Where's Sam the Man

48 countries, 12 months, one man, half a brain

Name: Samuel Hathaway
Location: Roaming..., Germany

Sunday, August 5, 2007


With the clouds of Oslo still hovering above my head, I arrive by train in Stockholm. The original plan was to bike into town, but, with no safe road to take me into the city, I am forced to take a train and arrive in town two days early. So, I can just arrive at my hostel and book a few more nights, right? Wrong. Some shmuck named Rod Stewart was throwing a little party at the Stockholm stadium, and he must have invited a lot of friends, because every single room in the hostel was booked. So, I just hop on my bike and look around town for another room. Six hours later, I'm still staggering around town in the twilight of the midnight sun, still searching for a bed that doesn't have a Rod Stewart fan snoring in it. It turns out that I didn't have to worry about missing some days of biking, because I've gotten in about 35 km. of biking around the streets, by this point. My family, half way across the world, manages to find me a hotel on the web, books it for me, and calls me with the address. I take a cab and, in a few minutes, have collapsed onto a bed.

Such was my introduction to Stockholm. Needless to say, I stepped scowling onto its streets, bitter at the town's cold greeting. Worse still, I was stuck in the city even longer than I expected. I had seven days to suffer at the hands of the self-styled Capital of Scandinavia. Thankfully, there was someone who could tame the beast. Someone who could strip away its grim mask and reveal the beauty and charm of the historic city. Mollie Söderlind, you are that person. You may know Mollie Söderlind as the blixery Swedish girl who was an exchange student in Montevideo. You may know Mollie Söderlind as the blixery Swedish girl who can slap up a Hungarian. Whatever the case, this young lady opened my eyes to the delights of Stockholm. And she makes a great chocolate cake.

With her as my guide, I began to experiance Stockholm. It really is a gorgeous city. The town is composed of variously sized islands, the larger ones creating the foundation of the city and the smaller ones spiraling out into the Baltic Sea. The islands aren't really close enough to create canals, as in Venice, but they are close enough to create a sense of intamacy with the town as you view the harbor. Yet, you never see the city the same way. Each side of an island creates a new panorama of aging stone or wrought iron bridges, historic waterfront buildings, and the shimmering sea. The sense of elegance was heightened by the many sailing ships that lined the harbor -- not little sail boats, but graceful square-rigged ships, here for the annual Tall Ships Race that would take them to various ports around the Baltic. The wharf was an exciting place to be, with over 70 of these historic boats accenting Stockholm's beauty and sea heritage. Thousands of tourists were there to see the ships, and to enjoy the live jazz music that echoed across the harbor all day. The ships didn't sit idle, either; the crew used this publicity to promote their country's tourism, or other efforts. One Polish ship, called the Fryderyk Chopin, offered a free Chopin recital on the deck to promote visits to Poland. I didn't really care what their motives were -- that was a incredible concert with unbeatable atmosphere.

The ships were all centered around one small island in particular: Gamla Stan, or, the old town. It's wonderfully preserved medieaval village, a wonderful reminder of Stockholm's place in ancient history. Nothing is perfectly straight or symmetrical, here. Time is slowly twisting the whole town like a corkscrew, creating charmingly irregular contours on the buildings and crooked streets. The twisting cobblestone streets are full of fascinating curioisity shops, gelato booths, and street musicians of varying quality. After exploring these main roads, however, you can easily slip beneath a crumbling archway and find yourself completely alone in a small, crooked street. As you walk down the narrow path the noise of the tourists fades to a murmer, and you can take time to discover hidden fountains and ancient streets on you own. Suddenly, you turn down a dark, cool street and pop out on one of the main drags, again. After lunch, it's great to find a quiet corner and drink a cup of tea, admiring the ancient pastel-colored buildings and planning my blog.

Mollie introduces all of these delights to me, while patiently explaining that Swedes do not talk funny and soley eat lingonberrries (I'm pretty sure she was pulling my leg, though). Whatever the case, they make for good company on your birthday, so I wasn't alone when I turned the unremarkable age of 19. Twice. It seems that we had both lost track of time, as we had both been traveling the previous week, so we celebrated my birthday a day early. But I couldn't just ignore my real birthday, so we celebrated again. You may laugh, but it's not every boy or girl that gets two birthdays a year. Which reminds me: why weren't you guys at my party?

I'm starting to ramble, so it's time to close.


Blogger Megan said...

Happy Birthday

and tell Mollie hi for me... please

August 5, 2007 5:41 PM  
Blogger paulus maximus said...

SAAAM!! dude it sounds like you're living it up in Europe, i'm so jealous of you. what country are you terrorizing now? havn't had any run ins with the mafia yet have you? well man good luck with your travels, - Paulus

August 10, 2007 11:05 AM  
Blogger Zanda said...

My name is Zanda, I come from Latvia, but now I'm visiting Sandra&Paul Thompsons in Montevideo... I heard about your traveling&that you're going thru Eastern Europe... So if you're traveling in my country&have no place to stay, let me know- zandatreija@one.lv

August 10, 2007 11:46 AM  
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