So anyway, I hit the town last night in expectation of a big night in Stockholm. It had been a warm day, the homos had arrived for Europride, it was a full-moon, and you just knew it was gonna be a big one. And it was. In fact, it was too bloody crowded. Even the very lovely “Torget” was packed to the roof with dozens and dozens of people who all looked remarkably identical to each other.
So instead, I ended up at an Irish bar with an Australian barman behind the counter. As I entered the bar, however, there was already trouble going on. The bouncers were dealing with a Swedish bloke who was totally wasted. Inside I heard half the story, that someone else had taken his seat by accident or something like that. And then the Swedish bloke threatened to bring in the Hell’s Angels “to close the place down” or something like that. All too dramatic for a simple kid from the country, like me, so I finished my beer, went home and hit the sack.
And now I find myself in another bar in Eskilstuna, a town of about 20,000 (I think) about 75 minutes by train from Stockholm. There’s only five other people in the bar aside from me at the moment.
There’s two Irish blokes who are obviously having a totally dodgy conversation because they keep going back and forwards between English and Swedish (presumably because they think I’m listening in to their conversation – how rude to make such an assumption). The dodgy bits seem to revolve around how long it’s going to take to get married or something like that. Sorry guys, I know the Swedish word for marriage.
And at the other table is a young woman (maybe 25) with a child and a male partner who is much, much, much older. Lots of inappropriate personal displays of affection going on at that table, let me tell you. Let’s not go there.
“And how did I get to Eskilstuna” I hear you ask? Well, I woke this morning with a great desire to get out of Stockholm. I’ve been there for about ten days, and I guess I just needed a little bit of country air. Even beautiful cities can be like that. So I went to the train station, looked for the next “out of Stockholm” train and hopped on it.
It was a fast enough trip. So fast, in fact, that my ears popped on a couple of occasions, though to be honest I slept most of the way. Once you’ve seen one pine forest, you’ve seen ’em all, in my view. And small Swedish train stations seem also to have a certain sameness about them all.
I’ve found Eskilstuna, however, to be an incredibly friendly place. I’m not sure how many tourists they get around here, but I’ve found lots of people saying hello, welcome, and all of those things you might say to a tourist, if you were so inclined.
There have been three highlights to the trip.
First, a terrific river cruise to the nearby town of Torshalla (which incidentally was where Frida from ABBA was raised after fleeing Norway). The cruise was really lovely, the views quite spectacular, and once again, it was great to view the backyards of ordinary Swedes. All along the river people were swimming or relaxing and sitting enjoying the sunshine.
And, since it’s a regulated river, we got to go through a lock and weir system which dates back to the nineteenth century. A couple of hunky Swedish blokes came out and opened and closed the mechanical weir in, I guess, the same way, as people have been doing for several generations.
The second highlight was going on a big walk (maybe 10 kilometres) along the river. Along the way I passed two inland river beaches. I was intrigued by the cultural diversity of those people using them. This wasn’t your usual blonde Swedish crowd. There were lots of darker-skinned people, including quite a few from Africa.
And a third highlight was having lunch at a cafe on the river called Restaurang Abryggan. “You don’t have to speak Swedish you know”, the waitress said to me. “And when I replied I want to”, she happily acquiessed and we conducted our dealings in Swedish. I was quite proud actually, that I basically understood everything she had to say, and responded accurately, though obviously very simply.
Two other things I’ve noticed in Eskilstuna are the hair dressing salon named “Frida” (presumably named after the Princess) and a Dyk Center. Ok, I know it’s a diving centre, but it’s still funny when you see the sign.
Overall, it’s been a great day. Very enjoyable. The only disappointment was that I missed the 6.05 train back to Stockholm. I was only three minutes late, but as the next train is two hours away (hourly on weekdays, every two hours on the weekend), I’ve wandered around to find myself a nice spot – “The Bishop’s Arms” – for a bit of blogging and a bit of boozing. Blogging and boozing – it’s just like being back in Sydney, I guess.