Monday, July 6, 2015

Stockholm and Tromso and the Good Bad Start

There was some confusion about our baggage when we were at JFK, getting ready to leave New York. The woman who checked us in said that our bags were checked through to Tromso, but we should probably ask someone in Stockholm, just to be sure. We flew out on Delta and caught an SAS flight out of Stockholm for Tromso, so when we landed Marc tracked down an SAS employee at an information desk, who verified: No need to do anything at all, our bags are checked through to Tromso! No problem!

Score! We didn't know it at the time, but this is when everything twisted and went terribly wrong. We had a 6-hour layover and felt comfortable spending four solid hours exploring, and everything seemed to go like clockwork. Buy a ticket on the bullet train, check! Ride into Stockholm, 20 minutes, check! Walk to the old city, check! We couldn't believe how perfectly everything was going! Gosh, so much time to spare, such a gorgeous, sunny, hot day, so much time to spare.

Find the herring wagon, check! Gosh honey, can you believe how perfectly everything's going? We found our way right to the herring wagon, amazing! The sandwich was pretty much blech . . . not awful, certainly, but nothing to write home about. Still, we'd planned to eat there and we found it, amazing! Then we wandered through the old, narrow streets of the old city, enjoying the architecture and the sunny day. It was very bright; the sun was very low, but not low on the horizon -- more like low, right on top of our heads. Bright. But that felt good to our jetlagged selves, especially since we were anticipating cold and cloudy Tromso. After we explored the old city, we wandered out and found a gorgeous park with a grassy lawn and giant trees. People were stretched out on the grass, so we did the same, and snoozed under a beautiful, leafy tree. There was a street fair going on in the park, and Marc checked out the food options. We decided against having reindeer and instead had a couple of exceptional donuts with chocolate glaze (really good chocolate, too) and crunchy peanut bits. So good. Time to go, back to the train, no problem. Back to the airport, no problem, this is amazing honey! Can you believe how well this has gone? I know, me neither.

So we boarded the plane and were a little bit concerned about arriving on time, because the rental car place would charge us a fee if we arrived late. We sat on the plane watching nervously as the baggage handlers were NOT handling baggage; they were just talking and laughing and goofing around, not loading the baggage. The plane was hot and we were sweaty and just waiting; the flight attendants were fanning themselves with paper, and they said we were just having to wait for the luggage to be loaded. FINALLY -- our luggage too, we were sure. We'd been assured!

And so we arrived at the Tromso airport and Marc went to the rental car counter to get the car, and I waited for the suitcases. And waited. And waited. And waited. And then everyone was gone, and there I was. No suitcases. Turns out we were supposed to get the bags in Stockholm, check them through customs, and put them back on the conveyor belt. (We would've had PLENTY of time to do this, of course, and would've gladly done it if we hadn't been told not to.) So the SAS agent apologized, said she hoped we would get our bags the next day, and gave us overnight kits.

One of the big problems was that our coats were in the suitcases, and it was very very cold in Tromso. There we were in our little short-sleeved T-shirts that had been great in NYC and Stockholm, and that would've been fine in Tromso, even, if only we had our coats. But without a coat, not good at all. We got to our hotel around 10:30pm and were dazed and jetlagged and very upset, so we just went to a restaurant on the opposite corner -- pizza. They'd just closed, but the guy gave us a table and we had a so-so $35 pizza.

Saturday was cold and Marc walked around the city between 4:30am and 6 while I slept. We wandered across the street for a pretty bad breakfast ($50) that left us even more upset. We knew that Norway was expensive, but here are a couple of examples to give you the flavor of it. A beer is $9. Two Burger King Whoppers, $30. THIRTY DOLLARS.

My suitcase was finally delivered early evening on Saturday, and there was no indication of Marc's. In Marc's suitcase was the computer and some snacks we'd packed. Since I had my warm coat and a GoreTex raincoat, we both had something to wear to keep us at least a little warm, so we walked around the town a bit, explored a little, although worry and anxiety about the missing suitcase were always right there. We looked around for a sweatshirt, but found nothing for less than $100, so we decided to wait.

Saturday, no suitcase still, so we went to the airport and were told that they hoped we'd get it the next morning. There was mention of it being in Oslo. No idea, no way to verify anything about it. We drove from Tromso to Balsford and the warm car and gorgeous scenery helped a bit.

Sunday we were scheduled to go to Svensby, to the little cabin we have along the fjord. So we stopped once again at the airport and the SAS agent said something about Houston. We were told to wait 45 minutes for the next plane that was coming in from Oslo, maybe it would be on it. (It wasn't.) Then he said he'd give us food vouchers and we could just wait at the tiny little airport for two more hours, maybe it would be on the NEXT plane from Oslo. I cannot properly convey how we both felt. We gave them the address for our little cabin and drove on to Svensby.

By the time we arrived, Ole, the farm owner, said the SAS agent had called him and Marc's suitcase was on a bus to Svensby, and he would go to the ferry and pick it up when it arrived at 5pm. Nothing is open on Sundays in Norway, no grocery stores, no markets, nothing, so we ate miserable little sandwiches we made and were glad Marc's suitcase had arrived.....but there is no wifi in the cabin, as we'd been told there would be.

Good thing Norway is so gorgeous. The people are all very friendly and kind, but not warm or effusive in any way. But man alive, is this place amazingly beautiful. Amazing -- and singular. You know you are here, and no place else looks exactly like this, although I hear parts of New Zealand look like this. Here are some pictures in kind of random order; we've had to come into the farm owner's house to use their Internet and I just want to get some pictures up. I'll have to put order to this when I get home, for myself.

Balsfjord, Norway area -- typical landscape, typical colors of buildings

and these fields of yellow flowers, ubiquitous

I'm so happy to have my coat and scarf -- in Tromso

Svensby -- peaks outside our place

the gorgeous fjord; we walked here last night; I think this was ~11pm

I am hearing Grieg non-stop in my head, the Hall of the Mountain King

closing in on midnight

beautiful little wildflowers everywhere

yup. Straight-up midnight sunning it

the beachy area nearby

here's our little cabin and car

and this is Troll Land, you know

flowers below our bathroom window

it's not uncommon for houses to have sod and grass on the roofs

a nice hot breakfast, after our days of cold miserable sandwiches and junk food

Ole's barn -- and it smells VERY strongly of manure, which is a smell I love

a panorama of our fjord

amazing, right?

the Tromso harbor
My next post will not be so complainey -- we have been hiking and walking around and driving to see some gorgeous places. Lots of good pictures of scenic splendor, and some good stories to tell too.

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