Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Return to Oz

And so at long last, it was time for me to make my way home. Since my flight from Copenhagen was at 6:25am on Saturday, I had to get the train from Gothenburg on Friday evening. The journey took just under four hours, and was fairly uneventful. The train passed through places like Falkenberg and Landskrona, where L's brother lives. Once the train reached Malmö, I was in very familiar territory. It was then just a short trip over the Öresund to Denmark and Kastrup. I also remember the recorded voiceover lady's voice changing as soon as we were going over the Ö was now Danish...and it sounded so harsh and even more unintelligible compared to what I had been used to hearing for the previous six months.
It was around 8:30pm and I was starving for some dinner, so I returned to my customary eating venue at CPH - Burger King. I hadn't had fast food for so long, so it tasted extra good. Since I had to wake up at around 4am, I went in search of a quiet place in the airport where I could settle in for the night. But alas, the large room of seats where I had joined so many other transit sleepers and battled against the ride-on sweepers back in August had disappeared. It had been replaced by a "security upgrade" area and was inacessible. I then went to the place where I slept over in August, near the staircase, but that spot had already been snapped up by someone and it wasn't even 10pm! I found a chair at a table next to a cafe and put my head down to rest. Not five minutes later, I was booted out. Some family was kicking me out because they wanted to sleep there. Thank goodness I'm not a homeless person as I'd never survive. So, the only place left to sleep was the cold, hard floor. I found a spot near some of the check-in counters, curled up and rested my head on my suitcase.
Something woke me at around 1am. Maybe I was just that uncomfortable. Maybe I was having nightmares about the return of those ride-on sweepers. Anyway, I looked up at the check-in counters in front of me and I noticed something strange. The Danes don't seem to like the number 13. Every other number was there, but they jumped straight from 12 to 14, as you can see in this photo:

I tried to go back to sleep, but didn't succeed very well. Eventually, my mobile phone alarm went off a little after 4am and it was time to get up. There was no way I wanted to miss my flight, so I hurried to a "departures" computer screen. I waited...and waited. Eventually at 4:25am some details appeared - go to the other terminal. How annoying. I had to go back through all the "security upgrade" stuff. Upon arrival at the long check-in hall, I realised there would already be many people in front of me in the line. I had guessed the wrong terminal overnight and that put me at a disadvantage. The hall was long, but not very deep - only about 15 metres. I was already having to start at the back wall. The line did not seem to be moving very fast at all. Time ticked by. 5am...5:30am...6am...I still hadn't checked in, and the plane was meant to leave at 6:25am!
A notice on the monitors showed that the departure time had been moved back to after 7am. Thank goodness this flight had been moved forward three hours before I left Australia, otherwise I would have been marooned yet again at an airport, a habit I was becoming quite good at. I also managed to pick up that their check-in computer system had gone down. That was the reason for the delay. Everyone in line seemed to be pushing past me. And indeed, this was true. I ended up being one of the last few people to check in, even though I had been in line almost from the beginning. On this occasion, it turned out to be an advantage. Since the departure time for the plane was rapidly approaching, they decided to send one of the flight attendants with us to fast-track us through security. The security situation really had got out of hand, with queues running along the top floor the entire length of the check-in hall. The reason for the queuing was all the extra security measures: you had to strip off to almost nothing...and remember, people are wearing lots of clothes because it's Denmark and it's one day after the winter solstice. There was also the whole "no liquids" thing to deal with, meaning everything had to go in separate clear plastic bags or it was confiscated. But as I said, we were allowed to jump to the head of the queue with the flight attendant.
Since I was flying KLM, I had to go through Amsterdam, a place I'd never been. It was only a short flight, about an hour, but it really was memorable. I so wish that I had been able to take a photo on the plane. The sunrise was THE most magnificent I had ever seen. At least I still have the memory of it. It was like this kind of time-delay rainbow. It started out black, then a layer of purple was added, then blue, etc, until finally red and gold. Absolutely beautiful.

And so I had arrived in the land of the "magic brownies". The airport was very packed since it was the day before Xmas Eve. Seeing the large crowds, even though I still had quite a bit of time before my next flight, I decided to line up to go through passport control straight away anyway. I took this photo of one of the bars in the airport while waiting in line.The man who processed me was surprisingly very kind and talkative despite the huge lines. He wanted to know whether I would make it home in time for Xmas. I said I would, if I made the connection OK.
Here are a couple of photos I took while at Schiphol airport. This first one is of one of the KLM planes. I remember going past a casino inside the airport. I also stopped at a cafe for a hot dog...but no magic brownies or mushrooms or whatever crazy stuff they have there. There were also some souvenir shops (mainly involving clogs) in the terminal, so I bought some as last-minute Xmas gift ideas. One of the most puzzling signs I saw in the airport was on a travelator, one of those conveyor belt things that you get on to speed up your travel along straight stretches in an airport. I'm assuming it's a "don't litter" kind of deal, but the use of "sweet" makes me think of the movie "Dude, Where's My Car?". Can't seem to find a translation into English of sweet as a Dutch word. Maybe someone had too many magic brownies?

The rest of the journey home passed without major incident. Check-in for the flight to Kuala Lumpur was incredibly slow however, due to the liquids security delays again. The flight landed in KL on Sunday morning, I think around 6am. This time, I did not try the drinking water, after my dislike of it on my way over to Sweden. Instead, I sat down and watched some movie about little league baseball.

It was back on a plane around 9am. I was at the front of one of the sections, so I didn't get a video screen on the back of the chair in front of me - you had to pull it up on a pole from under your chair. I was embarrassed that I fell asleep on the flight and I think I missed one of the snacks. Oh well, I guess I needed sleep rather than sugar. It was around 35 degrees when we touched down in Perth, a real difference from the 3 degrees at Bergåsa of three days beforehand. Clearing customs was slow (as always) but thankfully my luggage made it the whole way with me this time.

Here ends the journey. I apologise for taking so long to finish it, but there was a lot to cover and I hope it was worth the wait. I want to say a big thankyou to everyone who made my trip possible, and to all the people I met whilst away, whose names have been abbreviated in this blog. You know who you are.

Tack så mycket!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Goat-burg Part Three: Liseberg

To begin with, here are a final few shots taken from within Universeum but of views outside. Firstly, here is a tram making its way along Södra Vägen. Behind the buildings a little way lies Chalmers Tekniska Högskola. Here are a couple of skyscrapers, Göteborg-style. There's a Christmas tree at the base.
I still had a small amount of time before I had to get back to the hotel to pick up my luggage. So, I thought I'd have a quick look around the main streets. Heading north on Skånegatan and then turning right onto Valhallagatan, there is a park/bush area on the left. I walked through it for a while and discovered that through the fence one could see across Mölndalsån (the river) to an old church. Here it is.
I had also wanted to see Liseberg, the amusement park, but that would only look better the darker the sky became. So I headed back south slowly. On the way, I went past the Scandinavium. It's a very big indoor arena, and named quite appropriately, being in Scandinavia and all. Of course, there is now the obligatory McDonalds restaurant there, as you can see from this photo.

Turning left just before reaching the Universeum again, I came to the magnificent entrance of Liseberg. From what I've seen, it sounds a little like Dreamworld, and was apparently the venue for one of the last few dates on The Bachelor: Rome. Liseberg is mainly open during the summer months in the middle of the year, but since 2000 they have also been open for the Christmas season. This is usually at night (not all that hard to do, given when the sun sets) so that the Christmas lights are easily seen. I was going past on the second last day of the season. The sign says that it is open from 3-10pm.
Just beyond that archway, there is a small stream and waterfall with some funky blue lighting.
Beyond that, you have the main entrance area. This is quite a big space, because they have to deal with a lot of people queuing up. Even though it's not quite sunset yet, you can see that they have turned on the lights on this tree.
Here's the main entrance structure. This was as close as I could get, due to the large mass of people waiting to get in - it was about 3pm. The "colours" of Liseberg are apparently green and pink, hence the rabbit logo appears mainly in those two colours. Here's a rough translation of the sign:
Open today 3-10pm
Small stage at 4 and 6pm: Mrs Lise's Wind (or Attic, I'm not sure)
Ice track at 7pm: The Hijacker, Rabbits and Spooky Events
7pm: Dance around the Christmas tree
Welcome along!
I hung around outside (yes, I know, I'm a loiterer) the entrance for as long as I could before I definitely had to return to the hotel. I was waiting, because the darker the sky, the brighter the lights of Liseberg would appear. Here's my best effort of the Christmas tree near the entrance and the tower behind.
Turning to depart, I took this photo of Svenska Mässan, the Swedish exhibition centre, as well as the rectangular prism arrangements of lights on the power poles all the way along Skånegatan.

I travelled along that road heading north, but turned around one to view the lights of Liseberg for one last time. Here you can see both the tower and the pretty lights of the Scandinavium at left.

I continued along between the Gamla and Nya (Old and New) Ullevi sportgrounds, then turned left just before the river. It was then a short walk back to the hotel. Just near Central Station is the Post Office. Here is the magnificent 'tree' of lights in front of it, complete with red lights in the windows.

I was a little upset at the hotel's baggage holding protocol. There were not really any security/identification measures in place. When I left my luggage there in the morning, I just checked out and said I'd like them to hold my luggage until the afternoon. They pointed me in the direction of the door to the holding room. I walked in, left my suitcase and walked out. No tokens, paperwork, staff watching or supervising me, etc. Nothing. Upon my return in the afternoon, all I had to do was say that I would like to pick up my luggage. They said that I should just walk in to the room and take it. No identification required. Basically anyone off the street could have walked in and taken anyone's luggage. Thankfully, my luggage was still there. I grabbed it and headed to the train station. I was about to begin my journey home.