Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leaving, on a jet train...

Har Har.

The gods have been at it again.

We packed up our bags last night, finding that somehow our possessions had expanded beyond our zippers' capacity to close the cases. Eh? I only bought... well, 3 t-shirts, several small souvenirs, a shawl, several tubes of face cream, an umbrella (a very fetching umbrella with Swedish cats on it, couldn't be left behind!), stationery, postcards, a coffee plunger and a tin of coffee, a teddy bear, several magazines and some coat hangers. Hardly anything.

We ended up with our 4 small cases, a backpack each, my small handbag, and two plastic bags (tied up with my new head-scarf). It was fine getting out of the hotel, just lugged it all into the lift. Fine getting to the station, just shoved it all into a taxi. Fine getting through the station to the information board, just made like pack-horses. But then we discovered that platform 11 was down a level, and the lift was mysteriously hidden in the chaos of shops, seats, info terminals, peoples by the hundred, and lots of shiny lights FAR too early in the morning. Some of the shiny lights were not without charm because they said "coffee", but it was not to be. M walked the station looking for a lift. He said there was one (somewhere) but it didn't go down to the level we wanted. I speculated that if we tried it, we might get half-way and then be able to find another lift going down the extra floor.

Good thinking B! Only trouble was, where WAS the damn lift? We circumnavigated the innards of the station, but couldn't find a "HISS" sign. M found several sets of stairs but my leggies said NOOOOOO. I was lucky to then find a railway staff member who pointed me to the area in the main hall where a lift was to be found. Hurray!

We lugged again, but once in the lift it wouldn't go down to the second level, where we thought we needed to go. Just as we were about to get out anyway, at Level 1, the lift started ascending again. A woman with a mobility 'chair' was waiting to use the lift. M, swearing, got out. I wasn't fast enough and I disappeared down to Level 1 again! Pressing the"2" button and swearing wasn't doing the trick. At level 1 a woman got in, and I asked her why the lift refused to go any further down. She said 'but this is the lowest level you can go' which explained a lot. So up we went to the main hall again, where a red-faced M was waiting with the disabled woman. M leapt on board again (there was no room in the lift for that poor, patient woman and her chair). We chugged out at Level 1 and followed the sign for Platform 11.

Oh Har Har. To get to Platform 11, we had to climb a full flight of stairs. Har Har Har. M started up, managing quite well with his pack plus two cases. He'd only gone about 6 steps up when a gleaming, healthy young Swedish woman offered to help with his cases. Angel number one for the day. Meantime I was lugging, carefully but knowing my back would protest, my two bloody lead-weight pieces of over-laden travel bags. I made it up about 12 steps before our helpful Swedish angel re-appeared to help me. I didn't even manage to make eye contact with her when I said thank you, she was so fast hoicking my case up the rest of the stairs.

Once on the platform, we were able to stop and wait to read the notice-board about the imminent arrival of our train. I made a rather large crowd-blocking station, surrounded by all cases and bags while M did a recce up and down the platform trying to find a map of the train so we could see where to wait. Turns out Svensk railways doesn't purrvide such things, but a helpful young gent explained where out first carriage would be and we were able to shove our way through the crowd to about the right place.

M also leapt on board as soon as the train arrived, to find our seats and dump a preliminary bag or two. Then we got those four dang cases on board, and found enough room for one of them in the luggage-shelves near the door. The rest had to be lifted by us up into the luggage racks. I hope they stay put - any one of them falling on a head would do a lot of damage!

I was very sad that there was no time in all this for me to grab a coffee. But as soon as the train got started, M went looking for the dining car. He returned with coffee and lovely fresh prawn, egg and mayonnaise rolls, the only choice! They were cool and delicious. The coffee went down just in time to prevent a wifely loss of intestinal fortitude. We have 6 hours on this trip to Oslo (in a non-airconditioned train), then a wait of about an hour, and another 5 or so hours to Bergen.

I hope the hotel room is cooler than our Stockholm room. We *could* see that our room in Stockholm was on the less sunny side of the building, but even with a fan on and a chair propping the door open, to let some of the cooler passage-way air into our room, we were pretty hot and stuffy. Enough with the heat waves!!

Today brought to you (so far) by Lacoste purrfume, eau de railway station, coffee, and boiled egg with mayo squished lavishly into the prawns on the bun. Nom.


Part two.

An hour into the trip to Oslo, an announcement came of the PA - due to work on the line, the train would be stopping in K..., and we would proceed to Oslo by bus. Consternation. An extra two lots of hoicking our bloody bags around.

But in the end, we were grateful. There was no airconditioning on the train, and only one window per carriage to allow some (hot) air in. I fell asleep but was really only dozing; I was aware that sweat was dripping off my face and running down various bits... uncomfortable. The bus to Oslo was airconditioned; you could hear the sighs of relief from all the passengers when the driver started the engine and immediately overhead air thingies (like on planes) started blasting out cool air. The drive to Oslo took about 2.5 hours, during which I spent about half the time appreciating the beautiful farmland, and about half snoozing. This time I didn't drip, I just bit my tongue.

Oslo railway station gets the thumbs up from us - no steps at any stage. There was a small moment of conniption when we saw an OUT OF ORDER sign on the lift going from the platform to the main station, but there were escalators, which are a fine substitute. And our plan of taking two small cases each, plus backpack, works well in such situations, because no individual piece of luggage is hard to manage. Mine all seem to be bloody heavy though..

We had about an hour before the train for Bergen departed. We spent it doing two useful things - M exchanged some money, and I found a pizza cafe which had beer on tap. Without quite noticing, I drank a pint of cold water, a pint of beer and a pint of lemonade, before downing a huge latte. These fluids were all good, giving me various types of inner strength. And, for once, I think the beer was more necessary than the coffee. Shows you how HOT I am. Yes yes yes, I know it's summer. But don't they have summer every year here? How come no aircon? Hmm?????

M has left me tapping away at this, while he walks up and down the train to cool off. And I don't mean temperature cooling... he asked a helpful Information Desk person about this train, wanting to know which platform and also which end of the platform our carriage would be. Unfortunately the info was correct as to platform number, but wrong as to carriage position - M was told our (first class) carriage would be the first one behind the engine.


We had to schlep all the way along in the bloody hot sun and across the unhelpfully textured platform pavers, bout 16 carriages to the other end of the train, to find our comfy spot. There was much husbandly head-shaking, vehement use of good old anglo-saxon language, and quite a bit of arm-waving. When I suggested that it didn't matter cos here we were on the dang train, before it left, et etc, I got TOLD. I expect I deserved it for being Pollyanna-ish. I don't really care. M's first act was to go for a walk to find the dining car, and bring me back another coffee. I KNEW it was a good idea to marry this man.

So, with luck (and I am saying this VERY QUIETLY so any pesky gods with contra-suggestable senses of humour won't hear), we will get to stay on this train all the way to Bergen. We will also be able to easily wheel our stuff out of the station and into a nice cool taxi which will take us extremely quickly and cheaply to a nice cool hotel. Where we will collapse in a heap, needing only to pop out to the smorgasbord pub next door to get dinner, before showering off quite a lot of Svensk and Norsk sweat and then hitting the sack.

This part of today brought to you by Pilsener, double-strength under-arm charm, and the blissful scent of a cup of coffee.....moderated slightly by the taste of Ventolin, because for some reason I can't breathe properly, It's been 3 days since the wheezes started and don't ask ME why. It's certainly not cold, or polluted, or infested with cigarette smoke anywhere near me, and I don't have any infections (it was hard to type that last bit with all my fingers crossed but I find the point of my nose helpful in such situations)... anyway, bugger.

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