Monday, September 21, 2009


Today started off rather dismal and overcast. So I thought, why not go visit some museums? I hear there's a great modern art museum not 100 meters from where I sleep at night. So that's where I started out. When I got to the door however, it was locked. You see – today is Monday. And since today is Monday, all of Stockholm is shut down. Well, not all of Stockholm – but public things such as museums and the like... They are no goes on Mondays, no matter how overcast – or how much it threatens to rain.

So what was I to do? Where was I to go? Well – for once, I could explore the island I was staying on. Like all things we see as “home”, cities – people – etc. I had accepted it as something that would offer much less than it had, or not be worth the trouble of exploring. You do this, because you assume it will remain consistent, always there. Think of your home city – have you ever given it the same amount of attention as you have one you've travelled to? I've often wished I could see Toronto through the eyes of a tourist – and perhaps one day I will.

As I started off I noticed a row of ships, and at the end of these ships was a ferry port. I had no idea that Stockholm even had a ferry system – but there it was, transporting people back and forth to an island, right at the gates of an old amusement park.

On the other side of the water, as I walked beside the gates of the – I can only assume haunted – amusement park, I could picture nothing but terror, and fright inside. That or the Joker setting up a secret head quarters with Harley Quinn. That could be there too. There is something very disconcerting about a shut down park like this, the posters peeling from the walls, and the rides stationary. A month ago I wouldn't have thought it the perfect setting for an H.P. Lovecraft tale – but right now? Now it was.

But I walked on. I took the bus as far as it could go, on this island of Djurgården, with the skies grey and dismal over head, and then decided to walk the rest of it. You see, this seemed like a great idea, because I'd not explored out here – however, the island wasn't on any of the maps. They all cut off where the bus dropped me off.

An hour and a half later, when I reached the end, I would look back on this moment of departure with a much more quizzical eye.

I headed off, on my walk and found myself on a most delightful trail that would lead past a number of unique houses, all unoccupied for the moment. There was also a building with a great sculpture garden in front of it, complete with yet another version of The Thinker. You know, I'm sure there must be a copy of this statue in just about every country. At least one. This garden, too, was unoccupied.

As I pressed on I came to a marina, filled with boats, but no people around. It was nice to wander such places alone – but... and then I saw the actual marina building, nothing more than burned wood, an exploded gas pump, and a restaurant, charred, with blown out windows. This, coupled with the creepy amusement park, combined with the lack of people was more than I could take. I thought to myself how much nicer it would be if only the clouds would pass, and the skies were to turn blue. Then this would – rather than being the prelude to my untimely death – become a delightful walk in the park.

And just like that the clouds disappeared and the skies became blue. That too was a little disconcerting – but it's hard to stay upset at blue skies. So onward I pressed, stopping for a moment here, and a moment there, to watch the swans play, and eat, and swim. Have you ever looked at the neck of a swan as it eats? It's quite incredible. Like the merging of a snake and a giraffe. But then they started to hiss at me, and I thought it best to maintain a healthier distance.

By the time I reached the hairy coos (or highland cattle as they might better be known) I had all but given up on trying to make sense of this magical abandoned island to the south east of the main city. I jst accepted them, took a seat on the bench, and watched them for a few moments, grazing over a pile of mud. A sign to my right depicted a beautiful pond, and all the birds that could be seen there. Clearly something had gone horribly wrong. But on this island of mysteries, who was I to judge anything?

There was also an electric fence. I was reminded through song that one should never “whiz on the electric fence.” And as such, perhaps my life was spared. Thank you childhood cartoons – thank you ever so much.

At long last I reached the end of the island, greeted by five herons, standing just off shore in the water. Once more I was reminded of Canada.

I had found a map of the island by the bird-pond now cow-patch, and it showed me that I had five kilometers to go before I was back again. Following its topographical details up and down hills, I made my way to the two points of interest that were marked on my original bus map (finally returning to known land, away from the “here there be dragons” mark) and the first one was... a cup. A great big cup. Right – very well then. What about the next? Ahh – a theme village where people talk as if it were yesteryear, and the price of admission is 90K. Very well, passing on. Back on the bus, four hours later, and off to Old Town.

This was a walk that proved the adage “It's the journey, and not the destination.” Though both destinations were lackluster,the walk itself proved to point out that “one thing” each city has – the thing that makes it special, distinct, worth visiting. To me the beautiful, and obviously haunted, island of Djurgården was worth every unknown step onward.

Old Town Stockholm had its moments too – but for me they were both when I found a couple of geek shops.

Goth Loli's seem to congregate in this city, and I've often wondered where they all head from, or head to. Apparently, when I saw a sign of a dragon fighting a spaceship, I had discovered their secret asylum. This was a geekshop like few others. Clean, orderly, the type of place your grandmother wouldn't feel out of place shopping for a birthday gift if the occasion called for it. The second however – it was much more the door in an alley leading to a dank room, under lit, and full of yellowing boxes. The type your grandmother would set alight, and dance in the arson fueled flames of. Provided your grandmother was predisposed to such acts.

But there, I was all sorts of spiderman stories, told in the wonderful language of Swedish. And they also had Calvin and Hobbes monthly comic books – collecting a few weeks of strips, rather than the treasuries we received back in North America. If this were a one week holiday, I would have bought them without thinking. But where would I keep them? How could I protect them from being ruined? Souvenirs are a tricky thing on long journeys.

Exiting the shop, I fond myself face to face with - - - a grocery store! I couldn't believe one was here in old town, when I was told the closest was way up away from where I was staying. Inside I bought a delightful litter box of ice cream. 50 centiliters. And it was all for the low cost of 14K – much more ice cream than I'd get in those 40K cones on the street. I knew that buying a bunch of spoons to keep on me, back in Helsinki, would pay off. But never had I dreamed they would do so in such a delicious way! Ahh Strawberry ripple.

Infused with suger-energy a smile crossed my face that I had not remembered to show for some time. And off I went skipping through old town, until I ran into a group of people, all with their cameras out. What were they doing? What were they shooting? What could possibly – oh look! A seal! A real, live, seal! How incredible!

The next twenty minutes were spent getting facepalm videos and pictures. The following ten were spent simply watching it, and being amazed by animal life. Animals that might be so common in one part of the world, are fascinating for those from others. I'll not make fun of the people taking pictures of chipmunks (“You can never have too many pictures of wild life”) again.

Back at the hostel, I was told to eat up, enjoying a great big bowl of pasta cooked by one of the other people staying here, who I had met yesterday. He's an artist from Seattle, and has been travelling Scandinavia as well. He arrived in Stockholm on the ferry from Helsinki. If I had known about such a thing, I would have most likely came that way as well.

For the first time since I had started out, I was truly full. Not full in that painful way of a giant whale burger, but full in the delightful – meat, veggies, and pasta, way. Herregud!

On another simple turn of events, my German roommate happens to work for a company that is based out of Markham Ontario – what's up with that?! Truly it is a small world... after... all. (I'm sorry.)

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