I thought that maybe the airline was giving away free ticket vouchers, or maybe that the airport was on fire, but no – it was the “French” queue forming up for my flight to Sweden from Dublin on the budget airline.
It was so funny, we all sat for over an hour in an orderly fashion, being good little adults, reading newspapers, giving quick glances at each other. Then, with one announcement from the airline attendant, people were on their feet and fighting to get in the queue for open seating. Since I am new to budget airlines, I thought that maybe only part of the seats had cushions and everyone else had to sit on wooden benches for the flight? I’m not sure what the motivation was, but I breathed a swoosh of air out as the old lady beside of me threw an elbow into my ribs so that she could move forward one slot. I memorized her face in hopes that I run into her in a dark street somewhere.
The flight was smooth, and only 2 hours long. Unfortunately it was dark so I could not see any Scandinavian terrain, but there were a lot of lights on the Baltic Sea, probably fishing boats. It was cool and raining, and I was cursing myself for having left my jacket back in Waterford. A 30 dollar field loss and now I was wearing a T-shirt on a plane doing 500MPH with its nose pointing at the north pole, not a pleasant prospect. As we boarded the plane, I had to stifle a laugh. The attendants were unbearably Swedish. Impossibly tall, and they were wearing heels making them even taller, blonde only as blonde as a Swede can be, and mouth openingly (is that a word?) beautiful. They wore leather gloves and a smile that could stop traffic. They had an attitude as well that screamed “my viking great great grand-daddy kicked your great great grand-daddy’s ass”. It was probably true. I settled back into my seat wondering how they would receive me in Stockholm. The only downer was that the attendants walked around brandishing hand held credit card readers which were to pay for snacks and drinks! Im thinking wow – this is going to be an expensive stop.
We arrived late, around 01:00am, and the airport was just as impressive as the attendants. Giant glass doors slide open at your approach and could probably stop a tank should they ever need to. I could see the famous function-meets-design engineering that the Swedish are proud of, and there was a strong artistic influence. I knew already that I would like this place.
I zipped right through passport control with 3 questions about what I was doing here. I think pretty much as long as you dont mention that you are here to finish construction of your earth-melting laser, they will let you into the country. With a stamp and a smile, I was allowed entrance into Scandinavia. I realized quick that I was totally unprepared. I had done no research, knew none of the language aside from “cheers” which is “skohl” (what else do you need?) and I did not know the currency. They do not use the euro here, the currency is SEK, or kronos which means “crowns”. I didn’t even know the exchange rate, so I was a rip-off target for sure. As I walked outside, I lucked out because the only bus waiting at this hour was the one for the city center. I had imagined horrors like ending up on the wrong bus and going to Norway or something, as some of the Swedish neighborhood names are long and impossible for my American tongue to pronounce. I held out a 500 Kron note for the driver and he returned some heavy coins, correct or not, and let me on the sleepy bus which took about an hour to reach the city center. The other travelers looked as tired as I was, so I kept to myself. Despite no dinner and being exhausted from my leaving-Ireland craic the night before, I could feel the new-country adrenaline sneaking into my veins.