September of last year I used to tease a friend that I’d run away to Sweden. She’d joke that she’d come with me, well I went to Sweden, she didn’t go with me, but I’m sure whenever I see her I’ll tell her to visit. The obsession with Sweden came out of a desire to experience something new and different. Well, nothing’s changed, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months.
A few months ago my classmates and I were presented with an opportunity to go on a cruise to Sweden. We’d leave on Sunday and come home on Tuesday. We’d get a room, one night with free dinner and unlimited beer/wine and eight hours in Stockholm. Why not? Getting to Helsinki like I’ve mentioned before from Jyväskylä is a nightmare. The morning started with the group riding our bikes to the bus terminal. If you’re going to ride your bike in the winter, bring gloves. Three and a half hours later we were in Helsinki, I’ve been there before, but I’ve never really wandered around the city. Helsinki is a fantastic city, its full of life and oddly enough its full of things to see and do. Helsinki Cathedral is a great stop. It was built in the 1800’s as a tribute to Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Finland was once a part of Russia and Sweden once upon a time. Swedish is actually the second language here. Today it’s a Lutheran church. There are four million Lutherans in Finland.
Anyway, after we walked around and saw some more things we headed to the ferry terminal. I waited in line for about two and a half hours. I hate the “getting there” part of travelling, it’s ass. Okay let me dial it back a notch, when I’m home in Mississauga, I’m a five-minute ride from the airport in Finland I’m three and a half hours away. So maybe it’s just Finland that makes me hate Finland. To my surprise, we were not on a ferry but on a cruise ship. I’ve never been on a cruise, I’ve heard only good things. Since I’m a student, I’ve been eating like one, not a lot of ramen but a lot of bread and eggs. On the cruise, however, well your boy ate his fat heart out. They had three different kinds of salmon, roast beef…. and all you can eat ice cream. Thinking about it makes me hungry. Dinner, however, was spoiled by an idiot who tried to wet willy me. I don’t like to be touched, I don’t fancy hugs, I don’t like having people put their hands on me, poking me, grabbing me, yes there are specific scenarios where it’s okay, but most of the time, please don’t. So this guy tried to wet willy me, and well I almost hit him until I realised that, like most times I see him he was piss drunk. Still didn’t stop me from being mad about it. After that fiasco, a friend and I went down to the duty-free shop. Twenty-four beers for ten euros, sold. I won’t lie to you I don’t remember a lot from that night, not because I drank a lot but because it wasn’t all that memorable. We drank, played cards and got hampurilainen, which is Finnish for a burger.
I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning so I could eat, do work and take this That is the sun rising over Sweden, those little islands actually have people living on them. It was a tad chilly, so I came back inside, and that’s when I heard the captain on the PA. He said that we’d been delayed due to a search and rescue that took place the night before. It wasn’t until later that day that we found out that after a night of drinking a student went out onto the deck, started running and jumped. A thirty meter fall into the November Baltic. People laughed, thought it was funny, some made jokes in an attempt to take away from the seriousness of what had happened. Look, you never know what is going through someone’s mind, and I’ll tell you, drinking doesn’t help if anything it gives you courage. When you die in cold water your body sinks, so the person who jumped may never be found.
I stopped writing for a couple of days to think about the cruise, and while I had a good time, there were a lot of small things that happened, that I observed, or heard that made upset me. Made me think about how people could do certain things, be so selfish, be so cruel, and be so monstrous. I’m not perfect but if I ever resorted to spiking a girls drink, trying to rape someone, grabbing someone against their will, or not taking “no” for an answer I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to live with myself again. I know this post is about me going to Sweden but in light of recent events, I feel like I need to comment on this. The victims are real people that try to carry on as best as they can, and sometimes they suffer in silence or worse, alone. That’s all I want to say about this, and I think it’s the lesson I learned or experienced or saw first hand going to Sweden. I mean I already knew this, but it’s closer to home than you think.
The Storkyrkan, a gothic church in the heart of Stockholm was the only thing on my list to see. It features a sculpture of St. George vs the Dragon. It’s to commemorate the victory by Sten Sture, the Elder who was the Swedish Regent in the late 1400s over Christian I of Denmark. The dragon represents an invading army, which the Danes were. Sten Sture commissioned the sculpture, Sture prayed to St. George the night before the battle. So that’s the little history lesson and here’s the picture.
Due to the delay we only had four hours in Stockholm, and from the port, it took about half an hour to reach the city centre. Here is what I’ll say about Stockholm, it’s expensive, it’s small, there is an amazing mix of old and new architecture, the history is outstanding, the people are friendly, and the people are very well put together, from the way they look to the way they dress. I’d really like to go back there and stay a little longer. Each adventure has taken me to a new place, taught me a new lesson, provided me with a shot glass, fridge magnet and a new country to scratch off my list. So let’s see, Canada, United States, Trinidad, Jamacia, Barbados, Germany, Finland, Sweden, England, Ireland, Estonia, Italy, and Ukraine. Frankly, it’s a short list, and that’s a letdown.