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Swedish Sleepovers...

Much as the spontaneous night out always tops New Year's Eve for overall enjoyment, the overplanned journey always seems lacking in comparison to the path of greatest (and least-planned) resistance. The dirt road less traveled, etc. It was with this ideology in mind - in combination with a horrendous lazy streak and hatred of planning - that I set out on my latest journey.

Last week, a friend, Dave, from my hometown of Victoria came to visit me and our joint friend, Rob, in London. Hoping to get out of the city for a while, we decided to take a "Lads' Weekend" away. The plan Dave had set for us was to go to Estonia to watch the much-heated, highly-vaunted Canada-Estonia soccer friendly. And the only affordable way for us to go to Estonia was actually to fly to Stockholm and take a 16-hour boat ride there. The weekend would be 96 hours away, 48 of which would have us in transit. The fact that none of us cared an iota about the match was highly insignificant; it was the senselessness of it that was this plan's major attraction.

We arrived in Stockholm late on Thursday night and made straight for our hostel, which was a little over an hour out of the city centre. We caught the last subway down, arriving at the station at 1:30am, and waited for the bus, the temperature a crisp -5C. The bus arrived minutes later, careening onto the sidewalk, missing Dave by a matter of mere inches. A few stunned seconds later, the bus driver opened the doors. He was wild-eyed and clearly drunk, with hair that would lead one to assume recent and sustained contact with a VanderGraf generator. It was an awful idea to get on the bus, but the hostel was too far to walk to, no taxis were going to come by and we wouldn't have made it standing outside for an hour until the next bus arrived. With great trepidation, we boarded.

Thankfully, a few minutes and conspicuous lurches later, we arrived intact, let off right in front of our hostel, which was majestic: It was a Gosford Park-ian country mansion with numerous buildings on its compound. As we were arriving at 2:00am, the proprietors had given Dave a key code to get into the hostel. Impressed, we walked up to the front door, where we saw the keypad for our entry code. Locked behind a different door. We realized we had no way of getting through the first door to get to the keypad. We were now significantly less impressed. We pressed all the buzzers, threw pebbles at the windows and called out, all to no avail. I shouted "Halloo?!" at the top of my lungs, thinking that it sounded faintly Swedish. (I also believe that "Halloo" sounds faintly Turkish, Flemish, Pidgin or Braille, depending on which language I am trying to pretend I know) We went to the other buildings on the compound and tried to rouse sleepers there. Again, nothing. It was pitch black, but we wandered everywhere we could see, yelling and throwing random objects, but nothing worked. It was horribly cold, and our humour was fading.

Finally, like all real troopers, we gave up. We were resigned to the fact that our only options were to sleep: a) in an unheated outdoor gazebo, about 6'x6' - note that none of us hand sleeping bags or blankets to keep us warm - or b) inside a tiny but heated garbage room. We chose the gazebo eventually, and decided to get drunk on booze we had brought in order to make us pass out and accept the cold. The floor was slimy and the gazebo too pitch black to see a thing. We were at the point where Rob's suggestion of sleeping on garbage bags was nothing short of genius. We had no gloves and the only thing keeping us warm were Dave's decorative Canada hats he had brought for the match. Aided by Sour Apple Schnapps, our humour improved until I passed out.

Too cold to sleep, Rob and Dave went for a walk at 5:00, first light. They wandered fifty feet and found, in plain view, our bedroom, open and empty. The night had been too pitch black to find the path that led us there, but the early sunshine was just enough to lead us to our building, where we could finally lie down, feeling equal parts relieved and ridiculous. We were woken up and kicked out after the best 5 hours of sleep of my life.

We got up, got into town and got onto our 16 hour boat ride to Estonia. The boat basically acts as an all-night oceanlining party for Swedish students, offering tax-free booze and a nightclub bigger than anything Victoria has to offer. They begin drinking before leaving port, stay up all night dancing, hang out in Estonia for 6 hours and then take the 16 hour boat ride back. It's a solid effort. Unwilling to stand out as tourists, Rob, Dave and I engaged in their famous tradition of drinking a Swedish drink they called "Tequila", leading Dave to become ill while in the passport control to enter Estonia in the morning, an auspicious and prophetic entry.

end of part 1 (click next to go to part 2)