As I mentioned in my previous post, I spontaneously met a Russian girl at a photography museum this past Friday, where we exchanged numbers and committed to meeting again the next day. So I rolled into Stockholm’s central metro station about 10 minutes later than planned and bustled through an abnormally large crowd of people (there happened to be a Saturday afternoon dance flash mob in Sergels Square) to find Alena.
I feel like I’m introducing a sports team whenever I write about people I meet here: Alena (Russia) greeted me with a giant hug and introduced me to her two friends, Christoph (Austria) and Julieanne (Australia). Come to find out, it was Christoph’s 24th birthday, so we let him take the reins to find a place to relax in each others’ company with coffee and tea. As we started walking, I asked Christoph how he and Julieanne know Alena. “Ah! It’s quite funny, really. We met her randomly on a boat coming from Finland.”
Christoph let his memory guide us through the old town to a cafe he had once been to and loved. Under Kastanjen. I had a brief moment of nostalgia tracing the dark earthy orange color of the building to that of wooded trees in Vermont at this time. In English, the name of the cafe is Under the Maple Tree. The only way this place could have been made better is if actual maple lattes were served. But that wouldn’t be Swedish, would it?
After our lovely time in the old town, Alena and I parted ways from Christoph and Julieanne to seek redemption of our free tickets to the amusement park Gröna Lund. We linked arms and walked under my umbrella like sisters synchronizing jumps over puddles to avoid getting wet.
Gröna Lund is very tiny park. You can walk around the perimeter of it in ten minutes (maybe less). That being said, it’s dense. Roller coasters literally weave in between one another as a creative response towards tight zoning rules that prevent Gröna Lund from expanding outwards into the royally historical island of Djurgarden. They added a Ben & Jerry’s to the scene, though, so I believe they have nothing to worry about in terms of keeping visitors content.
I had never been on a roller coaster that goes upside-down, mostly because the last real park I went to was probably Sea World when I was 9 years old. Also—I’ll admit—they’re intimidating. But not anymore! Alena pointed to the high, twisting, dropping, rotating coaster that is clearly the king of attractions in the park: “We go there next.” I start rambling to her, What?! You’re a crazy Russian girl, of course you want to go, and now you’re going to drag me? That’s INSANE! Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but we stopped in front of the entrance to the coaster and looked up, and the title of coaster read “Insane.” God, my intuition is accurate. I might not have even considered going on the ride had I been on my own, and am so thankful Alena was there to make sure I did. It was…well, insane, in the best way possible.
We ended our time at Gröna Lund by hosting our own private dance party in a two-seated capsule of the “shaker” (a ride that whirls you around to the latest pop music), and sharing a stack of cotton candy. Alena at first ordered one for each of us, and as you can see from the picture to the right, I’m glad I stopped her.
It’s hard to describe how much Alena and I got along despite our serious language barrier. She’s a brilliant, open character that loves to engage in people’s lives, and I am so impressed at the level she is able to do this despite not speaking very much English. What is more, we discovered that we actually share a lot of core interests: she’s an environmental engineering major at her university in Russia, loves art, and often contemplates switching her field of study. Sound familiar, folks? One thing we don’t share in common is an extreme love for vodka, but hey—we’re not all Russian.
We met up one more time for dinner on Sunday night before she left on Monday. We found a cafe in Södermalm with a theme dedicated to photographs of film stars and dancers. Through broken English, Russian, French (an uncanny point of understanding), and a notebook for drawing, we managed to talk about everything from IUD’s to what it would take to start up an art studio in St. Petersburg. We said goodbye at the metro, promised to write, and for a very round moment, missed the strange, fleeting connection we had just built. I recall our last words being very French and fitting: “A bientot!”,
see you soon.
P.S. St. Petersburg isn’t too far away, is it?