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Last updated February 07, 2016. 

Travel Tales

Alan Gamboa Traveled Europe July 1999-Sept. 1999

July 5, 1999 August 1, 1999 September 5, 1999
July 14, 1999 August 9, 1999 September 19, 1999
July 21, 1999 August 18-19, 1999 September 25, 1999
August 28, 1999


September 19, 1999 The Last Adventures of Sun Boy

Call me Sun Boy... because I bring the California sun wherever I go, I cleared up them Scandinavian skies real good (it was raining before I arrived).

But back to my final adventures (or lack thereof).   Fredrik and I took it pretty easy for the week in Stockholm, which was fine by me.   Stockholm is a very cool city though.  It's made up of several islands so it's surrounded by water (so clean that you can swim and even fish in it).  So just everywhere you look there's sparkling water and boats sailing back and forth and girls.   Yeah, I must mention the Swedish girls.  When I got to Denmark I thought, "Man I'm in the Promised Land, they can't get much better than this."  But in Sweden they did.  I have to say that Sweden has the most beautiful girls of any country I've ever been to (Denmark is a close 2nd).

Through the week, I really got to see what Fredrik's life was like.  I met many of his friends (Stefan is a real funny guy), his family (Fredrik's mom is a Swedish Chef of muppet proportions-just without the 'hordy, hordy, hordy'), went to his church (I have always loved singing in languages I don't understand), and things like that.  Fredrik is a great guy, a real warrior poet.  I'm lucky to know a guy like him.

A very funny thing happened with Fredrik, Stefan, and I, but I'm not sure if it will be that funny when I tell you... it might be one of those "had to be there" kind of things.  We were taking the subway to Stefan's place, and it was quite crowded.  I had just sat down next to this cute little blonde girl when all of a sudden she goes to sleep on my shoulder.  The 3 of us started giggling a bit, because I mean, a total stranger was taking liberties with my body.   The longer she slept, the funnier it got, and soon the people sitting around us were chuckling too.  I had Fredrik take a picture.  Next, the girl wakes up and groggily looks around.  I asked her what station she was going to, because I didn't want her to sleep past her stop.  She basically ignored my question, wiped off my shoulder, and went back to sleep only this time, she had her hand on my thigh!  We burst out laughing again.  After a little while I woke her, because I really didn't want her to miss her stop. She told us her stop (it wasn't for awhile), wiped my shoulder off again and apologized for getting make-up on me, then went back to sleep again!   This time she had her hand on my arm and was snuggled up!  By this time Fredrik and I were laughing so hard we were crying and Stefan had to look away to contain himself.  We had concluded that she was quite drunk, which was especially sad since it was only about 6pm.  Soon, I had to wake her because it was time for us to get off, and we warned her not to go back to sleep because her stop was coming up.  So I don't know.  Was that funny, or did you have to be there?  I still get a smile when I think about it.  It's too bad the picture did weird things, but I think you can get the general idea.

So after about a week in Stockholm, Fredrik and I took the ferry to Turku, Finland.  This ain't no cattle boat.  This thing is basically a cruise.  It had casinos, bars, restaurants, and even a semi-kickin' disco.  So we bought some candy at the tax-free shop, played some video games and a few slot machines, and eventually hit the disco.  Like I said, it was only semi-kickin' but we met these Swedish girls who were dancing sensations.  I felt bad dancing with them because I think I made them look bad, but it was fun anyway.

Finland is an interesting place.  It had the most "foreign" feel of any place I'd been to, the streets just had this weird vibe.   And Finnish is a bizarre language... all I learned was "Mui" (hello) and "Kitos" (thank you)... it has a very strange sound to it, some of it sounds slurred and not like words at all.  My theory is that it was invented on Vodka.

The reason we went to Turku and not Helsinki is that Fredrik has a good friend there, Jeanette.  Along with Jeanette's roommate, Lotta, we all had a fun time... they were really fun gals.  Jeanette taught me how to Waltz and I taught her how to Swing.  And Lotta invented the German Fox Trot (which can only be done while listening to the cheesy German 70's/80's pop music called "Schlager").

The food in Finland is also worth mention.  Fredrik and I had this nice buffet, but man-OK, it tasted good, but I don't even want to know what I ate!  It was yellow and came from the sea, that's all I know! I also ate the messiest thing of my life there - a sausage burger!  It had two slabs of sausage, a fried egg, cheese, and several types of sauces (I'm guessing ketchup, mustard, and mayo, possibly more).  That thing was all over the place, Carl's Jr. has nothing on Finland.  I also checked out MacDonald's because it's cheap (relatively) and it's always interesting to see what they'll have (it's different in every country).  I was drawn in by "El Maco," what's supposed to be a hamburger taco, but I ended up getting McRuis instead, because it was weirder and came on hard, brown, bread (called Ruis bread -popular in Finland) instead of the usual bun, and it had white cheese (dunno what kind).  It was actually quite good.

So it was here that I bowed to traveler tradition and bought a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt.  There were two main reasons for this purchase.
1.  Turku is the farthest away from home I've ever been... it's on Moscow time which is 10 hours ahead of L.A. time... if I would have gone much farther east I would have started back towards L.A. again.
2.  There is no Hard Rock Cafe in Turku.

Since Turku was the farthest away from home I'd ever been, and also the farthest north, on my last day there, Lotta and I took a walk to get in those last few feet of "northness."  I was wondering what percentage of the world's population had ever been this far north?  I figured probably a few people just went to the train station and then went south from there, because that's where everything is in Turku. So I decided that if we went north of the train station, that would slightly increase the percentage of people that I had been farther north than.   Yes, that's the kind of guy I am, such things amuse me.  Go figure.  I also passed on Breakfast of Champions here, the book that I had read in Berlin which had become my new favorite.  I just wanted to share that joy so I gave it to Jeanette and made her promise that she would give it to someone else after she read it and thus start some kind of legacy.

And it's basically just been a long string of good byes since then.  It was 27 hours of straight travel (on 3 ferries and 5 different trains) to get from Turku to Berlin with the last of my rail pass.  During this time I finished reading Naked Lunch, which I had bought in Copenhagen.  It was the sickest and most nonsensical book I had ever read.  I doubt I'd have made it all the way through if not for such a long haul.I again took it easy in Berlin; packing and saying good byes to old and new friends.  On my last day, Nadine's family took me out for dinner.   We went to this really good "Serbian" restaurant (we daren't say Yugoslavian).  After that, Dine and I went out with some of her friends who I had gotten to know (Tami and others).

Early Sunday morning, Nadine and I had a hopeful good bye because we knew we'd be seeing each other in March for Brenda and Charlie's wedding (congratulations guys!).

I managed to read a 400 page book (Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson) on the flight home, which helped pass the time compared to the flight out in which I was too tired to read (and to awake to sleep).  As I was walking to the restroom, somebody called my name, and so I looked and who should it be but my friend Mimi from my German classes.  It had totally slipped my mind that she would be in Europe this summer.  This was the last flight on this particular airline before school started, so I guess we were both getting our last few days in.  I was still very surprised to see her.  So we chatted a bit on the plane and then in the line for customs and while we waited for our baggage... small world, eh?

Back at the airport I was greeted by not only my parents, but my Aunt Marta and Uncle Bill as well which I did not expect.  My aunt had made a scrap book of all the e-mails I sent home along with clippings and stickers and things, it was very sweet.  I was really touched.

So I guess that about ends my travels.  I'll probably write one more e-mail with some final thoughts and to announce the completion of my travel page (I plan to put these e-mails up on my web site along with scanned pictures).

I hope you've enjoyed reading my little ramblings, and thank you for praying for me, rootin' for me, writin' to me, etc.



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