Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How I Accidentally Went to Sweden

I went to Venice Thursday - Saturday, and then left Tuesday for Copenhagen, hence why there's no buffer between posts about the two.

One of the better stories that came from my summer in Europe: how I accidentally ended up in Sweden. (It was one of those things that while it was happening, I knew it would be a great story, but that's not at all to say I was enjoying it while it was happening.)

I'd be remiss to not give some love to the Düsseldorf airport. I realized that Europe (and the rest of the world) has a higher standard when it comes to airports than generally the US does, but Düsseldorf surprised me a lot. Apparently the actual airport burned down a few years ago, so it had to be built again, and they did it bigger and better, which worked out nicely. (I don't have pictures of the Copenhagen airport, but that wins, hands down, the best airport I've ever been in. Ever.)



This was an art installation that was very difficult to photograph but beautiful! Mirrored strips hung over a mirrored floor and lights illuminated the entire thing, creating a shiny, moving, lit-up box in the middle of the walkway, like that's what you pass before you go to security. At most airports here, you pass an escalator and a trash can before you get to security, so this was a bit of an upgrade.


I got to the airport early, as I got dropped off instead of having to take the train (yay public transportation!) so I had time to explore. I walked down one hallway that I wasn't sure why I was exploring, as it was filled with kiosks for people trying to sell me packaged vacations, which I have to say, sometimes Germans love that sort of thing, so they really hit their market correctly). I kept walking and at the end got to a counter and a door and realized there's a observation deck at the DUS airport, which was great. I got to go out for 1.50 Euro, because I'm a student, and that seemed more than worth an hour of my time.



There was a lot of hype because the Airbus A380 had just started its regular service to DUS and obviously the observation deck was the best place to hype that sort of information. I got out there at around 12:20 p.m. and almost no one was there except for a few airplane-enthusiast looking men with long camera lenses. Around 12:45 p.m. it got a lot more busy, with grandpas and families and basically the entirity of the airport came out, and I kept hearing whispers about the A380. I finally googled, and realized that it was scheduled to land around 1:30 p.m.

So we waited and watched the plebeian A320s land and I ate the package of nuts that was supposed to be my lunch and waited and got my camera out to take some photos of the smaller, boring planes and waited and waited and waited. Then, slowly from the distance we could see a much larger plane, with its distinct four engines and huge wingspan come from the horizon until it landed, and it was all very exciting.


It landed, taxied past us, and the masses of observers followed it wherever it went, running with phones in hand and pushing their ways to the front of the crowd. It was all quite comical to watch, so I sat back and took this.


And then it was time for my own flight. It was less than an hour and a half from when we took off to landing, and like I said, I was amazed at the Copenhagen airport. I was a little shocked at the Danish coming over the PA, because when you see a word spelled out and then hear it pronounced in Danish, there is a total of no similarities.

I mean, unless you speak Danish, in which case it probably all makes total sense.

This is what I saw during landing. I didn't get that they were wind turbines in the middle of the ocean, but honestly, let me know a better place to put them. Some people really are thinkers.


And finally to the part where I accidentally ended up in Sweden. (Ironically, I had wanted to go to Sweden in the first place, but ended up waiting too long to book a flight and then it all became way too expensive and the Germans were really interested to tell me how expensive Sweden would be, because of the astronomical tax that's put on alcohol and although I wasn't planning to drink my way through a weekend alone in Scandinavia, I guess their advice got to me and I took Sweden off my short list.)

Back in Germany, before I left, I had worked really hard to plan my exit from the airport, knowing what times what trains left and where to go and how to get there and I printed maps and wrote things down and thought I was good to go. (I had to go to the main train station, so it couldn't be that hard, right? All trains should go there and certainly the one from the airport should.)

So I got a ticket from an automated kiosk at the airport's train station (thought that would be the hard part, clearly it was not). Then found the train I was supposed to be on, went to the right platform and figured I was headed for success. The train came, a Danish word was said over the PA, and because I trusted my logic and planning capabilities, I got on the train. 

It was about a 12 minute ride, as it was supposed to be, but that 12 minutes was very exciting and just distracting enough to make it so I didn't realize immediately what I'd done. 

I was in the quiet car, and a woman didn't realize what a quiet car was, so was standing in the doorway of the automatic door that separates the rowdy folks from the peaceful passengers in the quiet car. She had no idea what she was doing and how annoying it was for everyone else, but finally someone got up and was very stern with her and she went to hang with the rowdy people. (It wouldn't stop her from coming back into the quiet car a few times and accidentally turning on almost every electronic toy she had with her and then leaving, leaving us to enjoy the animatronic sounds of cheap electronics.)

What I realized later was a key point in the entire event that should have not happened how it happened, was that everyone's tickets were checked on the ride over to Sweden. I had a ticket, so I was confident that I was good to go, and when the ticket man came around and looked at mine, he nodded and moved on. Clearly he wasn't the most attentive ticket attendant in the world.

My phone got a few notifications about reconnecting to a different phone network but that wasn't enough to alert me that we were crossing borders

It wasn't until we got to our first stop, the doors open and I didn't recognize the name of the stop, that I pulled out my notes and compared what I had written down to what it said at the station.

Needless to say, it was not the same. I quickly googled and looked at a map, and decided to get off the train before I got even farther away from where I needed to be. 


I was in Sweden! And yes, I'm counting it in my list of countries visited, because it was a traumatic time for me and also I'm the captain of my own ship so it counts.

Clearly I took the opportunity to use some roaming data (my carrier kept warning me about how expensive it was going to be, and I think maybe the answer is it's hard to use a ton of data? I was charged almost nothing and felt like I used my phone quite a bit.)


That was a popular post, and Facebook's location services proved I was there. Facebook can't lie, I'm pretty sure.

And I saw some nice architecture from the platform. I had to wait 20 minutes for the next train back to the airport, but I certainly wasn't about to go explore for 20 minutes.


Here's a panorama of said train station. It's like 9 p.m. at this point, but the sun still isn't down because that's how Scandinavia is. It sort of worked in my favor, because if it were winter and cold and dark (it was freezing, actually) that would have made things much worse.


Safely back on the way to Copenhagen. A few minutes before the other ticket attendant checked my ticket and informed me that it was NOT the ticket you need to go to Sweden. Thanks, lady. Once I played the clueless American, (I know, it doesn't help our cases), she was nice enough to let me go without a fee and told me how to get to where I needed to go. All in perfect English, because clearly the Danes are here to prove who's better than whom.


The incredibly short body of water that separates Copenhagen and Sweden.


Once I finally got to the main train station, I found my hostel, asked about dinner, and went on my way. It was late and there weren't many options and I ended at an American restaurant. Because it was so late, all they had left were things that were not my first choice, so I settled on hushpuppies and pimento cheese. I ordered from a man from Chicago, and had to ask where they eat hushpuppies and pimento cheese in America.


I also had to ask what a hushpuppy was. It was an adventurous day for me.


But don't fret: my next few days in Copenhagen were much more successful.


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