Written 25 FEBRUARY 2011
Wow, 2011. It’s weird typing that.

I do not know the name of the café I am sitting at, but I’m at a table by the window which is supposed to seat four, and have a bright view of the gloomy world outside. I’m in Enkoping.

I say gloomy, but it’s really just wintry, with sullen grey sky and snow-covered streets speckled with tiny bits of gravel that often get stuck to the bottom of your shoes and make horrible clicking sounds when walking through subway stations. I managed to speak only Swedish with the proprietor of the café, but then embarrassingly didn’t realize the unique teapot she handed me when I moved to get a cup off the shelf near the milk and honey. 

I arrived in Enkoping on a bus that was ‘ej i trafik,’ meaning not in service. Mia’s friend Bjorn was at the helm though, so I had a private chauffeur all the way from Balsta. He was remarkably friendly despite his armful of tattoos (or maybe because of them?) and we conversed about skiing, snowboarding and weddings. His band (with seven members and two female singers) will play at the party in June. Bjorn has just returned from a snowboarding trip to Norway on Monday, and will set off again next week in hopes of becoming a ski instructor there. Bjorn has never skied before. 

Yesterday we ran towards our new apartment on Kungsholmen, much closer to town and in a much livelier neighborhood. It will be within walking distance of the Boomerang Hotel, the one and only Australian bar in all of Stockholm, and Kristian’s choice of watering holes, which I discovered two nights ago. We were not running specifically to check out the apartment building, but it was a convenient detour en route to the Alpint ski shop where my brand new cross-country skis were being re-glued back together after the base began delaminating from the ski. I discovered this to my chagrin on Sunday after 25km of skiing (and was going to quit before realizing the bus would not be leaving for another hour – so I set off again, my right ski dragging behind like a snow plow where the base had come off). And I skied two days later as well, for several miles on the frozen water of Stockholm’s archipelago, a route that Mia had discovered, and quite likely the most beautiful sporting I have ever done. On the ice!

The day before our running excursion in town (which also saw us take the watery route to the south of Sodermalm – we ran beyond the marina docks and mooring balls where several sailboats remained frozen in for the winter, jogging oddly close to a green channel marker right in the center of the normally wide waterway), I met Kristian at the aforementioned Boomerang Hotel, and oddly enough, enjoyed a couple Weihenstefaner weissbiers with him and his girlfriend Malin. Kristian (a Swede) is an old acquaintance whom I met on my 21st birthday in Wellington, New Zealand – almost two years to the day of when I’d meet Mia and Johanna, the other two Swedes who had an obviously bigger influence on my life. When Lindsey, Mara and I continued onto Australia, Kristian followed a few months later, crashing at our apartment along the Brisbane River for a week on his way south (or north?) along the east coast of Oz. Which, I suppose, is why he likes the Boomerang Hotel (though they did not have Cooper’s on offer that particular evening). 

We ran across a large bridge in the city, the same one we traversed twice during that dreadful Stockholm Marathon of a few years past. Mia informed me that ‘if I want to kill myself, this is the bridge to jump from.’ Okay. At it’s apex, hundred of locks were shackled to the guardrail, and this is also apparently the spot to ‘lock your love,’ – many of the locks were inscribed with couples’ initials and a small heart in the center. Okay. But most remarkable was not the bridge, but the waterway below. From atop our lofty perch (for the highest building in Stockholm is the TV tower – the bridge provided a nice view), you could make out the routes of the ferries and working boats still active despite the season. The whole of the archipelago was frozen in save for narrow channels cutting throughout the city – broken chunks of ice littered the channels, which were lined on either side by snow-covered plains of very frozen water. Oddly enough, this scene seems okay, what one might expect of February north of 60º north. And yet upon further reflection at the top of that bridge, I found this stark winter scene incredibly beautiful and utterly amazing. I do not want to take for granted my winter experience here in Scandinavia, but it’s easy to do so, the ease of transportation throughout the city frankly astounding given the conditions. 

The thermometer has not risen beyond 0º in the three weeks (as of today, actually) that I have been here, and we’ve received about 30cm of snow in the same time frame. They do not plow the streets in the city, save for the major thoroughfares, and this is flatly accepted. Bits of dirt and gravel are spread on the sidewalk, but essentially the snow removal is dealt with by cars and walkers tramping down the newly laid snow into something one can (carefully) walk and drive upon. Vehicles here are required to have winter tires installed past November, which have small metal nubs in them providing traction on the snowpack. Most runners wear a similar style shoe in the winter, and the few brave cyclists on the streets do the same with their tires. The snow just doesn’t melt here, and people (I guess) learn to live with it. I, for one, have learned to enjoy it (but get odd looks when I pass people wearing my barefoot shoes when out running in -8º temperatures).

I have little more than a month remaining here, and lots of wedding to plan. I just remembered that I must go to the Park Astoria hotel here in Enkoping today (part of the reason I came) to book some rooms and do some recon for Mommom, Pappap, Scott and Laura. We’ve covered Bjorn playing in the wedding, so I can check the music off of my list. Check.