Now I'm back on the proud lands of Sweden. After having spent several hours on Stanstead Airport I have slept for what feels like an eternity, and now I'm ready to share my London experiences with you.
It's expensive. Sure, we knew it was supposed to be; but heck, our money was run out after only a day! So there was no Madame Tussauds or British Museum. Instead, we enjoyed the real London - mingling with happy-go-lucky hostel owners, crazy indie Australian guys and homeless people. We'll take the tourist part some other time.
We lived at the cheapest hostel we could find, called The Birds Nest, located at 32 Deptford Church Street above a local pub. The hostel owner was of course the same guy who owned the pub - very cosy! We were surprised to find that the room we booked had a loft bed, very romantic. But the hostel owner was at least funny - "So you booked the penthouse suite, eh? He he he."
And the view? Lovely sea view (or at least a filthy water hole with a boat called AileenClare), a couple of abandoned buses and working children having frequent cigarette breaks.
While drinking the first London beer (some weird Banana Ale), we encountered to Amish looking guys from Australia. After having assumed that we were from Germany (everybody in London asked us that), they were happy to hear that we were in fact from Sweden.
"We just came from there!"
"How nice! Where in Sweden where you?"
"At the Zurich lake."
"Z-u-r-i-c-h - big fuckin' lake!"
"That's not in Sweden..."
"Oh, Sweden? We meant Switzerland!"
"Ah, same thing..."
Then we got to hear what Australians think of London. Expensive, nobody in London can find anything in their own city and the coffee is aweful. Well, we soon would have our own experiences on each of those points.
Oh, and they gave us new nicknames (obviously everybody in Australia has nicknames) - Oz and Lottie.
The Australian hippies were going to play that night at some "fancy, dandy nightclub called The East Village" in Shoreditch, and we thought that would be fun. How hard can it be to find that place? Shoreditch - East Village - ask our way there. Well, we were so naïve. Just that Shoreditch part of London was as big as the entire Europe, and after having wandered about for an hour (all Londoners pointed in different directions), we had to give up.
Londoners can't find anything in London - check.
Even though it took about 30 minutes with the bus to get to central London, the hostel was just a short walk from Greenwich. Friday morning we ate our breakfast in Greenwich Park and then made some window shopping in the village. We had our first cup of black coffee, witch was so watery that you could see the bottom of the coffee cup.
Londoners can't make coffee - check.
The rest of our London visit consisted mostly of walking around in the rain, drinking Starbucks coffee (at least resembled real coffee) and checking in the architecture (weird and beautiful - lots of statues of men that history has forgotten and miserable children, mixed with gigantic glass buildings and cosy pubs). We went to Notting Hill, and arrived at Portobello Road in time to see it close for the day. But it was a really cosy neighbourhood with colorful buildnings that gave the air of the early 1900's, retro shops and lots of pubs (of course). We found a second hand book store that was still open, in which we spent about an hour. I bought a brick-sized book called "Cassell Companion to Cinema" for £2 - quite a bargain!
What we found a bit surreal was how nice the Londoners were. After the first day Oz started to suspect and conspiracy - after another day we realized that they just were that way. Probably a healthy reaction of thankfulness to not living in Deptford. (Okay, in Greenwich Oz was called a "wanker" by a drug addict that wanted change, but we took that more as a compliment. You have to be called a "wanker" by an Englishman some time in your life!)
But it was quite interesting to see how colored one is of the country one lives in. In Sweden you look twice over the shoulder if a gang of immigrants are walking behind you, hoping not to be robbed and/or murdered. In London, if you quite hesitantly walk up to a dangerous looking immigrant and ask for bus directions, he happily helps you with the timetable, all in a wonderfully broad London accent.
Don't get me wrong - all Swedish immigrants are not criminal. But all Swedes think they are.
The thing is that the Swedish government isn't too smart when it comes to receiving immigrants. In the 1970's we needed work force, so we let in about one billion people. We couldn't take care of everyone, so they lived poorly and moved around in gangs to feel comfortable in the un-welcoming country of the Swedes - and of course needed to steal and get tough to survive.
And the same thing in present time. "Wanted by Al-Quaida? Come to Sweden! We will take you over the border, but then you're on your own."
It seems like other countries, like Britain and Finland, have taken care of a few people over a long time and be able to take care of them. At least a bit better than in Sweden. So many of the "immigrants" we encountered in London were probably of the second or third generation of immigrants.
Anyway - I loved London. If I get a sugardaddy someday, I'll buy an apartment in Notting Hill. And I will return for a Snake Bite, I was unluckyt with ignorant bartenders who didn'tt have any idea what I was talking about.
And Matthew Coniam - I totally forgot that you lived in London! It would have been so nice to see you. Damn it, damn it, damn it!
More London pics:
Freaky statues and sculptures of evil and/or suffering children.