Sunday, 20 January 2013

Stockholm to Copenhagen to Cologne

Stockholm house on an island
Well, 4.30, that was an early shower! And a leisurely croissant. Go to get some kronas from the exchange counter, get a ticket too for the bus to the main station in Stockholm.

The ladies on the escalator:

dog statue Stockholm
Best comic moment of the trip was two Eastern European ladies coming off the boat with huge bags of duty-free clothes. They were just in front of me as we took the escalators down to the bus station. Lady One stood at the top, looked down and did nothing. Her friend shouted at her, so she put this huge bag on the escalator and we watched as it turned sideways and we waited for it to land on the children further down. Which fortunately it didn't; it just sort of glued itself to the moving stairs. Next Lady Two pushed Lady One onto the escalator, and then followed her. I stepped on behind, thinking that that was all sorted. Not so.

the new and the old
At the bottom, ladies and bags all slide off and they, in relief I think, that they have made it to the bottom safely, stay put, as all of us behind then crash into them. Highly amusing, sadly no photos.

Apart from the comic element, there was a desperate sense of a misogynist community behind these comic public scenes, something shameful [saw the women a bit later talking to what I took to be their menfolk, who were definitely not carrying heavy bags]. This is just supposition, by the way. 

Take bus to Stockholm main station; have two hours to explore town centre in. It is however ridiculously early, so shops open as I walk round. I find souvenir shops and buy a plastic Viking helmet and some small things with reindeer on, as you do in Scandinavia.

Stockholm: a weird contrast with the beautiful old and awful new. Architecture and concrete; bridges and rivers. At ten I get the tilting train, where I have pre-booked wifi and a meal. So organised! Is this really me? And we get to go over the bridge [as in "The Bridge" Scandinavian super-drama] - all too exciting, though, of course, from the bridge, you don't actually see the bridge.

Copenhagen: As ever, I have two hours to explore this city in; however I am still missing on sleep, so it's hard to get out there and get going. But I do, and like the pub in Helsinki, and meeting Zoya on the Moscow-St Petersburg sleeper, it's another little magic moment with the organic cafe opposite the station. At first I think I am feeling dizzy and maybe about to faint when I realise that the cafe is over the train lines and everything and everybody is vibrating.

train over Bridge

This cafe, whose name I didn't take, is a little sanctuary in a busy journey. And from here I had my first Skype moments which Walt set up for me from the UK [was trying to get him to book a train from the UK for me].

the bicycles outside Copenhagen Station

It's six forty-six, get the night train to Cologne/Koln. Here I experimented with the no couchette compartement, and that will be the second and last time. However  it had its wonderful surreal moments. First it's just me and Dutch girl travelling from Malmo to Amsterdam. Then an African trader man comes in, looks around, looks irritated. I ask if I can help, and he comes right up to me, sticks his face in mine and asks what I mean. I stick my face in his, and ask again if I can help.

He meets a mate and disappears down the corridor for a drink with him. We are whizzing through the night stopping at these stations: 7.11 Roskilde, 8.05 Nyborg [passing through, not stopping], 8.27 Odense, 9.06 Kolding, missed the next one, crossed the border into Germany, 10.40 Flensburg, 11.15 Rendsburg [not stopping here], 11.17 over some big rivers, 11.37 Neumunster, 12.26 Hamburg, 1.43 Celle, 2.05 Hanover, 3.55 Biefeld, 4.25 Hamm, 4.50-ish Dortmund, 5.40 Wuppertal, and lastly 6.14 Koln [Cologne].

And Debs, do you know how I know all these times? And why?
between Copenhagen and Koln

Because it dawned on me quite quickly, say by Odense, that there were no announcements on this train; and also there were no electric sockets, and by early Germany my phone and ipad had long since lost their charge and their power to alarm.

Next on is a French woman complete with two fluffy white puppies in dog-baskets. I speak English with the Dutch, French with French woman, and then when the Odd Couple appear in the early hours, some sort of pigeon German. The Odd Couple, a mother and son with some sort of skin deformity I don't need to go into, but it made them look odd. And it sure as eggs irritated the African traderman when he re-appeared into the six-berth compartment.

I tried to explain to them that 22 was the guy's seat, and when he reappeared and started on them about it, I told her to come and sit next to me, but then he wouldn't sit with us and went off again.

She was upset not to be next to her [grown-up] son, and asked my permission to go back to 22. By now I was absolutely determined to be their champion, as quite evidently were the French and Dutch ladies. And we had dogs. Well puppies. Who were by now out of their baskets. So cute.

The man in Seat 22 came back a couple more times and he and the German mother exchanged cross words in German. She looked like she was used to abuse, and just gave back as good as she got.

In the early stages of this journey I was nipping down to the cafe wagon for tea; this helped me stay awake, and was a little adventure in itself, and it did advertise that they did breakfasts, but in the early hours of the morning when I went back, firstly the English-speaking Danish staff had been changed into monoglot German staff, and secondly the Restaurant car seemed to have disappeared.
Koln Station
I said in a combination of German and sign language, "When I got on at Copenhagen, the cafe wagon was that way, and pointed down the train". "No," he answered, and pointed down the track, "Copenhagen is that way." No breakfast just yet then.

The Odd Couple got off at Dortmund. Dog Lady and me, we get off at Koln, which is not easy to call Cologne when you're actually there.

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