In just over two months of my stay in Sweden, as the Facebook generated map depicts I have done decent amount of traveling in Europe. The intent being, maximum utilisation of the non-winter time to explore Europe, capitalising on the advantage of being part of the Schengen countries.
For my friends back at home, the best thing about living in Europe is that when you do get to live in one of the countries in “Schengen zone”, you can cross borders between countries as if you were traveling within India. This is a brilliant thing, for there is no tourist VISA requirement, or any other paperwork – pack your bags, book your tickets and off you go!
Doing this, I have explored a bit of Denmark (Frederikshavn, Copenhagen), a bit more of Germany (Hamburg, Erlangen) and Norway (the entire city of Oslo) and of course some more of Sweden (Stockholm). I still have plans to cover rest of Europe, which I will be in due course of time.
There have been many memorable events in each of the trips, and let me put three of the most memorable ones as a countdown:
- Ferry to Frederikshavn: This was the most spontaneous of trips I have planned hitherto. Chalmers has two campuses, and the campus I do not study at is the Lindholmen one, at the shore of Göta river. When I was in that campus, just visiting it, I saw the hugest ferry I had seen till date! It was a Stena Line ferry, and because I had not sailed on a ferry that huge, decided to check it out. Checked online, and a trip to a Danish town Frederikshavn was affordable and would fit a day long trip. I was immediately on a ferry next morning with my friend,and this impulsive trip turned out to be one of those ‘close to you’ kind of trips!
- Sailing on a train to Germany: On a personal trip this time, I embarked to Erlangen, Germany. Deutsche Bahn was a name I had heard even before I hopped onto one of their trains. When I was on a DB train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, first of my connecting trains on my way to Erlangen, midway in my trip, something weird seemed to be happening. An inter-city express, that was ripping at 150 kmph, slowed down after a stop and got onto asphalt road like a tram! I though it must have been a bridge, after having missed the radio announcements in English that seemed to be drowned in German.After a few more minutes, the train hit a ramp and it seemed to be getting into an enclosed area; people started packing their bags – I was perplexed and waited till I kind of figured out that I might have been inside a ferry. My expediences till then denied the reasoning – “A train into a ferry? Naaah!”. Happened to talk to a fellow passenger, and he did say “Haha, train is on a ferry, get off and get on to the deck!”. Of course, this would have been my weirdest experience, but not until the next thing happened!
- Stuck in the storm: On another instance of my trip, coming back from Erlangen for the second time, the trip on DB again seemed smooth, until I reached Hamburg.
Firstly, I had not heard of the storm we had arrived into, and the long German-only instructions seemed to be giving distress calls. I learned that because of bad weather, trains from Hamburg, most trains were going to be canceled. I was hoping not mine, but got to know that even mine to Copenhagen was canceled!The DB information centre was already flooded with people and after I reached the counter, they said – “No train, shall we put you in a hotel?”Aaah, I was thinking that could be a nice way to spend an evening in Hamburg, a city I wanted to visit! Took the hotel pass and spent a nice, windy evening exploring a bit of Hamburg. Exhausted, crashed into the bed assuming next morning I would have trains. I already was missing two days of my new study period.Next morning, I was told by DB that no trains again and I would be put into a hotel again. I was like, okay – a full day trip in Hamburg.
Nonetheless, decided to wait for one train at 9.30 in the morning; while all other trains were getting canceled this particular one did not say “zug fallt aus”. To my surprise I waited till the train arrived and it did say it was going to Copenhagen, my next stop! I was already missing two days of classes in my second study period, so I sacrificed what could have been a wonderful day trip in Hamburg and hopped onto this crowded train. It took me twelve hours, instead of the usual 6 and a half hours to reach Goteborg, and through the distance I witnessed the havoc created by Simone, or St.Jude (I find this global trend funny to call disastrous hurricanes by nice names, as if that would mellow down their impact).
This entire experience not only showed me the effective coordination between countries in Europe to handle a crisis like the storm, but also made it a lot easier to network with people I was traveling with. Looks like it is more conducive to network with people when in distress. This trip is something I will cherish forever, and a detailed reminiscence of it is posted on my personal blog.
Coming to Europe as a destination for higher education has these irresistible perks of allowing one to travel into different countries within few hours, and I am poised to make the best out of it.