Almost a century ago, the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm came and went without too much to note other than the USA walked away with most medals, it was the first time that the decathlon was featured, and it was the last to issue solid gold medals. (Thank you wikipedia.) Although it may not have been an Olympics with many defining features, I figured it still warranted the short subway ride to go see the stadium. While visiting, they were preparing the stadium for some event. This meant that some of the gates were left open, and I pretended I belonged there (with my camera and map) and explored.
Feeling more at home while traveling can be a challenge. Sleeping in hostels, constantly meeting new people, and not having go-to restaurants or cafes can be fun but also tiring. Although Stockholm is about 5500 miles (8800 kilometers) from San Francisco, I met up with several friends, had a chance to try their go-to restaurants, and even enjoyed some home cooking. I can’t thank them enough for making my Swedish experience feel so comfortable. I met up with Siri, an old friend from University, for a quick work break. I had dinner and drinks with Liina and Mikael, a couple I met while scuba diving in Bali just a couple months ago. They took me to a great restaurant where I had a chance to sample some traditional Swedish foods while we caught up on each other’s lives. And I stayed in Linkoping for two nights with Matilda, whom I’d met in southern Cambodian caves. When I arrived at the train stations, Matilda and Jesper, whom I’d also met before, were waiting with a picnic packed, and we went to a nearby park to play volleyball. They had brought me several traditional Swedish beers from around the country as well as a couple very Swedish dishes. One new dish I tried was cut up raw fish swimming in various sauces. Out of all the sauces, I think I liked the mustard-based one the most. And finally, they brought me some Swedish chocolate, which was the perfect ending to our picnic in the park. Thank you so much to everyone for going out of your way and making me feel comfortable!
Instead of reading about Sweden’s history or culture, I read the first of Stieg Larsson’s series, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” And by read, I mean listen because of Kinsey the Kindle’s tragic death not too long ago. Thus, while flying in planes and riding in trains, I listened to the epic tale of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. And afterwards, I visited several of the sites featured in Stieg’s books.
Millenium’s editorial office:
Mikael Blomkvist’s home:
The pub Kvarnen:
Lisbeth’s new apartment:
I’m walking down the street in Stockholm when I hear a loud beat and screaming. Everyone turns to look. The large open-aired truck with probably close to 40 people on it drives past smelling strongly of beer. That may be partly because the beer is being sprayed off the side. The passengers are dressed in bathing suits plus accessories. Within just a couple days, this very site becomes a regular appearance. I cannot read the banners hung on the side of the truck and eventually remember to ask someone what is happening, and apparently, high school seniors celebrate their graduation in the above fashion. Not bad.
At first impression, Stockholm is clean, almost unnaturally clean. I am never more than fifty meters away from a public trash can. That means if I grab a snack on the go and need to find a place to dispose the wrapper, it’s going to be easy. Compounding the cleanliness, I arrive after a rain and everything seems to sparkle. The paint on the buildings all seems to be retouched yesterday, and this is made more impressive by diversity of pastel paints.
During my time in Stockholm, while based at Skanstulls Vandrarhem Hostel in the Sodermalm district, I try to make it around to many of the city’s highlights. I enjoy walking along the narrow, crowded alleys of Gamla Stan, the old part of Stockholm. The city has been lucky in dodging at-home fighting during most of Sweden’s wars; therefore, its old charm persists. A couple kilometers from Gamla Stan, I venture to the Skansen Open-Air Museum, which contains houses and buildings as they look in other parts of the country and in other times. My camera loved photographing these picturesque buildings. Also in the city, I time it correctly to witness a changing of the guards at Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace), and one evening I venture to the SkyView Globe, which is essentially a gondola ride to the top of a globe shaped stadium on the edge of the city. The only limiting factor of the view from the top is the curvature of the earth; otherwise, I may have been able to see forever. If I was forced however to choose one site in Stockholm, it may have been the Vasamuseet. The Vasamuseet contains a fully reconstructed 17th century 64-gun warship that sank within minutes of its first voyage in 1628 during the Thirty Years Way. Learning the story of this ship and its resurrection captured my attention more than any other single site in Stockholm.
Finally, to get a little farther outside the city one afternoon, I venture to Drottningholm Palace, the private residences of the Swedish Royal Family and I lose myself in the far-reaching surrounding gardens. The day is sunny, the water fountains all running, and people lounging around the gardens soaking up the warmth, something that cannot always be taken for granted in Sweden.
Sweden is a beautiful city that during my stay gets light around 4am and dark around 10:30 or 11pm. The cleanliness of the city is almost overwhelming, but understandable after learning their taxes are some of the highest in the world. I believe Sweden currently is only second to Denmark in the high taxes category. And finally, if the city, its architecture, and its diverse landscape isn’t beautiful enough, most of its citizens embody the classic Hollywood attractiveness that magazines, movies and advertisements have come to love.