Trippin’ the Light Scantastic Part One- Stockholm, Sweden

View from Soder

View from Soder

With just 10 weeks left on this side of the world, I was keen to treat Europe like an all-you-can-eat buffet and really get my money’s worth.  A trip to Helsinki to visit my lovely friend Morgan expanded rapidly to include more of Finland, as well as Stockholm and St Petersberg.  It was too expensive to fly to Helsinki  directly so I did the obvious thing: flew to Stockholm and caught a ferry to western Finland.

I’m not sure why, but visiting Stockholm had never been on my ‘to do’ list.  In my head, it was a staid and stodgy place, all about business and hostages and the mistaken belief that it was where Roger Federer was from.  Hmmmm.  I quickly disabused myself of these notions and booked in two days and nights.

I’d struggled to find a place to stay in Stockholm that was in my budget…I went cheap- and got what I paid for- a mixed dorm with what felt like 25 beds but was in fact 8.  It wasn’t terrible…but it almost was. I prefer to stay in women’s only dorm rooms- sorry to 50% of my readership, but men en masse tend to be noisy, snorey, loud and occasionally, a bit smelly (the feet, mostly).  Then of course there is always that slight awkwardness….like when you want to change in to your PJs, and like those other times, when you wake up and the guy at the other end of your bed is propped up on his arm looking at you wearing only his reg grundies…

But that aside, the issue with the hostel was really that the beds were old and creaky and as I was the earliest to bed (at 12:30 on Friday night) I had the pleasure of hearing another 7 folks come in, pfaff around in the semi-darkness, trip over things and the crumpling  of plastic bags that seem inevitably to house toiletries.  I then enjoyed the gentle swaying of my bunk as the lass above me got into, and out of and into her bed.  And then out of and then into her bed again.

However, outside the (very tight) confines of my dorm- Stockholm was fabulous.  It is situated in the east of Sweden, at the centre of a swirl of thousands of islands, something I hadn’t appreciated with my unspecific (read: crap) knowledge of geography.

The swirl of islands that are the archipelago- can you find Boo?

My hostel was at the top of the ‘new’ end of town and intersected Scandinavia’s longest shopping strip, Queen Street, leading all the way down to Gamla Stan, an island that houses the Old Town, the royal palace and the harbour.  Gamla Stan is filled with narrow cobblestoned streets and alleys, generally humming with activity and filled with Swedes and tourists and the smell of sweet waffle cones. Further south of Gamla Stan is the trendy Söder which is the best vantage point to see the beautiful coloured buildings that line the port.

Now, while I prefer to travel with someone else, I have solo travel pretty well sorted (you know, except for the getting lost ALL the time thing).  Day One, new town- find the free walking tour.

Stockholm Free Tours didn’t disappoint.  It was no surprise to hear our guide had an Australian accent (it’s how we Aussies, in our typical laid back fashion, are taking over the world- it’s a new school style invasion I like to call VikaRooing).  Despite a group size of over 100, our guide Ryan did a great job of making everyone feel really included. We learned about the Stockholm Syndrome, got the dirt on some pretty funky Swedish royals, and gained a real insight to the psyche of the Swedish people.

Being friendly and interested in other people (shush, that’s different from nosey) I am always up for a chat with fellow tourers.  Occasionally, these chats lead to genuine and life long friendships (and sometimes replace ‘lifelong’ with ‘weekend’).

I was eavesdropping on two people speaking German (don’t worry Germans speaking folks, I can hardly understand anything unless I say it myself) and said hello my best accent.  My new friends were Tobias and Michel from Germany and Switzerland (where Roger Federer is ACTUALLY from) respectively.  They were impressed with my German, and I maintained that impression by simply speaking English the rest of the time we were together.  My asking if one of them would marry me so I could get a visa to Germany didn’t seem to put them off either, and accordingly, we made plans to meet up later for drinks.

On the way home I stopped to watch a snowboarding comp that was being run in the middle of Queen Street.  Loads of kids hurtling down a snow covered ramp, on to a rail, performing tricks and usually landing smoothly in the snow at the bottom.  I say usually, because one kid, (minus a helmet) miss-timed his trick, and smacked his head on the rail, thudded into the snow and lay bleeding from a pretty decent head wound.  (I checked later on my way out again- he was ok but I am guessing he had a cracker of a headache).

A survivor

A survivor

I met with Michel and Tobias at their hostel, which was a heck of a lot nicer than mine (castaneahostel.com/en/) We went out with 15 or so people who were staying there.  I don’t think there were two people from one nation (except the Spanish of course, always the Spanish).  I was fascinated to meet a genuine Icelander among our group- (there  are only 320,000 of them) so it is not surprising I was completely unable to pick his accent.

We all went out to an ancient bar under the streets of Gamla Stan (would you believe it was decorated with viking gear?) and another in Söder, called (if you can believe it) Viking Bar.  Get out your plaited pigtails!

The night concluded with an old school 90’s style pash ‘n dash with the Icelander.  I’m not one to brag about such things, but really, it’s quite the trophy kiss, like Mikey Robins, or Dan from Art vs Science.  An Icelander!  Can you believe his name was Thor?

I walked home alone around 2am, and under a light drizzle the normally bustling old town was peacefully silent.  The street lamps glowed in the haze adding to the calm serenity of the deserted Queen Street.  Then I took some joy in being one of the last in to my dorm to come in and rustle around and stare at the men who were sleeping.  (Okay, the last bit is a lie.  Mostly.)20141019_014559 (1)

Skänsen

The following day my new friends and I went to Skänsen, an outdoor house museum and zoo.  All of y’all who know me, know I am fascinated with moose, having spent three months in Maine USA, home of the moose and never seen a single one that wasn’t stuffed.  Here, the Moose were alive and came with a smile!SAMSUNG CSC

 

In addition to seeing some great Swedish houses through the ages (a replica of my hostel didn’t feature, funnily enough) and some really cute pigs (which I can hang with now without feeling guilty since I became a vego) there were some pretty amazing animals, including brown bears, elk, owls and some weird monkey things.

SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

 

Also a big thumbs up to Sweden for offering gluten-free pancakes from a cafe in the middle of the park- yum bum!

Tobias soon had to depart, and after we jumped around a little, he left for Germany (without, I might add, an Australian fiancée in tow). Michel and I headed to what is properly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

SAMSUNG CSC

No trick wires were used in the filming of this jump

SAMSUNG CSC

Auditioning for Swedish Young Talent Time. Michel nails the audience wave

 

The Vasa Galleon

Inside a purpose built building, is the the largest ‘modern’ viking warship ever built- the Vasa Galleon.  Constructed around 1620, it is an elaborately carved vessel of epic proportions- on such a big scale, that something about it actually caused me to tear up (yes, I am a blouse).  The museum around it is built over six levels which enable it to be viewed it from every angle.

However, the Vasa’s glory is entirely confined to the 20th and 21st centuries.  You see, it sank within minutes of its maiden voyage in 1628 and sat at the bottom of the harbour until it was discovered, recovered and restored in the 1960s.  To find out the story of why the world’s once greatest shipbuilders produced such an epic fail, head on over to Stockholm.

SAMSUNG CSC

All too soon, it was time for me to head to the next step of my adventure- the ferry to Turku, Finland.  The question is…with my infallibly Scheiße sense of direction, would I be able to find ship in time to get on it?  Only time, and probably my next blog, will tell.

 

 

Advertisements

About The Tina Sparkles Experience

Welcome- these are travel and dating stories with a difference- there is no doubt Tina Sparkles has the ability to find the humour in any situation. Every blog is guaranteed to be a laugh- hope you enjoy!

3 Responses to “Trippin’ the Light Scantastic Part One- Stockholm, Sweden”

  1. Congrats on yet another fun post and cool pictures. The said monkey thing looks quite serious. And having just noticed the people standing on the boat I now appreciate the scale of it.

  2. ha I love you!! Stockholm is one of my fave places – I think I’ve been there about 7 times in the last 3 years – not bad for an Aussie!! The Vasa is truly amazing – I went there by mistake – not being so hot on maps myself I thought I was going to the modern art museum. Got a bit confused when I went inside hehe – but I can say I was not disappointed!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: