Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Day of Exploration

They say that Stockholm is a good city to see on foot. That's what they say, is it? Well let me tell you, I'm sure it's lovely to see on foot when there's actually something to see! I took the bus down south to explore one of the larger islands located there. I planted myself on the number two blue bus and went for a ride.

Stockholm has two colours of buses. The red, which is a normal everyday bus, and the blue ones. Bus numbers 1 – 4 run circuts of all the major attractions, and places that visitors might enjoy seeing. It's quite a fantastic idea. I'm sure it's giving those sightseeing hop on hop off buses quite a rile. Anyway, there I went to the end of the number 2's line, and got off to explore the lovely little park that was said to be there.

There was no park. Well – that's not true. There was a patch of green grass (and the green grass grew all around, all around, and the green grass grew all around.) And in the centre? A road was cutting through it. Great. Lovely. What a nice place to play and enjoy the sun. So that was the end of that. But this was a large island. I'd say about 20% or more (upon further inspection) of Stockholm's land mass. Surely something must be here. So I took to walking west, all the way to the islands centre square.

And what did I find at the centre square? Seating for hundreds – an open area for many to come together, hang out, enjoy. Of course there were only fifteen people there. And a peculiar statue. But in the middle of this square I saw an escalator. Being one who enjoys such exploring of oddities I took it.

At the bottom of these mobile steps was – can you guess? A grocery store. Yes a grocery store. In the middle of town. In all fairness, I did take a peek around, and I came across a most unusual cereal I'd never seen before.

Let's play a game called “is this racist.” Here's how it works, I tell you the name of something, and you say if it's racist or not. Let us start by signs I saw on garbage bins earlier – one said “coloured glass”, the other read “no coloured glass.” Is that racist? Sure you will probably be quick to answer one way or the other. Maybe I'm just taking things out of context. Well, surely I am. In fact over here in Scandinavia they probably don't associate the same terms. Speaking of which:

Choco Spooks. Choco Spooks cereal. Is this racist? Is this available in North America? Surely someone must have seen this and thought, “perhaps we can think of another names? Chocolate ghosts, maybe?” If nothing else, it will let me prove to one reader out there that when I was talking about Spook Houses, that really was a common name for a haunted house, and not some terrible slur on my part.

Choco Spooks cereal. Really?

I headed all the way to the west of this island, and still there was nothing. So I hopped on another bus, and rode to the extreme west of Stockholm. I think this was the number 1 bus, but I can't be sure. There I realized there was nothing, so I waited on the bus for it to head back. I was told I had to get off and wait at the bus stop. Two minutes later I re-boarded the same bus. Oh Stockholm, what a bunch of kidders you guys are.

Now, when I was busing out, I saw a park where people seemed to be enjoying their day. I couldn't believe it, because by this point I had accepted that Stockholm, aside from the city centre, was out to make everyone believe there was something more – when in fact there was not. Still, I jumped off the bus early and tried to find it. It was an interesting excursion, in that it led me past a gated cave covered in graffiti, which to me means “please, come explore,” but there was no quick way past the lock – and breaking laws in foreign countries is one of the big no-nos of travel. Another is to avoid all political protests, but we'll get to that.

Eventually the path I was on, once past the Scooby Doo cave, came out to a little beach. Which was quaint. I stayed there for twenty or thirty minutes, reading some more of Sophie's World, before I realized that there were no WCs anywhere around.

Well that wasn't true. In the beaches change rooms, they existed. But they were, of course, locked. Why not, right? So off I went – walking past tugboats from the 1800s and other such things moored up at the dock. Eventually – about an hour later – I found a gas station. Their washroom said, customers only, but I can't read Swedish, so in I went anyway.

And then the day became a bit brighter. Everything is a little more wonderful when you're not contemplating every bush you pass.

Oh look – there's a pay WC, only 5K (0.85CAD) no thanks sir! No thanks.

I ended up at the Town Hall – which was built during World War I, when everyone was starving, and there was nothing for the common people. Of course, it is built with no small amount of gold. Apparently this upset people. I wonder why?

To say my day ended there would be a lie – to be sure, I went far out east, and finding nothing (but too late in the day to be angsty about it) headed back. I also bought more potato salad. This one is covered in a lovely dill sauce. I can't believe that A.) I still like potato salad, and B.) I don't have some sort of protein deficiency.

Back in the hostel I met a man who told me about a naked island in Helsinki. I did not see this island, and can not believe it exists – still – he said it did, and who am I to argue? Few are aware of the nude beach in Toronto... so -

I am sick, by the way. Scratchy throat, head cold. Fun! But it's going to rain tomorrow, they say, so – lazy Monday? Maybe there's a mall.

Oh – one final thought. Why do people say some worlds in foreign languages, but others? You know what I mean – and if you don't you're about to realize that you did all along. In Scotland, no one sees lakes, they see lochs. They don't see valleys they see valleys, they see glens. And here in Stockholm no one sees a river – only fjords (i know there's more to a fjord than this, but stick with me.) Seriously, it's not like earlier I was looking for the badrum. I just wanted a bathroom!

Well that's just one more thing for my growing pile of questions, and slight bother. Enjoy.

Oh yes – that political protest. Well, you see, it was mostly all over by the time I got there. They were breaking down their noose into convenient carry-on sized pieces but the flags were still waving. Police tape circled an area below full of garbage, and sign posts. And police themselves? At least four on horses, twenty to thirty on foot, and six cars. I have no idea what was going on there, but it was big. Something unique went down. Something to do with Free Iran.

Apparently they do this kind of thing a lot. Once, a few months back, the police declaired it a terrorist attack. It's true – check Google. So it's probably for the best that I was not around – and not involved. Still, I should have cleared away faster. As I walked up the street, trying to pass a road block of police, I was told that foot traffic was only allowed on way. I'd have to walk around the block. This was odd – but it's what everyone was doing. These Swede's are an interesting lot.

I guess they controlled my ability to get from point a to point b, without hitting point c – but really – what was the point of it all?

They'll have their fun, they will – that lot.

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