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For Danish tourists, Sandy means a longer, slower stay than planned

Posted by Roy Greene  November 1, 2012 11:25 AM

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(Photo by Amy Hansen)

  1. Mikolaj Mortensen (left) and Christoffer Kamronn

found themselves stuck at the North End’s Friend Street Hostel this weekend as the hurricane interrupted their plans.

Mikolaj Mortensen and Christoffer Kamronn were excited to land at Boston’s Logan International Airport late Friday afternoon, the first leg of a five-week, multi-city tour of America.

Mortensen, a 23-year-old medical student from Aarhus, Denmark, and Kamronn, a 24-year-old tour guide also from Aarhus, couldn’t have been happier to escape Denmark’s cold.

“We actually have a picture where we’re wearing T-shirts and Mikolaj is just going ‘WOO!’ ” Kamronn said.

But Hurricane Sandy arrived right behind them. And so they and other visitors found themselves stuck at the North End’s Friend Street Hostel this weekend as the hurricane interrupted their plans.

“It’s been a bit boring,” Mortensen said with a shrug, poring over guidebooks at the hostel where the two are staying. “We haven’t seen people yet.”

The Danish duo was able to do some exploring before Sandy struck. They visited Harvard and took a walk in Cambridge. But over the long weekend, they spent much of the rest of their stay trying to keep indoors.

“I had my laptop and did a little bit of Facebooking,” Mortensen said. “Then I got a book.”

While the hostel’s visitors tried to embrace their down time, the staff found themselves hopping.

“Can you tell me the status of the 130 bus to Montreal?” Anders Ryden calmly said into the telephone Tuesday morning.

The 20-year-old manager’s assistant has made many similar calls to officials at Logan Airport and South Station after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. He’s trying to help travelers whose itineraries have been torn up by the storm.

“We had a few guests that had trains and buses cancelled, but we had enough availability to accommodate them,” said the Boston resident, who has worked at the hostel for the past five months as part of Northeastern University’s co-op program.

Ryden estimated that the 40-bed hostel – which costs $40 per night -- was filled to about half capacity. Part of the reason, Ryden explained is that “we’ve
had between five and ten cancellations in the past two days.”

The hostel usually gets many visitors who fly in from New York City or Washington, D.C. But Sandy left the airports in those cities close to a standstill, meaning that a lot of the guests here couldn’t leave.

“A lot of people are just hanging out here,” Ryden said. “We couldn’t really go outside.”

While hostel residents sunk into the broken-in leather couches in the bright common room and watched Vanilla Sky on Monday, Ryden and other employees worked to prepare as much as possible without going overboard. A new generator sat unused since their power didn’t go out.

No extra food was ordered since the complimentary breakfast’s stash of supplies--toast with jam and butter, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, orange juice—was taken care of thanks to a weekly order from a local grocery store.

At the breakfast table and beyond, Hurricane Sandy made for an interesting conversation topic that linked people from across the world.

“It’s interesting to see how each guest dealt with it,” Ryden said. “We’ve had a lot of weather talk. Some Australians talked about cyclones and typhoons and how they compare to this.”

Venturing out into the storm for a few moments on Monday evening, Mortensen felt like he was back in familiar territory.

“Frankly, it was just like being on the west coast of Denmark,” Mortensen said. It wasn’t that bad, just windy and a little bit of rain.”

Hurricane Sandy might have limited their Boston activities, but there’s one souvenir they’ll be taking back home with them—a memorable story.

“Now we have something to associate the trip with and say, ‘Oh, remember that America trip? Oh yeah, the one with the big hurricane!’” Kamronn said.

This article was produced under a partnership between Emerson College and the Globe.

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