When I arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport I was several hours late due to SAS cancelling my flight earlier in the day. Instead of travelling on to Linkoping with my colleagues who knew the way and had done the journey before, I had to figure out how to get there for myself. I landed in Terminal 5 and went in search of the railway station finding only the signage for the express train which goes into central Stockholm. I called my colleague who had already arrived at the hotel and asked her whether this was the station to go to but she told me I needed to carry on past it and follow the signs for the train station. Bizarrely, none of these signs appear in the main part of the terminal, only much further along.
I followed the signs and found myself in terminal one. It wasn’t a long walk because terminal 5 is (rather absurdly) next to terminal 1 – terminals 2 to 4 are on the other side of terminal 1. Passing lots of shops and bars and restaurants (the airport has an astonishing number of each) I eventually found a small counter and some automated ticket booths. I asked the lady behind the counter if I was in the right place for the train to Linkoping because it just didn’t look much like a station. She advised me that I was, told me the time of the next train, asked when I wanted to come back and sold me a ticket. She helpfully suggested that I shouldn’t go down to the platform until 10 minutes before the train was due so I went and sat by the windows in the warm evening sunshine to wait. As soon as I got downstairs it was clear why she’d discouraged me from going down earlier – the station was a dark, gloomy and icy cold underground cave like something from a Scandinavian fairy tale of trolls and subterranean beasties.
I got talking to a lady who was waiting for the same train after the bottle of water I’d got from the vending machine had exploded all over me. She told me I was wise to get something to drink and advised me that there was no food or drink service on the train so it was good to be prepared.
I watched as impressive big trains loomed into the station. The long distance trains in Sweden are mighty beasts but it sadly was my destiny to only get a ‘regional’ train, a rather more ‘normal’ type of vehicle. My ticket came with a seat allocation but two ladies had already settled in where I was supposed to be so I took a place nearby. In our mini carriage there were just 10 places and it was a pleasant semi-private place to be. However, the journey was arduous and nauseating and whoever designed these trains needs an advanced course in the effect of bad suspension on the human stomach and digestive system.
The journey took two and a half hours, the windows were large and clean and I enjoyed watching the countryside until it started to rain and then got dark. The station in Linkoping was bigger than I’d expected but everything was clearly signposted and I was soon out of there, registering a slight odour of urine in the under-passes but otherwise not unimpressed by the place.
The following day I headed back to Arlanda and got assigned a horrible seat. It was earlier in the evening and I didn’t have too much freedom to choose but being seated right beside what seemed to be the only toilet for our area of the train meant I was soon feeling really ill. The smells and sounds of the ‘facilities’ really affected me badly and after about an hour I could take no more. I’m really funny about train toilets and would do myself bodily harm before I’d use one but sadly it seemed everyone else was quite happy to take advantage of the toilet. I moved into an uncomfortable pull down seat in a corridor in order to escape from my surroundings.
On the plus side, the trains were clean, comfortable and precisely on time. On the downside, the ride was nauseating and the return journey was very crowded. I can’t help thinking that I might have been more comfortable hiring a car and driving.