It was the summer of 1973. My family was in Sweden on vacation after going to Israel where my younger brother celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. It was becoming somewhat of a family tradition of boys in our family celebrating Bar Mitzvahs in Israel. I did the same thing two summers before.
Another tradition to go along with this one is the family going to Europe after the Holy Land. I don’t know how or why this was decided. Kids in our family usually weren’t privy to such decisions. If I had to guess, I’m thinking Dad figured he was spending all that money, so might as well let the kids see Europe too.
The plan was after one or two weeks in Israel, we would spend 3 days in Sweden and 3 days in Denmark. I know the words “whirlwind tour” come to mind but I was excited. After all, I had been to Israel before and each trip was wonderful but also fraught with a certain anxiety about the Bar Mitzvah. The first time was mine. The second time my brother’s.
My brother and I didn’t always get along but because more pressure was on him this time than me, there seemed to be less tension between us. So we got along more this trip than perhaps any other trip before or since.
When we got to our hotel in Stockholm, everybody got situated and Sam and I asked our parents if we could walk around. They said fine and we went downstairs and walked around.
I don’t remember too much about the walk except we saw a park where there was a lot of art work. We checked that out for a while then kept walking. At some point we got lost and decided it would be a good idea to ask someone how to get back to the hotel.
At some point we found a stranger who seemed friendly enough to approach. One of us asked him how to get back to our hotel. He nodded like it was a piece of cake and told us in almost perfect if somewhat heavily accented English. He pointed in the general direction from which he came as he talked.
“Sure. You go down this street, turn right, go down two blocks….”
He hesitated as my brother and I waited with bated breath. “Yes, yes?” we wanted to say but didn’t want to be brash American punks.
This Swedish Magellan finished up his spoken word map, “Den ahsk summbuddy else”