I just got back to Norway today. And that was not entirely my plan in the beginning. I had really planned to be back here some time between Christmas and New Years, but a snow storm all across southern Scandinavia, and in particular in Sweden, made it suddenly more complicated to take the bus, and so I decided instead to spend New Years with some of my friends from high school in Berlin and then to fly back here today.
Now my high school friend are one of the lasting communities (I won’t go into the definition of community here) of mine but in any way I am always amazed of how they have managed to keep the close connections we all have had in school all throughout our time at university; I myself only see them every six months at the max.
But on my way down to Berlin, I met a group that I would say formed an “instant group.” Now I love to make these things to form, and usually they are over just as quickly as they came into existence. The thing is that in Germany the railway has made a rather cheap group ticket for up to 5 people available for approximately the last decade. It’s called Wochenendticket (Eng: Weekend ticket) and although it hads changed quite a bit from the way it was intially set up, it still gives you the right to travel as far as you want to, as long as you only use short-distance trains. Now you can always still make it from any corner of Germany to another, but it just takes a long time, and you have to switch often.
As this ticket has gained popularity especially amongst the youth, certain tiny train stations have become interconnection points for popular travel routes – one of them being the tiny village of “Bad Kleinen” (otherwise only known for a shooting episode between the police and a member of the Rote Armee Fraktion about 15 years ago) on the route between Berlin and the states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. According to the train schedule, one should be able to switch traisn immediately, but if there are any delays on the train going there, you have to wait two entire hours there! Amongst my friends that are studying in Berlin this has become a known issue and a running joke amongst them is that “Oh no, X is not here yet, she/he is waiting for an alternative train in Bad Kleinen.”
Now this time it was my turn to experience that to happen. I started travelling from Schleswig at 12:33 and expected to be in Berlin at 18:44 – after changing trains four times.
And that is how I celebrated New Years the first time that day with my new found “instant community”…
As celebrating New Years in Berlin is quite popular these days, my train was pretty much packed with people of all ages (although the younger generations were probably over represented) trying to make it to Berlin for whatever parties they had or just to stand at the Brandenburger Tor at midnight. So when we heard that the train was 20 minutes late upon arrival in Bad Kleinen on the 31st, the waiting period of 100 min. not only meant that we’d be late for lots of different appointments of varying degree of importance, but it meant that we all had a plan of about the same importance that day, and as the delay at least partially was due to excessive amounts of snow fall, none of us knew for sure whether we might have to stay in Bad Kleinen that day.
After hearing that we would be delayed, I first walked out of the station. There stood two rather well defined groups of youngsters and a few characters that were travelling alone. There was no formal decision that one would go anywhere together, but instead people started asking oneanother questions about the whereabouts of various things; I walked to a group of three girls from Hamburg and asked them whether they knew where one could buy anything. Of course they did not, and the whole point of asking was of course to find out whether they had similar goals. The other group consisted of a bunch of guys from Kiel, of which at least one is to be a high school graduate this summer. They asked me the same question. And then there was a Iraqi-Norwegian from Bærum who also asked similar questions. After doing that for a couple of minutes, and me trying to lighten people up by making small jokes about Bad Kleinen probbaly only consisting of people that got stuck here with their weekend ticket when they didn’t make the connecting train, we finally found some real locals. One of us asked whether they knew of any place to go eat there. “Sure, just walk on down that road for about five minutes,” the answer was. I wonder how often they have gotten that question from people like us.
Anyways, without further coordination we suddenly all walked for maybe ten minutes down the road, frequently laughing at the size of this village. Of course it’s not really that I have not seen any villages as small as this one, and as it turned out, at least one of the girls had parents in some tiny little nest in Schleswig-Holstein as well, but it was what made out the consensus of commonality that we had arrived at by then.
It turned out that that place was closed as well as almost everything else there, and so instead we went on to a Turkish Döner Kebab. And that where we celebrated New Years for the first time that day. After sitting down the owners apparently figured out that this would be the largest amount of guest they would have tonight, and so they turned up the music (black gangsta R&B) Initially the girls, who had a background from an ultra conservative school where they learning old Greek and Latin, clearly showed how laughable it all was, but after a while they either got accustomed to it or understood that the situation really was rather funny. It all ended with our hosts throwing a round of sparkling wine (or some similar beverage). And we found others themes to talk about. Like one of the girls was medicine studying in Lübeck and found that town to be really really dead compared to hamburg – the boys from Kiel agreed (Kiel and Lübeck constantly compete as which is the most important town of Schleswig-Holstein). And study fees came up – the girl studying in Lübeck (I won’t put down names here for the sake of anonymity) talked about study fees of up to 2000 Euros/semester looming ahead in Schleswig-Holstein. Then the boys started talking to some locals – as far as I understood on the subject of fire works.
At the time when we left the Kebab shack, the others were starting to talk about coordinating travels back north the next day – I myself was to stay in Berlin. In the next rain we continued talking all the way to Berlin, and especially the boys from Kiel and the Iraqi-Norwegian started laughing so loud and so friendly that other travellers started asking me where “we” came from. “Oh really, we didn’t know oneanother before today,” I answered, “we just experienced Bad Kleinen together.” I got the email of the girls to send the pictures I made, and in order to tease the boys, I lectured them in front of the entire train that they would have to behave as “ambassadors of Schleswig-Holstein” during their stay in Berlin. And that was it. We all left and with quite some certainty we will not ever meet again.