I feared Stockholm, as I did all ‘big’ cities back then. It was the summer of 2001 and my buddy Joe and I were on a 2 1/2 month trip though Scandinavia. We had good plan, yes we did. Arrive at Arlanda airport, put our backpacks on and walk out into the forest, heading north for several weeks. Visit a couple rune stones, drink from rivers and lakes, make a nice little camp fire each night and visit a town or village once every week or so to resupply on food.
Ha! Our backpacks were so heavy that we could hardly even walk. After wandering around for 45 or so minutes we discovered that one simply couldn’t ‘walk into the forest’ from the airport, or at least not without more bushwhacking than we had a desire for after some 30+ hours of no sleep. So the decision came, Stockholm or Uppsala. “Well, Uppsala is fairly small. We can go there then walk out into the forest and find a place to crash for the night, better than being stuck in some giant city with no idea where to go.” So we thought to ourselves. 45 minutes later we were getting off the bus somewhere in the middle of Uppsala around 10:00 at night. Hmm, Lost again. Luckily, my asking a woman on the street for directions in my 5 words of Swedish led to her letting us stay at her place for the night.
“We’ll probably go to Mora next.” I said.
“What? No, you don’t want to go to Mora!” Camilla replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Well, there is nothing there. It is just a boring town, nothing to see.” She replied. “Why don’t you go to Jämtland. There are nice mountains and lots of hiking. Quite popular among Swedes.”
So the summer started. We headed generally north through Sweden and into Norway. We ended up in some real shitholes of towns as well as some cool places. Mostly we traveled by pure dumb luck of two 20 year olds, not having a guidebook or anything for help.
By the end of July we ended up in Göteborg, a city down on the south west coast of Sweden. By this time we felt like veteran travelers. We knew that you had to get on the correct ‘wagon’ when taking the train, otherwise if you just sat in a seat with your number on it, someone else might show up looking to sit there at the next stop. We could hop on the city trams like a local and navigate the streets with only minor episodes of getting lost. We could catch ferries out to cool little islands, being the only non Swedes around. My Swedish had improved to 10 words and I actually knew how to say ‘Hemköp‘ correctly. Life under the long summer days was good. So the decision was finally made, Stockholm.
Now, to cut a long story shot, I loved Stockholm and ended up spending nearly two weeks there all in all. Normally, and even to this day, I’m not much of a fan of cities. But Stockholm, well, It is such a cool place that I can’t help but like it. I spent endless days just wandering among the narrow streets of Gamla Stan or out on the wilds of Djurgarden. Afternoons sitting in Cafe’s or eating ice cream with new friends on warm summer evenings. I guess it’s good that I put of Stockholm until the end of the trip, otherwise I may have just been lazy and sat there for 2 months…
I finally returned again in October 2009, the streets still familiar in my mind like I was just there the month before. The crisp autumn days and colors turned the city into a near magical place. As much as I liked the summer, I now think autumn is the time to visit.