On the morning of day three, it was necessary to check out of our lovely hostel. Hotel hopping has its benefits, but a definite downside is where to stow your luggage. Although we had each traveled light, with carry on bags only, we wanted to walk around unencumbered. We’d spent the first two days on foot (actually a very good way to orient oneself), but we now tried out the T-bana, Stockholm’s version of the tube or metro. We quickly found that each station was a visual delight; uniquely decorated with gorgeous tile work as well as painted walls.
We got off at Central Station, where you can rent lockers in which to stow your belongings. It was another minor comedy of errors, as we attempted to A. cram all our stuff in one locker and B. figure out how to actually pay for and lock said locker. Our lack of familiarity with swedish currency compounded our difficulties, but we were not alone as it seemed to be confusing for almost everyone. One word of warning; do not lose the little slip of paper which contains not only the number of your locker, but the code that must be punched in to open it again. It would pose some great difficulties if you should.
We then spent several hours wondering around Gamla Stan, the medieval section of Stockholm. It is endlessly charming, with one photo opportunity after another.
Unfortunately, August was still feeling crummy, so when three o’clock rolled around, we retrieved our bags and got on the commuter rail to head to our next lodging, Rica Talk Hotel, located in the suburbs. It is a short walk from the station and situated right next to the convention center, where they were holding the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. Although I started looking a month prior to departure, it had been very difficult to book rooms for the beginning of our trip. Now I understood why, as the meeting coincided with the first half of our stay.
Rica Talk was the least charming of the hotels on our trip, and not ideally located either. However, it was reasonably priced and very modern. This was the evening that we were to join Anja and her family for dinner, but August decided it would be better for all if he stayed behind, so he camped out in the room. I hopped back on the train and then caught a bus to Anja’s.
Once I arrived at the stop she’d told me was closest to her home, I hadn’t a clue how to find her street. A helpful passerby suggested I try asking at the florist, as they knew where everything was located. Brilliant idea, and I bought a bouquet to take to Anja’s as well.
When I arrived at Anja’s, she introduced me to Otto. Although he did not speak English, and I no Swedish, he was very tolerant of our lack of a common language, and managed to find other ways to communicate. As he showed me a toy car that was missing a wheel, he used a word that I was indeed familiar with: kaput.
Anja served a wonderful meal and we settled into getting to know each other better. After an hour or so, we were joined by her husband Ingo. By the time we’d finished our delicious dessert, I felt as if I’d known this warm little family for years. I was sorry August couldn’t join us, but the next afternoon, we would all attend an art opening together before heading to their home in the country for the weekend.
When the bus for my return trip pulled in, I attempted to purchase a ticket, only to learn that you couldn’t buy them on the bus, but rather must get them ahead of time (7-Eleven, which is everywhere in Stockholm, sells them). In most of the places I had travelled, I would have been out of luck. As a rule, Swedish people exhibit a remarkable civility, and the bus driver commented that it was very late and that I could ride without the ticket. Amazing.