So, Hamburg to Copenhagen on the train was dispatched in typically efficient style. A bit of a change for me, having an actual compartment like the old days rather than open seating but pleasant enough overall apart from being TOO BLOODY HOT.
This brings me, rather early, to my first mindless diversion from topic. The nature of languages.
From this point on, I will become a loud and vocal advocate of children being exposed to other languages from a young age. It’s absolutely the right thing to do in a changing world where Brits can’t expect to get by, by dint of simply being the ‘default’. If nothing else, in my book it’s bloody rude to just visit another country and blindly expect to just shout English at them and for that to be acceptable. Rant over, and continuing, I learnt German at school and up to A level standard, which is now nearly 20 years ago. And I haven’t really used it in anger since.
However (starting a sentence with a preposition, must do better), from Brussels onwards I’ve spoken German throughout. Shops, hostel, train tickets. Even a fairly detailed and lengthy conversation with a woman from Hamburg on the train. It’s quite remarkable how quickly, and how effectively, it comes back. Almost like Neo’s ‘drunken boxing’ programme in The Matrix, it just happens. And it’s great.
And therein lies the point- For the last 2-3 years I have been learning Spanish, including 2 months overall in Peru, Argentina and Ibiza. It’s been a major task to get it to stick. Really major, and I’m still not there yet. Which is why it’s so important to use languages from an early age. I’m sure someone could help me with a physiological description why, but the fact remains that old brains don’t suck up knowledge quite so well, and giving children a multi-lingual start in life is a massive gift.
Anyhoo, Copenhagen was interesting. In hindsight I don’t begrudge any of my travel plans because of the Sweden-Russia ferry constraints, but I would have liked a couple of more days there and also in Hamburg. If only to reassure myself that the local population isn’t all complete piss party deviants.
In fact, Copenhagen is beautiful, if a bit of a hipster hotspot. Having walked twice around the block containing my hostel I eventually stumbled upon it. (www.urbanhouse.dk). I entered and instantly thought that I’d stumbled into some sort of fashion show with lots of beautiful people. Remarkably beautiful people. Turn around and exclaim to your chosen deity beautiful people.
Which I had. There was actually some sort of music launch with hired in models happening in the bar downstairs. So I didn’t feel quite so bad in my free brewery t-shirt and shorts. I hung around in the beer garden for a while, catching up on e-mails and generally marvelling at how old the clientele were making me feel, before heading out to explore the city.
I’m not a tick-box kind of guy, and truth be told don’t really enjoy cities these days, so it’s lucky that I stumbled across the Tivoli Gardens. It’s hard to describe and doesn’t really have a direct UK parallel however it’s somewhere between Bristol Zoo Gardens and a fuckwit-free Funderworld all rolled into one. A beautiful, remarkably well-kept series of gardens, lake, and a few thrill rides into the mix. And lots of restaurants, craft beer stalls etc.
I noticed that the day entry was around £9, and the annual membership £18, which was really nice. I like to think that the locals get a lot out of it. Even when I went there were a few bands on, etc, and I can’t imagine a better place to while away a sunny evening. Simply perfect.
After then, I continued my wander around the back streets including a faintly epic shop which only sold cheesecake and hot drinks. Yes, I did. The next morning included further undistinguished wanderings, nothing particularly historical seen however pleasant enough, and then the 1236 train to Stockholm on Swedish Railways. After buying the first £1.50 Mars Bar of my life.
Swedish Railways: Superb. Free wi-fi which actually worked was a novelty, and a generally thoroughly civilised experience overall. Particularly so given that I only paid £60 for the ticket from Hamburg-Sweden including a stopover. It’s a bloody long way. Great buffet car with some amazing snacks and salads, free refills on coffee and even some craft beer to sample. I settled for some Erik’s IPA which I think ended up costing me about 6 quid for a 330ml bottle. It was good though.
Beautiful journey, the crossing of the Denmark-Sweden bridge is particuarly impressive- It’s a very, very long way although unfortunately underneath the car deck so I didn’t get to make comparisons with the TV series. An awful lot of Sweden is rural/fjord and it all looks thoroughly appealing for a repeat visit.
Arriving at Stockholm carried the familiar frisson of being well out of one’s home area and at the mercy of the locals. And not really knowing where I was going to sleep that night. Rather too late in the day, I had realised that I was due to arrive late on a busy Friday evening with a major sporting event taking place, and that there was stuff all in the way of accommodation. Thanks to the free wifi, I’d tried an AirBnb booking but they weren’t able to accommodate me so I headed to my backup plan of City Backpacker’s Hostel, which said on Hostelworld it was full.
Luckily it wasn’t, so I managed a bed for both Friday and Saturday nights by the skin of my teeth. Good location and helpful staff. Vastly overpriced, but hashtag Stockholm.
Pretty good place overall, generally a younger crowd but actually the wanker index was pretty low apart from an odious couple in their early 20’s at most, both from Laaandan, with a girl who thought she actually inhabited the cast of Skins and a boy desperately aspiring to be a hipper Michael Palin who jointly monopolised most conversations and generally oozed studied disdain. Bless. Apparently the boy had been to China.
I didn’t manage much of Stockholm’s nightlife owing to having slightly underestimated the clothing situation and hence being clad in a mountain fleece and swimming shorts for the evening whilst the rest of my clothes were washing, however I did manage lots of museum stuff. Enjoy…
Next episode, Into Russia…
(Postscript: I’ve just run a spellcheck and have ticked the “learn” button for the word ‘fuckwit’. I think it’s likely to crop up again)
(Post, post script… Saw these at the till on the Germany-Denmark ferry. What the bloody hell are they?)