Impromptu Foreign Exchange

Recently there have become some issues in updating Chez de la Bloc, due to an increasingly busy schedule. As such, the usual chronological order of posts has become slightly skewed. What follows was written as it happened, and published shortly afterwards.

 

Last Wednesday, I arrived home from an after work climbing session and hurriedly checked the weather forecast. Friday would be my last day of work before five days off, and what had been planned as a week-long trip to the Lake District to re-visit some of my old haunts from University. As the web-page with the forecast loaded, my face dropped, and I found myself staring at four days of rain, and the growing possibility of spending a week sat in a wet tent. Quickly, I loaded another tab and picked up the phone…

Friday night I arrived home, quickly packed the last of my things into my large bag (although, for a change limiting myself to only one). My attempts to keep my destination secret had often swayed between success and failure, and at half past seven, my lift arrived. A first train took me from Bangor to Birmingham, and my next down to London Euston, on which I got my first hour’s sleep. A short bus ride across London, followed by the Gatwick Express (another hour’s sleep) got me to Gatwick Airport, where I found myself a small bit of floor on which to unfold my sleeping bag and get one last hour of slumber. Once I awoke, so had the morning sun, and I checked in my bags and made my way through airport security. My destination: Göteborg, Sweden.

The speed at which I went from a planned trip to the Lake District to Scandanavia still surprises me (such was the impulse with which this all took place, I neglected to pack tea!), although probably not as much as my Swedish friend who had offered to put me up for the week and suddenly found me asking for directions to his house. Frederik, my host, had invited me, granted, but I do feel that I may have taken liberties slightly. Nevertheless, following another bus, and a tram, I found myself bouldering a mere five minute walk from his house, in the company of a friend I had originally met in Fontainebleau back in March, and hadn’t seen since.

Frederik was an amazing host, showing me his local climbing with passion and enthusiasm, and on Sunday, we drove out to one of the islands of Göteborg’s phenomenal archipelago known as Hönö. A short ferry-ride from the mainland, Hönö is an amazing venue, littered with boulders and climbing enough to keep even the most ardent of boulderers occupied for a very long time. We visited the classic problems of the island, attempting most with little success due to an evening of travelling and not eating, and yet simply enjoying the best weather Southern Sweden had to offer. Nearby, locals sunbathed on speed boats and we wore our skin thin until the rain that was forecast to engulf the UK finally made it across the North Sea.

The rain didn’t relent on Monday either, and I found myself in the usually unfamiliar but recently fairly common situation of sightseeing and shopping in Göteborg city centre. The public transport system in Sweden, while famously expensive, is fantastic and remarkably easy to navigate, even when the only phrases I could say were, “Tyvar tallar jag inte Svenska” (meaning I’m sorry I don’t speak Swedish), “Tallar du Engleska?” (Do you speak English), and “Tack”, (simply Thanks). However, as everyone was quick to point out, here everybody speaks English and are happy to do so. Still, I always think it’s nice to make the effort, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon traipsing round the city centre, window shopping and drinking tea in the most fantastic little café.

Climbing films and thai food entertained us for the evening, and while Frederik was otherwise engaged in school during the daytime on Tuesday, his friend Janus had agreed to take me climbing again. More trams and buses took us to the nearby crag of Utby, having the astounding quality of being easily reached purely from public transport, something I have found in my experience to be almost unique. It was another fantastic place to visit, and another fantastic crag, with the highlight of the day definitely being Voodoo 7a with a crux jump start. An early start had left me with enough time to wear my skin far too thin before the rain started (much to Frederik’s dismay as he was hoping to come and join us in the afternoon). We packed up, and set off home, capping off two-and-a-half days of fantastic climbing.

Another evening of climbing films and television in English with Swedish subtitles (obscure as that may sound, we watched Simpsons and Family Guy as I would back home) saw us out, before an early-ish night in preparation for another day of travelling. So I suppose that brief and succinct report brings me to now: sat in Lanvetter airport waiting for my plane. Despite the added stress of a last minute trip like this, I am definitely very glad to have come, the Swedish being friendly and approachable people (not to mention having some stunning ladies!) to whom I will always be endeared. While my Canadian trip is still very fresh in my memory, this has certainly been an entertaining and interesting visit, much in the same vein and I am glad to have celebrated a ten year anniversary of my last visit with another. More trains, buses and of course a plane await me now, and I don’t envision another foreign trip for a while now. That said, I didn’t expect to be writing this here…

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