin back in Stockholm, and here was another; albeit with a tiny nose ring.  I mentally kicked myself for sitting across from her – at a table with some old woman stuck on her mobile – instead of with this cute girl… but it also gave me due excuse to concentrate on recouping sleep rather than attempting conversation.

Arriving in Frederickshavn I did a pretty good job at picking the correct street & walking a direct course to the ferry terminal.  With 30 minutes of available time, it took me 10 minutes to reach the walkway, 5 minutes to traverse the lengthy elevated walkway through the port, 5 minutes to check-in and board, and enough time to make it to the top deck & watch us depart.  Win!

The ferry is littered with slot machines, with queues of people taking full advantage of them.  I can get the desire to spend the last of your coins as you transition out of a country, but I’m pretty sure a good share of people had expended their spare coins already but were still there.  Ahh gambling: a tax on stupidity.  At least give us something more engaging than slots!  I’m more than willing to part with my money if I can at least have some fun doing it... slots just don’t cut it for me.

After watching us push away from Denmark I found a spot at the front of the boat down in one of the restaurants, sitting there tapping away on my laptop while the muzak alternated between piped-in tunes (mostly jazz) and a live band (folk music).  The girl in the band looks like a young version of the wife/mom from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies; a rather cute blonde that looks to be in her young to mid 20’s… pretty voice, but I’ve discovered that the local folk music isn’t my particular interest.

Our arrival into Göteborg was gradual, as would be the case with a very large massive ferry that looks the city’s tallest buildings eye-to-eye… clearly not the sort of thing that should be moving fast up an urban river.  The effects of being up so high also made it all seem slower.  When we docked I came to realize that people were all carrying – and I mean all carrying – massive amounts of beer.  Seriously… two to three cases each; just what a single person could carry.  There were a pair of customs officers on the other end but neither seemed to care; I wager they were more interested in if anyone rolled off the boat with a pallet of booze.  The “red line” for customs – for those with something to claim – consisted simply of a telephone and a sign indicating to dial a number if you wanted to claim anything.  So yeah: Denmark is expensive; but I did learn that its price savings compared to Sweden is apparently enough to make it worth the trip when it comes to beer… or at least good enough to stock up if you just happen to be making the trip for one reason or another.

As I disembarked I found myself in a pretty run-down area… certainly not the city’s best point.  Fortunately, my hostel wasn’t far off, keeping the hike easy; but unfortunately that meant I was staying in this less-inspiring area.  It wasn’t the best first impression of the city.  My impressions were only reinforced by my evening walk to find some dinner.  The places my Lonely Planet guide suggested weren’t nearly as appetizing-looking upon arrival and there was a dearth of much else which didn’t cost an arm & a leg.  I ended up at a place which marketed pizza, pasta, salad, and kebabs.  As is true in America: places that try and hit multiple ethnic foods often falter at the other one… it’s best to stick with their native dish.  Hence my passing over Italian and option for the kebab: the backup food of choice in Europe.  It was a downright tasty kebab, so I’d say it was a perfect decision.

I wandered a little bit but ultimately made my way back to my room for an early evening.  I had a full room of four beds, with the first to return being a young French couple in their early 20’s.  They both seemed really nice & I talked to the girl quite a bit, but the dude had a downright toxic scent of body odor.  Even immediately after he showered: he returned and once again reeked of BO.  Now, I’ve grown up among the Amish and have smelled many an unbathed on a warm sunny Saturday during the planting or harvesting seasons, and I’d say this guy was worse… but fortunately my Lancaster County upbringing enabled me to tune it out after a few minutes.  Sometimes it’s a good thing that I can smell cow or horse manure and think it smells wonderful; it smells like home.

The last roommate to return was a German girl from near the border with Denmark – I’m drawing a blank on the name of the town.  I was a bit confused at first when I couldn’t place her accent; it was a German accent I’d never heard before, but then again most Germans I know come from quite a bit more southward.  I really wish I’d taken some more time to chat with her… especially because she had a carton of Philadelphia Cream Cheese -- easy initial conversation material.  Seriously: Philadelphia Cream Cheese is its own food group and anyone who would carry it along as a backpacker is clearly a zealous devotee.  Plus she looked to be in her mid-20’s, downright cute, and clearly had an interest in chatting with me… but my brain just didn’t seem to pickup on that; and when I woke up the next morning she was gone.  I’ve noticed that I seem to have a thing for German girls, but I’m pretty sure I’ve noticed (and probably said) that before.

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