Monday, August 31, 2009

Stockholm

12 comments
The train ride to Stockholm was pretty uneventful after the initial awesomeness of going over a gigantic bridge from Denmark to Sweden. Mostly pine trees interrupted by the occasional red farmhouse, lake, or town. Interestingly, the train announced the temperature at the next stop.

When we arrived, we made it easily to the place we were staying - a room found through guestroom.se which is an enormous savings over the usual expensive accommodations - because they had included very explicit instructions in the booking confirmation email! Yay! By the way, I can't emphasize enough how great that website is. You look over some rooms, choose your favorites, and email them. They'll book you in the highest one on your list that is available, and if none are available, they will offer you something else to your specifications!! Most of them are in great locations, too - ours was a bit further out because I was late in booking.

We immediately liked Stockholm better than Copenhagen. When we stepped off the bus in the neighborhood where we'd be staying, we saw a falafel joint and McDonald's which were both way cheaper than anything we saw in Copenhagen. The area, near Odenplan, felt like a real city.

We stayed in a room in the apartment of an older artist and shared her bathroom. The building had mail delivery to each apartment individually! Our room was a bit cluttered but comfortable. We went back to the falafel joint and got two falafels with bread, fries, and a drink to share for the equivalent of 8 EUR. It was like an enormous burden was lifted.

Breakfast the next morning was pretty similar to a German breakfast - cold cuts, egg, and bread - only the bread was really different from German bread. There was also a cookie and a bit of evangelism from our host. You never know what you're going to get when you stay with an artist.

We took the train to the center - it's the equivalent of 20 EUR for an unlimited 72-hr ticket in Stockholm county - and checked out Stockholm's old town, Gamla Stan. It's situated on a small island. Water is everywhere - on one side of the island, it's fresh water, and on the other, salt water. Gamla Stan is beautiful, and in the morning, it wasn't too filled with tourists yet. Check out the pictures!

Stockholm Aug 09

By the way, both in Copenhagen and Stockholm, they just sell the coolest stuff. Really cool papers, for one thing. I guess they are into paper - I've never seen so much great paper anywhere. They also sell these little paper cutout things called scraps or bookmarks that you can collect/trade. Interesting! I love paper and splurged on some origami paper there and that was the end of my buying - bigger paper would have been hard to pack.

We wandered off toward Södermalm, a large island south of Gamla Stan which is supposed to have lots of cool restaurants, shops, and venues. Well, we didn't go too far before finding something better than a cool restaurant...a fast food Tex-Mex restaurant! I've never seen one of those in Germany. We had tacos that were totally middling, but we take what we can get! :)

After lunch, we decided to check out City Hall. It's situated on the tip of Kungsholmen, an island just west of the mainland, and you can climb the tower for great views of all the islands. I can't think of a nicer place to have a building. Along the water is a plaza where you can just sit and look out at the water and islands. Pretty arcades face the plaza from the courtyard. We couldn't climb the tower because they were closing early and only 30 people are allowed in at once - we left it for the next day but ultimately never had time. Still, it was more than worth the visit. The views are amazing even from the ground. Stockholm is just incredibly beautiful.

We had coffee with a friend who lives in Stockholm, then had Indian food in Södermalm. So far everyone had been as friendly as could be and that never changed throughout the trip, with one possible exception - on the train that night there was a super-jolly trashed guy who just started talking to us in Swedish and wouldn't stop, even after it became clear we couldn't speak a lick of it. He seemed friendly but by the end he was almost certainly mocking us, despite not acting like it! I tried so hard to understand anything because when reading it, a lot of Swedish is close enough to German that you can pick some things out. But speaking? Forget it. It's completely different!!

The feeling of friendliness that Stockholm exudes might be a little bit more so for Americans because the Swedish word for 'hello' is 'hej' - and it sounds exactly like 'hey'! So any time someone says hello, it feels very familiar and casual and like they are really glad to see you! And saying 'hey' back puts me in a good mood too, kind of fooling myself into thinking I've found an old friend.

Friday was our museum day - we hit the two most-recommended museums, Skansen and the Vasa Museum.

Skansen is an open-air museum where traditional settings from all over Sweden have been recreated using actual old buildings which were taken down and rebuilt piece-by-piece in the park. So they're not fakes, but the actual thing moved to a fake location. It's full of actors pretending to live out the regular daily lives of the people who originally lived and worked in these buildings. It sounds corny as hell and I was a little skeptical - past experiences with this involved horrible accents, scenery-chewing actors, and boring moral lessons - but actually it came off really well. The actors were very well-cast and not overdoing it at all. Some of them were so friendly - they wanted to talk about not just the setting where they work, but some sports event going on in Germany or Swedish pop music or whatever you felt like gabbing about! Some of the jobs looked really hard - women were cutting tiny one-inch pieces of wood off logs with a tiny knife and hammer and making linen from raw flax! Check out the pictures to see some of the buildings. I was really impressed with an 1850s farmhouse which was filled with original murals in all the rooms. What a cool place to live! The only place that was really subpar was the zoo section (filled with native Swedish animals), but I usually find zoos depressing anyway. The gift shop had very cool stuff but it was really expensive. Sadly, I left Sweden with no Dala Horse. They are painted by Swedes, not people earning nothing in a third-world country, so they are expensive for a good reason.

The Vasa Museum is incredible. It was built just to show off a ship called the Vasa which sank in Stockholm's harbor almost 400 years ago. The ship was on its maiden voyage. It had been built with two gun decks, but the design did not compensate for this fact with a wider hull with room for more ballast. So, as soon as a little breeze touched the ship on its way out to sea, it went down. It was found by a hobbyist in the 1950s, and 333 years after it sank, it was hauled up from the floor of the harbor. For decades it was restored and something like 95% of the ship is original material! The rest has been replaced with new parts. Even knowing what to expect, walking into the musuem is, dorky as it sounds, a 'wow' moment.

We asked our bus driver on the way back to the main part of town for a bookstore recommendation and he had a great one. They had a good selection of name books. The most academic looking one was unfortunately out of my budget at the equivalent of 40 EUR (who is going to pay that for a name dictionary!?) but I got one that looked pretty good for 16 (again with the hardcover - weird!). The bookstore had way more English titles than any German bookstore. Maybe since Swedish is a smaller language some things are never translated.

For dinner, we had Swedish food at a place near our accommodations that was recommended by our hostess. It was nothing to write home about, but just fine, and it didn't break the bank. Sadly, the next morning we had to leave, despite having a zillion more things we wanted to do there. The Arlanda airport terminal was beautiful and well-designed and actually a pleasant place to be! Best airport ever.

I love Stockholm.

12 comments:

  1. I'm sorry about your Copenhagen experience. It sounds terrible, but I am super jealous of the Stockholm leg of y'alls trip. I would looooove to go there. What airline did you fly back? Did I miss that?

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  2. Oops, I forgot to mention the airline. We flew on SAS which had a rate around the same as a low-cost airline. (Fear of flying prevents me from trusting low-cost airlines...) The flight was fine but they don't give you anything free, not even beverages, so it still has hints of low-cost about it despite being an old, established airline!

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  3. Ah, well I'll file that under useful info, because we'd love to go to Sweden or Norway if we can while we're here (though the time already seems to be running out...only 20-21 months left!).

    By the way, we flew quite a bit while we were in the States (8 flights in all), and it seems even American Airlines has turned toward the low cost airlines' service. We had to pay if we wanted any snack, and it was $4 for some crummy peanuts, cheese and crackers. The crackers were stale and the cheese was supposed to be cheddar but tasted nasty. *sigh*

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  4. As far as not understanding the language goes, my next door neighbor is Finnish, and she once told me that if you stick a hot potato in your mouth and speak Swedish, it comes out Danish. ,I thought it was funny. And who knows, maybe it also works from German to Swedish?

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  5. Chad,

    I've heard the same thing about the Swedish or Norwegian and Danish thing. As a Norwegian speaker, however, I don't think the same thing would apply for Swedish/German. Swedish and Norwegian are kind of sing-songy languages. :)

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  7. I LOVE STOCKHOLM TOO! fyi: i read this post and your copenhagen post aloud to the BF almost in their entirety. then i stayed up too late looking at all your photos!

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  8. ALSO! here in ballard at the viking days festival, we saw two adorable old guys playing music at the swedish pancake breakfast and totally making fun of each other's language like your finnish neighbor. the swede was totally hating on the dane and being all I'LL TRANSLATE FOR YOU GUYS! then they sang songs about beer but changed the lyrics to make them about pancakes!!!!!

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  9. Sounds like the trip was grand!
    Something I've never understood about the Vasa Museum is why celebrate the absolute epitome of boat-building ineptitude? OK, so it is 400 years old and was raised out of the cold water almost intact... that is kind of cool. But their ancestors built a boat that wouldn't float, and they seem to be very proud of it.

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  10. Psst I read this today and thought of you: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/09/04/opinion/20090908_opart.html

    It's all about Americans' handwriting.

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  11. Oops, looks like I forgot to come back to this post :)

    Sarah: American Airlines sounds like a bummer. :( I fly Lufthansa whenever I can because (as of the last time I flew them) they are still operating the nice old way! :) Also, thanks for the cool handwriting link and for thinking of me!

    Chad: Our Swedish friend says the same thing (although he might have said marbles instead of a potato, I'm not sure...)!

    Sara: Yay! We await your return.

    Snooker: I think the Swedes have a sense of humor about how some things never change (bureaucratic dippiness...the reason Vasa got the go-ahead even though they had a pretty good idea it wasn't seaworthy)! :)

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  12. You know, I have never heard anyone describe Stockholm as cheapter than any other place, so this was indeed interesting since I have been considering a trip there but then putting it off because it is 'so expensive.' No excuse since I have been to DK.

    Was that two falafels for €8? That is roughly what it would cost in HD ... Hmmm.

    Gotta fly myself up there sometime.

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