620 km international train
12 km by bike
Tuesday night I kick around an increasingly cold Malmo, spinning out time at a few venues finishing with a Polish bar – where it occurs to me that eating egg, fish and onions before sharing a small train carriage with six others could be considered antisocial, but not until I’ve ordered. Never mind – my snoring will far outstrip smell in annoyance factor. It’s on the main square where several restaurants and bars spill out onto the cobbles. Most venues in Sweden have blankets on their outside chairs, very wisely. Here however, they’ve gone straight for the patio heater option – I count sixty at one place alone, all burning away brightly. And the really sick thing is – it’s still cold.
At the station I pass the last half hour before my train arrives practicing the hula hoop but people keep watching so I’m reluctant to try any of the new moves Katface showed me at the weekend in case I drop it or send it spinning off into someone’s head.
The train arrives in Stockholm just after 5. We can stay on until 7 but all my bunkmates seem keen to get off as soon as we get there and so, my sleep disturbed, I emerge into the Stockholm morning, blinking and shivering just after 6am. Hammerby Sjolstad, the development I’m here to see, is a couple of km out, through the old town – beautiful – all of the castlyness they didn’t bother with in Malmo clearly went into creations of palatial splendour up here. The entire city seems to be waterfront which makes directions easier as if you know which ‘island’ you’re on and which one you want you can just count the bridges. The cycling is good - they have over 700km of cycle routes in Stockholm - even if they’re not busy they are at least well used and I see enough cyclists to remind me that I don’t have an automatic link to anyone on two wheels and that grinning at them will only make me look like a nutter.
After touring Hammerby Sjolstad and even leaning how to pronounce it (see separate blog post) I go in hunt of a hostel. I can’t find the one I was looking for but wind up, unsurprisingly, on a waterfront - where they have boat hotels and even boat hostels so I book into ‘The Red Boat’ I am downstairs and the portholes look onto the street rather than the water and I am sharing with one other but the bunks are big, bedding is included and it’s a boat! I love sleeping on boats – I reckon that the small dark spaceness of it and the gentle rocking must be some kind of primitive womb fantasy - so I have a disco nap before heading out to the Stockholm Aikido dojo where I spend an hour and a half with Mats and about ten of his students throwing each other around. He teaches in English for me and gives me a copy of a book he’s written on Aikido basics, mostly in Swedish but with lots of photos and some English and a DVD copy of an interview he had with Saito Sensei. I try out my aikido joke with one of the ladies although I have to explain the whole concept of lightbulb jokes first but it gets a laugh and I suspect it will be translated and carry on it’s way around the globe.
Afterwards I realize it’s earlier than I thought so go out to ‘Charlies bar’ for some of the worst calamari I’ve ever had, really thick batter and so overcooked it’s like eating bits of deep fried inner tube but they have eighties pop on the juke box so I forgive them.