It’s funny how one can pray for rain in California, but the minute you get it on vacation it’s a disaster. Well it seems the vacation gods have decided that for the first couple days of my trip I’d get as many learning experiences as possible, because it’s been raining since the plane landed. I say learning experiences, because silly Californian that I am, the rain makes me dreary and mildly depressed. Add that to the loneliness that comes from traveling alone in Scandinavia and you might get stuck in bed until noon. Luckily though, learning experiences are the theme of this trip so I yanked myself out of my somber state, laced up my running shoes, and went on my first European run.
I ran down the pedestrian street that connects the hostel to the ocean front of Stockholm, along the harbor path, past the Parliament building, up into Gamla Stan (old town), and ended up at the midsummer festival at Skanen, the largest outdoor museum in Sweden. It was a lovely, soggy run that did wonders to lift my mood, even if I slightly miscalculated the ability tourists have to nearly poke your eye out with their umbrellas. One would think that a pedestrian street would be safer than a normal road, but these umbrella wielding warriors beg to differ. I survived with only a few eye endangering incidents and managed to see a huge portion of Stockholm all while getting a good dose of mood boosting endogenous opiates.
After my run I was back in good spirits and in the mood to be outgoing so at dinner I did something I never would have imagined in the states, I asked a stranger to join me for dinner. For background, I was starving and ran into the first restaurant I saw to get out of the rain, which happened to be a very nice Italian place. I walked in, looked around for the waiter, and said “dinner for one” almost in unison with a young guy next to me. Since the waiter was struggling to find two tables for the both of us I turned to the guy as I was being seated and asked if he’d like to join me for dinner. Surprisingly, he said yes. As we talked I learned his name was Muhammad, he was born and raised in Stockholm, and he had just graduated…high school. After a small shock of feeling like an old maid I got over it and continued the conversation. He turned out to be a very nice person, a little shy, but that seems to be the mode of operation for all the Swedes I’ve met.
It’s interesting how one positive interaction can turn a whole day around. I had been feeling blue, but I got myself up for a run which gave me the energy and courage to ask a stranger to dinner, which then gave me the push I needed to ask what my roommates were doing for the evening. Turns out they were going to dinner and even though I’d just eaten I wanted the social interaction so I went too. As the hobbits would say, second dinner never hurt anyone. I ended up having a lovely night wandering the wet cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan with two Frenchmen, an Australian, and a Canadian. We even went into a bar at the end of the night to finish the bad joke. Turns out when two Frenchmen, an Australian, a Canadian, and an American walk into a bar you just get odd looks from the locals.