Friday, June 17, 2011

SE - Karlskrona

June 17                 Friday                                   Sweden                                                Karlskrona                                         

A slightly early awakening so I could check out the church, located just outside the hotel.  It was OK… nothing too phenomenal, so I turned back, grabbed my bags, and left for the train station to catch my train to Karlskrona.  Along the way I took heed that the city was bustling.  Gone was the quiet I’d witnessed the night before.  While I did finally see a good share of older folk, there still seemed to be a notable gender disparity.

My train ride first took me to Emmaboda, where I had to change trains to reach Karlskrona.  I only had a 5 minute layover per the schedule, but I also knew that all I had to do was cross the platform in order to reach my next train.

I sat on my first train quite comfortably and watched the scattered clouds drift overhead, seeming as if just out of arm’s reach.  For the second half of that first train ride it seemed that we were just rolling toward Emmaboda… my best guess is that we had entered a work zone & had to slow down, but I never saw any work.  It started to get me a bit worried I may miss my transfer – especially as the time ticked past the departure time of that next train – and the start of a drizzle made my prospects of sorting that out seem less pleasant if I had to wonder around a town that’s so insignificant my guidebook doesn’t even reference it.

Fortunately, we had that other train's conductor… that is, the same conductor was taking my route.  So despite rolling in ten minutes late: my train was still sitting right there waiting for me (as well as a couple other folk- such as the conductor).  It was along this ride that the drizzle turned to an outright rain… more soothing this time around.  I sat and watched it dance upon the windows, flowing in varying form with every turn.  We soon rode out of the storm, affording me a beautiful horizon on a now-clear day as I looked upon the towering clouds which nonetheless hugged close to the ground.

By the time we arrived in Karlskrona: weather was sunny, cloudless, and very comfortable.  A strong sea breeze kept my backpack burden easy.  And as Kalmar hadn’t been quite the jacketless shorts weather I’d hoped it to be: this time around I was ready to dress a bit more warmly this time around.

So Karlskrona: where Carlsberg meets Corona.  Well, that could actually half make sense, what with Denmark not so far away… Corona is a bit further, however.  Yeah, I’ve been saving that one.  Wasn’t very good, I know.  Anyway, my first destination was the tourist office to see about getting on board with a tour out to the fortress, but lo and behold: no tours today.  The tour tomorrow starts at 10am, which at a 4-hr tour would conflict with my 12:30 train tickets to Copenhagen.  Huh, so I hadn’t quite expected any of that.  Alright: I’ll enjoy the city, anyway.

Despite having gone without food up until this point – now about 2pm – I opted to keep going and explore the city.  The place that seemed the more interesting from a culinary standpoint was dinner-only, so I’d hold on until then.  My first destination was Sweden’s oldest remaining church.  It was OK inside – nothing too spectacular; but it did get me thinking how so far pretty much every Scandinavian church seems to include model ships inside.  I’d noticed this in Iceland, too.  The sea really does hold a close place among these former Vikings!

I briefly stepped out the back before returning to the front, but from my brief glimpse out the rear: I saw the masts of a couple Swedish naval ships.  Soon after leaving the church, I swung down to the waterfront and once again got a pretty good view of, if I recall my naval terminology correctly (and there’s no guarantee of that), some destroyers and frigates.  There were also a couple small submarines nearest to me, but none of the ships were positioned as to offer a nice photo.  They were, however, a nice reminder that this city is a naval city both past and present.

Likely owing to its military history, Karlskrona is also quite devoid of graffiti.  Not to say there isn’t any, but compared to other cities thus far it’s been pretty clean.  Kalmar had some tags here and there and Stockholm had considerably more, though in all fairness both have been bare as compared to Iceland.  Reykjavik is smothered with lousy spraypainted tags everywhere.  However, I did find two spots in Reykjavik where it seemed that the actual street artists had declared their canvas: a park just off the main shopping street and a squatters’ house just off the street leading up to the church… but otherwise the city had been woefully decorated by kids with no talent.  Sweden was similar: certainly less graffiti, but what graffiti there was mostly consisted of tagging rather than art or politics.  There isn’t much good I’ll say about England, but one thing they excel at is street art; and the Italians win at the political bent.

Several incidents in Karlskrona (in addition to Kalmar and Stockholm) have also led me to find that there are a lot of inattentive children in Sweden.  I’ve been walked into more times by little ones here than I think I have in the rest of my life combined.

Karlskrona is, overall, not the most interesting city.  Its streets aren’t necessarily unpleasant, but nor are they like streets in mainland Europe where every street is just as fascinating and beautiful – if not moreso – as the main tourist drags.  My Lonely Planet guide had mentioned that the central square looked only half complete, and sure enough I agreed 100%.  It’s partly lined with monumental grand buildings; partly lined with low-rise cheap constructs.  Overall it ended up feeling more like a trial to have to keep trudging across it… its context makes it seem more like walking through a large parking lot than crossing a scenic European plaza.

When the restaurant Nivå finally opened and I took a seat for dinner, I asked my waitress about the food that two girls were eating just beside me.  The waitress said that it was only “for people that work there,”  but continued to console me with “don’t worry, it’s not very good”.  It sure looks good… I want it!  Ach; I ended up getting a burger instead.  It was OK, but what the girls were eating looked better… it looked like chicken covered in some sauce but also included salad and POTATOES.  I wanted potatoes; I craved potatoes; I had to have potatoes.  The fries I got as substitutes just didn’t quite cut it to the desired degree.

After refilling my stomach I opted to explore the western end to balance out my earlier exploration of the eastern end.  I came upon an island in the middle of one of the harbors & opted to meander across its short bridge and up to the top of its incline… of course, this wasn’t a grant mountain; it was really just a tiny hill taking only about 30 seconds to ascend.  I’d expected to see the European staple at the top, but was surprised… that is, in Europe: any scenic or hidden place will invariably be occupied by a group of teenagers smoking & drinking; only exempted by the more scenic spots which sport cafés.  Here, however, it was just a few couples & individuals quietly observing the sunset… none of the couples were even embraced in intensely passionate grasps as if they were using each other as emergency respiratory systems.  It was just kind of weird… a mature little place to watch the world go by.

After watching the world go by a few times (relativity is relative), I made my way back to the hotel to retire for the night… since surgery (as well as the days leading up to it) I’ve been taking it a bit easier, giving in as soon as the time seems fit to do so.  I felt I’d seen most of what Karlskrona had to offer: it was back to relaxation.

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