Sunday, September 2, 2012

malmö train station: a trifecta of goodness (& free wifi)!

woke up on norwegian air flight somewhere over the alps.  first thing I saw out the window of the plane was a wind farm with at least 20 turbines just sitting in a wheat field.  within about 10 minutes I must have seen over a thousand turbines, mostly in fields that looked to be farmland.  it looks like these people know something.  

wind turbines from plane window over Denmark
40 wind turbines in Danish farmland.  It seems even during a bad year with the crops the wind still blows.
paid 25 danish kroner for a 33cl coke.  free internet on a plane.  norwegian is the first company in europe to do it.  tried to log onto the internet with limited success.  downloaded pictures off the camera.  emailed anne but couldn’t email tamara because the connection was too weak for gmail.  evil 1, good 0.  
wind turbines offshore near Copenhagen
another array of wind turbines.  saw these on the descent into Copenhagen.  They are probably in the Oresund Strait.
still need to read that email from tamara but need internet.  saw a wifi hotspot sign.  followed the instructions but did not receive the email activation quickly.  got impatient.  followed signs for the bathroom.  airport seems very crowded.  found the signs and went down three flights of stairs.  secret underground lair bathroom.  each stall had tiled walls.  privacy.  but no sign of ventilation except a crack of light coming under the door.  sounds carry almost the same as hung partitions but maybe its better.  dual flush toilets must be standard here.  they had a little symbol on the top with a half full circle and a full circle.  even their signage is thoughtful.  

went to the exchange place looking to get rid of some traveler's checks.  turns out traveler's checks are pretty much useless in italy or maybe anywhere.  exchange place seemed to be working until I mentioned travellers checks.  she told me to go to amex to exchange them.  waited in an unnecessarily long line at amex.  there were three people on computers right in front of us.  each of the first two had a sign on the counter that said “the agent in the next window will be happy to help you.  nice.  why don’t they just say 'I am busy doing something that makes my company more money than exchanging your weak dollar for our strong danish kroner.  plus I am better looking than you.'?

when it was finally my turn she got three phone calls in a row. two of which she handed to her buddy who was magically taking human customers all of the sudden.  she took the travellers checks and had to make another phone call supposedly to verify something.  then she entered a whole bunch of numbers into the phone.  standard procedure?  standard.  for the record, danish kroner and swedish kroner look almost identical. she tells me to look carefully because at the bottom of danish kroner it says "danish" and at the bottom of the swedish kroner it says nothing.
sek, danish kroner.  exchange rate is 6.5 sek to 1 usd
Danish kroner, swedish kroner, and swedish coins.  exchange rate for swedish is about 6.5 sek to $1.
eventually I had danish kroner and swedish kroner in my hands and moved back to finding the internet.  turns out you have to actually wait a few minutes for the email to come through.  no patience because I needed to get my bag off the conveyor.  followed signs to baggage.  mine was on a conveyor belt that was empty and not moving.  no surprise.  wifi plus bathroom plus amex could have been 45 minutes.

next mission: buy a ticket to malmo.  line was obviously long and a guy at the front was hassling the woman speaking into the microphone about his invalid ticket.  she tells him to see the station master and that there’s nothing she can do.  steff’s place, the hot dog stand sells beer too... plus I have danish money.  gotta stop there... gotta get to malmo...  I like her british accent.

train arrives almost instantaneously.  smooth as silk.  yes this is the train to malmo.  once on the train the first person I see has a celeste blue bianchi, circa 1995.  his is not made of Reynolds and the badge is a sticker not a metal emblem.  we talk for a few minutes about biking.  I ask him for a good shop in town.  he recommends fridhem near riversborg beach.  gotta check that place out.  I ask a young woman which stop to get off at to get to vastra hamnen.  she doesn’t know but three other helpful people know and one even tells me bus #2 gets me from the train station to vastra hamnen.  she’s speaking spanish to her son and another man.

train stops are smooth and quick.  people are orderly and polite.  2 minutes, four minutes, twelve minutes to Lund from Malmo Center.  fast.  arriving at Malmo Center another helpful person tells me the buses are straight ahead.  maybe people want to practice their english?  entering the train station I notice the beautiful shape of the roof.  timbers painted red and bent to a perfect arch.  bolted together.  must be fifty feet high.  

I pass by the swedish hot dog spot and the american food place with hamburgers and french fries.  I see the sushi place and several different versions of a cafe and a coffee shop as well as a smoothie store.  I get to a shop that looks like heaven.  a young blond woman is pulling little open faced sandwiches from under a glass counter and adjusting them onto a little rectangular plate that fits three perfectly.  she makes a plate of pickled herring, salmon, and pate.  the world’s most perfect plate.  each more delectable than the last.  she serves it to two older folks at bar stools who order two carlsbergs as liquid compliment.  it is here that I decide to ask about internet in malmo.  the girl does not quite understand but the other woman working at the shop who looks like she could be the mother of the younger waitress tells me in perfect english that there is free wireless in the train station.  tack.  

pickled herring, salmon, and pate + a falcon beer
the trifecta of swedish goodness (I came to find out later that these little delectable sandies are actually Danish in origin.  still delicious though
I move away from the counter to test the internet.  within minutes I am signed up on the free cloud and ready for lunch.  The trifecta of swedish goodness is mine along with a swedish beer.  I set up shop at the corner of the counter and click through an email to tamara explaining that I have arrived a day early and asking to add one night to my reservation of three weeks at her apartment in Vastra Hamnen, the western harbor.
while I await a response I charge my iphone, which is also on the internet thanks to the wifi.  no charges as long as I keep it on airplane mode and do not activate the phone portion which would allow calls and texts.  I google tipping practices in sweden and find out that food and drinks are usually tipped by rounding up and everything else including services receives no extra compensation.  when I pay I round up from 95 to 100 swedish kroner, about $16 I think.  not the cheapest but certainly the best meal I have ever had in a train station.
still no response from tamara so I guess I need to go to the bar in the train station to watch Man U versus South Hampton.  drinking a falcon on tap for a whopping 80 kroner I watch Man U getting picked apart by a clearly inferior South Hampton squad.  the game goes up and down and I become friends with a local guy from malmo sitting next to me.  he’s clearly rooting for Man U so I do the same.  after an obvious foul in the box, newly acquired Van Persie needs only to slide a penalty past the outclassed South Hampton goalkeeper to tie the game at two, but he tries the old slight chip and in a twist the goalie pops up his outstretched hand for an amazing save.  they’re still in the game with a one goal lead and only 20 minutes left.  you know your team is amazing when Nani is a bench player.  he comes on and eventually Van Persie scores two more for the hat trick and the win, the clincher 3.45 into 4 minutes of extra time.
complete with Menino autograph
of course the first bar I come to in Malmo is Boston themed.  even has a young Menino autograph on the wall.
now that the game is over, I have another beer with my new friend, Robin.  he’s studying to be a teacher at the local university.  he laughs when I call it that.  everyone here calls it the college.  we talk about sustainability, the growth and evolution of malmo as a city, and how education plays a role in development of children's views on sustainable living.  quite an interesting conversation for a couple of sports nuts at a bar drinking falcons on tap.
Tamara sends me a text and tells me to come over after 8pm when she gets home, so I finish my beer and look around for a ticket booth.  I see a machine and a guy feeding money into it.  he explains that I need to buy a jojo card (their version of a charlie card).  the bus stops in this town are state of the art, complete with digital signs that announce the next bus.  mine is the number 2 and goes to what was once the shipbuilding capitol of Europe.

digital sign announcing bus arrivals
bus station outside train station.  digital announcement for bus arrival times.
I get off the bus and walk a couple hundred meters in the direction I think I need to go and arrive at what seems like the end of the earth in terms of urbanity.  the wind is blowing fiercely and the street abruptly ends by turning from pavement into gravel.  there are no more street lights.  ahead of me and on both sides there are construction vehicles parked for the night and several pretty solid configurations of shipping container job site "trailers".  I'm standing in front of a building on Riggaregatan in Vastra Hamnen.  maybe I am at the end... or maybe its just the beginning...

arriving in vastra hamnen and about to turn onto Riggaregatan
looking back toward the turning torso in Vastra Hamnen from the end of my street.

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