This past weekend I went trekking in the arctic tundra, snapped some pictures of some polar bears, lost a few toes, and then headed back to Prague. It was cold and snowy and now my balance is a little off, but it was a great trip. Santa sends his regards.
Ok, fine. You caught me. I didn’t go to the arctic tundra. I did, however, go to Stockholm, which for all intents and purposes is the same thing! Ok, ok. Not the same thing. But definitely the same temperature! My best friend, Hannah, is studying in Stockholm, and so on Friday I really did go and visit her. I arrived in Stockholm without a problem, made my way to the Flygbussarna bus (yeah, you read that right) to go to the center of the city, and then I was reunited with Hannah! Our first activity? IKEA for meatballs!
IKEA was started in Stockholm and is kind of a big deal there. There are free buses that run every hour from the center of the city to IKEA. They are not messing around here! The store itself is huge. It has a center column of displays and then rings of more displays around it on each floor, so although the store is only 5 floors (I think, please don’t quote me on this!), it feels much bigger. In order to get to the check-out, one has to walk through a section that is filled to the brim with products you never even knew existed, let alone thought that you needed! Also, the Swedes go to IKEA just for the meatballs! I mean, they were super yummy, so I guess I don’t blame them.
On Saturday, we walked around Gamla Stan, which is the “old town.” In many ways, Stockholm is the most modern looking city that I have been to in Europe. Whereas Paris and Prague and other cities have charming baroque buildings and small courtyards hidden within old palaces, Stockholm has glass box buildings and is much taller than most European cities.
Also, did I mention that it was freezing??? Because it was! After being outside for about 20 minutes, I had feeling in exactly zero of my toes!
After walking around Gamla Stan, we wove our way to the Nobel Museum and the Christmas Market which is infront of it. The museum was very funky – it had interactive stands where one could click on a prize category (physics, literature, peace, etc) and then click on a recipient to learn more about that individuals’ work but it also had collections of weird items, like a prize-winner’s slippers or someone’s rocking chair. Also, it is the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s DNA discovery, which is pretty cool!
I was super excited for all of the Christmas Markets to start. My only association with Christmas Markets is when we went to one in Stockholm 12 years ago and I remember Swedish candies and getting a stuffed animal from little huts all lit up with twinkling lights. Decidedly less fun when said experience is now on your own dime. In case you’re not up-to-date with conversion rates, US Dollar to Swedish Koruna is a conversion that sucks. Royally. It’s 6 koruna to the dollar, and everything is incredibly expensive (think $6 muffin in the airport. ouch.) The market was mostly filled with jams, cheese, sausages, and more trinkets than you’ve ever seen before, so it was a little disappointing. Although the markets in Prague are pretty similar, at least the conversion rate is in my favor!
While we were at the museum, Hannah’s friend let us know that the SpritMuseum (no, that’s not a typo) was giving out free mulled wine (yummm) and had free entrance for today only! So we made our way over there! The SpritMuseum had 3 exhibits up. The first was a sampling of their art collection which is comprised of 800 works by famous artists advertising for Absolut Vodka. It was fun to guess which work belonged to which artist by recognizing certain artists’ signature artworks repurposed to advertise vodka. (Although that might only be fun for a nerdy history of art major…)
The second exhibit was all about licorice, which the Swedes love and I think is gross. And for the 3rd exhibit, also the most alarming exhibit, they had poems about Swedes and alcohol, in which not a single poem mentioned any of the negative associations with alcohol. There was also a room with foam chaise lounges and 40″ tv screens hanging down playing a video about a guy who drinks alcohol and follows his night from sober to tipsy to drunk to hammered to wasted to gone (I would think that all 3 of those last ones are the same, but that’s just me), but again, no mention of anything bad about alcohol. Weird. At least the (non alcoholic (odd in juxtaposition with the art exhibits)) mulled wine was delicious!
That night, Hannah and I went to an ice bar! I know, who voluntarily goes into a room made out of ice when they are already in a city practically made out of ice? This girl! (and Hannah, of course).
Sunday brought more snow and even colder temperatures. Hannah and I, along with her friends Maya and Tali, went to Skansen, which is an open-air museum. Artur Hazelius collected houses from around Sweden and brought them to an area in the center of Stockholm to preserve what different Swedish houses looked like. There were also reindeer there! It was really interesting to see all of the different styles of houses as well as the different animals that had been brought there. I only wish that it hadn’t been quite so cold that we could have walked around longer (once Maya and I lost all feeling in our toes we decided to leave).
Swedes also love to dance around things – Christmas trees in December and May Poles in May. So, when we saw a bunch of people dancing at Skansen, we joined in!
The rest of my time in Stockholm was spent drinking warm drinks, also known as Fika (Swedish tea time), warming up in doors, and enjoying spending time with Hannah. Now it’s back to the reality that awaits me in Prague (a.k.a. a Czech exam and 3 papers).