This is Part 8 of the Wir Gehen Nach Deutschland series, which is, apparently, a series now, because I just called it a series, just now, and there are eleven of them, which is bonkers.
We go to Sweden, mostly because we can. We were in Denmark and now we're in Sweden, like going to fucking Indiana. Trains over there have designated baby areas because they are designed
by geniuses. Katsisch, MoLinder and I avoid them neatly. Twenty minutes
tops, and we're standing in cold, gray Malmo.
Unsure of our first move, we head to Starbucks to check in at 'Sweden.' It feels right, but MoLinder can't find a proper signal, and we leave to wander slowly down an empty street towards what we suspect is a castle or a fortress or something, stopping every so often to see if MoL can jump on the FB. She is fucking determined to check us in.
"It's fucking cold, hurry up," I tell her, annoyed.
"Chill the fuck out. It's not real if it's not on the FB. Besides, I thought you looooved the cold. Oh, I'm Rassles, and I loooooove the cold, I'm so much haaappier when it snows."
"Shut up. Smart phones are dumb." I look around. "Is that a...is that a house falling into the canal?"
"Hord orn...jursh...hord orn..." Katisch looks up from her phone, also trying to check in, holding her gloves in her teeth while she fidgets and shivers.
"That's awesome," MoLinder says, tapping away on her phone.
"Ish mor rike a shurd."
Katsisch yanks her gloves from her mouth. "A shed."
"Whatever, I'm gonna tell people it's a house." I take a picture. "Do you think it's like a warning?" We stand at an open intersection, and the wind whips around us. I put on my gloves. "I should have brought my hat."
"Well, you didn't." Katsisch is only wearing a zipped sweatshirt. Well, and pants and stuff, of course. She keeps sniffing. She is allergic to Scandinavia, and she's been leaking out of her face ever since we landed in Copenhagen, poor thing, and she can't find any allergy medicine because, well...she's afraid to ask the Scandinavians for help. She's not as leaky when we're indoors, but standing all exposed on this barren, windy street is probably not helping.
"Want a Kleenex?" I ask her.
"I'm fine, let's just start moving."
"Got it!" MoLinder calls, successfully checking us in on FB. "Now you guys can stop your bitching. Where are we going?"
I pull out the map from my pocket, because I have no problem being a blatant tourist. That's something I never understood. "The castle thing is in this park."
"Okay, you guys, let's just go, can we walk, please?" Katsisch sniffs pathetically and crams her gloved hands into her pockets. "This way?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"It is too cold for 'I think so.'"
"Fine." She hunkers down and walks into the park, heading between tall hedges that block the wind.
These gardens are probably gorgeous in the summertime, but right now everything is soggy, brown and gray. People would Instagram the ever-filtered fuck out of this place. Rugged little blue flowers litter the ground in front of a quaint stone windmill. Geese are honking and shitting all over things, and there is a fucking moat around the castle.
"I think the entrance is on the other side," I tell them. We walk briskly, because seriously it is cold as fuck. Duh. Sweden. No one is around.
"Is this place free?" MoLinder asks. "Are you sure we can go inside?"
"I'm sure. I think there's a museum or something in there."
"What kind of museum?"
"I don't know. Probably a history of the castle or something. It looks kinda cool from out here, though, don't you think?"
We walk to the front of the crumbly red castle and hear a blazing trumpet, freezing just in time to watch a giant white swan dive-bomb some geese that are lounging in the moat. It's terrifying. We all start laughing.
"What?" Katsisch giggles.
"Dude, swans are bitches," MoL smiles.
"God, I love it here." I and turn to the bridge across the moat. "Shall we?"
We cross the bridge - was it a drawbridge once? - and walk inside a courtyard. It starts raining. We bolt inside.
A giant stuffed giraffe welcomes us into the castle, and we glance around before heading over to the front desk to buy our tickets.
"Tak," I say to the guy after paying, and he smiles, handing me the tickets. We decide to head over up to the ramparts to soak in as much history as possible, and start the trek up the stairs. We turn, following signs for the history of the castle, and walk into a room full of tiny medieval figurines acting out clandestine activities. Everything is in Swedish, but we can glean mildly their meaning. A life-size scene shows a soldier shitting in a bucket and drunken monk baffing into a barrel. Sickness? The plague?
Turning, we face a collection of dioramas showing literally straw-haired figurines being raped by pirates, muscling the castle's bellows, rotating in jail cells on small metal spikes with tortured faces. A mirrored tower of clay pots tricks us into believing the collection is triple its actual size, crude murals of jesters and the castle guard decorate the walls next to shattered pieces of brick that you can touch, just so, even if you aren't supposed to. Of course I touch everything.
Random planks of beloved ships and gallows are nailed haphazardly all over walls, Swedish descriptions taped beneath them, typed onto yellowing paper years ago. We obviously don't understand a word of it.
We turn a corner and we're in a circular brick tower laced with arrowslits that have been plexiglassed up, revealing the rainy skies outside. Piles of cannonballs are scattered around every curve.
Portraits litter the walls. They're hundreds of years old, but without protective laser-trips and glass casing. We can just run our fingers over the oil paint, fondle the gold frames. In the middle of it all there's a lush black and white autographed photo of Spencer Tracy.
The next room is full of ancient furniture and grayed curtains, but again, we can touch everything. There are no signs forbidding running our rain-tinged fingers over the velvet, nothing preventing us from resting our asses on four hundred-year old dining chairs. We can just sit, feel, consume medieval tapestries and frayed leather globes. The Swedes don't give a fuck.
We stroll in a daze, constantly calling to each other: "Holy shit, look at this. Look at this. I'm just caressing the portrait of an ancient Swedish king, like nothing."
Eventually we encounter a weathered suit of armor pointing to our right, with a piece of paper masking taped to its chest: an arrow following its extended arm, indicating THAT WAY.
"That way" is a twisting, brilliantly red carpeted staircase encased with more funhouse mirrors. It seems out of place, but you know. Sweden. We climb it. At the top to the right are signs indicating downward again, down a deep wooden stairwell. To the left is a slippery brick hole blocked by plexiglass, a worn down shit chute leading outside the fortress. We go right. Painted cat-paw footprints trail down the steps, and in English it indicates: Children's Museum.
Giddy, we follow the footprints.