Flat Stanley wondered where he was. He lay in the dark, cold manila envelope beneath a PC Magazine and some letters in some icy cold mailbox. How much longer was he going to have to travel this way, shut up in an envelope and not able to see where he was going? He got to travel a lot but that was not as fun as everyone thought. Instead of relaxing and enjoying the scenery, he was always sealed away in the dark and only got to see where he was when someone opened the envelope and read his mission.
Flat Stanley was on a mission to gather as many postcards from as many places as he could and send them back to his best friend in the WHOLE WORLD, Eric. He would go from place to place and when he got there, it was his job to tell whoever opened the envelope to send back a picture postcard to his friend Eric. Eric would then be able to see pictures from lots of different places and get stamps and messages from people all over.
He heard the mailbox creak open and felt himself being carried into a warm house where the envelope was cut open. As he poked his head out, he looked around to find he was in an office with a big window. Outside the window, he could see it was snowing. The man who had cut open his envelope read Flat Stanley's mission and then reached into the drawer and pulled out a postcard. The postcard showed someone riding a mountain bike through a forest of pine trees and the big letters across the top spelled U-T-A-H. Flat Stanley must be in Utah! That's a long ways from Connecticut.
Normally, Flat Stanley would be stuffed back into an envelope and sent home to Connecticut but this time he was going to do something different. He was tired of dark envelopes and being mashed in bins of mail - "NO MORE TRIPS WITHOUT WINDOWS!" he said. While the man was packing for his next business trip, Flat Stanley climbed into his brief case and hid behind the computer. Before long, Flat Stanley was off on his first business trip and excited to be pushing the envelope' aside.
The man's name was Pete and he was a friend of Eric's too. As Pete was driving to the airport, Flat Stanley climbed out of the brief case and asked, "Hey, where are we going?" Surprised to hear Flat Stanley talk, Pete said, "It's a surprise but your gonna like what you see!"
When they got to the airport, they checked in at the International counter so that must mean they were going outside the country. Flat Stanley was really excited. Pete was hoping to get a seat close to the front of the big giant jet but after waiting and waiting, the big front seats were all full and he walked past all the passengers to row 43 at the very back of the plane.
Next to them was a young man dressed in black leather pants and jacket and a green face. He didn't say much except that he had been drinking all night and didn't feel very well and wanted to hurl. He had tattoos all over his arms and one of a knife on his neck that looked like it went in and out of his skin. Towards the end of the trip he felt good enough to talk and was a tattoo artist that was coming from doing some big jobs in Sacramento. Although he looked kind of scary with all those tattoos, he turned out to be very nice.
Looking out the airplane window at the wing
Pete and Stanley landed in Atlanta and just had time to download a few e-mails before they got on another big jet bound for Munich, Germany. This time, they had good soft seats and got to eat good food and watch movies all night long. The night wasn't very long though. At about midnight Utah time, it started getting light again and when they landed a few minutes later and it was morning already.
Stanley in business class
That day they spent getting ready, walking around Munich, and trying to stay awake. They saw statues, churches, and lots of shops. They rode the subway and went to the Olympic Stadium. It took a long time to figure out how to ride the subway because all the instructions were in German. There were no ticket gates to go through and no conductors on the train. When they bought a ticket, there was no place to deposit it or anyone to give it to. Finally they realized that everyone is on the honor system and officials only check for tickets once in a while. The Olympic stadium was really cool. It was built for the 1972 games and looks like a big giant circus tent only made of metal and glass.
The glockenschpiel - a large clock where life size dolls dance around when the big hand gets to twelve
The olympic stadium looks like a large circus tent
The next day wasn't much fun for Stanley - Pete just had bunch of meetings with people talking about Internet and computer stuff. That night they got on another airplane that was going to Paris, France. Just as the airplane was just about to land the wings started to tip.
They tipped wildly and instead of settling to the ground, the pilot gave the engines full throttle and they climbed back into the sky. In a few minutes, the pilot came over the loud speaker and said that they had been caught in the wake turbulence of a big Boeing 747 and he didn't want to risk a dangerous landing so he decided to give it full power and go around again.
That night Pete and Stanley stayed at a hotel that was right in the middle of the airport. Inside it looked like a giant ship with curved walls and round windows. Even though there were jets taking off and landing outside, it was very quiet inside because the walls were thick and there were three layers of glass on the windows.
Hotel that looks like a ship inside
That night, Stanley slept really good!!
Next morning there were more meetings and then lunch with a lady that writes articles for a French computer magazine. She was very pretty. That evening Stanley, Pete and Pete's friend Steve set out to explore Paris on foot. They saw old churches, the most famous art museum in the world, a big giant arch that cars drove around in circles, and the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel tower looks like a very tall radio tower and it is all lit up at night. They rode the subway and the train and on the way home, the taxi drove through the tunnel where Princes Diana died. Paris was fun with lots of people walking around, eating at restaurants and shopping.
Pete and Stanley in front of the Arch de Triumph
Stanley in front of the Eiffel tower--the numbers are counting down the days until the year 2000.
Early the next morning Pete and Stanley got up, checked out of the ship hotel and got on an airplane for Holland. The airport terminal in Paris is big and round and has see through tubes with escalators going through the center. It looks like an old spaceship.
In Holland, a nice man named Braum met them at the airport and drove them through the Dutch countryside. It was a beautiful day. They saw windmills and large flat fields where tulips grow in the summer time. There were lots of canals and ditches with water in them and some of them had small boats that were slowly moving. Holland used to be under water but now there are big dikes that were built to hold the water out and keep the houses and farms from being flooded. At lunch time, everyone drank milk and ate cheese and bread.
After more meetings, Pete and Stanley rode a train back to the airport where Stanley tried on some wooden shoes. He finally found some his size but they were too heavy for his paper legs so he just took a picture to send to Eric and his family. Another airplane ride - this time to Switzerland.
Stanley modelling wooden shoes from Holland
The next day was Saturday and Stanley got to play - no boring meetings. It was beautiful and sunny day so Stanley and Pete went outside for most of the day. They walked around the Swiss houses that are so well built. They have thick wood, heavy windows and are built to last for 400 years.
Swiss house where Steve lives
That afternoon, they went for a bike ride and pedaled along the special bike roads. No cars are allowed and they are paved through the countryside for bicycles only. They bicycled all the way to a beautiful lake that was surrounded by trees and rows and rows of grape vines. A man was in a pedal boat on the lake and young boys were fishing off a bridge. Two women were riding horses through the fields and a crowd of people was watching a radio controlled airplane. It was a beautiful and warm.
One the hillside by the lake was an old castle. It had big metal gates and inside the courtyard was a huge metal statue of a bull. Some of the windows were broken out and it didn't look like anyone lived in most of it. Underneath was a cement entry way that looked like it was used for a bomb shelter.
All in all, it was a fun day. They stopped at the grocery store and helped Steve shop for his family. Shopping carts in Switzerland have four wheels that swivel and they are hard to keep from running into things. Then they came home and fixed dinner. Pete came home and easily hooked to the Internet through a Cisco router and a home ISDN connection. He wished that Utah had ISDN.
Sunday it was raining all day. After going to church, Stanley and Pete went on a walk through the countryside. There were many paths and that lead through fields and trees and down by a river. In all the times that Pete had been to Switzerland, he had never seen a cow there (even though he could smell them sometimes). There were lots of fields with feed for cows but there were never any cows out. Today they followed the cow smell and came to a barn. Through the window they could see cows inside with their tails swishing back and forth. Cows in Switzerland have an easy life and hardly ever leave the barn.
Monday there were more meetings with people in Zurich and then Pete and Stanley flew to Spain. That evening they went out walking in the city and found a place where there were lots of people and shops. In one store there were hundreds of pig legs with meat on them hanging from the ceiling. In a brightly colored restaurant, there were big bull heads with giant horns mounted to the wall. They looked like the kind of animals that are famous at the bull fights in Spain.
When they went to the meetings, they learned that lots of people in Spain like to smoke cigarettes. When the lights were dim and the projector was going, you could see lots of smoke curling through the air on the side of the room that was for smokers. That day, Stanley just stayed in Pete's brief case so he wouldn't ruin his lungs. When you don't have a very thick chest, it's hard to breath anyway - especially with smoke in the air.
When the meetings were over it was time to fly way up north to Sweden - the country that is famous for Volvos, Saabs, and reindeer. When they got there it was dark and it didn't get light very early in the morning - that's because Sweden is closer to the north pole and in the winter, it's almost always dark at the north pole. Stanley didn't get to see much of Sweden but the the people were very friendly. The nicest thing about Sweden was that the taxis are all equipped to take credit cards so you don't have to carry around a lot of money.
Flat Stanley on a reindeer in Sweden
Next stop was a far away place that neither Pete or Steve had ever been before - Russia! It was kind of scary because President Regan had called Russia the 'evil empire' and an American businessman had got shot just outside the hotel they were going to stay in. As they got on the airplane, everyone was talking a language the Pete didn't understand. Stanley folded himself up and stayed inside a big book.
As they flew closer to Moscow, the landscape below looked much colder. From the air, Moscow looked like a big, big, city. A lady met them as they came through passport control and told them where they could meet the car that would take them to the hotel. It didn't seem scary so far.
At the hotel, a nice man from Australia said it wasn't as scary as everyone made it sound and he gave them directions on how to ride the subway to the center of the city. The subways are old trains that run deep underground. Sometimes they are three or four levels deep and catching the right train can be hard. All of the signs are written with letters that don't look anything like A, B, C. There were big long wooden escalators that would go up and down for 10 stories.
When they came up out of the subway, it was really, really cold (really!). It was minus 17 Celsius which is below 0 Farenheit - and a north wind was blowing. Flat Stanley was fine though because he doesn't have any blood or water to freeze. They walked around the Kremlin which is an old church complex that was turned into the government headquarters. Red Square is like a big giant parking lot made with bricks but no cars are parked there. It is always kept clean of snow by seven trucks that drive around with snow plow blades on the front and rolling brooms underneath. The brooms clean the snow from the cracks between the bricks.
Two Russian boys came up and offered to sell Pete and Steve big furry Russian hats. Their names were Alexander and Serge and they were college students learning computers. The hats were really warm so Pete and Steve each bought one for full price and commended Alexander and Serge for being such good capitalists.
Basel church at the end of Red Square in Moscow
Flat Stanley hanging with his buds in Moscow--Boris Yeltsin, Gorbechov, Breshnef, Krustchef, Lenin, and Stalin
The meetings in Moscow were good but took twice as long as normal. No one understood English except for the translator lady - her name was Olga and she was very nice. Pete would say a sentence in English and then Olga would translate what he said into Russian. When someone asked a question, they would say it in Russian to her and then she would say it in English to Pete.
One night, Pete, Steve, and Stanley went to a very famous building called the Bolshoy. There they saw an opera and a ballet. An opera is a play where every body sings in a language you don't understand and then they usually die at the end. After that they saw a ballet. The man playing the piano was really good but he was kind of shy. The main guy was a dancer that looked like the thing that was formerly known as the symbol that was formerly known as Prince. During half time they climbed up the stairs to the boxes that are way above the stage where spies and communists used to sit. In the basement people were eating black Russian caviar (fish eggs) on crackers and drinking lots of vodka - people don't live as long when they drink vodka (and they smell funny too).
Almost everybody in Russia wears fur. Ladies have fur coats. Men have fur hats that have big ear flaps that are folded up. The fur is made out of beaver, mink, fox, and rabbit fur. If you wear a nicer hat, you are supposed to be more important - or so they think.
When they went to leave Russia, Pete got stopped at the passport line. His visa (a letter from the government saying you can go to Russia) had run out. He had to pay a lady $70 to write the date and sign her name on his paper before he could leave Russia and go back to Switzerland. He was lucky he had the money in his wallet.
When they got back to Switzerland, it was the weekend and time to relax and not have meetings! Pete and Stanley decided to go on a train adventure. Even though Switzerland has lots of mountains, you can go anywhere on a train. They rode the train through the countryside, past mountains, around beautiful lakes, and through long dark tunnels. When the train came to a steep mountain, they switched to another called a cog train. The cog train had a big gear sticking out the bottom that connected to the track and kept the train from rolling down the hill.
They climbed and climbed and climbed. They came to a village where everyone was going up and down the hills on skis and sleds. They would slide to the bottom and then get on the train and go to the top again.
Stanley riding through the countryside on his train adventure
Pete and Stanley at the train station in Interlaken, Switzerland--Interlaken is a town between two lakes.
At the very top of the mountain, they got out. The wind was blowing and snowing outside. They were at the highest train station in all of Europe and it was 11,333 feet high. Next to the station was a large glacier that was made of ice. A bunch of tunnels had been cut into the glacier and it was called the Ice Palace and the floors, walls, and ceilings were all made of ice. A man trying to walk around with his ski boots on kept falling down on the ice.
Stanley posing in front of Eskimo ice art in the Ice Palace
The Eigor mountain--a train tunnel goes right through this mountain to the highest train station in Europe.
After looking at all the sights they headed back to Steve's house for the night. Steve has a daughter named Brooke and two sons named Luke and Jason. They had been sick but were getting better. Brooke had made Steve a bookmark clown that Stanley was getting to be good friends with. Brooke had been a princess in the school play.
Monday it was time to work again. This day Pete, Steve, and Stanley flew to Germany but were only there for a couple of hours before flying on to England. When they rode in a taxi to the airport, there were signs in the car that said 'don't use cellular phones!'. Steve asked the taxi driver why and he said that one time he was driving at 120 kilometers per hour (that's over 70 miles per hour) and a cell phone triggered his airbag and it blew up in his face. He was famous because they made an advertisement that showed on TV all over Germany that said don't use cellular phones in Mercedes taxis.
Stanley was excited about England. It took him a while to get used to the way people travel in England. First, lots of them ride something called 'The Tube'. It is a train that runs underground and goes all over the city of London. Second, taxi cars all are black and look like they are really old even though they are new. They have really big back seats and you can seat seven people in the back. Third, the buses are all red and are two stories high - they are called 'double deckers'. And last, EVERYONE drives on the wrong side of the road - at least that's the way it seems. To them, we drive on the wrong side of the road.
Stanley modelling some Spode china which is famous in England
Stanley resting on a garbage can - he better look out for the garbage collector.
Big Ben is the most famous clock in the world--it sits atop the English government buildings.
After more meetings they went to Piccadilly Circus. It wasn't a real circus with animals and trapeze people but it was fun. There were lots of people and shops and movies and play houses. Then they walked to the palace where the queen of England lives. It is called Buckingham palace and always has guards in big furry hats standing out front. They stand completely still and never move except when they trade off with the next guy. There is a flag called the royal standard that was flying over the palace. When it flys, it means that the queen is staying there that night instead of at her palace in the country. The palace in the country is called Windsor Palace and part of it burned down but it is all fixed now. It's very large and could be home to lots of people besides the queen.
With all the meetings done, it was time for Pete to go home to America. Stanley was ready go to too - all this travel had made him not so flat any more. He was folded up like a fan and his toes were curled. They rode a train to the airport and then got on a big jet that chased the sun all the way back to Utah. Because the plane was flying so fast, the sun never went down for many many hours. They started flying at one o'clock on the afternoon and flew for 9 hours and it was still light when they landed.
When they finally got home, Pete fell into his nice, comfy bed and slept for a long time. Stanley climbed back into his warm envelope and straightened himself out. He had been on a grand adventure and visited lots of interesting people and beautiful places. It was an experience he wouldn't have again for a long time. He felt very cosmopolitan.
Flat Stanley finds a friend - she is a clown that is a bookmark. When you close the book her head sticks out so she can still see you.