The beginning

Trip Start Aug 19, 2007
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Trip End Dec 25, 2007


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Flag of Australia  ,
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The final pack before moving away for about 2 years wasn't as frantic as would be expected. There's only so much they let you take on planes now, so a majority of the packing involved things that would sit at home in boxes instead of being riding across the world in a 747. As it was I had too much stuff and was forced to create an impromptu carry-on bag so my check-in wasn't too far over the limit. I don't understand though - the plane is going to end up carrying it all anyway, so why can't I just check it in?! This wasn't the first time that this 36 hour transit from the Gold Coast to Stockholm was going to be annoying.

I have a message to all those currently protesting the further development of Heathrow. If you're worried about the world turning into hell, then i'm sorry, there are areas which already have - the transit route from terminal 4 to terminal 1. It took almost 2 and a half hours to do the transit. All of it standing, most of it still. After very little sleep, a hangover from 2 night on the turps and, by then, about 30 hours of transit, the last thing I needed was to mimic a snail for 2 hours also carrying the extra stuff they wouldn't let me check in. The quicker they build that new terminal to stop that being common practice the better.

Hopefully it'll reduced the number of bags being lost too. I wasn't the only one who started for the service desk following the message which came over the loud-speaker informing us that all the bags had been unloaded and put on the conveyor. About 5 other people had done the exact same transit through Heathrow and were missing at least one bag. Luckily my main one had made it so I had some clothes. But i'm missing my pluggers.

The train from Arlanda to Stockholm reaffirmed, along with my other experiences, that the trains back home when compared with any of the European ones built around the same time are an absolute waste of time. It was clean, fast and quiet. Maybe a little expensive but then everything here is.

I really should have picked up a bottle of vodka duty-free on the way in. Clearly I was thinking it can't be that expensive from one of the state run alcohol outlets. So did I get a surprise when I checked the prices on my first trip to a Systembolaget (only retail outlets in Sweden for anything over about 3.5% alcohol) for a 75cl bottle of Absolut. Considering it's produced by a state-owned company, it's a fair rip at 230skr ,or about $46 oxford-scholars, compared with the 125skr you pay duty-free. The beer selection isn't too bad, but the range leaves something to be desired compared with the First Choices and Dan Murphys' of this world.

I'll leave my first impressions of Stockholm for another post, but I'll say my initial experience wasn't quite the orthodox bit of a wander round and a beer. Thanks to the frantic repack whilst checking in I'd accidentally left the keys to the lock on my suitcase in the actual lock. It was no surprise when the bag emerged in Stockholm with a lock disappointingly free of keys in it. I lobbed at the hostel and after the helpful hostel lady had at it with a hammer and chisel I figured i'd need a hardware store and some bolt cutters. I was informed where one might be, but we weren't too sure of the locale. So I scoured several blocks of the Kungsholmen island looking for this mythical hardware store. During this time I couldn't help but notice the extraordinary of  7-11s around, with one at almost every intersection for blocks. And the sushi restaurants. Anyway, I finally found what I wanted, paid the extortionate fee of $90 for the hand-held bolt cutter and headed off to free my imprisioned belongings. As an added bonus the hostel hostess decided to buy the bolt cutter from me. Score.

The first few days were quite good, mostly sight seeing as opposed to house hunting. But that eventually came and I found a place for the first few months in an outer suburb of Stockholm called Upplands Vasby. It was quite a score actually, considering the misfortunes of all those who organised accommodation through KTH.

In the week before uni kicked off I headed across the Baltic to Finland and Estonia on one of the numerous cruise ships that do it daily. It was fun. And cheaper to get on the piss than Sweden.

The contrast between Finland and Sweden, Helsink and Stockholm in particular, was more pronounced than I expected. The Finnish people and their language differ pretty dramatically to the Swedes and their dialect too. Anyway, lots of differences.
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