It would NEVER happen in the UK. Let’s face it, it would never happen in the US either, but I have my faith in Sweden. If anyone can do it, Sweden can. What on Earth am I on about? Allow me to digress…
Up and at ‘em! At 7am I was just about knocking the sleep out of my eyes and before you could say ‘cripes’! Jens was running me into town to catch the 08:23 to Oslo, via Gothenburg in Sweden. Now like I say, it would never happen in the UK… I wouldn’t be going all the way to Oslo, lest not forget that I only need to step foot in each country, not go and give its most famous monument a dirty great kiss. So my plan was to get off the train in a place called Halden, just over the Norwegian border, and then hop on the next train back to Gothenburg.
Easy! The only problem was this; my train was due in at 12:48. The train back to Gothenburg left at 1250. A connection time of two minutes. And check out that start time – this was a four-hour journey. Two minutes is nothing…
But I was travelling through clean, efficient Sweden and I had faith. And my faith was duly rewarded. I ran to the connecting platform (over the tracks!) but I needn’t have bothered. I could have sauntered. I could have bought a coffee and a Danish. I could have recited the Winter of Discontent speech from Richard III. There’s a lot you can do in two minutes.
Then again, how difficult can it be to get the trains to run on time? It’s not like they’ve got to deal with traffic jams. Oh, I don’t know (?!), ask the British train operators…
So I did my little victory dance in the good land of Norway before zooming back to Gothenburg. I had a couple of hours before my connection to the capital, Stockholm, so I checked out the vibrant old town – would it be full of Goths hanging out the back of C&A pretending to be vampires? Luckily not – but what was even more lucky was that I found a pub that had a free buffet for the overworked workers chilling out on a Friday night.
Well, if you can’t beat them…
So with my face thoroughly stuffed full of BBQ chicken, I hopped on the iron horse over to Stockholm. Upon arrival in this Swedish metropolis, I walked to the nearest hostel and checked in for the night, sharing a dorm with a ton of ridiculously attractive French girls (okay, one was Polish, but lets not split hairs here) who were getting dolled up for a night on the razz. Their male chaperons, Anton, Guillem and Toby explained that it was one of the girls’ – Simone’s – birthday and that they were going somewhere posh to get leathered.
Not being very posh, I was surprised and delighted when they invited me along.
So off I trotted in my battered Vans, but the club they wanted to get into was guest list only. So then, after a magnificent (and totally unplanned) tour of the city, we ended up in one of those swanky (place your emphasis wherever it pleases you most on that particular word) night clubs that cost a day’s wage to get into before they request the Holy Grail, King Tut’s death mask and the arms of Venus De Milo in exchange for a generic 47p-a-pint lager. It was one of those places. Oh yeah, and the DJ was playing the stuff they play to nobody in the ‘Rat and Parrot’.
I hate DJs. I really can’t stand them. They get paid more than an entire unsigned band, and for what? To play somebody else’s records. A glorified i-pod shuffle. Well whoop-de-do.
No, I’m not! You’re a charlatan, a hack, a snake-oil salesmen – somebody leeching off the talent of others – you know, the silly sods who pour their heart and soul into making the music that we love. I’m not so young that I remember the 80s when DJs were somebody’s weird uncle, a creepy middle-aged man in a chunky jumper standing in the corner playing Kadgagoogoo. God knows where this ‘superstar’ DJ nonsense (the chap from The Housemartins indeed!) started, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was amongst the oh-so-easily-entertained masses of some sink estate in Croydon. YES I KNOW THAT SOUNDS ELITIST BUT I DON’T CARE – they’d go watch a public execution if we still had them.
Staggered back to the youth hostel at about 4am… oh bugger – the ferry to Finland leaves in three hours…
I’m never going to get any sleep, am I?! Cursed! Cursed I am to spend this month wide awake like a teething baby. Ah well. I somehow managed to struggle free from my bunk after a microscopic amount of shuteye; and furthermore I managed to jump in a taxi to the port for the crack o’ dawn ferry to Finland.
Talk about 24-hour party people! The Finnish and Swedish onboard had turned the ship into a floating Valhalla for the sole purpose of getting as drunk as humanly possible. The cabin corridors looked like student digs and reeked of booze. Everyone who attempted to speak to me fell over before they could finish their sentence. Most of the people on board hadn’t even got off the boat when it got into Stockholm – they were just going to Sweden and back to get rotten and have a party.
Now, being a kind of travelling version of Keith Floyd, I would have, under normal circumstances, manoeuvred myself into a position which would have seen me joining in with the festivities – dancing on the ceiling, showing strangers my appendix scar etc., but today it was all catching up to me and I crashed out in a particularly uncomfortable chair.
By the time I was back in the land of the living, I was possibly the only sober person on board. After desperately trying to organise somewhere to kip for the night (everywhere was fully booked in Helsinki), we reached the port of Turku at 7pm. All in all, a bit of bad timing – the train to Helsinki left at 7:45pm, getting in at 10pm, but the last boat of the day over the water to Tallinn in Estonia leaves at 10 also, so there is no chance of making the connection.
I had finally found somewhere to stay for the night, but I didn’t have a CLUE where it was – the lady who ran the hostel said something about an island. Now, there was another Backpackers on a sort-of island to the east of the city, so I assumed it would be close to there. So I walked. And walked. And walked.
The fine, clear spring day had given way to a frosty cold night and the chills were running down my back legs (as opposed to my front legs, of course). I finally got to the Backpackers listed in the Baloney Planet, when I found out that no, the lady had meant an island, a proper one called Suommelina – one that you had to get a boat to reach. By now it was past eleven. Luckily, the ferry runs once and hour until 2am, so I headed down to the harbour and waited.
The island is a UNESCO world heritage site, an old fort from back in the bad old days when Sweden and Russia liked nothing more than to knock seven shades of crap out of each other every bank holiday weekend. The youth hostel was sparse, but more than adequate. Got chatting with a bunch from Spain who had fallen into the same trap as me – all the other hostels being full. Cabron!
Here be the vid of the last few days: