I landed in Stockholm at one and was on the train to Kalmar by half-three.
Contintental Airlines, the foul, wretched bastards they are, may they rot in Hell, had still not found luggage, so I went to Sweden with no "going out" clothes. Continental lost my luggage (again) when I flew from New Jersey back to the U.K. Because of colossal incompetence on Continental's part, I didn't get to fly from New Jersey to Edinburgh, but instead to Birmingham and then to Edinburgh. But never mind that. I'm just trying to put it all behind me.
The train to Kalmar wasn't really a train to Kalmar, but a train to Alvesta and then a switch to a train to Kalmar.
The trains in Sweden run on time. Exactly on time. There are signs everywhere that say: "We apologise if the door shuts in your face, but the conductor must ensure that the train leaves on time. Next time, perhaps you could show up early for your train." I'm not joking - that's really what it says.
I paid heed and got on the train as soon as it arrived. Swedish trains are also incredibly clean. The first train, the futuristicly named X2000, was immaculate. It's supposed to be a bullet train; flooding slowed it to a crawl. If it were not for the fear of a missed connection, this would have been fine. The scenery was breathtaking. The lakes along the track had risen to the point where it felt as though you could reach out the window and touch them.
The slowing and stopping was preceded by announcements. In Swedish. I don't speak Swedish, or at least not enough to be able to understand the conductor. Two girls who were on the train took pity on me and translated.
When they asked where I was going, I said I was headed to �land, except that my accent is so thick in Swedish that I said �land. Really, they're very close...except that the girls and most of the folks on the train were from Linkoping, so for them it sounded as though I'd said �land, unambiguously.
They looked at me, slightly stunned and said, "Good luck!" in a way that suggested that I'd need it.
From that point forward, whenever I asked for help or directions and folks asked me where I was going, they thought I said �land. And I kept getting told over and over again I'd need to charter a plane or find a fisherman or rent a boat or take the ferry. And I'd have to be careful and make sure I got my passport stamped whe I entered Finland...
Eventually I gave up and just used a map. And there, the problem was revealed. I realized I'd been saying �land instead of �land when I saw �land on the map. Both are islands off the coast of Sweden. �land is halfway between Sweden and Finland; it was ceded to Finland after the war of 1809. Folks on �land have tried on numerous occasions to rejoin Sweden but have been denied. Oddly, the League of Nations settled the dispute in 1914 in a very lasting way and �land is now officially a Swedish speaking autonomous region in Finland with its own parliament and powers of taxation.
What it isn't, however, is �land. �land is a resort island off the coast of Sweden where Sweden's rich and famous come to party in the summer. Anna, Jessi and Anneli are working there this summer and I took a week to go and visit them.
This is Anna:
And Anneli, whom you've seen before:
The very first day, Anna and I went shopping to replace the clothes that Continental Airlines had lost. We took the bus into Kalmar...and came across a KKK Mart. Anna couldn't understand why I found this so funny.
Suitably clothed for going out, we also bought some drinks at the local offie and went back to the caravan to prepare ourselves for the evening.
Here is a short film of Anna preparing herself for the evening. Anna is elegant as well as intelligent, a fatal combination.
Update: The film of Anna has been removed, because, well, everyone who was supposed to see it has and the URL referrers for folks coming to look at it all have "hot Swedish babe" in the search string. Basically, it's folks searching for soft-core porn and serving their prurient interests, not folks who want to see Anna getting ready for a night out in Sweden during the summer of 2004.