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|From: Bron Gondwana <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2002 19:42:36 +1000
I'm going to use Kate's method of just filling in the past few days in one go rather than doing it day by day - for now. This will mean you get a little less junk mail from us (I do tend to write long emails). After we got back from the internet (finally) on Friday night we had drinks and worked out our plan for the next day. We decided that leaving at 1pm would get us to Lule? (in northern Sweden) that night. Luckily we thought the time change was the other way, or we would have been very stranded. Public transport in Finland is pathetic, at least the stations are. Neither the train nor bus stations had any idea about connections in Sweden. All they could suggest was to take a bus the whole way - which is fine, but the conditions of our Eurail passes only allow us to use buses where they substitute for trains - so we had to get a train to Kemi, then a bus from there to Tornio. Just across the river from Tornio (Finland) is Haparanda (Sweden). Of course, this being a Saturday, the station at Tornio was completely closed (only a lady in the junk-food shop who didn't speak English). We waited for 2 hours at the bus stop, without a single bus coming past. People accumulated slowly, but we discovered they were there for the overnight bus to Stockholm, which needs to be booked in advance and doesn't support our tickets. We ran into a very nice local lad (Ville) who tried to help us find a bus (the bus arrived, stopped for 5 seconds, and drove off again before we could reach it - while we were chatting to Ville - lovely service Finland bus companies, yes indeed). He gave us a lift to the Haparanda station, saving us from a real mess! Bus to Lule? was fine, but when we arrived we decided to take a taxi to the youth hostel (pre booked with someone who's English wasn't brilliant). The taxi took us to the wrong address (he didn't speak any English), and only by pointing at the address in the Lonely Planet and being forceful did we get there. Cost was about $24 Australian (120skr). When we got there we discovered that it hadn't been a hostel for over 5 years, and the price was double! Oops. Wound up catching a bus back to the location the taxi driver tried to take us to in the first place! We had a share a single bed at the hostel in the city, but at least it was cheaper. Woke up late (sleep was difficult with the heat) and went to the museum, which was great. After the museum, everything was closed (stuff closes really early here in summer because workers want to have a holiday too!), so we wandered back to the hostel and caught up with the Slovenian girl (Mattya) we had met the night before and were travelling to Stockholm with. The train station was closed all weekend, so we had to buy tickets on the train. Swedish trains charge a "booking fee" even if you buy the tickets on the train, but they didn't give us seats, so we kept having to move. We wound up in a train carriage that had no electricity (failed fuse!) and most of the toilets on the train were out of service. We didn't get much sleep - not impressed with T?gkompaniet (the train company). Monday (29th) in Stockholm: we were still really sleepy when we got off the train. Booked tickets to G?teborg - the queue (everything is electronic queuing here) had over 100 people in front of us! Doh! Then got into a queue for (information/tickets) which didn't sell us single go tickets - only pointed us to another place where we could queue for tickets. Thanks for the informative signage guys. Finally reached the hostel (40 dorm beds in a big basement - cheap and no frills, but not too bad) and fell asleep for a few hours. Woken by someone from a radio station looking to interview people in hostels! We walked through town after lunch. On the way over the bridge to the palace, Kate saw someone who looked like Tiff walking along the other side of the bridge. We called out - and indeed it was Tiff! We thought she was still back in Helsinki, having managed to miss us by a couple of days absolutely everywhere (she travelled the other way through Finland). We wandered around the old town, had dinner and planned to meet the next day. The basement was actually dark (first time we'd had dark in ages) and nobody turned the lights on, so we slept right through until 11am (we were supposed to be checked out by 11 - oops!) Packed quickly and back into the city to meet Tiff. We decided on the palace as our tourist thing, and saw heaps of tapestries, amazing rooms and a museum of the history of the palace. On the way back to the station afterwards we bought food for the trip, but we think we left our Scandenavia Lonely Planet book there, because we can't find it now. Oh well, one thing we won't have to post home! X2000 high speed train was great. Christer met us at the train station and we trammed back home. Tickets and machines are similar to Melbourne, but they last 90 minutes (exactly) from first validation. The card also has a fixed amount of money on it, so you press a button on the front of the green box to select the fare instead of buying a different card. The machine eats that much money off the card, and you are validated. You can also put more than one person on the same card, which would be really handy sometimes in Melbourne. Today we went into the city to meet Tiff (she caught the train down this morning), checked out a museum, then caught a ferry to see the ruins of some old fortifications. They weren't that interesting, and we missed the next ferry back by 30 seconds! Not so good, but after buying food for dinner at the biggest shopping centre in Sweden, we were a little happier. Kate also found some really good quality polarised clip-on sunglasses, so she'll be able to handle the weather here better. The trip to Germany has to go a long way out of our planned route due to the stupid restrictions on the Eurail tickets, so we're going to skip Hamburg and spend an extra day in Vienna and an extra day in Berlin. It seems a pity, but it's just too fast otherwise. Anyway, I have to go wash dishes (having been voted official dishwasher for the night). Kate's learning a new card game, and Tiff (who couldn't find a hostel) is setting up to sleep on the couch here! Oh, and Christer has a US keyboard, it's a pleasure typing on a keyboard where they keys are in the right place!
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