Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Post Without Pictures

I’m in Aare, Sweden, with hang gliders filling the sky above me. The hillside over which they’re soaring is covered in snow, though the air temperature down here on the train platform is remarkably warm. Here’s what I wrote on the train this morning; I figured I should go ahead and post it now just in case our hotel in Trondheim has no Internet.

It’s Thursday morning here, and I’m on a train in Sweden heading for Norway. We have been transported from the summer weather of Southeast Asia to the spring weather of the Netherlands to the late winter of Scandinavia. You know it’s cold when you see a Swede wearing a hat, a scarf, a coat, and mittens, as I did Tuesday in Lund. As I look into the woods on either side of the tracks now, there are more than traces of snow. There’s also snow on some of the flat roofs of buildings we can see in the towns. Some of the lakes beside the train tracks appear to be frozen solid judging from the tire tracks on them. The husband has been warned that I may be shopping in Trondheim tomorrow for another Norwegian sweater to add to my collection. We are supposed to spend the weekend at a cabin in the mountains outside Trondheim, and while I assume the inside will be heated, I know that the outside won’t.

The sons and I amused ourselves yesterday in Lund, Sweden, while the husband did physics things at the University of Lund. We were staying at the Djingis Khan Hotel. The cab drivers pronounced the first name with a “j” sound as in “Jingis Khan,” but as I told the husband I preferred to think of it as “Dingis Khan,” Genghis’s nerdy little brother. The sons and I chilled at the hotel until the noon checkout time was almost upon us, then stashed the luggage in the luggage room and headed into the Centrum (downtown) area with no plan other than meeting the husband at the train station at 5:15. We started out thinking that we would be walking through a park; however, it quickly became apparent that we were, in fact, walking through a graveyard. More specifically, we were walking through the area of the graveyard in which were buried babies who had been stillborn or who had died on the day they were born. My stomach jumped into my throat, and I almost cried as I read the tombstones, most with just a name and a single date. One had the same date twice, and one had two dates about a month apart. Almost all had some small toys or stuffed animals; some had fresh flowers; none looked untended.

After lolling a bit and taking some photos around a fountain in what looked to be a courtyard at an older part of the university, we lunched on falafel (younger son and I) and meat (older son) from a Middle Eastern eatery. We then wound our way circuitously to the Botanical Gardens, though we again found ourselves in a graveyard on the way. We enjoyed the Botanical Gardens until it started to sprinkle rain, after which we found our way to the sort of coffee shop in which you can linger for some time over a lavishly decorated latte and an exotic pastry. We left with plenty of time for another circuitous walk to the planned meeting at the train station.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view, we ended up walking down the street on which sat a store with the English name “Coins and Arms.” Sitting in the window amidst books, medals, some German World War I helmets (I already have one of these, that my paternal grandfather brought back from the war), and an engraved walking stick, was what appeared to be a vintage katana. We went into the store, and older son politely asked if he could look at the sword. The shopkeeper nodded. Older son removed the sword partway from the sheath, examined it, returned it to the sheath, and almost immediately excused himself. Younger son followed. I stayed and purchased some small coins for souvenirs, I also purchased an English two-shilling coin from 1951 as a gift for the husband (who was born in that year). For myself, I bought an English half-crown coin from 1956, my own birth-year. When I went outside, the sons were almost vibrating over the sword. Knowing the price of new swords not nearly as custom made as the one in the window was, they desperately wanted to split the cost and buy it. They knew, though, that if they asked my opinion, I’d say, “Sure!” and possibly even contribute to the cost. Their father, they knew, might look at it more rationally.

Off we went to the train station to wait for the husband and father. Coins and Arms closed at 5:30, so there was a general sense of disappointment when the husband failed to show at the appointed 5:15. At 5:20, I suggested that younger son return to the shop and ask the shopkeeper if he could stay open a bit late so that they could show the sword to their father. Not too many minutes later, the husband arrived, so I hustled him off with older son and a quick explanation, saying that I would wait at the station for them. The shopkeeper did keep the shop open, though he told younger son that he couldn’t stay for long since he had to go home and walk his dog before his bridge game later in the evening. When the men re-appeared, they were sword-less, though the plan is in place for the sons to investigate options for getting the sword back to the US either with them or shipped. If it appears do-able and if they still want the sword in a week and a half, their first stop on the way south from Oslo will be Lund to see if the sword is still available. There was also a knife in the window that they might be interested in instead of or in addition to the sword.

The excitement of the sword over, we had more excitement when older son realized we were walking by an outdoor store. He had meant to bring his handheld GPS unit with him but forgot it in the packing rush. We asked my mom to look in his room for it so that she could mail it to us in Hue. Older son’s room being a bit on the crowded side, she was unable to find It, so older son has been looking for one since then. The store in Lund did have the model he wanted, so he bought it. The first set of coordinates stored were those of Coins and Arms. There was no way they were going to not find that shop if they do come back for the sword.

We left Malmo, Sweden at 11:00 last night, arriving in Stockholm at 6:00 this morning. We waved farewell to Stockholm all of 30 minutes later on a train west. We had a ten-minute connection to another train an hour later, which turned out to be easier than expected since we got off the train from Stockholm, watched it leave, and then stepped on board the next train to pull up to the same platform. In about four hours, we’ll pull into Aare, Sweden, where we’ll get off and chill for a couple of hours before getting on the train for Trondheim. Train and weather gods willing, we’ll be there at a bit after 8:00 tonight. Assuming that the hotel has Internet access, I’ll post this. If there are any must-see photos from Lund or this train ride, I may post them separately. I don’t expect there to be Internet access at the mountain cabin where we’ll spend Saturday and Sunday. We’ll be back in Trondheim on Sunday night so that I can get my next rabies vaccine shot on Monday before we head to the Induroy area from which the husband’s grandfather emigrated to Canada.

1 comment:

VA said...

The referral several times to "chilling out" while in this relatively chilly spot was appreciated! Buy 2 sweaters - you won't get too many chances. And why not buy yarn?
Enjoy the cabin - and all! Such extremes you are enjoying together. Long and Well deserved!