Now, there is a town called Halmstad. It´s in Sweden. And I would very much like to see Andy try to pull that shit off there.
The garden gnomes are but one of the things they fuck you up with.
I ended up in Halmstad when a group of us decided to spend a couple of days there in order to see Finland play in the U-21 European Football Championships. Yeah, I went to Sweden on my summer holidays. I know, I know. You can come over and punch me in the face if you like. I´ll wait.
Now, I´m not going to say it was a bad trip. Hell – all things considered it was a GREAT trip. We saw the games and, though we lost them, the team performed alright and the atmosphere in Örjans Vall stadium was amazing. Between games we amused ourselves with minigolf tournaments, horse racing and other stunts that you only ever end up participating in when you´re abroad and/or drunk.
However… Problems arose every time we stopped keeping to ourselves and tried to interact with the town and the way it had organized things for its week in international limelight. In tiny, tiny steps, Halmstad slowly started to reveal its true colors like a small dog tirelessly wearing you down with its yapping.
First off, Halmstad is dull. Incredibly, mind-bogglingly, skull-fuckingly dull. Even the river running through it, though beautiful, only somehow manages to accentuate the dullness.
If places were bands.
To face the fact that you´ve actually paid good money to spend time there is a sudden shock that can be dealt with two different ways: either you bash yourself repeatedly in the head with a blunt instrument, cursing your stupidity, or you start drinking yourself into oblivion the first chance you get. Our party chose the latter (to the surprise of absolutely no one in the world) and, come next day, had to deal with the subsequent hangover on…
Halmstad likes to advertise itself as something of a beach holiday town. And boy, what a place it is to hit the beach…
…if you happen to be Helen Keller, that is. For those of us that can see and hear, their claim of a “picturesque coastline where the unspoilt Tylosand beach is a popular destination for Swedish and foreign holidaymakers alike” was quickly found out to be a shameless marketing lie.
Apart from the beach itself the strip includes a shitload of summer cabins and a narrow and, you guessed it, BORING street with a couple of minigolf courses, an insane amount of ice cream parlors, an unashamedly crappy hotel/bar/restaurant and, in the middle of it all, a strange combination of all of the above that for some reason is called “Japan”.
And the actual beach? Granted, there´s sun and the strip is filled with some whitish substance that with some imagination could perhaps be called sand. What the brochures WON´T tell you is that the sun´s warmth is rendered useless by a constant chilly wind that brings in the distinctive aroma of rotting seaweed and shellfish. Enjoying yourself enough to remove your shoes means you´ll end up doing a Die Hard -esque “John McClane barefooted on broken glass” dance on account of the three billion or so cracked seashells scattered amongst the sand.
Also, there´s a huge Biltema warehouse/factory clanking away on a peninsula maybe 300 meters away and (possibly) polluting the fuck out of the sea just because it can.
See all the possibilities Halmstad offers for a bored tourist!
There´s beer. Minigolf. A horse track. A football game every few days. Beer. Breathing. Beer. And so much more!
…no, I´m sorry, that´s pretty much it.
OK, I get it that the People´s Home (or whatever the hell Swedes want their country to be nicknamed in english, I can´t be bothered to google it) wants things to be nice and neat. And sure, small towns tend to close their restaurants early. But come on. It´s like the whole town ceased to exist sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., leaving countless foreigners in their coloured jerseys and scarfs floating in thin air, thirsty and confused.
Sure, most small towns in most countries are like that, but I really can´t stress this enough:
THESE. WERE. THE. FUCKING. EUROPEAN. CHAMPIONSHIPS.
U-21 teams or not, you can´t afford to act like a typical small town when you´re hosting a major event like that! Dammit!
The town was filled with football fans. And if there´s one thing football fans like more than watching the game, it´s getting so wasted afterwards that they can´t even piss their pants without outside help.
Most towns, given such an obvious opportunity for alcohol-related profit, would allow more than enough watering holes to stay open -more or less legally- until at least four or five in the morning. Even after that it would be perfectly possible to have a drink, thanks to the less law-abiding entrepreneurial types standing in street corners with a cold case full of rather expensive (but at that time of night so very, very cheap) six-packs, scanning for police patrols from the corners of their eyes while handing out refreshments.
That´s what most towns would do. Not Halmstad, though. Halmstad needs its beauty sleep.
A well-organized tournament city makes, say, information and official merchandise available anywhere and everywhere. Because, you know, people might want to actually know things about the tournament they´ve come to watch and maybe even buy some souvenirs while they´re there.
And then, for the true connoisseurs, there´s the Halmstad way:
The organization committee basically wrote ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE over the stadium entrance and called it a day.
Halmstad, as a “beach resort”, is a small town that has a huge amount of big city visitors every summer. Therefore the natural country charm of its inhabitants has been tainted over the years by an endless, if periodic stream of well-groomed big city douchebags running amok. This is probably why the population of Halmstad seems to be mostly comprised of “civilized and cultural” older people (who still have to milk their cows every day) and scores of smalltown kids pretending to be big time playas. The town can´t seem to decide whether to drench in Chanel N:o 5 or turpentine and seems to have settled for a combination of both.
Unsurprisingly, the end product smells exactly like a douchebag.
Now, as a Finn I know I´m in no position to talk smack about other countries´ cuisine. After all, ours consists mostly of Karelian pies, boiled meat and shame.
Even so, I would like to use this opportunity to list some of the delicacies Halmstad´s kitchens and grills have seen fit to sell me as food:
– Pizza with suspicious, cold, white sauce that definitely wasn´t mayonnaise
– Kebab with suspicious, cold, white sauce that definitely wasn´t mayonnaise
– Schnitzel with suspicious, cold, yellowish sauce that definitely wasn´t Remoulade no matter what they told me
– Schnitzel with suspicious, hot, white sauce and for some goddamn reason spaghetti
– Sausage roll with suspicious, cold, white sauce that definitely wasn´t mayonnaise
– Hot Dog with suspicious, cold, white sauce that definitely wasn´t mayonnaise
– A Big Mac that tasted nothing like a Big Mac.
Sweden says: this goes with everything.
Including your mom.
Sweet Jesus Christ juggling fish on a flaming unicycle, Stugcentral.
The polar opposite of a functional hostel, operated by greedy, opportunistic and seemingly mildly retarded locals.
From the second we set foot on the grounds of the place I could hear the Dueling Banjos playing on the background 24/7. I think this was only in my head, but the tune may very well have been blasting out of the loudspeakers on the front yard the whole time. (Note to self: check this later.)
They took a 50€ deposit, which I suppose is fairly normal in such establishments. What was not normal was the fact that the sum was determined by the reception guy by pulling a random figure out of his ass. Ours was fifty, the next guy´s thirty, the guy after that – seventy.
The cabin was a complete mess connected to a bunch of other cabins, also complete messes.
The House Rules were laughably meticulous and impossible to clarify, because no one on staff spoke english or, for that matter, intelligible swedish.
The staff ripped the guests off by demanding the cabins should be cleaned or else, yet provided nothing to do the cleaning with. Of course, you could rent the owners´ shitty vacuum cleaner for an absurdly high fee.
Which we will gladly rent to you at 20€ per hour.”
The neighbours were, for want of better word, interesting.
The soundproofing turned out to be nonexistent.
The place smelled like something had died under the floorboards.
The bathroom was flooded every time someone took a shower.
We never saw the caretaker, but if we had, he´d probably looked like this:
I´ll be back about the shower.”
On top of all this we were treated like second class citizens the whole time. There is, of course, some justification to this. We WERE football tourists, after all. But there is no excuse to what happened during our last night there:
The scenario described above lasted for the whole. Goddamn. Night.
A couple of evil eyes and complaints did absolutely nothing to shut the flock of douchebags up. What these small gestures did, though, was inspire them into a spirited attempt to barricade us into our cabin during the small hours. They were no engineers, however, and the barricade was easily broken. Which was just as well, since OUR FUCKING TRAIN LEFT EARLY THAT MORNING. Should we have missed that, there would have been blood. As it were, we got out in time and had to settle for a smaller amount of holy vengeance.
The owners? They were nowhere to be seen during the whole incident. Funny, really. After all, they were quick to chastise the Finnish guy next door who on the previous night had tried to sleep on his porch because, you know, it was hot in the cabin.
And whatever happened to that 50€ deposit?