Saturday, October 14th, 2006:
Helsingborg to Stockholm:
A weekend adventure
Firstly, I must convey a very Happy Birthday to my big sister:
Sis, when we were younger, I thought you were a total bitch, and completely unbalanced - especially for a Libra. But now I think you're OK, and I hope you have a good one.
Now that that's out of the way, here's a post about a trip I took to Stockholm last weekend (October 6th-8th, 2006). The purpose of my trip was two-fold: to visit my ex, and to meet up with some folks who post on the forum at The Local (Sweden's news in English).
When I was leaving work on Friday, and heading out to Knutpunkten (the train station, which is also a bus station and ferry terminal), I bumped into a colleague known as Badlands. It just so happened that he was going to the station to pick up his kids for the weekend.
We both had a bit of time to spare, so we decided to grab a beer together at Crombar (formerly Snaps), which is a little pub attached to Knutpunkten. It was a good start to the weekend. Here's Badlands:
I've told him a million times that he should really get that annoying older-looking cojoined twin of his removed from his right shoulder blade, but he claims that the chicks love him, especially the more experienced ones. Fair enough; to each their own, I say.
Helsingborg's airport is actually in Ängelholm, so I got the train there. When I got to Ängelholm, I went outside to catch the airport bus. But I couldn't find it. I went back inside to ask the nice foreign man who runs the little shop in the station where the bus stop is. He told me that there are no buses from there to the airport. What!? No buses from Ängelholm train station to Ängelholm airport? Nope, apparently not. Right.
He offered to call me a cab to take me there. If I give him 10 Kronor (US$1.35/£0.73/€1.08). Fine. Whatever. I gave him the coin and he made the call. The taxi would take about 15 minutes. OK, I have time.
Then I realised that I should get some change, as I only had a couple of 500 Kronor notes (today, 500kr is worth about US$67.40, or £36.30, or €53.90). I picked up a little ice cream sandwich thing (which was 15 Kronor) and handed over the 500. He showed me a 20 Kronor note, and made some pointless joke about it being "better to lose one of these than a 500, right? Haha."
Yes, haha indeed.
I should point out here that the 20 Kronor note is the smallest in circulation in Sweden, and 500 is the largest one commonly used (there is a 1000 note, but you don't see many of those).
The man took my 500 Kronor note, and gave me my change all in 20 Kronor notes (except for the few coins). I'd really hoped for normal change, like a couple of hundreds, to be honest. And he didn't just hand the notes over, oh no; he counted them out, meticulously, onto the counter (is that why it's called a counter?).
Then he counted them out in his hand, one by one, slowly, to make sure it was right. I was getting a bit impatient by now. Finally, he handed over my stack of twenty-four 20 Kronor notes, and asked me to count them once more. I told him that I'd seen the change counted twice, and that it was good enough for me, thank-you-very-much. I stomped outside to wait for my cab, and chain-smoked to calm me down. Stupid bastard. Like I had any intention of losing any money, regardless of denomination, in the first place.
A few minutes later, this Swedish guy came up to me and asked if I was English. After my reply in the affirmative, he informed me that he'd just called for a cab, and was told that one had been ordered for an English guy, and that he might as well share that one to the airport. Fair enough; we'd split the fare.
We chatted for a bit while waiting for the taxi. He's a nice guy who lives in the north of Sweden. He's taking some train drivers' course down here. Every week, he takes a train to Stockholm and flies down here, then heads home to his family for the weekend. And we made fun of the guy in the shop. Nice friendly small talk.
When I told him that I found it a bit odd that there aren't any buses for the airport, he informed me that there are buses that go to the airport, but they go from Helsingborg. What?
So, I'd just sat on a train for twenty minutes, got stuck with a wallet full of bloody 20 Kronor notes, and would now have to pay half a cab fare, when I could have just hopped on a bus from Knutpunkten, where I'd been having a beer with Badlands just under an hour before? Nasty Karma? What had I done to deserve this? Was I a serial kitten rapist in a previous life, or what?
Luckily, the rest of the journey was fairly uneventful. We got to the airport (which, by the way, looks more like a services stop along the M1 motorway (in England) than an airport), and I had a beer.
At the gate, someone came up to me to say hello. I knew I'd seen her somewhere before, but didn't remember where. I did what I normally do, and said long-time-no-see, what-you-been-up-to, etc. hoping for clues, but none were forthcoming. Nevermind.
I got to Stockholm-Arlanda, and got the bus to Central Station. I'd arranged to meet the ex at the station. I rang her from the bus, and and she told me that she was at O'Leary's, a sports bar chain, at the station. We met there, and had a drink. It was good to see her, and she was looking well.
We had a beer there, then decided to walk to another bar (sports bars aren't really our scene). Being Friday night after 9pm, there were queues outside most places, but she remembered some quaint German-style pub, with good old Oompah-type of music. Sounded like fun; why not?
As it turned out, that place no longer existed. In its place was a trendy wine bar kind of place, full of snobby-looking, posing Stockholmers. We had a beer there anyway.
Here's me having a beer at a trendy wine bar kind of place (with snobby-looking, posing Stockholmers in the background):
And here's a great photo of my ex (you may remember that she's a bit camera-shy):
We went to another bar, had another beer, then headed back to her place. We had a really nice chat, then it was off to bed...
It turned out to be a bit of a late night (we had to try out her new fingernails), so we slept in.
A load of us from The Local had arranged to meet at Wirströms in Gamla Stan ("the old town") at 3pm, but I was going to have a chat with Aneud (a no-longer-quite-so-regular poster) beforehand, so I got there by 2-ish. The ex was to show up later, when the rest of the Stockholm Contingent came.
Turned out that Aneud couldn't make it quite so early, so I chatted with Seventiesdreamer (a newbie) while waiting for the others.
The others came trickling in, and we managed to take up half of the back room of this fine Swedish-Irish watering hole. It was great to see them all. Here are just a few photos from the afternoon:
Me, with my arm around the ex. You can see a bit of her hair.
Maybe, one day, you'll be able to piece together all the bits I'm posting,
to get a complete picture...
Below are Petronella and 007 (Licenced to grin cheekily):
Me with Aneud (who has a cleavage
on which skateboarders would have a field day):
When Mutley and I went out for a smoke, I managed to get this nice shot of him
in front of the Pyramids in Egypt:
Although it was far too brief, I believe that a splendid time was had by all.
That evening, the ex and I had a nice English-style fry-up (but not with proper sausages, I'm afraid), and watched a film we'd rented - Firewall with Harrison Ford. I can recommend it, but I won't, in case most of you disagree. I don't like confrontations.
My flight was leaving at about 1pm-ish, so we said our goodbyes, and I left the ex at about 9:30. I'm usually an early-bird when it comes to getting to airports; I hate stressing about missing flights.
So there I was. Goodbye, Stockholm; goodbye Locals; goodbye, ex-girlfriend.
Back in Helsingborg:
Once back at Ängelholm airport, I decided to take the bus to Helsingborg. I'm a quick learner, aren't I?
I decided that I didn't really fancy going home straight away, so I called up the Yank to see if he wanted to grab a beer somewhere. We opted for Telegrafen. Although quite Swedish, its look & feel is one of the closest I've seen to a proper English pub. And they serve Fosters, which is my lager of choice when in London.
Then we went to Utposten:
It's a nice place, and it gets very busy on Friday and Saturday nights. But it was pretty dead on that Sunday early-evening. This is a sure sign that long nights are approaching. We had a beer, chatted to a couple of people, and left.
Before we'd gone in, we'd noticed a new thing nearby. It was kind of a concrete plinth with metal blocks of some kind of on it. We'd decided to check it out when we left.
It turned out to be a model of what Helsingborg looked like in the year 1400. It was a pretty cool thing to look at.
Here's a photo of it (sorry about the perspective; Utposten is not
actually a part of it; it was not open until much later than 1400,
I can almost certainly assure you):
We were fortunate enough to be there when one of the original architects of the time
was passing by (they say that Swedes live longer than people in many other European countries):
We also got to chat to a nice young German girl who was admiring the new addition
to the Helsingborg skyline.
Here, the Yank offers his services as her personal tour guide, the sly devil:
Then we were off to our penultimate pub destination, The Bishop's Arms, only a few metres away from Utposten and the new-old bit of scrap metal.
The Bishop's Arms pub has probably the best selection of beers in Helsingborg. You name it, and they may have heard of it. They might even have it. Actually, it is quite impressive (for this town, anyway). They've also got a good selection of Scotch whiskeys, if that's your dram of alcoholic liquid.
But unfortunately, their prices reflect their standards as a good ale house. You're getting quality beer, but you're definitely paying for it - which is fair enough. One of the things I admire most about this aspect of The Bishop's Arms is the way in which they market their high prices on the sign outside:
We rounded off our little pub crawl (and my weekend of semi-coherent debauchery) with a little walk towards the south of Helsingborg, and the Charles Dickens pub. I'm not going to show a photo of their place because I drink there so often, and have mentioned them in my blog so many times, that they should be paying me for even walking in their door by now.
Anyway, we had a couple of beers there, and waited for a friend of his who was going to come at I-mean-to his place. I was invited to dinner, and had a great meal (with lambchops).
We watched most of A Clockwork Orange, before Yank and guest wanted to get to bed. I took my cue (as in hint, not the stick for playing pool with), and left.
It was a great weekend, and for once, I'm glad that the Swedish government did nothing about it. That's what I think.