After a massive first day in Stockholm I wake up for the second day eating cloth and listening to drums. Only today I wake up a little later than normal, the old carcasse that I’m kicking around in, loudly protesting at the recent abuse.
I`ve got this faint recollection of a blow to the head from last night, but after a decent examination under a hot shower I can find no mark, no scar, no bruise and write it off as a dream or maybe just the remnant of something that didn’t do me any harm, but that the alcohol fairies failed to erase properly.
Today is a slow day, a metro into Gamla Stan in the afternoon is about all I can manage. It’s a beautiful part of the city and if you try and shut out the hordes of tourists and the shopfronts selling all manner of modern items, it is possible to transport yourself, the narrow streets and lanes, the coblestones and old buildings back a few centuries to when they were built. I can almost see the wife of Sven, the local butcher, leaning out her window to throw out washing water, or the horse and oxen led carts trundling noisily up the hill.
After a slow saunter drenching myself into the equivalent of a historical or fantasy novel, my energy is sapped and it’s back to the hostel for a snooze. Soon its time for dinner, and I venture on out to find the main communal area seething with humanity again. I chat to Guillame, Emily and Julie before meeting 4 Canadians, Kristen, Lauren (suffering a terrible head cold), Mike and Matt. They are intending to head into central Stockholm to check out the Absolute Vodka Ice Bar – you know the thing – a bar made of ice where they wrap you up in coats, charge you outrageous amounts to spend 45 mins sitting around in the cold, and offer one or two drinks by the sponsoring distiller in glasses made of frozen water for libation. Sydney has one, Auckland too, and I am a little surprised that Canada hasn´t got one, after all it´s not the middle of the the Saudi Desert where ice is seen as a little bit of a novelty.
The conversation inevitability turns to the events of last night when the Irish boys were a little loud and crazy. Everyone is having a laugh, when a Canadian girl at the next table tells us of her somewhat bizarre experience this morning. Apparently around 6ish she got up to go to the loo. Her room (and 2 others) open onto a small vestibule before that opens onto the main corridor. As she opened the door it hit something and looking outside she saw a naked guy just lying in the vestibule. She quickly shut the door in horror, woke her friend to help work out what to do, then after gathering enough courage to peer around the open door a few minutes later, she foundthe vestibule empty – naked man was gone. Everyone has a good old cack at the expense of the Irish who checked out this morning.
Well, everyone except one person, who is suddenly having to force a somewhat stifled laugh (just as well there are enough people around to piss themselves properly). As this chick describes her story, neurons trigger in my brain, synapses fire and I vaguely and rather hazily seem to remember waking up after a blow to the head somewhere on a floor last night, realising I wasn’t in my bed and managing to get up and struggle back to my bunk. Could I possibly have been naked guy?? When the story is retold with the added detail of the door opening straight onto naked guy’s head I get that dreaded “aw shit” sinking feeling and sheepishly try and avoid the topic as it buzzes around the room, happily to leave guilt laying at the feet of the Irish. Seriously wtf had happened? The brain connections were hazy at best, no complete knowledge came back, but there was that inate certainty that it was me. Damn. Blast. Oops. Thank Og for the Irish.
Conversations eventually turn to other topics, much to my relief, and eventually Emily, Julie and I decide to join the 4 Canadians on the trip to the ice bar. Ralphie and Headley are introduced, the girls immediately take them into their care and the 9 of us depart.
For those that don’t know the Stockholm metro, let me tell you that, like most metros, the various lines run at different depths below the ground. So far I´ve only experienced the shallow stops and lines. So when we get off at our stop and Kristen starts a sprint up the elevator to be first to the top, male pride is challenged and I take of in pursuit on the next escalator across. It’s neck and neck, step after step after step after step after step after step after step after step after step after step after step (fuck is this ever going to end), until Kristen, who has a slight fear of escalator starts and finishes, baulks at the tape and I make a last ditch surge to win by no more than a nose. We both spend 5 mins catching our breath, feeling the burn and looking at each other with a wtf look in our eyes, until the others arrive at the top. We’ve jsut sprinted up one of Stockholm´s longest escalators (at least 50-60 metres top to bottom at about a 50 degree angle)! If I´d known that, I would have lost my entry form to the race, I can assure you of that.
Anyway, we arrive at the Ice bar in a few minutes and wait for our turn. Not knocking the experience, but it´s a little crap. Sydney is bigger, better, you get 2 drinks not just one, and Sydney´s bar doesn’t have a 2 inch gap where the ice ceiling doesn’t meet the ice wall. Still it´s fun – we take a mass of photos as does every other tourist. At least none of us were refused service for being too pissed or wanted to get out of the bar before time was up cos we were too cold, like others I know. Feeling sufficiently shorn of our naive tourist dollars, we depart on our bar crawl home, which will be a little more intrepid as we don’t know any of them.
At the first bar (just across the road), our interest makes the staff unlock a side/back door that no-one else uses (we must look really intelligent), but once inside we think it looks massively overpriced and we exit almost immediately, only pausing to take photos of us sitting on some crazy art deco ball piece of art/modern seating arrangement.
We are supposed to meet Guillame at another bar a few metro stops away, so its back to the depths we go. Unfortunatley we don’t find the intended pub, find out by sms they want a 100Kr (15 AUD) cover charge anyway, so plans to meet are shelved and we go looking for a drink elsewhere. We stumble across this bar which seems to have some sort of live music/cabaret act going on – it’s free entry, so with everyone needing the bathroom, we are straight in.
If you have ever seen the Eurovision song contest, think of the performers at this band as tryouts! 2 blonde Swedish girls in full makeup and costume, ditto 2 Swedish guys in open necked shirts and coiffed hair, singing Europop songs with cabaret/jazz ballet/high school musical type choreography!. Not that the voices are bad, in fact they are quite good, though we suspect some lyp synching. Its more the stage show. Swagman of the 80s eat your heart out! Strolling through the patrons, cosying up to them with love songs, singing in spotlight to each other, (in fact the performance of the 2 guys in that regard make some of our girls suspect they are gay) – but the crowd are eating it up. R&H get a small spot on stage with the girls singing to them before we have had far too many laughs and it’s time to move on before we all turn 16 again. I suspect if we were allowed to we would vote for Sweden in the next Eurovisiuon simply on the strength of this performance.
A stroll back through Gamla Stan, missing the only pub I actually know (Wirstroms) before finding a little place with reasonably priced beer (9 AUD per pint/stubbie) in which we end up staying for a few as we all swap travel stories. Leaving around 1ish we pop up a high crosswalk near Slussen for a bird´s eye view before starting the 20 min stumble home (I’m not getting this last metro thing right yet!)
On the way I confess that I think I am naked guy which brings much hilarity and congratulations (!?). Having percolated at the back of my brain for a while without result I can only come up with the following:
I actually remember going to bed and getting into my sleeping bag liner about 4.30 am
Sometime later I deduce thzat I must have woken up needing to go to the toilet/thinking about having a shower
Leaving my dorm I must have turned right instead of left and opened the door to the vestibule, instead of to the bathrooms/showers
Finding myself hopelessly disorientated and with the reasoning skills of a small ant, I decide to lay down and rest
Why I was naked I´m not sure (cos I normally sleep in jocks when in dorms)
The story still needs verification. Upon return to the hostel, Kirsten finds that the Canadian chick with the story is still awake and goes to get more details to see if we can confirm my fears. I follow and confess that it might have been me. Canadian chick looks at me , says nooo, surely not, then asks the definitive question – what colour were your jocks ? (apparently they were lying on the floor next to me). With my answer of yellow comes immediate confirmation in a look of shock, laughter, followed by an embarrassed apology which is more than graciously accepted along with the aside that she saw nothing anyway as she was too shocked and quickly shut the door in retreat. We get more detail re where I was lying, where my head was etc, much to the amusement of everyone as news of conformation spreads.
To be honest, to this day I still don’t really know what happened, though the version above is the most likely. Why I was naked I don’t know – I did wake up with a strange towel in my bed which Canadian chick denied seeing or throwing over me, so maybe I was going to the shower?! Why I had my jocks next to me in the vestibule I´ll never know, I can see no reason for taking them off after wearing them that far but processing power was undoubtedly diminished at that stage. Still, as far as travel stories go I now have a doozy in my possession.
Oh well that´s life on the road and you have to take the good with the bad. Somehow Stockholm is turning into party central for me. And despite some of you back home shaking your heads in complete disgust, this story has bought me a few beers since. Oh, and for their part in tonight’s events the 4 Canadians kindly make R&H honorary Canadians, presenting them with little maple leaf pins that they proudly wear to this day. Just as well naked guy wasn’t inaugurated – where would the pin have gone???
More on Stockholm later…