Monday, March 28, 2005

OK, so it would appear I have a lot of time on my hands today..I am in bloody Sweden and I am blogging..there is something wrong about that, but it can't really be helped and, to be honest, I don't really care - I've had a fab holiday and some downtime is definitely in order. OK, so I guess I'll give y'all the play by play but you can scoot down to the bottom of this entry for a short synopsis of Easter in Sweden!

Thursday

Met up with Natasha in front of (you guessed it) the ubiquitous McDonald's and we wandered, without map or destination, around Stockholm for the next SEVEN hours. It was a gorgeous day and Tash's advice to dress like I was in Canada was rather unnecessary. I was Sweating in Sweden. Stockholm is built on an archipelago (I've always wanted to use that word!) and so we island hopped. Citites with harbours rule. So do cities full of beautiful Swedish people, aside from the fact that one such as myself begins to get a complex... Anywho, Stockholm was great - my favorite area was Gamla Stan (the Old Town), with its cobblestone streets and quaint shops...the numerous candy stores were an added bonus :)

We headed back to Vasteras, which is about an hour outside of Stockholm and where Natasha is doing her 'studies' (quotations there because I soon learned that there is not much studying or learning involved in her programme). We spent the evening playing drinking games with some of the other international students, 1 Austrian girl and 2 Costa Rican guys -and let me say, that's another country I wouldn't mind visiting for the scenery ;) Natasha didn't represent Canada well in the drinking part - she may, in fact, be a cheaper drunk than half-pint Keri, but I made up where she was lacking, much to my regret the next day! A good night was had by all, but I did forfeit my early to bed plan... ah how I love travelling.

Friday

Anne arrived in Vasteras from Stockholm and Natasha hopped on the same train, headed for Helsinbourg. She planned to stay there for the weekend and left us with her keys (hehehe)! Anne and I spent Friday in Vasteras. We walked A LOT. It is 3 km from the city centre to Tash's residence. On Thursday I estimate I walked at least 20 km. On Friday I think I probably walked another 15 km. The plan was to get a ferry to one of the islands on the lake that Vasteras sits on. One wee problem - no ferries running - apparently ice is a bit of an impediment to water travel here. Boo!!! So we decided to head for the one island that is linked to the mainland by bridge and it was cool - just a nature walk, but really very nice and relaxing. Save, of course, for the constant pain in my legs.

Yeah, this has been an on-going problem since I arrived. See, I was sick for the two weeks prior to this trip so was on a short sabbatical from my usual gym routine. Then all of a sudden I'm walking massive amounts. My legs hate me, and I am not particularly fond of them. Gah!

Right, so after Bjourno Island we headed back to the residence and after a quick meal at the local pizzeria (i know, i know, but it was the only thing open!!) we just chilled out. I *may* have fallen asleep at 8.00. Whoops

Saturday

After little debate and much time getting ready in the morning (curse my hair and skin outbreak), we headed off to Örbero, which is an hour west of Vasteras on the train. No particular reason we chose this destination, other than it had a castle (Anne was intrigued by this. Personally, having lived in Scotland for ten months, I think I have seen enough castles to last me a lifetime). It was a really lovely, quaint town..much more picturesque than Vasteras and we stumbled upon an park where there were a bunch of little houses set up with craft displays, baking, etc. It was good and there was a free toilet there - always a bonus!!

Hmm...we returned to Vasteras around 5 and decided to check out the Old Town. After a little wander we decided it was time to make the long hike back to the residence. Suddenly I looked up and noticed a #19 bus across the street. After a quick check to make sure Anne was OK with paying the fare, we hopped on. The day before I had talked to a bus driver who advised that the #19 was the only bus that would go by the residence. Of course, in my hurry not to miss the bus (they don't wait around for anyone here), I kind of forgot to check that it would be going in the right direction. Of course, it wasn't. We were headed in the opposite direction and people were piling off of the bus until, suddenly, it was just me and Anne. The bus driver turned round and asked where we were going and when I told him, he mumbled something then said 'I will show you'. He started driving and, after a few seconds I realised we were getting chaffeured to our destination cause he wasn't stopping anywhere and had hauled his rig onto the high way. I contained my hysterics. Natasha would never believe this - she had carreid on about how the Swedish were not friendly and bus drivers would run you over if you made them even a minute late. And here we were getting driven back to our residence, totally off the bus route.

The bus driver pulled up near our residence and opened the doors. We thanked him and hopped off. I was already bursting with laughter but then, as Anne and I were walking away i heard a loud crunch and clang. Looking back I realised the driver had decided to do a 3 point turn on teh road nad had backed into a lamp post. He pulled ahead then backed into it again. Honestly, I couldn't help but laugh..until Anne told me he had damaged the back of his bus (without my glasses on I was convinced the lampost had suffered all the damage). Anyways, so that was that - Swedish hospitality at its best. Perhaps that's why they don't like to help out all the time...

Sunday

Anne & I woke up at 8.30 and decided we would aim to get to the 10.54 train to Stockholm because the next one after that was at 12.54. We wanted as much time as possible in the capital before Anne had to head back to Skvasta airport. Unfortunately, as I was eating my cereal at 9.45 one of the other resident's reminded me to put my clock ahead an hour. I informed him I had already adjusted my watch to local time when I was on the plane here. He shook his head and tried to tell me again that the time had changed, but I was insistent that I had already adjusted my watch. Then he pointed at the time on the t.v. screen and I thought 'oh shit'. Bloody daylight savings time..screwed me up when I was in France and now it was screwing me up in Sweden. Suffice to say our time in Stockholm was shortened considerably. On the plus side, at least we discovered before Anne's flight was gone...

Stockholm with Anne was a bit different than Stockholm with Natasha - namely because Natasha tends to talk your ear off and Anne tends to be rather introspective. I think I am a happy medium. I like to think I am anyways. Í saw many of the same sights I had when I was there on Thursday, with one big exception. Anne and I ended up going to the Viking Museum, where there was a real Vkiing warship on display. It was in perfect condition, considering it was 400 years old. Basically it had sunk as it was leaving the harbour on its maiden voyage, so it had never been to sea. It was preserved by the silt that it was lying in and was raised in 1961. It was amazing and the rest of the museum's exhibits were v interesting. After a very quick sushi dinner I said goodbye to Anne and bided my time until I could get back to Vasteras. And that's it. Sweden so far..


The Short Version of That:

I did a lot of walking, ate a lot of candy, saw some old buildings and enjoyed Stockholm whilst listening to Natahsa complain about everything from the schools here to the people here to the food. Met up with Anne, toured Vasteras and went on a nature walk. Visited a town with a castle and a very nice park. Was chaffeured home by a Swedish bus driver who may be in trouble as a result of running into a lamp post after he dropped us off. Forgot to 'leap into spring' and missed traint o Stockholm. Toured Stockholm again and saw an amazing Viking ship.


The Other News

OK, so my second purpose for coming to Sweden was to determine whether it would be feasible-worthwhile for me to study her. The program I want to do is only offered in Sweden, in a town on the South coast. Well, Natasha quickly dispelled any romantic ideas I might ahve ahad about education in Sweden or living in Sweden. While the schooling may be free, it seems that the quality of education is compromised... None of the students I ahve met seem particularly enthralled with their classes and most of them find school to be a bit of a joke. The standards are basically not on par with other countries and the term 'Masters degree' may very well be more like an Honours degree (which, thank you, I already have). The most disappointing discovery, however, is that student jobs are basically non-existent. Students, as a rule, do not work while studying and jobs are so scarce that those who do work generally do something like deliver newspapers. Hmm--there is no way I can live in an expensive country like this without working for nine months.

So I'm going to move to Belfast instead. Hehe. OK, well that's just a thought- but one I am giving a great deal of thought to. Don't get me wrong, i love Edinburgh, but with everyone on the brink of leaving, me thinks I best start considering what I want from my two year visa in the UK. And another chance in Ireland might just be up my alley. If I can only convince Shields to join me.

Ah, but summer will be spent in Edinburgh, no doubt about that. So, if you're planning to visit , best make it in the summer, when you'll be guaranteed a spot in our livingroom.....

That was a damn long blog entry. Good thing I am in no hurry to go anywhere today. In fact, I have too much time on my hands at the moment. Maybe I will go do something....

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