Well-rounded first day

We had a bit of extra drama getting onto the train from Arlanda to Tobo. It all seemed perfectly straightforward until I needed an extra 30 seconds to tuck something back into my pack, which problem I discovered just as the train pulled to a stop in the station. Mills gathered his stuff, went to the train door, looked back to make sure I was with him, and stepped onto the train. And just as I was following him, the train door closed! We each tried pushing the door-open button, and also each nearly managed to lose a limb. It turned out the conductor who was standing in the doorway one car down had decided I must not be planning to board after all, so he’d pushed the close-door button, and he didn’t have a door-open button. So he waved me down to the next car, assured me that one of us could switch cars at the next stop, and appeared unworried that Mills was carrying both tickets. He also phoned his compatriot in Mills’s car, but evidently she had about as much English as Mills does Swedish, so he was unable for a couple of minutes to discern whether I was on the train or still back on the platform.

Train travel times: Arlanda to Uppsala takes only 20 minutes, and continuing from there on to Tobo is only another 31 minutes. We aren’t sure where we acquired the expectation of longer times.

Tobo Station

Tobo Station

Although the Institute is only a 20-minute walk from the train “station” (which consists of a concrete platform on either side of the tracks, each featuring a bus-stop sort of shelter), we didn’t want to brave the trek with all our bulky gear. Håkan graciously offered to pick us up, and then he showed us around.

We toured the dorm building (the single-story yellow building you’ve seen in our video) and then the main building, with kitchen and dining hall and dance hall and concert room downstairs, woodworking shop and classrooms and offices upstairs. We met Nina, who was setting to rights all the dorm rooms after a large class came through last week; Stina, who runs the kitchen; Maria, the director; and Kerstin, Maria’s predecessor who was visiting. Everyone was very kind and welcoming, gracious about my attempts at Swedish, though we did conduct most of the tour in English. I was pleased to see that we have quite a number of comfortable lounge sorts of rooms for gathering, and the dorm building’s kitchen is equipped sort of as a pair of kitchens facing each other, one with dining table, the other with comfy chairs and coffee table. I should be reporting all this with photos, but you’ll have to wait a bit for those.

My big excursion for the afternoon was a grocery run to Tierp (one stop away by train, a 6-minute ride). Håkan had supplied me with a 10-ride regional train travel card, and Lane had alerted me to the fact that each punch of the card is good for 90 minutes, which is enough for a round-trip. I hadn’t gotten around to figuring out ahead of time where in town to look for a grocery store, but a minimal amount of wandering took me to a posted map and thence to the Coop Consum that sounded familiar.

waiting for the train

waiting for the train


catching the train to Tierp

catching the train to Tierp

The first sight to catch my eye, from the bakery cases at the entrance, was a tray of slices of prinsesstårta (princess torte), my favorite! I inquired and ascertained how much they cost (25 SEK), figuring I’d add one in at the end of my shopping if my totals all worked out well. Then at the check-out I had a lengthy confused conversation (mostly she talked and I looked puzzled) with a clerk who first seemed to be charging me for an entire cake, but then even after we seemed to be agreeing on a single slice, her number was still confusingly high. Eventually she came out with a figure that seemed to make sense, and I managed to pay (my debit MC seems to work in retail machines, my credit Visa seems not to, and neither worked in an attempted online transaction this morning) — but then once I got on the train and reviewed the bidding, it appeared she had just given up on me and included the slice of cake for free.

the hard-earned prinsesstårta

the hard-earned prinsesstårta

I was a little disheartened to be reminded how tiring and stressful it can be to feel completely at sea in a transaction. But then I kind of made up for it with my grand success of train-ticket communication on the way home: the same conductor as the hour before said my punched ticket would have expired by now, and I said no it gets 90 minutes, and he looked at its datestamp and his watch and cheerily okayed it. So then I was reminded that the successes can feel just as disproportionate.

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2 Comments

  1. Alice
    Posted August 17, 2012 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on your first grocery expedition! My US credit card doesn’t work in Sweden because it does not have some sort of chip that is required there. Did you tell your credit card company where you will be? Mine puts the kibosh on online transactions made from abroad unless they know it’s me.

    Make sure to try some dammsugare at a coffee shop or get some at the grocery store. They’re my favorite Swedish pastry.

    • lydia
      Posted August 17, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      credit card findings & banking probably a separate post. my debit card is doing well in retail locs, and worked on the bus yesterday, but i can’t buy tix online for trains or concerts. haven’t had time to open a bank acct here yet, but there’s certainly incentive. and yes, my banks needed to know where i’d be, and if i want to add any countries for travel i have to phone them during their biz hours and talk to a person.