Ferry to Helsinborg
Trip Start Unknown
24Trip End Jun 20, 2006
"Now", said my kind friend, "if you can only rest here a day or two, we will go as far as Gothenburg together; I would go with you at once, but that I feel ill: for I have already been some days travelling." I thanked him most sincerely, but assured him I feared to lose time, and I thought it better to go on at once. On inquiry we found a boat starting for Helsingborg, on the Swedish coast, in about and an hour. I resolved to go by this and got the waiter to procure me change for three sovereigns more, since he said I could exchange English gold at some sea-port further on in Norway as easily as I could Swedish money, if necessity arose for it.
"But will they take English sovereigns, then?" said I, innocently.
"I should think they would, and glad to get them" said the waiter with a smile. "They have no gold coinage here, and it is not every day they get a chance of seeing the metal."
The waiter stepped out and procured me change for my three sovereigns, in Swedish money. He put down a handful of coin for me to count, and then a great bundle of banknotes. Like countenance fell at the sight of the paper, for the larger part of the notes were for a Swedish dollar each, value 1s. 1½ d. I now found that this was the dollar of which my Danish acquaintance had spoken in his estimate of travelling expenses, and that the mile, moreover, was nearly seven of ours. Later on the journey I discovered, too, that their "Forbud", or special messenger, whom he had been obliged to send forward to order the horses, was not necessary in my case, for the simple reason that I travelled in winter, when but few others were on the road, and horses were more readily procured. I thus saved one dollar of the two he reckoned, and so found that instead of nine shillings per English mile, it would only cost about two pence!
JB wrote :
But this is rather premature. The waiter saw my discomforture as he handed me the paper notes, and assured me that it was the regular currency used everywhere in Sweden, and there would be no difficulty with it. Seeing from his face that he was an honest straightforward fellow, I rolled them up and pocketed them - but not before noticing in small type the startling announcement that "Whosoever alters or forges this note shall be hanged!" I am no advocate for capital punishment; but the northern simplicity and honesty of this notice provokes a smile that cannot be helped. There's no mincing the matter, or using fine language to soften it; no vague reference to "utmost penalty of the law," or "prosecution with rigour," or any ambiguity of that kind; but a sentence as plain as the ten commandments - "Do this, and thou shalt be hanged." I recollected too what a Swedish captain had once told me respecting their law against forgery; - "If a man skal take some little piece paper vot he skal not take, and write some ting pond at, vot he skal not write, vee catch him and make him dead for dat"
It was now time to depart for the Helsingborg steamer, and, in spite of all protestations against his doing so, my kind Swedish friend would leave his warm room, ill as he was, and walk down to the vessel's side with me. He said he been in England about twenty years ago: he could not tell whether he might ever come there again, but if he did he would certainly visit me. He asked for my card which I gave him; but I greatly regret that I parted with him without obtaining his in return; for I shall never forget his kindness to me - a stranger in a strange land. He shook hands warmly with me as the steamer left her moorings ; and there he stood on the quay, lifting his hat in the way his countrymen do, again and again, until we passed round some buildings - and I saw him no more.
I now felt my loneliness in its full force. I was a foreigner, seven hundred miles away from my own "sweet home", was no soul to speak to. Behind, far behind, lay the southern climes: before was the gathering gloom of a northern winter's night resting over a land of unknown danger and difficulty. The keen cutting wind was already paining me a good deal, though I gathered my rug more tightly round me, and tried to get into a sheltered spot. I yet cared not to go below into the cabin, for there was a strange beauty in he intense blueness of the water, that somewhat lulled, though it could not entirely divert, the sadness that opressed me.
Suddenly a well-dressed man of middle age, a Jew, stood before me. "Are you will, sir?" he queried. I thanked him, but assured him I was not. "I feared you might be," said he,"for you looked very mournful." I turned to the conversation, and he asked if I had far to go. I told him I wished to proceeded at once for Gothenburg, and asked him how quickly I could reach it.
"Why, you may get there to-morrow, if you could get a seat inside the diligence;" he replied; "but if you can't, it will take you - say three days." "Three days!" I replied; "why, I have only reckoned, by a the map, about a day for it! I don't care about a seat inside the diligence; I will ride outside, and travel all night!" He stared with undisguised astonishment at me for a moment, as though he was not sure he had understood me correctly, and then said slowly :- "You will ride at night outside? - and what have you got to travel with?" "Got? Why this great-coat, and this wrapper to put over my knees."
"Pooh!" said the Jew; "you have never been here before, I can see! You can't travel in Sweden with such clothes as that; you must have fur peltz to wear; you will freeze to death in these clothes, if you don't have fur!"
I was rather unprepared for this, and before I could the well tell what to make of it, a second Jew, a younger man, came up. He told me I might rely upon it, it was running a risk of which I had no idea, to travel in the country we were approaching without much more preparation against the cold. It suddenly struck me that the last speaker was a dealer in the articles he so strongly recommended; and, I suppose, he read the incredulity that lurked in my face, for he added: - "If you don't like buying expensive to, you can get a sheepskin in the town we are coming to, which will be just as warm; but you really must get something of the sort." He then told me he should be glad of my company in the diligence as Gothenburg, adding that he had secured his own seat by a telegram all the way from Hamburg, for it was often a most difficult thing to get a place during the winter time.
When these two gentlemen had left for a few moments, another sauntered up. He was a young man, with dark hair, and set, determined countenance. He advanced to within a couple of yards, and fixed his eye as I thought sternly upon me, and said abruptly: - " Do you call yourself a strong man?" I felt a little nervous at this, not exactly being able to see the drift of it, and answered quietly - "No, not that I know of; but what of that?" " Why this," said he, "that I heard what you said just now about travelling all night without fur, and I must tell you that I am a strong and hardy man, but I shouldn't like to do that. You may take my word for it, if you do, you won't get further than Gothenburg without being very ill; and it is not at all unlikely that you will die on the road!" "Well," said I,"I can't help it; I have begun a journey of much importance to me, and I can't draw back from it now! I have but little money, and I can't spare any of it to buy fur, so I must go on and run the risk, whatever it may be. Nothing but sickness or death shall stop me." I was greatly dispirited, but I spoke thus decidedly to save further parlaying on his part. I saw there was a great deal of pity under the cover of his sternness, and I changed the conversation by asking him whether I was speaking to a fellow-countrymen. "No! I am a Swede," said he. I inquired by what means he had become so familiar with our language; for he had a rapid off-hand way of speaking, which it seemed to me none but a native could have acquired. "Well," said he, "I was a quarter-master on board the ______ man-of-war, and I fought for your people on board of her, in the Crimean war. English is just the same to to me as Swedish; indeed, it is more, for I can think out a good many things easier in it. It is a richer language than Swedish.
Now the noise of all these English dialogues had not past unobserved by the other passengers: and a youth, who spoke a little of my native tongue, next came up on some pretence and remarked on the "weather," etc. I presently found he had relatives in Yorkshire, and he said his father would be on board at Helsingoer, when he would introduce him to me: adding, "he can talk to you much better than I can." I supposed his father to be an Englishman who had settled here; and was rather pleased with the prospect of meeting a countryman at last. Presently we drew up to the wharf at Helsingoer, and a man of about fifty was introduced to me by the youth with whom I just been talking. He lifted his hat, and made me a polite bow, and in the unmistakeable dialect of the "finest pisantry in the whorld" said: - "Shure, an how arrr ye, sirrr - an its raal proudh I am to see yeh yurr!" I assured him I was delighted see anyone from the "Old Country" - that I had lived in Ireland two years; and ended by inquiring what part of the Emerald Isle he came from. "Meself ? - shure an' I'm born yurr at Helsingoer!"
My disappointment was great, though I could not resist a smile at the wonderful imitation that had so deceived me. I have since found that my supposed Irishman is indeed a Dane, who boards all the vessels that come to Helsigoer - I think to supply them with vegetables, but who has practiced English for a lifetime, in its several great dialects; and that he is just as perfect as a Scotsman or Yankee when addressing a descendant of the Covenanters or the Pilgrim Fathers. He thought I was an Irishman, and honed his accents accordingly; and certainly I was never more completely mystified than by his sudden transformation into a Dane!
As the reader knows, the Danish and Swedish shores are here divided by a very narrow straight. I think it only took twenty minutes for our steamer to run over from Hensingoer to Helsinborg.
The Quarter-Master presently had a few words with the Jew who had first addressed me, as to which of them should see me up to the Post Office, and try to get me a place in the diligence. They arranged that the Jew should do so. Accordingly, just before we touched the wharf, he tapped to me on the shoulder, and bade me come in front of the crowd, ready to be ashore, and run up street in advance of them, to try and secure a seat before other comers might increase the difficulty. We were half-way up into the town before the other passengers were well ashore, when my conductor turned suddenly aside into the Custom-House - an establishment about as elegantly fitted-up as a cab-horse's stable. The Jew placed his package on the bench before two indolent officials, unlocked it, threw it open, shut it, re-locked it, and went off with it through the door opposite to that by which we had entered. I did the same; and in a little more time than it takes to describe it, I was at the heels of the good-natured Hebrew on the way to the Post Office.
Pushing his way into the principal room, and bowing to the clerks, he inquired, in English, whether they had a spare place left in the diligence for his friend here! A volume ledger-like proportions was lifted down from the shelf, and the clerk, after a little search in, looked up and said that I could go on "the day after to-morrow!" Here was another disappointment! The Jew assured me the best thing to do would be to wait. We had hardly got outside the door when the younger Jew and the Swede came up from the steamer. The former went in, and presently returned, looking "chop-fallen." "They have not saved my place after all! and I cannot go on until tomorrow night!" Then turning to me, he suggested that we should hire a conveyance together on to Gothenburg; whereupon we sought out a man who let vehicles of sundry kinds, and who spoke fair English.
I read the glance of this individual as he cautiously surveyed us, may be allowed to interpret it thus: -
"Well - here's a German Jew and an English Quaker, and if I can't make a few dollars out of the pair of them it's a pity! It isn't every day I get such a chance as this, and it isn't to be let slip! " Of course he didn't say this; but he did ask us one hundred and twenty to take us to Gothenburg! "A-hem!" said my semitic friend; "a-hem! - hundred and twenty dollars - that includes the horses and everything, of course?" O, no, that is for the carriage only; you have to find the horses........." and the fellow gave a wary look out of the kernel of his eye, at the Jew, who returned it a sweet smile at the reasonableness of the terms! The Swede put on a severe look of injured virtue and..."If I were you," said the Quarter-master, touching me on the shoulder, I'd have nothing to do with that fellow: he'll take you in. He asks you more than double what he ought. I'd leave him and the Jew to fight it out. I'll tell you what to do: I live at Engelholm, three miles on the road you are going, and you can come on as far as my lodgings to-night and rest. You can't gain anything by travelling all night; and if you come with me you will be twenty English miles on; and you can start as early as you like the morning. You may almost get to Gothenburg by tomorrow night, if you do this; and what's more, I can put you up to some things that may be useful to you in travelling, and I will lend you a cloak to keep the cold out. You can send it back from Gothenburg when you get there."
I was really tempted to take the new bridge over to Malmo, but decided instead to take the train up to Elsinor and then the ferry over to Helsinger in Sweden. So I breakfasted (OF COURSE... I had Danish pastries) and walked two blocks and caught the suburban train up the coast. It was full of families heading for one of the many beaches along the way, and there was also a contingent of Rotarians on their way to see "Hamlet's Castle". JB went in and out of Helsigoer harbour straight past Elsinor Castle.
Why no mention of Hamlet/Shakespeare, then? It seems out of keeping for him to miss this opportunity to put in a bit more information. Perhaps he was shaking too much from the cold or taken up too much talking with the "Jews" to notice it!
Customs in Helsinger is slightly different these days.....
The tourist information desk was closed, and I was almost resolved to getting the train up to Gothenburg when I decided to go into the Marine Hotel and ask if they could help me with car hire. A wonderfully helpful receptionist called Sophine was brilliant, and soon I was in a taxi up to the Hertz office. The taxi driver was really considerate... he waited to make sure I'd made contact with the Hertz guy.