Day 32 Ė Way north

This morning I was at a rest area having a mid-morning snack of bread, cheese and tuna (what else?) somewhere north of Bremen when a woman eyed me suspiciously. She went to use the restrooms (also filthy like in France but with rudimentary toilets at least) but opened the door right away to check on me. I was beginning to wonder what this ladyís problem was when she came towards the car and asked me if I was planning on using the restrooms or what. I was taken aback not just because she assumed, correctly, that I spoke English but at the very nature of her question. Whatís it to her? ďNo maím, Iím uh, all set. Just having lunch, thanks.Ē To this she became visibly agitated and began mumbling to herself and carrying on about ďbad peopleĒ. I didnít know if I was being put on or what the hell was wrong with her. Had this happened back home I would have just assumed the lady had forgotten to take her lithium but here I wasnít so sure. Maybe I was breaking some sacred rule about eating at a rest area. Or maybe that I had to be nuts to eat lunch by a stinky latrine. Sheíd have a point there.

Since she wouldnít stop gesturing as she walked away, flailing her arms theatrically as she walked away, I started the car and pulled up next to her to soak a little more of this in, still shocked at the freak show but now also amused by it. My approaching her heightened her pitch and she reverted to English again ďItís bad enough [something, something] bad people and then you have to eat lunch right THEREĒ saying each word with emphasis and activating her whole torso in a fascinating manner. I drove off, smiling politely and hoping she didnít have a complete nervous breakdown but wasnít sure in the end if I wasnít already too late to help it.

Spent a couple more hours heading north. Considering I had a full week still before my flight back I had punched into the GPS for it to take me to Copenhagen and I was supposed to be there by noon. Except in taking me the shortest route, north of Kiel, it took me into a ferry stop. Well, thatís cool I guess. Cool idea until it was my turn to pay the ferry ticket and the booth guy said ďsechzig EuroĒ. Now I thought maybe I had misheard, confusing sechs, for six, instead of sechzig for sixty. But he was serious as a heart attack as they say. According to the map the gap between the islands was short enough that you could pogo stick it and this joker wants 60 Euros? Thatís 90 bucks friends.

I turned around and went the longer route, losing a couple hours in the process for the backtracking and another couple due to the longer ride and spent that 60 Euros instead in filling the tank and buying a slice of pizza.

On the way from lunch the weather, which had for the past several days been windy, wet and cold, became truly interesting as cloud formations I had never seen before lurched onto this northern peninsula like giant airborne islands with leggy tendrils stretching down to kiss the earth. What was odd was that on either side of these cloud-cum-fog units was nothing but blue sky. That and the speed with which they rushed across the land, on a hurry, I suppose, to conquer points south.

For my part I was bent on conquering points north and went as far as Malmo, Sweden after crossing two huge bridges and a long tunnel. Jesus, just a week ago it was hot in Spain and today Iím in Sweden where itís been snowing off and on. It was sunset by the time I checked into some downtown motel. The good news was that it came to only 40 Euros. The bad, asides from the now not-at-all surprising lie about there being internet access, was that the bathrooms were communal. Thatís ok, I can deal with that.

So I go take my shower with towel in hand, shower gel I bought back in the states and little chicky sponge thing along with my change of clothes. The bathroom has no curtains. Except for the fact it was plastic rather than foam it reminded me of a loonybin cell with the toilet in one corner and some cryptic knobs on the wall but smooth all over like you were inside one giant beach bucket.

The knobs, of course, work the shower head. But not in the way you might think. In fact, there were three of them only one, the middle, functional while the other two I havenít the foggiest what, if anything, their purpose was since they didnít push in, pull out or turn. The middle knob you pressed and got a full 30 seconds worth of water before it turned itself off, all the meanwhile the knob slowly pushing itself out like an egg timer. I didnít know this at first and when the water cut out I let out some choice expletives as my head was lathered up and I couldnít open my eyes. I started messing with the decorative knobs, taking a stab here and there, and wound up punching the soap dispenser instead, promptly sending a creamy wallop to my foot. Whatís worse is that I turned the shower button so that when I finally, led by feel alone as I donít want to get soap in my eyes, pushed the damn thing it showered me with an icy cold blast. More expletives ensued, these ones in Spanish as Spanish has the dirtiest imaginable ones.

I thought, well, Iíll teach them. Iíll just lay on the button with one hand and shower with the other so as to prevent it from cutting out. Bad idea. Doing that for just a few seconds sent a blood-curdling noise in the pipes that made my hairs stand on end. In an instant I wondered if there was an earthquake or what and imagined people would come shreaking down the hallways running for their lives. But no. Just as quickly the showerhead dutifully resumed its 30 second squirt and waited patiently for me to tap it again. I noticed too that each following tap made it cut out a little sooner. I finished up quicker than normal even though Iím one of those types who likes to hang out in the shower for half an hour or longer just because. Not here. Evidently long showers are not okay in Swedish motels.

Clean at least I decided to not waste the whole day driving, listening to crazy Germans and tussling with ill-tempered shower systems. Went out for a walk in a frigid chill to see what Malmo has to offer insofar as nightlife is concerned for even though itís a Wednesday there are people out and about chatting on their cellphones and doing whatnot. Right away I spotted a a sign in sexy neon reading Skanska and figured maybe they had some party-minded girls there but on getting closer it turned out to be just an office building full of photocopiers and phones. Next up I spotted another, the LaserDome which underneath said ďFemKampĒ. Mmmm, FemKamp. How can you go wrong with that? On getting closer it turned out to be a video arcade. Thatís a little frustrating. Another few minutesí walk and I saw a third sign, Skinn City, and there was no way in hell I can misinterpret an establishment with a name like that. A titty bar in Sweden is an awright kinda place to relax after a long dayís drive, eh? Wooops, no, this skinn city is no such place. Itís a leather goods shop.

0 for 3 I figure tonight wasnít my night and just walked around some more, aimlessly but with GPS in pocket just in case I got really lost, then wound up at a supermarket which I was surprised to find still open past 9 oíclock at night. If we recall briefly my experiences with grocery stores in southern Europe were mesmerizing in one way or another while bland in Germany. In Sweden I would call it just bizarre. Take, for example, the bacon paste in a tube (like the old fashioned metal toothpaste tubes that youíd roll up as it was being used up) or the Abba-branded canned salad which came in a choice of Italian vinaigrette or something else and in either case I found simultaneously comical and disgusting.

I got some more tuna, cheese, juice and chocolate then walked back to the motel to write all this down. Itís time for bed now.

Day 33