Blimey, Sweden is expensive.
I don’t mean that Sweden itself is expensive, obviously. That would be crazy money (especially for a struggling freelance writer), and I’ve no idea how you’d go about it anyway, or even if it’s possible to buy a Nordic country privately. I’ll check on Ebay when I have a better internet connection; you can find pretty much anything on there.
Anyway, what I mean is that things in Sweden are, in general, very expensive. At first my alarm at being charged 18 for a little bottle of Fanta amounted almost to panic, until I realised that despite the very “Euro” feel of Stockholm, they have their own currency and not the Euro. Still, finding out that 18SKr is about £1.50 didn’t help much. I would never have been able to afford the public transport fares had I not discovered a 7-day pass which turned out to be slightly more economical. And buying a book for my journey back to Tallinn was quite a painful experience, to be honest.
Disappointingly, this meant that I had to abandon my plan to treat myself to a proper sightseeing tour of Stockholm, around all the places that I wanted to see, complete with a guide who might be able to tell me lots of interesting stories and fill in all the history. I could not justify the thirty quid that this type of 1-2 hour tour seems to cost, on average. I would also have had to go without food for a few days, but that’s beside the point. Still, I managed to have quite a pleasant time alone with my map in the Old Town, wandering happily around the royal palace, giggling at the cute little guards in their funny uniforms, and letting the occasional statue inscription trigger vague memories from my history classes.
On the way back to the train station, I found an internet cafe, and went in to see if they’d let me print out my boarding pass. They did. It was one page, in black and white, and they charged me 20SKr for it. In moments of surprise or annoyance, I’ve realised that I tend to lapse back into my natural Norn Irish. Away on! I said this time, looking outraged. 20SKr is about £1.70 or something like that. For one page?! In black and white?!!! Obviously I had Dumb Tourist written in neon letters on my forehead. I explained this to the man (the “one page” bit, not the Dumb Tourist bit), and he looked a little startled, although it was amusing to see how quickly and meekly he cut the price in half, having expected me to hand over a twenty without questioning it. Still, though. I’m pretty sure that printing used to cost something like 10p per page. Am I showing my age now? Or has the whole world gone mad? Or is just Sweden?
Counting the coins from my pocket as my tummy rumbled, I got off the train and saw a little fast food stand next to my bus stop. Intently, I surveyed the menu. I did not understand any of it, but there were pictures, at least. And then I saw the word “hotdog”, and beside it, “10Kr”. I looked at the change in my hand. Hooray! I could afford dinner!
Having lay here on my mattress for the past two hours, groaning, my face flushed, pains shooting through my abdomen, my stomach churning, and my insides in general making sounds that I’m not accustomed to hearing them make, I have been forced to admit to myself that buying an 80p hotdog, from a roadside vendor, in a country where a sandwich and a drink can cost you a tenner, was probably not the most sensible thing to do.
You live and learn. Hopefully you live, anyway.