It had been a long trip, the longest I'd been on for some years, but it was time to go home. We had arranged a relatively late departure, which meant we didn't have to get up too early or rush to pack. We even had time for a quick breakfast; I took my last opportunity to get a soft boiled egg, something I just don't see in the US any more. We were out the door with our packed bags by 10:15.
Sadly for us, it was a nice day after the poor weather we'd encountered since arriving at Copenhagen. In fact packing and hauling our luggage made me hot. I had to pack my jacket away, hoping I wouldn't run into trouble with our luggage's weight (we didn't).
We walked by Tivoli one last time to get to the train station for our train to the airport. Perhaps the Scout Jamboree was breaking up, as there were many orange-clad scouts in the station too. As with the Metro the day before, the ticket machine only took coins, which was quite inconvenient; I wound up having to use my ATM card to pay.
We just made the 10:41 train, which gave us plenty of leeway to get to the airport on time. Even a delay, perhaps due to another broken down train as a whole ton of people boarded at the Tårnby station, did not cause us a lot of worry.
Our time at the airport was relatively pain-free, at least by the usual standards of air travel. The worst that happened to us was that our gate wasn't open when we got there, so we had to wait outside for a little while. We stopped in the duty free shop to use the last of our money, mostly to buy water. In the shopping area there was an interesting game going on. An umbrella was suspended magnetically from the ceiling until it dropped. If the contestant caught it before it hit the floor, they won. The employees would all clap at this. As dumb as it sounds, I liked the addition of some kind of enthusiasm in an airport atmosphere.
The guy at passport control was friendly too. He asked Janna and me about our Scandinavian surnames. He even asked Janna in Danish, which of course she couldn't answer. He also asked me if I spoke Swedish, but at least did so in English.
Our initial flight was to JFK, and was pretty unremarkable for such a trip. JFK, on the other hand, is always memorable. It's a terrible airport (I laughed when I overheard a traveler from Zurich muttering under his breath about the "shit airport"), but to me it does represent a lot of important memories. Here was the gate where we had to make alternate arrangements because we'd missed our Budapest flight. There was the gate that we had to run to in order to catch that alternate flight. Over there was the gate we waited in for our departure to Cairo.
However, all these adventures were on outbound flights. There was little to be nostalgic about regarding my return flights to Pittsburgh. As always, we had to wait at a crowded gate shared by many other flights. We were able to pass some time by going to the Travelex outlet to exchange currency, then getting some dinner. We did the latter at a Chili's Too outfit. The food was passable, but the service was odd. One waitress, whom I think was also a manager, seemed to be always busy but never efficient. She even got into arguments with some other customers about their orders. I can't be entirely sure, but my strong suspicion was that she was in the wrong in the argument but she didn't seem to care about actually making the customers happy.
We still had plenty of time to wait in the unpleasant gate area. What was particularly frustrating about all the delays was that we probably would have had time to make an earlier flight. When booking, we'd avoided the previous flight because we thought the connection would be too tight, but our overseas flight arrived early and the passport and customs procedures were faster than usual. We probably would have made the earlier flight after all.
As it was, the flight home wasn't terribly interesting, except that we got further delayed by a problem with our navigation lights, and then had to wait a long time on the runway. The oddly laconic, lanky, white haired steward entertained us for a while. It wasn't enough to maintain our enthusiasm, and we only got home, very tired, by about 1:30 AM. The trip itself had been great, but the travel home had been enough to sap our remaining energy.
I always love international travel, and this trip was no exception. The roller coaster aspect is an added bonus, of course. It was interesting to return to parks I'd been to in the past, and see how my perceptions of them changed. Linnanmäki was much more fun this time than last, while Särkänniemi didn't quite live up to my expectations. Parks like Bakken and Tivoli Gardens were great both times, but we had to contend with less than ideal weather during our stays there and didn't have as much time as I would have liked. Possibly the best day we had was the one at Gröna Lund, where we experienced an amazing park under ideal weather conditions, and were given plenty of hospitality. Meanwhile I also got to experience four parks that were completely new to me. Of them, three were ones I'd gladly return to if given the opportunity. Only Tivoli Friheden seemed to lack somewhat.
My favorite ride may well have been Gröna Lund's Twister, but it certainly had competition from Lisebergbanan and Balder. For sheer charm, Tivoli's Rutschebanen also was among my favorites. Among non-coaster rides, I loved most of the fun houses we went through, Gröna Lund's and Bakken's best of all. Tusenfryd's Nightmare and SpinSpider were also really pleasant surprises.
I also really enjoyed the extra time we took for our own tourism, particularly the first part of the trip in Helsinki and Tallinn (when the weather was still good). On my earlier trip I didn't remember having liked Helsinki as much as I did this time--I would be happy to return a third time. If I do another such trip, I also will have to find some way to spend more time in Stockholm.
I have few regrets about the trip. The biggest thing that detracted from it was the weather, over which I had no control. Next time, though, I hope to do more to seek out better food options, and be willing to pay for it.
All in all, it was a great trip. I had been eager to return to Scandinavia and was not in the least bit disappointed. Perhaps the best thing about it was that though it was a longer trip than usual by our standards, we were not at all tired of it by the end (except for the trip home itself). Usually after more than a week of travel I'm about ready to come home, but I could easily have extended this trip even further if given the chance. I certainly hope this is not the last time I'll visit Scandinavia.
This is the final post of a series. For all the other installments, see: