Stockholm, Sweeden

Stockholm is one of the prettiest cities that I’ve ever visited. Built on a collection of islands and wrapped in kilometres of trails, it is one of the best places for day-long, exploratory walks. With all the scenery, changes in elevation, mixture of urban and park terrain, it is also one of my favourite running cities. Just after arriving, I was passed by a group of marathoners. En route to the hostel, I noticed a running store, creatively called Runners Store. After dropping my bags, I traipsed back to the running shop and spoke with one of the employees about ideal routes. Although there were nominally involved in registration for a 10 km race the next day, a collection of us were shortly hovering over a city map, and each Swede was pointing out great routes and his own personal favourite.

While in Stockholm, I stayed at a hostel called City Backpackers. Most of it is underground, and there isn’t much natural light, but it was big enough to attract a motley crew of guests, had free high-speed internet and on-site laundry. While there, I met a really fun bunch of people, including a charming woman with whom I traded funny stories about childhood, given that she grew up in Duluth, MN, a short trip from Thunder Bay. Others I enjoyed meeting included a woman from Istanbul, who I will see in July when I reach Turkey and a guy from Philadelphia (close to my long-time de facto “home” in Harrisburg), who was in Thailand for a year teaching science at some private school for wealthy Thais. On my last day, an Australian woman from Perth (not Debbie) checked in. She recently left the Australian Air Force, and, like me, was on her way around the world. She shared many stories and photos of her experiences camping out on bases with the Canadians, flying (and puking) in fighter jets and things I might enjoy on my own trip. Totally welcome advice that got me more excited about the future.

As usual, I visited only a few museums. The Vasa Museum was really fascinating because its existence is sort of the result of a personal passion held by someone curious about his own country’s naval history. The Vasa itself was interesting for the way it demonstrates the importance of scope management on complex projects: last minute changes resulted in extra guns being added to the ship, which made it too top heavy. Only moments after launching, the ship capsized in gentle winds. You are probably ill advised to decline a request by the King for more firepower, but there must have been some way to convince him of the folly. Too bad Feynman and Tufte weren’t around just then.

One final thing that has bugged me for years: smokers cavalierly toss cigarette butts on to the ground. Why isn’t that behaviour treated with the same disdain as discarding any other rubbish? So odd.