July 2109. Imagine yourself in the main train station for Copenhagen, Denmark, holding a ticket to Stockholm, pre-booked from home, all printed in Danish except for one line (Photo ID required.) All the station signage was in Danish too. We saw our train information on the Departure Board in blinking orange Danish lettering plus an indiscernible symbol. Nothing else looked like that. Yikes! What does that mean? We could not see an information booth or a place staffed with people. There were no officials around. So we hurried to a random boarding track, hoping to find an official there. No. But we did find a nice Danish woman who looked at our ticket and the Departures Board and explained that we had to take a train to Malmo (where the hell is that?), and transfer there.
We could do nothing but trust her, so we checked the full Departures Board up on the main level, and found the much-needed track number (leaving in four minutes!), and ran to the Malmo train. Whew. We made it. But was this correct? Did we need a new ticket? We asked several disgruntled-looking Danes and found that we were all in the same boat (or train). They were unhappy with the lack of clarity and poor communication at the station. Amen. Well at least we were all going somewhere together.
I watched out the window as stations came into view, we paused, a few people got off and many more got on, and the train moved again. But at no time did we hear an announcement about passengers diverted to Malmo. We finally spent quite a bit of time racing over water. I surmised that Malmo was in Sweden, and that we were crossing the Sound, the body of water that connects the North Sea with the Baltic Sea. At the next stop, the Swedish Passport officers came aboard and gruffly grilled me on my plans in Sweden.
Finally we reached the station in Malmo, and everyone got off. We located the train to Stockholm, and even though this was a different train than the one we booked, we got on the car and seats listed on our tickets. Thank God we weren’t traveling with a lot of luggage to tote around! I was managing this whole trip with one small suitcase and one backpack, now that my extended family was back in the US.
We had wanted to take the train so that we could see the Swedish countryside. Coming out of Malmo from the coast, we saw huge flat fields of recently cut golden wheat, red farm buildings, and the occasional cow or flock of sheep. At our first stop, Lund, we saw tidy gardens that filled the small backyards, each bulging with flowers, vegetation and produce.
After the stop in Hassleholm, the land began to rise and fall, resulting in smaller fields bordered by deciduous trees, some stands worthy of being called forests. Beyond Alvesta, we saw birch forests near the tracks and the occasional evergreen tree. Many large lakes appeared along the tracks, and just as fast, disappeared. Earlier we had seen large piles of neatly stacked logs and now we saw logged sections of forest. Here and there we saw meadows: lakes turning slowly into forests over geologic time. This whole area reminded me of the glacier-scraped land in upper Wisconsin. The further north we traveled, the more evergreens we saw.
After Mjolby, the fields became larger again with the occasional small herd (4-6 head) of cows, and wrapped hay bales. Here the land was dotted with industrial windmills, and new housing came to the edge of the fields. What was interesting is that nowhere along this route did we see creeping suburbanism connecting nearby cities. From what we saw along the track route, each city was distinct.
We finally reached our destination, the whole trip taking about five hours. They never checked our tickets, the entire way to Stockholm!
My friends think of me as an intrepid traveler. I’m not so sure. It is times like this that I question my sanity. Why do I do this to myself?
But I reviewed some of my routinely-used manifestation tools and realized that they had stepped me through this panic-filled moment: Facing my Fears, Trust, Decide and Take Action, Prayer, Positive Thinking, and finally Gratitude. I called upon each of these so instinctively that I didn’t even realize it.
And then we started to explore Stockholm, and I answered my own question. I do this because travel makes me grow. It is truly transforming.
For other essays about my summer 2019 Europe trip see:
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