Somewhere in Helsinki I overheard a conversation in English about a daily ferry that goes to Stockholm and though the trip would be a few hours long, it sounded like an interesting idea and thus, I got me a round trip ticket.
Hauling over my shoulders 35 lbs of luggage plus another 15 or so of photography equipment over my chest, as I was closing in to the ferry terminal, some other backpacker dude, very friendly and jolly fellow (as opposed to me) stopped to asked me if I was headed to Sweden and offered to give me his Stockholm card since he wasn’t going to use it anymore.
Normally this card goes now a days for about 765 Swedish Krona (89 USD) but I was going to get it for free. Had it been in NYC or in South America, this exchange would be done through either a reciprocal exchange of body fluids / hand job (NYC) or coercion via mugging or a knife to the neck, so I wasn’t sure which one I would have had to chose if that were the case. But no, the guy was a nice American fellow who was nearing the end of his travels and was kind enough to offered me the rest of his unused card.
I wouldn’t have minded if he’d offered his unused Swedish money or Euros as well since they tend to be uncomfortably big on your wallet, but I couldn’t be too greedy. Of course this would have been in exchange for a thank you and good intentions for the rest of his travels, nothing else.
The big red boat named Gabriella was big enough to fit in its vowels a shit ton of trucks, buses and cargo and several floors of people, mostly tourists and young plebeians. I had heard during the week that on certain days, this becomes a party boat with mostly young Swedish men and women in several states of intoxication and undress. I missed those by a day apparently, so my general apathy for the younger generation in varying degrees of foolishness was unhindered until we set sail at 4pm and the sun started setting a few hours later.
The trip to Stockholm was close to 17 hours so I had plenty of time to roam around the labyrinthine corridors of the boat and enjoy the lazy rocking over the choppy, foamy waters.
In some of the common areas, I saw many back packers and locals set up shop there and for what I was told, they only paid a very basic price, which for the non spendthrift (which I should have been), was a pretty good deal, except for the uncomfortable 17 hour ride sleeping on the first unoccupied bench. In my case, I had booked a cabin with a window to the water which was rather pricey, but for the experience in itself and the fact that I did not know when I’d be back to that part of the world, I forked out the extra for the comfort. Besides, back then I had a good job and I could afford that shit. Of equally great importance in booking the fancy room was the fact that it had wifi and I wanted to be in contact with the Canadian I was dating that time. And just in case some sexting would have happened (maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, I won’t disclose), what better way to
commit impure acts have a private conversation with her than in the comfort of your own room with a view to the ocean.
My rounds on the boat came to a halt once I went to the bar/restaurant/stage to check things out and sip a bubbly while watching a nice, quiet sunset. This didn’t last long as a barrage of people in their 20s, made their way in for dinner and drinks. Less than an hour later, Gabriella started taking on its reputation as party boat, while I was slowly starting to inwardly fume and utter obscenities at the rowdiness and the people involved. But I was rather surprised at myself that I ended up enjoying most of the foolishness, especially watching the drunk Finns sing karaoke to American songs in Finnish while shooting the shit and laughing banteringly with a few of them.
Right before getting kicked out of the venue, I attempted to walk back to my royal chambers. My head was rocking back and forth and the boat felt like it was listing to both sides at the same time even though the ride itself was over smooth waters at the moment and completely upright. My brain was like: “it ain’t the alcohol, it’s this damn boat that doesn’t want to stay still.”
I felt like a dishrag and I immediately passed out in my room looking as such, but with a smile plastered on my face. At 6:30 am was my scheduled time to show up at the main dining area for a nice breakfast with a gorgeous view.
Sitting next to strangers who did not feel like socializing and looking more hungover than I was, was not my cup of tea. But the amount of good food definitely was and so I focused my energy on looking down at my plate and chomping absolutely everything that landed on it except squishy and weird looking sea dwelling creatures.
An hour before reaching our final destination, I sat down in one of the common areas with a hot cup of coffee. Feeling the heaviness of the night before with the few hours of sleep, made me feel a comfortable languor while staring at the beautiful bright mounds of greenery of Sweden. The boat wafted very quietly along a narrow channel as cute little wooden houses scattered along the banks slowly woke up to this lethargic and crisp morning.
Tears welled up in my eyes while watching the palette of the Swedish country side pass by and wishing my mother, more than anyone, were experiencing this with me and hoping too that this throbbing headache would dissipate once and for all.