My first week in Stockholm

I’ve been back in Canada for one week, and I already miss Sweden. I was there for two weeks, from August 6 to August 20. The first week, I was a tourist and the second week, I was a participant in an international conference. I’m going to write two posts; one about each week. I can’t sum up my entire experience, but here are a few highlights or take-away thoughts.

1. Stockholm is a gorgeous city. It’s built on 14 islands, and you can get from island to island by bus, metro or ferry. If you don’t like boats or bridges, this really isn’t the city for you. I thought the city was beautiful as it had interesting architecture and lots of green space. The Swedes, like some Canadians, really value nature. Stockholm is full of trees and parks. In many ways, it reminded me of Vancouver and Montreal, crossed with Europe. The green space and the green living and topography reminded me of Vancouver, ¬†and the architecture and cultural scene reminded me a lot of Montreal. The city was clean, the air was clean and it felt like a big city without feeling crowded. You can even fish and swim in the lake that flows through Stockholm!

I’ll put some of my pics up on flickr and Facebook later for those who are interested.

2. Do you ever go to a city and just feel at home? That’s the way I felt in Stockholm. There are tons of bikes, and 84 museums and good coffee, and lots of nature and you can walk around a lot. I found Swedish people very friendly and helpful. I had people help me all the time, and I was able to have random conversations with all kinds of people, from a bookseller, to a guy selling t-shirts, to random Swedes who sat at outdoor patios so they could enjoy the outside. Swedes seem to value a lot of things that I do- nice design, good food, the outdoors, and physical activity. Yeah, I dig it.

3. There were a number of things that I saw that I didn’t expect. The Scandinavian nations have really embraced the moose as a cultural symbol, which is really weird for a Canadian to see. I was talking to a guy from Stockholm who told me that most people in Stockholm have never actually seen a moose. That’s pretty much the same for Canadians from Toronto. (I’ve seen moose, but I treeplanted and lived in northern Alberta, so that’s pretty much a given.)

Other things that I didn’t expect included the proliferation of sushi restaurants in Stockholm, the extreme popularity of Pippi Longstocking, which made me extremely happy, and the Swedish love of the tv show “Dallas.” I also didn’t expect Swedish design to feel as familiar as it did. North Americans will instantly feel that Swedish design seems familiar, because we get a taste of it through Ikea.

4. Stockholm does tourism extremely well. I had done a lot of research so I knew what I wanted to see, but I still enjoyed a few surprises. I took a boat cruise and enjoyed the Hop on, hop off bus. I would recommend Stockholm for even cautious tourists. You feel safe, you’re not in huge crowds and most people speak English. Most of my travelling has been in the developing world, so I have to say that travelling in Sweden was a completely different type of experience for me.

5. I was lucky because I got connected to a friend of a friend who is an American living in Stockholm. Pete was a great host, and took me out to explore the city on two separate occasions. He was able to give me some insights into Swedish culture, answer my many questions and show me some sights. This was a great experience and really enriched my week as a tourist.

6. I stayed in a historic hostel called af chapman. This hostel is a ship that is now docked. The ship used to be used and became a hostel in 1949. I do not mind communal breakfasts, bathrooms, kitchens or living spaces, but I hate communal bedrooms. I shared with five other people. I’m too old and too insomniac to ever do that again. Lesson learned.

7. I went to MANY museums. Here are a few that I attended- I went to the aquarium (not worth it), Skansen, which is an open-air museum that preserves Swedish historical life, the Nordic museum (focusses on Swedish culture), the Alcohol museum, Junibacken (created partially by Astrid Lindgren), the Architecture and Design museum and the Modern Art Museum, where I saw a Yoko Ono exhibit. I love museums and I really enjoyed the museum hopping. There were a few museums that I wanted to see and didn’t get to, but I actually reached museum exhaustion and was unable to learn any more. I got to all these museums by using the Stockholm card, which is a card that you purchase ahead of time and can pick up at any tourism centre. It allows you access into the museums and free rides on the Metro and buses. Apparently New York has one of these cards too!

 

If you are ever heading to Stockholm and would love some travel tips, don’t hesitate to contact me. I loved my Swedish experience so much that I am joking that I am now an ambassador for the country.

 

 

 

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