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Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

In the morning, I take a walk back into the city to go to the Vasa museum, stopping for fish and chips along the way. It contains a gigantic ship from the fifteenth century, which sunk on its maiden voyage but was found again in the harbor in the 1950s and was pulled out of the water, remarkably intact. Quite an impressive exhibit. When I come out, it has clouded over, so I walk briskly back to the hostel to get my bag and head to the metro to catch the ferry to Helsinki. The ferry is a cruise ship, fully equipped with pools and shops and saunas and bars and restaurants, a gargantuan affair, there is even a casino down at one end. My cabin mates on the boat are three Swiss kids, again eighteen and nineteen, from Basel. After the boat gets going I get up and wander around, drink some beers, go up to the top deck and watch the seagulls weave their beautiful patterns in the air. I grab some food at one of the cafes, go back to the room and lay down. The Swiss kids have gone up to the top deck to drink a big bottle of vodka. Later on, one of them comes back in, goes to the toilet and pukes, then collapses on the bed. In another half an hour, the next guy comes in. He fumbles and staggers for a moment, then I hear him throw up all over the room, as he is unable to open the bathroom door. He collapses on the bed face first. In the dark, I hear him now throwing up on his pillow. The stench overwhelms me, I have to get out of there. So I gather my stuff and head down to the security guard on the lower level at five in the morning to ask if there are any other beds available. He sends me down to the bottom of the hull to a spare bed down there. The room is hot but at least I can lay down.


Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I sleep fitfully, the train sounds a horn frequently and shakes and rattles but I do manage a bit of shut-eye nevertheless. At seven am we are in Stockholm. I get off and hike the pack across town, through Gamla Stan and find my hostel, which is actually a boat sitting moored at a pier. It is pretty cool, the whole place sways on the waves slightly and the common room is a stately wooden marine-themed place with big leather chairs, but the sleeping rooms are the smallest I’ve ever seen. Four beds in each, with almost no room to move, you can barely get in, and the shower is more of the same. I lay down in the bunk and try to rest. A newcomer comes in after a bit, he is a young Hungarian guy. “I can’t believe how small this room is,” he says in his curious accent. “I am astonished. I don’t know if I will ever sleep.” He lays down for a while. “This is the smallest room I have ever been in.” David (the Hungarian) and the other guy in our room, Toby (from Germany) sit around chatting for a while, we all decide to check out the town together. We walk through Gamla Stan, the old town, a pleasant place with a slightly medieval feel to it, then head up north into the newer section of town, a street crowded with shoppers and stores and cafes and the usual. Stockholm is relaxed and agreeable, like the rest of Scandanavia. The people passing by seem like they don’t have a care in the world. My companions are good guys, Toby is carefree, likes to surf and check out girls, David is irascible in a likeable sort of way, an inquisitive and spirited fellow. We walk to a nearby island via a bridge, grab a snack, then head back down south. An attractive brunette comes towards us, wanting us to donate money for some cause and speaking Swedish. “I don’t know what you’re saying, but I like the sound of it,” Toby says. We stop at a supermarket, get beers and drink them on the street (technically an infraction, but we’re told that the cops here will most likely look the other way). Then, after a stroll around the area south of the water, we head back to our boat-hostel, climbing down a spiraling stairway along a cliff to find our way. It has been a very hot day and my clothes are soaked through with sweat, and I am tired of the damn sun relentlessly beating down on me. I didn’t think Sweden ever got this hot – it must have been near ninety degrees. I have a shower and crash for a while in the common room, rocking along with the waves peacefully. I meet up with Toby, we go up on the top deck of the boat and drink beers. We talk about this and that, he tells me that the Polish have a reputation for being thieves and that the unemployment rate in some places there is as high as fifty percent. Pity the poor of the world. Toby leaves to go hang with some chicks across town, after he does some Scottish girls aged eighteen and nineteen come bubbling up to me and ask me to go buy beer for them. Sure, why not, they are elated and babble cheerfully at me for a while, then go out to get chow. The beer should be there by nine, they advise, so that they can then get ‘blitzed’ before moving on to the next party. I am a good pack animal / scavenger, I will dig it up and provide because, really, I have nothing else to do anyway. I drink beers on the boat aimlessly, time passes. Go back to the room, lay down for a while. David comes in, sits down. “I don’t like this city,” he says. “There are no fucking benches.” He putters back and forth a bit. “The boat is rocking, I will be vomiting soon.” He sits down, ponders things for awhile. “I am serious about the fucking benches, though. And when you find one, it is not comfortable. It forces you to sit how you don’t want to sit.” After a while I get up, get a few six packs for the girls and come back. They are up on the top deck again, and invite me to play a drinking game with them. Later, Toby and David turn up, and we all drink and talk and laugh, everyone is having a good time. The girls are cute, so excited by everything, and I love the Scottish accents. One of them is interested in me, she sits down next to me and talks to me and tells me I have a nice ass. Another one of them has a hilarious laugh, it sounds like a pigeon cooing in fast forward, I crack up every time she does. Another one is like a little china doll, so small and fragile. She has a streak of pink in her hair, I tell her it looks like she has had a tussle with a flamingo. We drink late into the night, then people disperse. I meet David in the hall going back to the room. “There is a seven foot woman in our room,” he tells me. He sounds worried about it for some reason. And he is right, there is a giant woman lying in the bed next to mine. In the morning, she disappears as quickly as she came.


Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Get a decent night's rest, get up and hop on the train back to Oslo. Today is the marathon journey - I have a seven hour train to Oslo, a four hour layover then a ten hour overnight train to ... [Continue reading this entry]