Monday, 16 May 2016

europe 2016, day 2: stockholm (april 29)

End of second full day in Europe (today is April 30th) and rather a sobering one, but since I didn't have time to jot down some scribbles about our very full day in Stockholm yesterday, I'm going to back up a bit and start there.

April 29 - started our day fairly early and made our way west via bus from where we were staying, in Lidingo, to Ostermalm. Once we got off the bus stop we accosted a kind-looking young man for directions, which he gave somewhat un-confidently. He seemed so dubious of his own direction-giving skills that I almost wanted to pat him on the back and reassure him that he had done a great job, but I didn't, obviously, not being insane, and we moved on. Following his directions, we headed down some very pretty, very pale-yellow-brick-y streets and eventually found what we were looking for - a Fabrique, which a friend of Tiff's had described as "like the Starbucks of Sweden, with really great pastries."

We made a lovely simple breakfast of a Swedish cinnamon bun, a cardamom bun, and a hazelnut rhubarb tart, questioning as we ate the suitability of Tiff's friend's analogy. Fabrique is about 100 times nicer than Starbucks in the realm of pastries, although since said friend had added the qualifier "with really great pastries," maybe this critique was slightly unfair. After Fabrique we popped into - where else - a McDonald's, because America, and because Judy had been talking nonstop about french fries ever since we had walked past it thirty minutes earlier.

After our french fries stop, we headed toward Sergels Torg, a sunken square in the city (in Norrdmalm) with patterns of diamond shapes on the ground in bright pink and yellow. Emily told me later that she had been extremely underwhelmed by Sergels Torg, but fortunately since I hadn't the remotest idea what it was before we went, I was neither underwhelmed nor overwhelmed ("Can you ever just be, like, whelmed?" Thank you, Clueless), but mildly interested by its appearance and how it added to the lively scene of the city.

We then stopped at the visitor center, a place of such helpful information and consistent Wi-Fi that it caused us all to break out into enthusiastic praises of tourist visitor centers, and then, under the recommendation of our oh-so-friendly visitor center staff helper person, meandered over to an outdoor market and indoor food court (called Hotorgen, I think). There we filled up on some cold smoked salmon, potatoes, and chili-marinated chicken, and there Judy learned a valuable lesson in the importance of reading menu items to the end of the line. She had thought we were ordering chili and was visibly perplexed and disappointed when our chili-marinated chicken arrived. It would have been kind of sad had it not been so funny.

After lunch, we got on a bus to the eastern island of Stockholm. Our first stop on this island was Skansen, a strange combination of zoo and open-air museum featuring traditional Swedish village buildings. I think we had thought that this would be an important way of learning about traditional Swedish culture, but the only thing I learned on that little visit was that European bison are very large, very smelly, and there aren't that many left. The views from Skansen of the rest of the city across the water were lovely though. But overall, we were all a little bemused by Skansen. Tiff, in particular, seemed less than thrilled with the place, and like she couldn't leave fast enough. To top off an already underwhelming experience, I also lost my bus pass somewhere in the park, and learned an important lesson in not putting things into my back pocket.

Thanks to this piece of irresponsibility on my part, we had to walk to our next destination on the island, Djurgarden, about fifteen minutes farther east, where we found ourselves at a delightful well-actually-I'm-not-sure-what-it-was, called Rosendals. Tiff described it as the result of a greenhouse and a cafe having a baby, and also as her dream bridal shower spot. (Judy and I took notes, or at least we pretended to.) She also learned a lesson there in not passing up things she wants to do on the spur of the moment, as we ultimately skipped out on taking an afternoon tea/coffee break there, a regret that Judy and I got to listen to laments about for, just about, oh, the rest of the day. Rosendals was a pretty place though, and I was sorely tempted to buy about a hundred jars of jam there, but nobly resisted.

We then walked over the bridge back to Ostermalm and then bused south to the little central island, Gamla Stan, or Old Town. Gamla Stan was beautiful. Easily my favourite part of Stockholm. Nothing like those narrow cobbled streets with colourful houses had I ever seen before. Vibrant colours, but not gaudy. It all gave off an impression of youth and gaiety and confidence. It was all so quaint, and so simple, and so relatively unsullied by modern uglinesses that it was absolutely delightful. After a not-long-enough time there, we headed farther south of Gamla Stan, to Sodermalm.

When we came out of the Tunnelbaum station there we emerged in a completely different world. Modern, lively, loud, hip, brimming over with life and especially swarms of young people. We grabbed dinner at a pub, and then walked to Fotografiska, Stockholm's photography museum, where we learned just how liberal the city is. Also saw Ai Wei Wei photographs - the only name I recognized there - and more pretty views of the other islands across the water, since Fotografiska is right by the water's edge.

Home to the glorified closet we've been calling an apartment at 10:30pm after a very long, very packed day, and I've never seen anyone jump into bed as fast as I saw Judy do then; the wisest thing to do, since we had to be up at 5am the next day to make our flight to Amsterdam. Why did we do this to ourselves?

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