Christmas Vacation N°9

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With my Christmas vacation winding down and finally heading back to Strasbourg I was happy to wake up with the sun somewhat shining with the wind blowing against the window. The previous night I had realized that there was a rain storm, but I didn’t actually realize the result of what it did until I got the newspaper at the train staion. I came to the train station and the ticket machine wouldn’t let me buy a ticket, so I was sort of confused as to why, so I bought one for a later train and would try to pass it off for the train that was arriving. We had to make a transfer in Alvesta first, because there were some problems on the line or something. I didn’t realize until I got to Alvesta that there was a hurricane in Sweden for the first time in manyyears named “Per”. So my connecting train to Stockholm was delayed and I had wait another hour, finally we got on the train and it was crazy with tons of people. I couldn’t figure out why there were so many, but it turned out that because of the hurricane all of the early morning trains had been cancelled and this was the only one coming from Malmö. I found my seat and we took off bound for Stockholm.

The train went about 20 minutes from Alvesta when we had to stop, and the train conductor wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on. After some minutes waiting on the track in the middle of nowhere, they came on the system saying that we would be stopped since some stations lost power and they can’t get a singal for whether or not they could continue the train. So the X2000 superfast train was stopped ‘5 minutes.’ Everyone started to get on their mobiles, and I raelized that this was getting dangerously close to me missing my flight back to Beauvais. After another 20 minutes they told us that they would be continuing on, but just ast they said that the power in the train cut off and the wind picked up. It turned out that we were stuck in the hurricane in Småland and we had to wait it out until it had finished. Panic didn’t happen but most people were stressed out and the woman beside me was rude and didn’t want to stop talking on the phone. From what I could understand in her conversations she was a gymnastics coach and was heading to Stockholm for a competition. So hours later, they start to bring around information about the tiny little town that was about 1.5km away from us, since we were stopped in the middle of nowhere. Who has ever heard of Moheda?

So people started to leave the train in hopes to get some food. I stook tight because I was afraid if I left, then I wouldn’t make it back to the train in time for it to leave; and what a naïve thing to think as well! So I waited it out with these two girls across from me giggling and trying to get to sleep, to no avail. A few hours later, I realized that I wasn’t going to make my flight back to France, and didn’t panic becasue I knew there wasn’t anyting I could do. Suddenly a man that I recognized from my car came into the car and started to yell that there was an express bus going from Växjö to Stockholm that was leaving in 20 minutes at the cost of 700:- which is an excessive amount in my opinion. While everyone paniced to leave and get taxies to the bus station a bunch of us stayed behind, mostly because I had no money or didn’t want to spend it on that. It turned out better for us to not gone, because the bus never went and the people that left were stranded in a bus-station that closed. So we waited, and suddenly it started to get cold. I changed my clothes and put on more layers to keep warm, and a woman brough around candles that she bought since we were completely in the dark.

About 8 hours after we left Alvesta the conductors that remained came around and took our names and telling us that we would be taken back to Växjö by bus and put into hotels until a solution could be made. Now we had already waited 8 hours, my flight had gone already, and I really just wanted to be indoors somewhere so we had to wait another 2 hours for the busses to come for us. They then evacuated us from the train and we had to walk 1.5km to the closest fence opening where the busses waited for us. There were 3 busses to bring all of us, and after we loaded on we set off from Växjö, the place I left several hours before. Who knew that I would be going backwards in my travels?

The woman that I sat next to was from Linköping and was very friendly wondering why I was in Sweden and why I spoke Swedish and everything, so it made good conversation. The odd time we turned a corner the bus freaked out becasue trees the size of houses were on the road blocking the way, so we had to maneuver around them to our dismay. We finally arrived back in windy Växjö, and they checked us in the hotel. They ran out of single rooms so we had to pair up and I saw the two younger girls that I saw before I quickly asked them if it was alright if I shared a room with them and they were very happy too. I mostly went to ask them because I saw this older Arab guy talking to them and making them feel uncomfortable, and I wanted to save them, so in the end as I later found out I was their hero! We got into our room and made introductions, as they were Frida and Madicken and they were both from Växjö.

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They were really kind and we hit it off great. They were heading to Stockholm so that they could get a plane to Luleå where they would do a stage for several weeks, so they had a lot of luggage and they were so excited to hear that I just came from there. We never stopped talking, and it was hillarious to be with some people that I got along with. We explored the town and got some food before everything closed then came back and watched TV. We went to sleep and were woken up by a phone call from Frida’s mom which informed us that busses were coming to take us to Nässjö to get a train to Stockholm. In a huge panic we got our stuff together and headed down for the busses, which was a fiasco since many people were frustrated and wanted to go to many places. We jumped on and were on our way for a few hours by bus to the closest train station that was still functioning in the region. It turns out that Nässjö is in Dalarna I think and it took longer than we had expected. There were crews on the road everywhere cutting up the massive trees that were put down by the hurricane. I have never seen distruction like this in my life, and it was kind of scary since I wasn’t sure we would even get to Stockholm.
We parked ourselves down and chatted and read the news, several deaths, and lots of people out of power, and finally our train came. We piled on and they put the stranded ones in one car. It turns out that we were the only train from the South that was going into Stockholm, and everywhere else people were stuck. Thanks to SJ and their wonderful crew, we managed to get to Stockholm after stops in Mjölby, Linköping, and Norrköping. Frida and Madicken were famished so we got some food and they had prearranged their flight to Luleå for changing, so they had to head to Aralanda, and I thought I would be going to Nyköping. We said our goodbyes and exchanged e-mails and said that we would once meet again. It was really nice to meet some random people in a crisis and click so well and turn a bad situation into something good
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I set off to check flights, and nobody would let me book anything since it was too last minute to leave the day of. I took the phone numbers down and tried to dial them, and my mobile had no minutes on it so I was ‘ed. I bought a phone card in hopes that I could call the numbers but they were all ones unavailable so I was in a panic, I checked the normal airlines from Arlanda and the only flight leaving Stockholm to Continental Europe was going to Pairs through Copenhagen in exactly 2 hours. I tried to book it with my VISA but it wouldn’t accept it, and therefore was in a huge problem. I paniced and called my mom to get her to help me, but of course she was in a meeting so I had to tell her company it was an emergency and an overseas call. I ran back and booked my ticket and I have to say that I never ran so fast to the train station to get to the airport. I took the 20 minute train to Arlanda and ran through securty and got my tickets. When I got through everything they were boarding last minute, so I was the last person on the plane with 10 minutes to spare. I was so happy to be on the plane and headed back to somewhere normal.

After an hour we were in Copenhagen (against my desire), and the connection in 45 minutes so I walked around. Dirty airport and gross everything. I was no impressed at all. So we boarded and headed to Paris, Charles-de-Gaulle. Before I continue please mind the cursing that will follow, but there are no other ways to express the situation. Charles-de-Gaulle is fucking messed up! Never ever fly there if you don’t have to ever in your life because it’s the most confusing airport known to mankind. We arrived in Pairs just before midnight, and I had no way to get to the trainstation (which would have been closed anways) so I resigned myself to the fact I would have to sleep in the airport (again). The difference this time is that Paris isn’t safe like Stockholm, and the homeless sleep in the airpot. So I parked myself in a chair and tried to get to sleep but couldn’t since the creepy people kept walking around. There was a Polish girl that kept waving at me, and then I went over to her to ask her if I could share the bench with her, since I didn’t want to sleep near the homless and she said in these exact words “Sure, but don’t talk to me – I’m trying to sleep.”

I was too paranoid and tired to care, so I went to sleep and it was the worst sleep I’ve ever had in my life, but I got through it somehow. I woke up at about 5am when the busses started to run and I now had to maneuver my way through Paris rush-hour traffic. The woman at the information booth wasn’t kind at all and vaugely told me what I needed to know. I had to take a bus to another terminal and then take a train into Paris. Sadly everything at 5am is closed so I had to wait an hour for the ticket counter to open up. It ended up costing me 8€ to get into Paris which I was not happy about. I got on the train which was packed with Parisians going into the city and got off at Gare de Nord to transfer in the metro to Gare de l’Est. I was paranoid with all the creepy people at the first station, but I got to my destination and nearly got caught leaving in the automatic machines, but I finally got to the train station. I had bought a ticket previously, but it was useless so I had to buy another and couldn’t find the office. Finally when I did the guy at the desk was the most pleasant person in Paris I had ever met, we even had a little conversation at 6am in the morning while nobody else was there. I think he was hitting on me, but I didn’t care since I just wanted to get home.

They were putting us on the TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) to Nancy and then to Strasbourg on slow train, so I had to find the right track. The train was about 1km down the platform so I nearly missed it, but I got on it and slept for the next 5 hours. After my arrival in Strasbourg everything looked different and I found my way back (after getting lost) to Gallia. I will be happy to inform anyone who is wondering that I even showed up to my class, despite being ‘jetlegged’ and tired from the traveling. I was not impressed about having to buy a last minute ticket for 500€, but we do what we have to do to get home. Otherwise I would have been screwed even more because the same hurricane that hit Sweden arrived to France the night after I arrived. If I didn’t get on the flight, I never would have made it back for another 5 days, so thank god for being rash.

What did I learn?
1) Never fly to Paris again
2) Never plan train trips ahead of time
3) Be more European and do things at the last minute
4) Buy more credits on phone for emergency before leaving

All in all I was happy to be back to familiar setting and have the ability to charge my phone. I can’t live without a mobile phone anymore, just in case of emergencies, which I couldn’t even use becasue of damned foreign restrictions. Not impressed, but oh well. Lessons learned, despite arriving back to Strasbourg two days late!

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