Home > Personal > Something’s Fishy in Sweden

Something’s Fishy in Sweden

After leaving the Berlin hostel and dealing with a surprisingly strict security process at the airport, I found myself on a plane to Sweden. Stockholm turned out to be beautiful, warm, and full of people out enjoying the weather. After getting to my hostel and dropping my stuff off (at the top of a narrow staircase in a huge room full of beds). I immediately set out to see some the islands that make up the city. I loved wandering the narrow streets and admiring the palace and all the banks and civic buildings that spoke of a long and reasonably happy history, at least in modern times. I found myself accidentally near the place where Rick Steves said his books could be bought in Sweden. Much like Berlin, he was wrong and no one knew who he was unfortunately. Despondent, I bought a couple of small tour books, one for Stockholm and one for my next destination, Amsterdam. To cheer myself up, I asked at the hostel for a good Swedish place for dinner and had some excellent herring stuffed with salmon, before heading over to a giant tower from where I could watch the sun set the water and islands alight with colors as it sank slowly below the horizon (to the accompaniment of incessantly clicking cameras and the whir of video cameras, a sort of mechanical applause in a way). I wandered about in the dark, kept company by an ice cream cone and contemplated the statue of St. George and the Dragon before at last heading to bed in the hostel.

The next morning I woke up fairly early so I could get in some solid walking around out from the Old Town to some of the farther islands. It was gorgeous to see with the light of the summer sun already shining but without the hordes of tourists soon to fill the cobbled streets. When things started to open I made my way to the palace for a chance to see the crown jewels and learn more about the bizarre history of the Swedish monarchy as it waxed and waned in power (and violence) from Vikings to powerful rivals to Russia to the modern, diplomatic hosts of the Nobel Prizes. After looking at the jewels, which were in the basement for some reason, I went up on a free tour of the apartments of the palace, which included many ridiculously sized and decorated rooms, although interestingly the guide told us it was all much cleaner than it had been after the brisk cleaning the whole palace got right before the Swedish princess’ wedding recently.  I managed to make it outside to watch the guard change in front of the palace. I liked that they announced what was going on in both Swedish and English, made the whole thing more enjoyable for everyone, and the concert by the official band was quite impressive. It made me look forward to the even bigger ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

After that I wanted to see other things so I went to the famous opera house café for a lunch of fishes, cheeses and other such Scandinavian delicacies. I went up and down several islands, sampling chocolate here, staring at the unbelievable prices of liquor there, and otherwise keeping myself amused until I felt too much pain in my feet to keep going and went back to the hostel to relax.

Nina, a Finnish girl I knew slightly in Munich, had written to me online to tell me she was in Stockholm and invite me to meet up with her that night. Despite issues with phones and directions, trains and other problems, I managed to find the “rock bar” she was hanging out at. I actually had trouble recognizing her, but eventually figured it out and met her two friends there also working in Stockholm, as well as a fellow with more metal in his head than in my watch, whom she had just met a few hours earlier but felt rather…friendly towards it seemed. She wandered off with him but I had a nice time with her friends learning all about the typical debauchery of the Scandinavian (a lot) and about their thoughts on all kinds of experiences (they’ll try anything twice). Eventually they left but by then Nina was back and I was having a very nice chat with her. Then things got a little strange. Some girl came up to her fellow and said she had a friend who thought he was cute and wanted to meet him. He demurred at first, but as Nina said it was okay to meet her (and possibly she would meet her too later…) he went off. That was the last we saw of him for a while and when we went to look for him, he acted like Nina wasn’t there and then she found him on the dance floor kissing the girl. Rather than fighting, or crying or even just walking away, Nina decided the best way to deal with it was to find his little brother that she had met earlier, and sleep with him. At that point I decided it was time to go. I don’t know what happened after that, but I know it involved lots of driving, a trip to the hospital and her not getting home until the afternoon. It was a really fun night, partially just because of how unexpected it was.

Normally I was used to getting to sleep in after a night out but I pushed myself out of slumber on Sunday to make sure I was awake and able to get to my exciting Rigid Inflatable Boat tour around the waters of Stockholm. I almost didn’t make it when I had to run back to an ATM to get more cash (crazy crowns), but by running I got there in plenty of time. The boat ride was really fun, albeit perhaps not very educational, focused more on driving fast around the harbors of Stockholm than at learning about the historical and other types of sites visible along the way. After I got back I still felt there was more to see on the islands so I took a ferry across to a smaller island, home to a huge amusement park as well as a large park that contained everything from an architectural exploration through Swedish history, to a zoo, to large picnic areas. I spent a long time seeing the animals (tiny monkeys and crazy tarantulas) and otherwise looking around before running out of steam. The sun was setting as I made my way back to the hostel to relax, write, and eventually, sleep.

On Monday I took it a bit easier, touring churches (and seeing the tomb of Gustavus Adolphus, one my favorite historical figures) and otherwise keeping myself busy until it was time to check out of the hostel and head to the airport. Going through the Stockholm airport was very, well efficient is the best word I can think of for it. I spent the plane ride perusing my Lonely Planet guide for my next city and felt well and truly ready to face the possibilities of Amsterdam as we landed in the late afternoon sunshine.

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