June 16 Thursday Sweden Kalmar
The morning couldn’t have gone more smoothly. It was a relaxed start, with my bus to Kalmar leaving Stockholm late in the morning. Stemming from the previous night’s exploration of the neighborhood, I’d learned that I was just a couple blocks from the T-Bana, making it an easy journey to the train station. This was fortunate considering it was already quite warm and humid.
I’d timed it perfectly that I basically walked right onto the train, but was less fortunate when I exited T-Centralen on the wrong side… backtracking along the sunny surface to the train station & bus station. Though this did give me a bit of opportunity to see more of the downtown – something I hadn’t had time to do. I even timed the bus well, with little wait before I was able to board & sit down.
My seat was right in the front, directly behind the driver and abutting a 20-something girl who looked to be the slightly emo type – she didn’t have a complexion of wanting to talk, so I never gave it an attempt. About a quarter of the way into the 6+ hour journey we had a crew change, swapping our driver & losing our deadheader – though she looked more like a guide than a driver; so I’m unsure quite what her role was; but in either case it let me grab the passenger-side front seat all for myself.
The bus called out a few towns along the way, giving me a chance to see some more of Sweden’s areas outside of Stockholm. We rolled into Kalmar just before 18:00 and learned that Stockholm’s odd business hours are actually representative of the entire country. Kalmar was dead quiet; as if a ghost town. Bikes seemed to be the dominant life form, with bikes racked up in all directions and in great quantity… I’d never been somewhere where bikes easily outnumbered people.
After dropping my backpacks off at my hotel, I reemerged to explore the city & grab some food, following-up with a journey south toward the castle (really the sole reason I came here). I finally found some people around here, but still not much… mostly just roving bands of teenage girls. Seriously, girls aged 15-20 outnumber total guys by like 50:1. The sound of giggling came from all directions within the park and upon the ramparts, also echoing along the city’s streets… it was really kind of frightening. I have absolutely no idea where older folk and males had disappeared to.
The walk was a touch chilly owing to the sea breeze and a marked drop in temperature compared to Stockholm. That worked for me: I live for the sea; and it made carrying my backpacks a tremendously more pleasant affair. As I approached the castle’s moats I couldn’t help but envision myself as a foreign invader coming to capture the castle… expertly navigating the first gate by walking right through it, brazenly besting the moat by taking the bridge, and defeating the mighty walls by going through the front door.
My walk gave me time to reflect upon the Swedish greeting “Hej”, pronounced “Hey”. I use this a lot as it is, so using it in Sweden was an easy affair. I noticed that the more informal or friendly the situation: the more heys were used. So a single hey was basic, two heys meant a pretty friendly bit, and three heys were among the closest of friends. Any more and I’d wager you probably have a speech impediment. Anyways, to focus on three: it amused me to hear friends of any gender and age greeting each other with this… because we have the same in America, albeit with many connotations. They regularly enunciated it as “hey HEY heyyy” ... much like the heinous greeting you might imagine a Jersey Girl or Cali Girl type as making.
While lying in bed that evening my butt took a new turn; yet another which brought back memories of my splenectomy two decades ago: it became excruciatingly itchy. Ahh, the healing process; ain’t it grand?