I took a morning flight from Bergen, Norway, to Stockholm Sweden after exploring the fjords in Norway the day before. I had to giggle at the lightheartedness of the airport restrooms.
I have to admit my ignorance, though, as I had no idea the population of Stockholm is three times bigger than Oslo. This fact was quite offensive to my taxi driver, who proudly told me he was a Turk and had lived in Norway for over thirty years now. His three grown children were born in Norway, and they all still lived near Oslo.
As we drove from the airport to my hotel downtown, he told me a story of visiting Las Vegas and going dancing (he loves to go dancing). He danced with an American woman (“she was very beautiful, just gorgeous,”) and in between dances, she asked him where he was from. He said, “Sweden,” and she asked if that was in California. He turned to me and sideswiped my arm, laughing, and said, “She didn’t even know Sweden was a country!” I laughed too, knowing that I ranked only slightly above her in his mind because I didn’t know Stockholm was so much larger than Oslo. I shrugged. That is just how life goes sometimes.
He told me he was divorced, and asked if I always travel alone. I smiled and nodded. He said, “I love to travel, but never alone. The trip is for sharing. I travel to Egypt, Morocco, Italy, Greece. I like to see the beaches. But you get lonely if you’re all alone, no?” He looked at me, his thick hands gripping the steering wheel.
I smiled and shook my head. “I actually really like to travel alone. I can go where I want, do what I want, eat what I want. I have three children, too, and a full time job and when I am home, I am responsible for so many things. When I am alone, I get to put myself first.” It has been interesting for me to hear from the taxi drivers how they think they would be lonely if they traveled alone.
We pulled up to my hotel, and the driver swiped my credit card. He looked at me and asked, “Do you like to go dancing?” I looked sideways at him, and watched his eyes trail down my body. I opened my door and got out. He handed me the credit card slip, and I signed it using the top of his car. I handed it back to him and smiled, saying that I had decided that I would not be dancing on this trip. He nodded and helped me get my backpack out of the trunk of his car. We waved at each other and he drove off, leaving me feeling like a fish swimming sideways in a river of people on the sidewalk.
After leaving my backpack at the hotel, I ventured out to walk around the city. I got lost over and over again, crossing short bridges and long bridges, tall bridges and short ones. I sat for a bit against some brick steps while everyone ate lunch and watched the construction cranes with their long necks seeming out of place against the neat, colored buildings downtown.
I found a yoga studio and ventured in to see about joining a class. The classes were all finished for today, but I signed up for one for the following day. The studio had tea, books, a sauna, and yoga mats for people to borrow. It was a very cozy place, and I smiled as I left, looking forward to returning.
As I headed back to my hotel to find dinner, I happened to see a sign tucked away in a corner right across the street from my hotel. Ice bar. I wandered in and giggled as I realized that I had found one of those odd places people mention on travel shows. A bar made entirely of ice. I paid my drink fee and walked into the lobby, where heavy parkas were hanging. Someone helped one over my head as if it were a bearskin rug, and I poked my arms out of the gaping side holes. Thick mittens were attached to the parkas with strings like those that toddlers wear. I went into the dark blue ice bar and felt the cold air surround me. It was unfortunate that I was wearing sandals, but the ice under my feet was at least fairly rigid and not slippery.
I went up to the bar and ordered a drink called the Midnight Sun. The bartender was friendly, and agreed to a selfie. The drinks were served in glasses made of thick ice (hence the mittens). I didn’t use my mittens at first, I just sipped the ice drink and let it melt in my mouth. It tasted like a grown-up Sno-Cone. I sat down on some ice blocks next to two older women who were giggling. They asked me to take a picture of them, and we started talking. One was from Canada, the other from England. They were only in Stockholm for a couple of days before heading to Norway and off on a cruise. The Ice Bar was on their bucket list, and “if I had known how strong these lingonberry drinks were, I would have gotten here sooner!” said the English one. Her Canadian friend then turned to me and asked, “How can you stand to hold that ice glass in your bare hands?” I laughed and said I had grown up in North Dakota, and I enjoyed the smoothness of the ice–it was like holding a giant icicle. She nodded and said she understood. We raised our glasses and I drained the last of the sweet cocktail before waving goodbye.
I stopped for some piping hot pho soup before heading back to my hotel for the night.