A hotel straight out of an IKEA catalog

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Oct 17, 2008

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Flag of Sweden  , Swedish Lakeland,
Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wizzair got me to Nyköping in one piece and later today or tomorrow I will put on some pics and tell you about the experience.  Absolutely correct they are when they say you can take a wizz in Europe for next to nothing.  I'll just say for now it's a slight cut above Ryanair.  The only reason I am here in Sweden is because it was a connecting point between an extremely cheap Wizzair flight from Poland and an even cheaper €6 Ryanair flight to Lübeck, Germany later today.  I had never heard of Nyköping before this trip and was very curious if its webpage extolling its virtues lived up to reality.  This airport is advertised as Stockholm by Ryanair and Wizzair but I am over 1 hour south of there.

The brand new Connect Hotel at the airport here was where I had an interesting stay last night.  I chose it because it's right at the terminal and I got a very good (for Scandinavian standards, too) Ryanair employee rate.   Keep in mind this is where Ryanair houses its crews on layovers in "Stockholm" when I tell you about this very strange hotel that only opened a month ago.  I should have known that if Ryanair treats its customers like air freight, its crews can't be treated much better.  But on the bright side, the place was clean.

After my flight last night I walked right into a dark open lobby that was absolutely the most übermodern space I have ever seen.  The sleek plastic chairs, cube tables, 4 story glass walls and wood floors just screamed Scandinavian design and I couldn't even tell where the front desk was.  It turned out to be a counter with two candelabras holding actual real candles (try that in the US) and a large bar behind it.  Was it an IKEA showroom or a hotel?

Not only do the front desk people have to check in guests, they have to pour extremely expensive drinks at this bar.   The only thing out of place there was the 1970s American music like Stevie Wonder that did not even come close to matching the decor of orange chairs, brown tables and silver fixtures.  I was given one of the rooms where any Ryanair crew would sleep and I made my way upstairs ready to just crash into bed.

Finding my room was no problem at all but I was shocked when I opened it.  Behind door number 214 was just a narrow utilitarian space with a metal bunkbed, a tiny one foot by one foot corner desk complete with metal folding chair (still folded to save space) and a square window with a brown curtain.  Nothing else.  Not even a tv, coffee pot or phone.  Just that metal IKEA bunkbed, stark white walls, and a window.  The bedsheets were neatly folded at the end of the mattress and I was wondering if the maids had forgotten to make my bed.  I looked around for the door to the bathroom and there was none. What was I supposed to do all night?  Hold it in and skip a shower, too?  Even my dump in Paris had a sink in the room.  Seriously, this place was like cellblock 214 rather than room 214.

I went back down to the front desk and told the checkin/bartender girl there must be a mistake.  Evidently there was no mistake and these are the "Quick Sleep" rooms and indeed Ryanair thinks so little of its crews it puts them in these cells.  The last thing I wanted to do late at night when I was tired was make my bed and try to find some bathroom down the hall.   I eventually got the duvet cover put on sideways and just made do with it and simply layed the thin IKEA sheet on top of the mattress.  How does a one month old hotel have communal bathrooms for most of the guestrooms?  As I was walking away from the counter the girl had told me that an extra fifty bucks would buy a private toilet and shower.  I asked her if that included a bed that was made and she said that I would have to do that myself still.  I passed.

This morning I needed a shower and ventured into the men's bathroom that looked like it could be in any gym.  I went back to the shower area and it's just 5 stalls separated by small partitions maybe half a foot wide.  Large windows open up this shower area to the world with no curtains or tinting to block the show.  Now this hotel has wings that extend out from a round central lobby area so the wing directly across the way could look right into this bathroom.  It was like a repeat of my shower experience in Paris all over again where those old ladies were spying on me. 

I figured what the hell, stripped down and started showering.  Evidently Sweden is afraid we might burn ourselves with hot water so at best the water was lukewarm.   A small black button on the water control got my curiosity and after a few minutes of looking at it I finally pressed it.  It immediately cut off the lukewarm flow and delivered a steady stream of ice cold water that made me jump away from the shower.  At the exact same time a cleaning woman came around the corner and started yelling at me in Swedish and shaking her head.  I tried covering myself with my hands and told her in English I didn´t understand and to just give me some privacy.

Without missing a beat she told me in English I was making a mess and getting water everywhere.  It´s a shower, lady, what do you expect?  I got the warm water running again but she wasn´t done with me yet.  I was facing the wall and next thing I know there is a squeegy mop hitting my feet.  She was pushing water down the drain with absolutely no regard to me being there.  I just gave up and put my clothes back on while soaking wet and I dripped water all the way back to my room.   Now she can really worry about me getting water everywhere and have something to mop up. Don´t mess with me before I´ve had my morning shower and something to eat!

With my second bad European shower experience behind me I took the bus into Nyköping and it's only about a  7km ride.  Morning time had been foggy skies with temperatures in the 30s but now it's just cloudy and cold.  I sat for a while on a green bench in the middle of this town so idyllic that if the Swedes have their own Norman Rockwell he would be painting it.  Some teenagers rolled by in a grey Chevy Caprice station wagon older than them with the windows down and music up.  So that is supposed to be cool here I guess in a land of sleek design and modern architecture.  I wouldn't have been caught dead in that thing when I was 18.  And where in the world do you find a beat up old Caprice anway in a country where almost everything is late model Volvos and Volkswagens?  Actually now that I think about it, it was so different and unexpected that yes, it was kind of cool.

The cold air and yellow and red leaves tell me that whatever summer there is here is about to give way to a long, dark winter.  A small river flowing through the town into the harbor was the perfect place to take a walk and the entire place is lined with flowers and pleasant settings.  Even though I am just under two hours from Stockholm, I may as well be on the end of the earth here.  Right now I am about a million miles away from the smells of Delhi, the flooding in Cambodia, the heat in Kuwait, the hell of Ryanair, the beautiful scenery in Cape Town, and the amazing food in Laos.  Even yesterday in Poland feels like it was on another continent. 

Four hours of nonstop walking around Nyköping was the perfect way to just decompress from this past month and to get ready to come home in a few days.  I really don't want this trip to end though.  Right now I even feel like I am a million miles from my own life in Atlanta.  Every day or two has brought me to new sights and sounds and I have gotten used to it.  "Away" is just not how I feel anymore believe it or not.  Life for me has just become airplanes and new places, and the thrill of discovering somewhere new does not get old.  I wish that relaxed feeling I had while looking out over the water and boats this morning while eating a pistachio pastry could have lasted forever and that another plane didn't have to finally bring me home early next week.

All in all, the hotel was absolutely the strangest place I have ever stayed in, and I wonder if Ryanair crews try to avoid a Nyköping overnight because of it.  But my overnight here turned out to be pretty decent and relaxing, and it was just nice to not have full on dirt, crowds, noise, heat, tourists or salespeople assaulting my senses every two feet.  About all I had were some pleasant smells of food cooking, sounds of birds and a river, and a very clean, very safe city and harbor to explore.  It was an absolutely great way to spend one of my last mornings abroad, and Nyköping fully lived up to its homepage's promise that it is worth a visit.  I just hope my final Ryanair flight this evening down to Lübeck doesn't undo this relaxed feeling I have got inside me right now. 
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