Monday, July 11, 2005

The Annex in Stockholm

July 11
Sweden’s prices are as far north as its latitude so cash strapped backpackers are drawn to the summer annex of the generously named Bed and Breakfast Hostel. That’s where I brought my 135 kronas ($17) a few nights ago. “Is the annex open?” I asked when they tried to put me in a 195 krona ($25) dorm. “Umm, yes, it is.”

The Swedish man walked me across the street from the hostel and half a block up the hill. He punched “9833#” into the keypad and opened the heavy wooden door with a droopy T carved out of it. We took 17 steps down to the empty linoleum-tiled basement and found 19 bunk beds crammed along its walls. There are two de-bunked beds as well, allowing 40 cash-strapped backpackers to call the annex home on any given night.

“It’s like a hospital,” we all decided later, though I’ve never seen a hospital room with 40 beds. “It even has a sick guy.” Indeed, the gentleman in bed #40 has such a severe cough that after spending a night in the adjacent bed #34, I decided it would be better to keep my distance and relocated to bed #8.

It’s always light outside but it’s always dark in the basement annex of the Bed and Breakfast Hostel. When the blaring fluorescent lights go off for the night, it’s impossible to tell the hour until the next afternoon when they finally come back on. When you wake up it might be 3am or it might be 11am. The little droopy T carved out of the door is the only contact with the outside world and it’s too far away to cast any light into the annex.

The annex must be about the best place you could hope to stay. It’s a real challenge to share a room with 39 people and not make a few friends.

Last night we were at a nearby bar, which featured long-haired retro rock and karaoke. The three Dutch girls were out. So was the Canadian guy and the two Italian guys. (The Italian guys couldn’t understand Swedish women, who weren’t interested in them but were willing to make-out with eachother). The Aussie girl stayed in to get some sleep, but her Turkish bunkmate grabbed a couple pints. In the morning the Swiss girls and the American guys packed up and left. The whole room emptied out except for the one older woman napping in bed #1 after it was vacated by the Swiss girls.

A long white extension cord runs from outside the annex all the way into the middle of the room. It’s plugged into my laptop as I type on the one white plastic picnic table the 40 of us share. It’s right by bed #34 where two Puerto Rican girls came in and put their stuff down. They looked around at the rows of empty beds and the green forest mural that wraps around the walls. They started to think through the logistical implications of all the showers being down the block in the main building. They gathered up their stuff and moved out of the annex and into a room across the street and it was their loss.


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