To Stockholm by Train

View from the train window at dusk, on the way back from Sweden to Hamburg via Copenhagen

Inky skies and blue-green fields at dusk. Warm light leaking out of thatched cottages, then bleeding into the twilight. A stop in Copenhagen. The harsh Swedish landscape. Travelling up north by train has its advantages, as I found recently when I choo-chooed all the way to Stockholm.

I’ve been trying to travel by train a little more recently, and my latest trip was to Stockholm Fintech Week. Hamburg is quite far north: I recently worked out that we’re on the same longitue as Grimsby in the UK. So despite the rickety train connection, at four-and-a-half hours, the time to Copenhagen is still less than, say, Munich. Cologne takes a similar time, if you make the connection at Hanover, and Frankfurt is only about half an hour less. In future, with the tunnel being built (yes, built, not dug) across the bottom of the Fehmarnbelt, it should take less than three hours.

But even now, the journey is quite pleasant when it works out. I like the peaceful tranquility of Schleswig-Holstein, which blends into southern Jutland.

The train turns right from Jutland to Funen, then over the sea on a bridge that is almost at eye-level, to Zealand, the island where Copenhagen lies. The architecture is in many ways similar to Hamburg. Still, the atmosphere is different and I’m sure the light is unique.

Although I missed the connection in Copenhagen on the way there, which I presume was down to hurricane Sabine, things went relatively smoothly because I was able to catch the next train on to Stockholm via Malmö.

It takes so damn long compared to flying

The obvious downside of train travel is that it takes so long. However, this is mitigated by the ability to work, presuming you get a seat and have relatively stable internet.

On my way back from Stockholm, I had a stop-over in Copenhagen of two hours, which I spent in the Glyptotek. I came to appreciate the collection of sculptures, which are crowded together and in most cases not cordoned off. The visitor can get right up close and admire the intricate, almost life-like details. While only just sub-human, they are truly superhuman feats.

At the Glyptotek while waiting in Copenhagen for the train back to Hamburg.
At the Glyptotek while waiting in Copenhagen for the train back to Hamburg.

The Swedish landscape beyond Copenhagen is harsher, drier, less saturated with colour. Sweden, in my very limited experience, is more desolate and isolated. Stockholm is a fine city, with exquisite architecture. The National Museum reminded me of Hamburg’s Kunsthalle: a brick building with an imposing staircase as soon as you enter and murals on the first floor. Unlike the Kunsthalle, it has an equally imperious staircase, which takes you up to the second floor.

Stockholm Fintech Week

I took in two full days of Stockholm Fintech Week, including the main day. They covered some interesting topics, such as AI and risk, decentralised finance (i.e. cryptocurrencies), and internationalisation. On the main day, I spent a lot of the day chatting outside the event room: the businesses presenting at event stands were interesting. A big success was the networking opportunity afforded by the app function coupled with the numbered meeting tables. I had a couple of interesting meetings, and overall enjoyed learning about startups in the Nordic ecosystem.

More train travel

In mid-December 2019, I took the train to Cologne to visit one of my clients, Open Strategy Partners: From there, I was able to continue to Brussels, then back to Birmingham via London. I had just enough time to get a pint near Euston before catching the train to Birmingham. Everything went like clockwork in that instance, until I experienced an over two-hour delay for what should have been a fifteen-minute journey on the local train to get me to my mum’s house. I ultimately gave up and got picked up by car.

Others have outlined the advantages of train travel in more detail and far more eloquently than me. I hope I’ll be able to do my bit for the environment by choosing rail travel in future.