From July 14th until July 17th, I visited Saman, a good old friend in Sweden whom I haven’t met eversince my first ICC in Riga. Because booking a flight ticket for two ways was quite expensive, I chose to travel by train which took 16 hours and was very adventurous! As for the way back, I went by airplane, which was way cheaper.
But before I talk about the journey and my stay, there were a couple of things to organize…
It was quite a challenge to book my train tickets with Deutsche Bahn. When I tried to buy a ticket to Skutskär, they were unable to offer ticket prices straight away, so they would have forwarded my request to some sort of agency before they could get back to me with an offer by e-mail or by post.
One alternative train station Saman suggested was Gävle. Strangely, Deutsche Bahn – in this case – came up with a ticket price of 67 Euros straight away. Cheap enough (way cheaper than expected), but they could only send the tickets by post and who knows how long that takes.
I called the mobility center of Deutsche Bahn to request assistance and bought the tickets on the phone. This way, they could just load the tickets onto my Bahncard and the only thing my mother and I did was fetching the tickets from a local ticket machine by inserting my Bahncard. Hurray, problem solved! A more difficult thing, however, was organizing my assistance in Sweden to get from Skutskär to Stockholm Arlanda airport.
Google suggested to check SJ (only ONE of the Swedish public transport companies) and called their support hotline. It was a little difficult to get through the main menu, but I understood something like “extra hjälp” and 6.
It worked, but they told me that my train connection wouldn’t be run by SJ, so they gave me a phone number to call UL. They even instructed me to press either 4 or 5 in their main menu in order to get to the right department; I think 4 did the trick.
The lady at UL went through the connection details with me and assured that she would confirm the assistance to me when everything is sorted out.
She did get back to me a few minutes later, but UL, in fact, was responsible for the trip from Skutskär to Uppsala, where SL would take over. Good lord, you guys seriously were about to drive me crazy!
UL already forwarded all the relevant information they already had on file; I just had to call them for some extra information.
To shorten things a little, SL finally forwarded the information to the airport staff, who should take over from there.
By the way: For me, it was more than useful to use a call-through service for cheaper phone calls outside Germany. A tip for all the Germans: try TELLMY, it is really worh it!
At 6 in the morning, I boarded the local train to Hamburg central station. After stopping by at Lecrobag, we went to the Eurocity train to Nyköbing, Denmark.
There was one particular highlight on this route: the train ferry! Between Puttgarden (Germany) and Rödby (Denmark) there is a part of water to get across. Therefore, the train will be loaded on a ferry, where all the passengers have to leave the train for the 45-minute ride.
I was a little curious how the assistance would work on board the ferry. The conductor apparently informed the ferry staff to check on me. However, I didn’t have to wait for them, because a lady with her children sitting opposite of me offered her help, as we would return to the same spot back in the train anyway. Plus, it turned out that we would travel to Sweden together on the same train and coach.
We spent some time and had a drink at the ferry bar and boarded the train five minutes before arrival.
When the train left the ferry, it stopped close by to welcome a group of Danish custom guys aboard. We departed when they were done checking our IDs and left the train.
Due to some construction work, we changed trains in Nyköbing to get to Copenhagen. Assistance was organized, and there was a big group of people who also offered their help. During the ride to Copenhagen, I had a talk with a couple of passengers, so it wasn’t boring after all.
To my surprise, the assistance lady in Copenhagen spoke fluent German and took me to a quiet space next to their office, where they offered me a drink and occasionally checked on me if everything is okay.
The guy who was supposed to take me to the X2 train to Stockholm didn’t speak English or German, but as he got all the most important information on file, there was no reason to not trust him.
In comparison to German ICE trains, the X2 tops it all! They had a quite good WIFI service on board, two sockets at every couch and the seats were even way cozier than a first-class seat on an ICE train… and we are just talking about 2nd class coaches here!
During the ride, a bunch of passengers who were sitting nearby and listening in when I talked to the conductor came up to me to offer their help if necessary.
The rest of the journey went very smooth; they picked me up in Stockholm to guide me to the train to Uppsala, where I changed one last time to leave the train in Skutskär, a few stops before Gävle already but indeed a little handier.
A 16-hours trip can be long as hell, unless you are able to keep yourself occupied by talking to people, watching movies, reading a book, sleeping, etc.
It was a great pleasure to meet Saman again after 3 years! Furthermore, I met Matilda, one of Saman’s friends who also joined us for some fun.
The first day, we toured Skutskär, a pieceful and quiet place in deep Sweden and shared some popular Swedish and German groceries and music.
The next day, we went to an amusement park in Gävle and had a hell of a lot of fun on the rides, especially because they offered us to stay on the rides for a few more rounds in a row!
In the evening, we returned to Skutskär and enjoyed the last few hours together, before I had to depart again.
On the day of departure, we went to the train station in the afternoon where it was time to say good bye. The assistance should work as planned, as they even called me three days in advance to check on me whether everything is still up to date or if my plans have changed. Well, that’s what I thought…
There was absolutely no problem with the assistance in Uppsala; but when I got off the train at Arlanda, nobody was standing by. Luckily, I arrived two hours in advance.
After ten minutes, I tried to call SL which, due to unknown reasons, did not work and belive me, I double-checked the number and it did work before!
I could at least write them an e-mail where I explained my problem, and around 15 minutes later, they called me up, appologized for the inconvenience and assured that the airport staff would be there soon to pick me up; apparently, they forgot about my request at the airport.
Another ten minutes later, they finally showed up and all the rest was business as usual.
At the gate, I met a nice couple who helped me finding certain places as long as boarding didn’t take place and the assistance wasn’t nearby. After a while, it turned out that they were also from Germany. I didn’t listen in to their German conversation and just turned around to ask them for help in English.
Our Eurowings flight was delayed and finally aboard the aircraft, a stewardess told me that it might be difficult to arrange assistance in Hamburg due to our late arrival and an overload of assistance requests in Hamburg. However, they got informed about the nice couple I stayed with until the assistance picked me up for boarding. Anyway, they agreed to help me in Hamburg as well, which probably saved me from a lot of waiting time!
Arrived in hamburg, we boarded the busses to the terminals where I met my father who picked me u pby car.
I really enjoyed the trip a lot and would gladly do it again; but next time, I’ll try to book early in advance to get cheap enough flight tickets. As adventurous such a train trip was, I’d rather like to enjoy some more time with good friends, instead of spending 16 hours on a train.
Most importantly, I now know whom to call in Sweden to – literally – get on the right track. Furthermore, as we all know, a journey is like a box of surprises, so you’ll never know what you’re gonna get next time. The surprises might be positive or affect your journey in a negative way; but so far, there’s no reason for me to give up traveling eitherway!