Stockholm became so much more than just another stop on a trip, something much greater than a cheap place to fly into. Maybe it’s because it was the first European stop Hank and I had, or maybe it just really is that special – I think it is a little bit of both. But, Stockholm will forever be one of my favorite places. When we landed after our 11-hour direct flight from Vegas we made our way to the hotel, looking out the windows of our train as it sped through the snow deprived Swedish countryside. We dropped off our things in our little room and set off on foot, just to explore. I remember that it was cold – we expected this planning a trip to Scandinavia in December – but, coming from Las Vegas, you’re never quite prepared for just how cold it is. We laughed with each other, at the extent of our gloves and layers that didn’t quite seem thick enough. It was clear, the next day we would use endless Hot Hands and wear a few extra sweaters. Down a busy street and through a few shops, we wandered with no real purpose through a seemingly normal city section. But the thing with traveling is sometimes it just takes a little more exploring to find something special. We wouldn’t find that out about this section of Stockholm, called Södermalm, until our last day in the city.
That first night found us through Södermalm and into its connecting island, Gamla Stan (Swedish for “Old Town”), the mediaeval heart of Stockholm. It perfectly fits the image of a quintessentially quaint European town, with cobble stone streets, mishmashed buildings with cafes and shops, lantern lights and uneven paths. The beauty filled us with awe and wonder as we processed the change from city street to cobbled path. We didn’t explore around too much, as we knew we had the days to come, so we continued our walk, taking in all we could.
Something that should be said about Hank is that he loves the snow. Really, truly, loves it. When we told people where we were going in December and January nearly everyone said, “Why? It’s so cold!” Sure, it worked with my work schedule, and yeah the flight was cheap, but I also knew that there was an image in Hank’s mind that I wanted to make a reality. Snow falling through the lamplight on to stone streets and past shop windows that have stood for centuries. There was no snow under our feet, and none falling around us, but I knew Hank was happy even though his image unfulfilled. But, as we passed out of Gamla Stan, sure enough, the snow began to fall. I’ll never forget that moment. Everything hit us all at once, this is it, and we looked at each other with enormous smiles, we are here and this is perfect. The next 18 days of our trip were unforgettable, full of amazing moments and sights, but I still think about that first day in Stockholm and the snowfall that came with it.