Monday, July 28, 2014

Traveling is the hard part of travel

Today we are leaving Uppsala and heading for the first place Craig actually served on his mission- Göteborg (pronounced Yu-te-borry.) Because of the credit card hassles, Craig couldn't buy tickets until this morning, so we are stuck in second class in a car with several crying babies, sitting apart. Craig vows to buy First Class tickets to our other destinations immediately upon arrival. (Actually, the crying babies don't really bother either of us, and really, first class is not much better, but we can get seats together.) After dealing with James, our knee jerk reaction to screaming, tantrum-throwing children is immediate compassion for the parents, coupled with a deep- seated gratitude that it's no longer our kid.

We took an old rattle-trap train - the kind Craig remembers from his mission - from Uppsala to Stockholm - then hung around the Stockholm Central Station for a few hours waiting for our Snabbtåg (express train) from Stockholm to Göteborg. I was grateful that we were only there a short time. It's too expensive to be me at the Stockholm Station.

The first time I left Craig and trekked down the stairs following the "toilet" signs, I had to trek back to ask for money. It costs ten kronor (about $1.30) to use the toilet anywhere in the station (even McDonalds- I checked.) For Kumquat Bladder Woman, that means I'd be spending as much on toilet fees as food rather quickly. The toilets are all unisex, but that doesn't matter, since they're the typical Scandinavian Single Claustrophobic Cubby design. They are very clean, with revolving turnstiles to let you in and out as you pay your money. I pitied the woman with 3 children in tow. The keen-eyed attendant made sure she gave him 40 kronor and didn't try sneaking one of the little ones under the turnstile. I can't imagine how fun it is to pay every time your preschooler thinks they might need to go. (If anyone actually reads these things, you may recall that much of my Japanese blog centered around their rather cool toilets - indeed, I was so enamoured of them that I ended up buying my own.) As I look at my last few posts, I see that this is something of a travel theme for me. Perhaps it's because I spend so much time there. James always said that all the interesting things in Japan happened to him while he was outside the toilet waiting for me.... So far, whenever I find my way back to Craig after one of my trips, he is just trying to read another sign, poster, or something. He did not bring a paper dictionary with him, and he is determined to figure all the printed material out before we go home. At least he is not staring at the svelte blondes. And svelte blonds there are everywhere in Sweden just as advertised. Short shorts are everywhere and lovely girls with tan legs (how do they get so tan living here?) up to their throats travel in herds, making me feel like a hobbit in Rohan.

Once we arrive in Göteborg, we need to catch a bus to our B and B. Confusion ensues as there are 2 busses with the same number, heading for different end destinations. Craig studies all the maps he printed out before we left, and even asked a few persons at the bus stop, but no joy. Fortunately, a helpful local intervenes, and we ride a pretty comfortable bus through the streets of Göteborg. Craig is staring out the window for a long time before he sits with me. "I do not recognize a single thing," he says, "except that little cliff over there." I look toward where he is pointing and get a quick glimpse of some rocks before we are once again surrounded by buildings. Okaay.

Our bus stop is a looooong walk from the B and B - or maybe it just feels that way because it is uphill and we are dragging all our luggage. Even though I'm proud of myself for packing only one suitcase for the whole trip, I wish is were even lighter now. Fortunately, Craig has the lion's share of the luggage. He has his stuff as well as camera gear and electronics. I'm still a lot slower though and he keeps having to wait for me. We finally arrive and meet our host Natalia - a Russian native, she speaks English like Craig speaks Swedish. They get along well and spend the evening talking back and forth in both languages and adding to each other's vocabulary. We have a small room and a shared bathroom with 2 people from Germany and 2 from France. It should be interesting tomorrow around the breakfast table.


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