hidden europe 59

Making Tracks for Sweden

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: A rare departure from Berlin Hauptbahnhof — a direct train to Stockholm (photo © hidden europe).


As winter slipped slowly into spring in 1917, Lenin passed through Berlin on his journey back to Russia from Switzerland. His onward route from Berlin took him by train to Sassnitz, then on by ferry to Trelleborg in Sweden. These days it's still possible to follow the route taken by Lenin, using the occasional direct trains from Berlin to Sweden.

hidden europe co-editor Nicky Gardner takes the direct train from her home city of Berlin to Sweden.

We rattle north in heavy rain, slipping through Angermünde, a small town where once the Huguenots were given land and settled. Then on past water meadows and Pomeranian forests until, more than an hour after Angermünde, we reach Anklam where we cross the River Peene, the one-time frontier between Prussia and Sweden.

Is there perhaps a lightening in the northern sky? Will the rain pass? We barely slow for Greifswald, where three churches define the town’s handsome skyline. It was here that Caspar David Friedrich was born, the German artist whose melancholic allegorical landscapes so perfectly capture the peculiar qualities of the Baltic light.

Another twenty minutes and the speed is cut to a snail’s pace as we slip around a curve rarely used by passenger trains and then there is a gorgeous view of the waterfront and old city centre of Stralsund away to the west. It’s a very Baltic cityscape, with the distant silhouette of the red-brick town hall — a dramatic symbol of Hanseatic influence.

This is not a journey which shifts definitively from Germany to Sweden. At no point do we cross a clear line demarcating the two countries. No, it is rather an ‘experience’ — one which starts in Germany and ends in Sweden, gently morphing between the two.

“Welcome aboard,” the train manager had announced in Swedish and English as I boarded the train in Berlin. Not a word of German. “Today, we shall be going to Stockholm,” he added.

I had wondered about the reason why there is the very occasional direct train from Berlin to Stockholm. There was no train in September to Stockholm — and this is the only train service in October which will go to the Swedish capital. So it was partly curiosity that made me board that very train.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 59.
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