No. Reservations.

Day 2 - Jönköping

We left Stockholm and its scenic if somewhat austere environs for a city 200 miles to the south. Jönköping perches on the bottom edge of the country's second biggest lake, Vättern, and is the the home town of such notable persons as Agnetha from Abba, Nina Persson (Cardigans fame) and a man with whom James and I have much in common - Olympic kayaker Anders Gustafsson. Leaving behind the convenience of an H&M on every corner and an off-license never more than an hour's walk away we began the road trip proper. Urban sprawl gave way to endless coniferous forest, clatter and chatter to 101 Party Classics, a 5CD odyssey charting the highs of pop music over the preceding decades. It also, inevitably, included some lows and to counter this we were each granted 5 vetoes. However these were to apply to the entire CD collection in the car which were to be played back to back in strict alphabetical order. Looking at some of the CDs my vetoes would be sorely needed in future hence the fact that UB40's 'Red, red wine' was played in its entirety, a song that is like nails on the chalkboard of my soul, I still rue the decision. Anyway, the wheels turn, the hours pass and the mind wanders, wanders into the forest, to the empty and frozen north where Ringlefinch bend the pines like matchsticks and Jotnar stalk the mountain,  the forgotten places where the old gods hold sway. The Norse have a wonderfully rich mythology and their pantheon of gods has occupied too little of my interest so far. The polytheistic religions, though largely pushed aside, give such an insight in our early understanding of the nature of deities. I so much prefer them to the drab, one-dimensional monotheistic ideas so popular of late. I like my gods to have, for want of a better word, a human side. Let them fight and commit folly, let them be cruel and be kind. Let them teach us something of the reality of life, if nothing else it makes for the best stories.
We found the sparkling edge of Vättern and followed its eastern shore all the way to Jönköping. We headed for the lobby of The Grand Hotel, its shabby elegance was rather becoming but we were just there to pick up keys to our less grand hostel next door. They gave us a stark but spacious room with white linen from IKEA and brown stains from various places. The town itself was quiet apart from a steady stream of people trooping around wearing green boiler suits and shouting about something. But rather than the protest it initially appeared to be, their regular stops at bars suggested some kind of organised pub crawl. Their t-shirts listed suggested activities for the evening, drinking and beer pong amongst them (vomiting and regrettable sex were presumably a given) - students. We three  gentleman travelers pursued more sedate goals, chiefly dinner. How poorly we understood the complexity of our aim. The first restaurant couldn't accommodate us due to a shortage of waiting staff and from then on our hungry quest became a litany of failure as eatery after eatery either ignored us or couldn't seat us at one of their, sometimes numerous, empty tables due to ostensible reservations. There's the Sweden I know and f*****g hate, where's TGI Fridays? After exploring the limits of the cities dysfunctional dining scene we found a Chinese/Japanese/Mongolian place yards from the hostel that was too empty to plausibly deny us. The many miles traveled had taken their toll on our feet so post meal it was time to retire.

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