Stockholm, Sweden


September 10-12, 2001

After wandering to and around Gamla Stan, I can say Stockholm is the top Scandinavian city hands down. The Paris of the North. It is partially because of this that Swedes are known to have a somewhat air of superiority, but it's hardly noticeable as a tourist. None-the-less, this place is a wonderful surprise, with most Swedish towns not so exciting, Stockholm makes it to my best of Europe list.

I spent my first night exploring the streets and the second mostly in the Nobel prize museum. There is a focus on creativity and one of the many presentations is a great film shot in Cambridge. There's space there... "if you don't have that space, you can't be playful and you think in a rather dull way."

Pondering the great ideas of the people who have won the awards and other nominations in a scientific laboratory, I mix this feeling with my European cafe' passion. A place to relax, and reflect. It's also like the hostel nights when striking up invigorating conversations with strangers. Like gathering around a campfire on a warm night, ideas and viewpoints fly. And it was after all, in the cafes where some of the great political insights and movements launched from.

Back to the Cambridge students the concept of success. I conclude: We are all complete successes. And complete failures. Depending on your point of view. Well, my critics tend to say I see things on the extremes of spectrums, but it was a famous Nobel prize winner who said, "There are two ways to live. The first is that there are no miracles in life. The second is that everything is a miracle."

I check-in to a place that sounded so cool, but I could only get one night of accommodation even after booking in advance: the af Chapman, an old ship gracing the inlet that is docked as a hostel. "Oh my god, you are an American! Have you seen?" A print out of smoking coming the from one of the Twin Towers was held to my face. "More has happened since this. You can check the television in the other room."

My remaining time in Stockholm was spent watching the pictures on CNN (in Swedish), reading news web pages and calling my American friends working in New York City (luckily all alive, though some were close enough to have burning papers fall on their street).

Europe is hanging its flags at half-mast and the American embassies have become shrines to the victims, piling up with flowers and small stuffed animals. American tourists pile around televisions trying to decipher foreign languages. Then wait in the long queues to get back home. Reporters look for us in the streets for a quote for the newspaper. The shocked world is watching, seeing our diverse nation come together.

When people would tell me they are visiting New York and ask what is special about the city, I'd tell them, "Look up!" The height of the buildings! Though they ruin old European cities, the skyscrapers here define New York. Across the river in Hoboken, the life of the city is contained. The buildings are sparkling mountains, silent under a full moon. At least they were.

The next time someone asks what I think is special about New York, I won't be able to say, "Look up." I'll just look down and think for a moment.

Of course we've lost more than symbolic monuments this week, but I'll skip the commentary. You've gotten plenty of it already. As I finish this journal, I am still checking the developments on-line, in the papers and on the radio every few minutes in the day (and every few hours through the night). I'm still shocked and now it's left me exhausted. In a few hours America has changed, but it's unsure what it has become. On the way home from work, Ritsuko hands me a rose, "This is for you." My face is smiling, but she can see my eyes are not. "I know you are sad."


countries list