One summer, before we got our first dog, Ben and I decided to vacation in Scandinavia. We decided on Scandinavia because you can’t take dogs there and we wanted to see the midnight sun. All our travelling was by train with a special limited age European railway ticket. We had a great time and saw some pretty magnificent scenery and museums along the way.
Our vacation lasted about two weeks and during that time we spent the nights in many different places. Most of the time we stayed in youth hostels. They were usually bunk beds with about 10 people per room. Occasionally we spent the night in the train, either in a sleeping compartment or more often in those awful compartments where you pull the seats together to make a “bed”.
Lodgings in the Country
We also had brought with us a small, lightweight pup tent we had borrowed. As it turned out we only used it once because although it shielded us from the wind, we woke up in the morning thinking it had rained. Everything inside the tent, okay, everything we had with us, was soaking wet. When we unzipped the tent and looked outside we expected to see rain but there was none. It hadn’t rained at all. All that water was condense water. We weren’t happy campers, in fact we weren’t campers at all. And, thanks to that incident would never become campers.
Lodgings in the City
When we were in Denmark and couldn’t find a youth hostel we consulted an information desk at the train station. There we got some pamphlets for some inexpensive hotels and were standing at a table looking over them. Saying things in English like “this one is too expensive” or “we don’t have enough money for that one”. Then someone tapped us on the shoulder and asked in English if we needed a place to sleep. He said he had a bed and breakfast and it wasn’t expensive at all. With that he got our undivided attention. He also captured the attention of the person at the information desk who came over in a hurry. They started quarreling in Danish.
The interesting part is, if you know Swiss German, high German and English you can pretty much figure out what people are saying. Even if you can’t say anything, you can grasp the gist of almost any conversation.
Some of the words we heard were, police, illegal and get out of here. That, along with the tone and gesturing those two people were doing made the gist pretty clear. They weren’t holding back at all, thinking we had no idea what they were saying. At the end of the “conversation” the person who had spoken to us left the main building in a huff. The other went back to his information desk satisfied he had done his job well. Ben and I were left with a pile full of “inexpensive” hotel pamphlets and nowhere to sleep. We sort of picked a hotel and left the building in search of it. As soon as we got out of the door our “friend” found us again. Had he been waiting for us?
Bed and Breakfast
After talking to him for awhile we decided to have a look at his bed and breakfast. Then we decided to stay the night. Because the man from the information desk had threatened to call the police we weren’t 100% sure we had made the right decision. We were skeptical but we were young and had each other. Once in our room we ended up booby-trapping it in every possible way we could think. That way we would be sure to wake up if anyone should even try to enter our room during the night. Well, nothing, absolutely nothing happened. In the morning we had a lovely breakfast, paid and left. Whew. I didn’t know you could actually hold your breath that long.
Lodgings up North
One of our lodgings in Finland was a youth hostel that consisted of many two bed “garden houses”. It was August and the room was warm so, of course we opened the window to let in some fresh air. Along with that so needed fresh air came what seemed like a swarm of mosquitoes. What better way to do gymnastics than swinging your arms swirling towels and swatting mosquitoes at 2 in the morning?
The only good part about that was at least you didn’t have to turn the lights on. Being that far up north it was still light at that time of the morning. In fact, it never got really dark. While doing our mosquito-gymnastics we did a double take when we looked out the window and saw a friendly neighbor mowing his lawn at 2am! Talk about the early bird getting the worm! On the other hand, who knows, maybe he was one of those who likes to stay up late and went to bed when he was finished.
Because we travelled by train the whole time and stayed mostly in youth hostels, we saved quite a bit of money. We also saw a lot of the same people over and over again who were vacationing similar to us. You would always wave, smile, acknowledge and often spend some time talking to them. One person who we got to know, was Martin from England. He was a nice, personable fellow who enjoyed talking. Martin told us his secret about how he got 5,000 £ for free!
He got two credit cards. With one card he took out the maximum amount of 5,000 £. When the time came to pay back the amount he took the money from the second card. With that money he paid back the first credit. When the amount was due on the second card he took it out of the first and paid back the second one. Then the ping-pong game continued. He was so pleased with his cleverness and said he would do this until he died. Imagine, 5,000 £ for free!
Ben and I still shake our heads when we think of him playing ping-pong long, long after he spent the original money. But I suppose one of the questions that arises is if that really is “free” money. The other is if Martin is still transferring money to this day from one account to the other.