We leave our home in Stockholm and walk for 10 minutes to our commuter rail station, with all of Sweden’s trains roaring by us, to the airport, to the south, to the world, my daughter clapping her hands over her ears for all of them. We ride the commuter train north to the outer suburbs, no city here, just a collection (from the train) of grim apartment complexes and industrial parks. We get off in Upplands Väsby, and then we board a two-car red train. And we ride that into the forest.
It is not really into the forest, for the train goes all the way to Gävle, my wife’s hometown, and a city of about 100,000 people. It passes through Uppsala, Sweden’s premier university town, with about 200,000 people. You want a real train to nowhere, take the MTA Port Jervis line out of Secaucus (if you don’t have to pay a bribe). That train starts off carrying all these NYC commuters, but there is no Gävle at the end, just the roundabout in Port Jervis, our old end of the line town of 10,000 at the edge of the forests of both the Catskills and the Poconos. The train is empty by the last stop.
But, still, you get off that train in the parking lot of an semi-abandoned, decaying strip mall. To get to our summer house, you get off in Marma, population 400, and none of those people live near the new commuter train stop. Nope, our little two-car train just stops in the middle of the woods. We get off, two strollers loaded with a week’s supplies, and we hike off into the trees to Ambricka, which is north of Marma, and much smaller.
When you drive to places like Ambricka, you take your whole world with you. There is continuity, so you can drive for hours into, say, the Amazon and still be listening to your White Stripes CD with the debris of a lunch the week before at your feet. But on a train, you enter a sort of community, or city, and you enter it fresh. It is civilization, but a common one, not just yours. So you sit there and interact with people, even if by ignoring them, and the space you occupy is only temporarily yours. It is like being in the city. And then you get off in Marma, and you are in the woods.
It is disorienting, to say the least, especially since we are still new to Marma, so have no sense of home in the woods, though that is fast coming. And going home, we will likely have the reverse culture shock, walking out of the woods into a world of families and commuters and punks sleeping on their luggage, pink hair in their faces.