Return From the Bottom of the Sea
Scandinavia 2008 - Day 6
I don’t know how I awoke, and by all rights, I should not have. I had consumed too much, but mostly I could only count the equivalent of about a full nights sleep from the last 4 nights combined. But somehow I did waken (I vaguely remember dreaming something with my watch alarm in it); I rolled off Wilhelm’s couch and called out his name. I could hear him snoring in his bedroom, his door was open and I couldn’t tell if he was wearing pants under his bed sheet or not, so I reached out with a long toe and kicked him and said “get up, we are late!” Somehow finding my way to the restroom I heard him get up in time to answer the door, Thomas was here and it was time to be leaving. I washed my face, threw on my clothes, and jammed my stuff in my bag, took one long look to insure I wasn’t forgetting anything, and we left.
We arrived at the terminal in time to buy tickets, and when we got on the ship they closed the door behind us and off we went. We weren’t taking the direct ship to Stockholm, because that one was at 4:00am (and we were still drinking at that time), so we were taking the 7:15 ship to some city on the Swedish coast where we then had a 1-hour bus ride into the city.
The ship was old and shabby; we found a seat around a sad table in a coffee-stained carpeted lounge that had a long row of grimy windows facing out to sea. As the ship left port I got a look at the series of hundreds upon hundred of little islands that make up the Aland’s. I joked that I would commandeer one of the little ones, no bigger than a Volkswagen, and start an American Colony. My friends informed me that people fiercely guarded the islands they owned, even if it amounted to nothing more than a small boulder in the sea, even if it were so small it was under water in high tide.
Thomas retrieved a tray of small coffees accompanied by a mound of sugar cubes. He also brought back with him a friend of theirs he found while getting our caffeine. I am not 100% but I am quite sure the blokes name was David. He was headed to the Western coast of Sweden where he was going to spend a week on a yacht sailing back towards Stockholm. He was friendly and well dressed. Even though it was about 9am many people were carrying large cases of beer, again taking advantage of the tax-free shop. I guarded the bags while the guys took off to help David buy several cases for his sailing trip. While they were gone I sat there, my eyes heavy, I should have felt exhausted, but I wasn't, looking out the window I watched the sea go by and I smiled. The three of them came back with their arms full. The boat would be arriving soon so we gathered my bags and the beer and went below deck to David’s car, filled the trunk with our goods, and got in the car as the cargo bay door opened.
On the highway to Stockholm Wilhelm and Thomas opened some silver cans and began drinking. The cans were premixed vodka and cranberry drinks. According to Swedish law the passengers are allowed to drink just as long as the driver doesn’t. My head was hurting from the night before but nothing cures a hangover like a stiff drink.
In Stockholm David dropped the three of us off at a random intersection and drove off on what I am sure was a great sailing trip. I said goodbye to Wilhelm and Thomas and thanked them for such a great time, and I left to take my stuff to the hostel. On the metro train to my hostel I paused to reflect, and I realized I missed Elin.
After checking in to my hostel which was an old boat permanently docked alongside the river in downtown Stockholm, I decided it was time to get back on my tour schedule and thus headed to Djurgarden. The closer I got to djurgarden the more beautiful the people got, and strangely enough, it seemed as if every metro, bus, and sidewalk was stuffed full of hot women who were either pregnant or had a small infant. Stockholm must be the hot mom capital of the world. It seemed to me that they also time things around here so that the babies are born in the early summer in time to enjoy the nice weather. I did not blame them, as I walked across the bridge to the island of the royal gardens known as djurgarden I was impressed on the large expanse of greenery and blue sea that sat amidst the princess like fairy tale city of Stockholm. Every day should began and end in djurgarden.
After a quick tour of the Nordiska Museet (save your money) I went to the world renowned Vasamuseet! In the 1600’s the largest and most expensive warship ever built by the kingdom of Sweden, and for that fact the world, sank shortly after being launched. Once it got out of the docks it listed in the wind and quickly went under. In the 1960’s they rediscovered it and found that the wood-rot free waters of the Baltic remarkably preserved it. The Swedish government quickly began a daring plan to lift if to the surface, restored and repaired it, and floated it on a second and final voyage into a specially built museum.
Walking in the front doors of the museums one is immediately dwarfed and in awe of the unspeakably huge wooden ship that towers over them. I instantly knew I was going to enjoy myself in this place. The ship itself is too intricate to describe, but one thing I must mention that is how shapely it is. Nothing about it is flat. The top back of the ship stands 30 feet or more over the lower middle part of the deck. The whole ship seems to be falling forwards and it seems to me that only a stiff sea wind blowing in ones face keeps one from falling down. No amount of pirate movies and video games could ever prepare you for the sight of this wonder of the world. As if the ship itself wasn’t enough to make this museum one of the coolest on the planet, the various displays through out the 7 story museum completes the tale of this ship, and helps one understand the culture of the day that built such a thing.
At the hostel I showered and met some of my roommates for the night. I made quick acquaintance with two brothers from France, who had brought with them liquor and a fishing pole. They shared some shots of the licorice flavored booze with me and I shared my st. Petersburg Vodka with them. Then we went out onto the bow of the ship and they cast out their pole. Within a few minutes on of the guys even caught a small fish, not much bigger than a minnow. After several hours of fishing and chatting the guys took off and I spent some time drawing a postcard in the galley of the second ship, before going to bed.