Thursday, July 12, 2001

Stockholm, Sweden

Friends: I just walked into the public library at 10:30 this morning across the street from my hostel and there were half-a-dozen unoccupied Internet terminals and no directives prohibiting emails. There is no sign-up sheet, just signs that say 15-minute limit if anyone is waiting. Stockholm is great. I even had an escort in to town, sparing me the usual frustration of trying to find my bearings and having to pull out my map every few minutes.

A woman cyclist came up alongside me on the bicycle path on the outskirts of the city and asked, as every cyclist should seeing someone on an overloaded bike, "Where have you been?" She was an Australian who'd been living in Stockholm for two years and travels extensively. In fact, she was about to leave for a month of wind-surfing in Spain. We pedaled and chatted for 20 minutes, all the way to a hostel that she recommended. I'm not sure how close I was to apartment-sitting. That was too much to hope for. And if I had, I would have missed out on meeting some more fascinating travelers. The hostel has one large 40-bed dorm. The friendliest guy there, also an Australian, who's been living in London the past two years, said I was lucky not to have arrived Monday or Tuesday, as every bed in every hostel was filled with Swedes from all over the country, who had come to town for a couple of U2 concerts. Right now, the hostel is only half-full. Bed and breakfast is a bargain at eight dollars.

The Aussie too is an ardent traveler. He's just embarking on a four-month tour of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. He's been here a couple of days and told me all sorts of things I ought to see. He particularly recommended the Changing of the Guard. He said it makes London's look rinky-dinky. Last summer he spent six months exploring Western Europe. He enthusiastically recounted his affection for Barcelona and Copenhagen and Seville and on and on. Meeting such people is one of the joys of travel.

I thought I'd have to wait until Sunday morning to have the streets of Stockholm to myself. But I forgot that its light until all hours, and I could go out in the evening and pretty much have the city to myself. At nine p.m. I took a slow meander around town, orienting myself and making all sorts of wonderful discoveries. I kept at it until 10.30 and look forward to more of the same tonight. Stockholm is a series of fourteen islands ranging in size from a few acres to many square miles. There aren't as many bike ways or bicyclists as in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but more than Berlin and certainly anywhere in the US. The traffic is quite moderate, making the biking almost carefree.

I was among the first at the tourist office this morning inquiring about the museum pass. The one-day twenty dollar version it will allow me admission to some 70 museums and sites and two cruises. The time period of the pass doesn't start upon purchase, but rather when it is first used. And from that point on it is good for 24 hours. It will be quite a challenge narrowing down what I will try to see in that period. I will take a while to plot my strategy. I will definitely include the two cruises, using them as an opportunity to rest my legs. Among the curiosities are the Abba collection at the Music Museum and the horrors of smoking at the Tobacco Museum. Priorities right now are confirming my airline ticket and finding a bike box. Maybe Air Poland will give me another $200 to change my flight, as they did at my departure from O'Hare.

Later, George

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