I was travelling to broaden my experience, to meet people and to see things. As I moved around Europe I met Belgians in Belgium and Germans in Germany and Norwegians in Norway - and when I got to Stockholm I met the bearded stranger. We were checking into the youth hostel at the same time, we chatted - and we spent the next two days together. Occasionally we spent time with others, like the Israeli and the Dutch cyclists who joined our dormitory on the second night, but basically we were like best friends. We did what best friends do. We ate our breakfast (bread) in the Kungstrad Gardens, listening to a brass band playing spirituals and TV theme tunes. We cooked supper of weak soup and coffee on my gas ring – which, since the youth hostel was on a wooden boat, was a stupid thing to do.
We wandered the streets of Stockholm, too poor to pay for any entry fees or any proper meals. We saw the museum, went to Skansen Park where tourists can see all styles of old Swedish building, admired the spectacular façade of the Royal Palace and the mosaics in the Town Hall. We walked the narrow streets of the Old City and past the old palaces on Ridderholmen. We even spent a couple of hours resting in the Culture House, off the main square, where we could read our national newspapers and listen to music through headphones.
All the time we talked. We talked about university life, about politics, about our travels, about girls and money and jobs – all those things which concern teenagers. It was sad to part: I got on a train to Copenhagen, the bearded stranger was hitch-hiking to Uppsala, further north in Sweden.
Of course we said we’d stay in touch, we’d stay best friends. We went our separate ways: we never spoke or met again.