Linköping, Sweden

I will begin by noting that the “k” in Linköping sounds more like a “sh”. And I think it has something to do with the umlaut over the “o”.

Train in Sweden

After taking a train through the very green Swedish countryside, I arrive at Linköping Station in the late afternoon. Matilda and Jesper are waiting for me, and we go to a nearby park for beach volleyball, drinks and snacks. Matilda had alerted a couple of her friends, they in turn passed the message along to some of their friends, and there are probably enough people to field two full games. Everyone is nice to use English when they remember, and on top of that, their English is great. Unlike some other European countries, Sweden doesn’t dub their television and movies. As a result, although the movies still have subtitles, many Swedes are very adept at conversational English.

Brunch in Linkoping

The following day, which is also Ascension Day (Kristi himmelsfärdsdag), is a national holiday, and Matilda invites me to a brunch with friends from her university. It is a delicious home-cooked potluck breakfast. Matilda and I contribute some scrambled eggs and American banana pancakes, for which I couldn’t use Costco’s mix so I had to start from scratch. The meal is a feast and I meet a long-table’s worth of Matilda’s friends. One fun fact that comes to light is that many young Swedes who want to travel will start by working for about 6 months in Norway, the richest country per capita in the world. They live cheaply and make descent wages and are then prepared to travel the second 6 months of the year around the rest of the Europe or the world.

Vadstena Castle

After brunch, Matilda and I venture to the nearby town of Vadstena, known for its Abbey Church and its Castle. After making the mandatory stops at these two well-preserved landmarks, Matilda and I enjoy a game of mini-golf before watching the conclusion of a city-wide tractor race. We approach a sign that describes this tractor race, and as we read it more closely, we see that it is occurring today and that it should be ending soon. As we are gripped by pure excitement watching the tractors roll in, we eat a traditional shrimp sandwhich, which is a slice of bread, a layer of eggs and mayo, all topped off with a mound of shrimp.

Downtown Linkoping

In the late afternoon, Matilda gives me a quick tour around Linköping, much of which is closed because of the holiday, and we finish at the city’s famous ice cream shop. Along with my ice cream, Matilda insists that I try some traditional salted black licorice, which was about as weird as it sounds. We hurry back home, change to get ready for fotboll (Swedish for soccer), and are off to meet some friends at the field. I am quickly reminded that I haven’t played fotboll for ages, and it shows, but I have fun nonetheless.

Matilda and I eating ice cream

The day ends as the sun sets after 10pm with Matilda, Jesper and I sitting outside enjoying some tea, cheese and crackers, and other delectable snacks. My stay in Linköping was short, but I feel so lucky to have been able to tour around with Matilda, meet her friends, and explore some of the quieter areas of central Sweden.

1912 Olympic Games

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.

Stockholm Olympic Stadium

A Friendly Welcome

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!

Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm

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:

Millennium Office

Mikael Blomkvist’s home:

Mikael's apartment

The pub Kvarnen:


Lisbeth’s new apartment:

Lisbeth's new apartment

Vaxholm, Vax Off

Simple. Small. Quiet. Vaxholm is a small island located in the Stockholm archipelago, and its main attraction is the Vaxholm Kastell, a fortress designed for defending Stockholm. Highlights of the day include ferrying to the island, finding a small art gallery, taking a nap on a seaside bench, and visiting the before-mentioned castle. I was in need of a relaxation day, and this exceeded that goal.

A common scene in Vaxholm

Vaxholm Castle

High School

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.

High school graduation in Stockholm

Calorie to Kronor Ratio

The Swedish Kronor didn’t go as far as I was hoping. Even the public transportation is expensive in Stockholm. As a result, to stay on budget, I try to maintain a high calorie to kronor ratio, and ideally about 10 to 20 calories/kronor. (One US dollar is about 6 Swedish Kronor.) This meant that along with finding cheap restaurants, I also utilize my hostel’s kitchen after finding a local grocery store.  One afternoon, having groceries in my bag works out to my advantage as I find a great park bench and have a lunch of different Swedish snacks.

My Picnic Spot

Speaking of finding food, the first night I didn’t feel hungry until it was beginning to get dark at which point I venture outside in search of something to eat. Because it was already almost 11pm on a Sunday night, everything was closed. I luckily found some communal pasta at my hostel and cooked myself a very simple but filling meal.

Strikingly Stockholm

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.

Gamla Stan, Stockholm

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.

Changing of the guards, 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.

View from the top

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.

Sounding Swedish


My Swedish vocabulary is a bit limited. If trying to use some of my Swedish in a sentence, it might come out something like while I was sitting in my poang under the kallt and next to my expedit, which was holding my drink, I began to feel a bit tired and was thinking when it would be time for me to lounge on the karlstad or lay on the ektorp. Now, if I said that while standing in an IKEA, people wouldn’t think twice and that sentence might actually make sense.