Scandinavia! Day 16 – Back to Stockholm

Our last day before flying out was spent almost entirely in the car, driving from Oslo to Stockholm. We did swing through Drøbak, the town we had missed the day before, but it was raining fairly steadily and we didn’t see much. The drive was uneventful and the rain let up in the afternoon, so we arrived at our destination under the blue skies we’ve become accustomed to.

As we turned down the lane toward where the GPS pointed us, another car pulled up behind us. It turned out to be Hans, our host. He had us follow him into a little oasis of countryside just outside the airport. When you can’t hear the jets, you seem to be entirely in the country. It turns out he owns 8.65 acres with about a half dozen homes on the land, one of which he offers through Airbnb. The rest are occupied by full time residents. The place we are staying was still being cleaned, so he brought us to his porch and offered us some drinks while we waited.

Our host is a teacher and very friendly. He offered us food as well and his wife told us of a town we should visit – although we chose to visit a different city. The late sunsets here mean that we can explore in the evening. And since we did do a little exploring, I decided to write it up!

We unpacked the car and headed out to Uppsala, a university town near where we are staying. I say in the title of this post that we drove to Stockholm, but Arlanda Airport is actually 30 km or so north of the city, so it was easy to get to Uppsala this evening – it’s only about another 30 km from the airport.

After dinner in a Persian restaurant (yum!), we walked over the river to see the cathedral. As it was nearly 9, the building wasn’t open but we admired the brick building. Next we got back in the car to head to Gamla Uppsala, or Old Uppsala, to see ancient Royal burial mounds from the sixth century.

Now we’re back at our apartment, packing for the trip home. This is the time of a vacation when I’m both sad and excited. I hate to see the end of a trip, but I’m also looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and eating at home.

Once again, thank you for reading! Next stop: USA.

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Scandinavia! Day 7 – Öland Island

Yesterday, after making use of the grocery store wifi, er, I mean getting dinner supplies, we ate at the cottage and headed back out to sightsee. We headed north, stopping at the Byrum sea stacks – limestone formations right at the edge of the water. Our next stop was Neptune’s Field, sheets of slate. We finished the day at the northern end of the island, at Långe Erik (a lighthouse), where we watched the sunset over the water. I had my fingers crossed to see the green flash, but no luck.

This morning , Dad and I walked through town a little while Andy and Mom got ready. After breakfast we headed to the nearby ruins, Borgholms Slott to have a look around. Then we drove across the island to check out Ismantorp, the ruins of an old fort and village from 300-600 AD.

Because you can never have too many old forts, we headed next to Gråborg, which is also home to the ruins of a medieval church, St. Knuts. It was a beautiful day to explore – practically cloudless and breezy.

Our next stop was the southern point of the island, when we realized that we were behind schedule to make it to our lodgings for the night. As we headed back to the mainland, Dad repeatedly ignored my demands that he speed – probably for the best. We had a quick American lunch at Burger King and headed off to Copenhagen!

The drive was long and my GPS kept trying to send us the long way, but we made it. After some trouble we got into the apartment – super snazzy – and headed out to find a grocery store. And we did! We found one that had closed an hour before. So back to the apartment where our host had left us some brochures and we opted for pizza.

Now we’re walking the street looking for wifi… And having just found some I will publish this and finish the day’s log tomorrow!

Scandinavia! Day 6 – Driving to Öland

Not so slow a morning today. We were up, packed, and on the road around 9:30. The car is still poorly packed, but now we have a sheet thrown over it all. Masters of subtlety, we are.

The drive was long, and Dad was at the wheel for all of it. The rest of us enjoyed the scenery, read, or cat-napped. We stopped at a gas station/restaurant/hotel for lunch – think like a small Travel America plaza. Mom and Dad got lasagne and Andy and I opted for burgers. The only real mistake of the meal? Mom and I got bottles of water, and of course they were fizzy water. Yuck.

The drive took us through farmland and small towns. We drove past Astrid Lindgren’s hometown, where on a wooden sign Pippi welcomes you. Eventually we ended up at a glass studio (because: Mom), and then at a second one. Then finally on to Öland!

To get to the island you drive over a 3-mile long bridge over green and blue water. The road to our place is lined with wooden windmills and fields of bright red poppies. We arrived at the spot Google Maps indicated, but learned it was one house too far. A little backtracking and we were installed in our cottage.

The cottage is adorable! Andy likened it to one of those tiny sample apartments in IKEA. We have two bunkbeds with large bottom bunks, a mini kitchen with itty bitty fridge and stove, and a little table outside.

We’re at the grocery store now and I’m posting this because we don’t have wifi in the cottage and we do here (?!?). I believe we’ll explore the island after dinner but I’ll either post about that tomorrow or update this later if I find wifi again.

Pictures forthcoming when I have more wifi, but in the meantime here’s one that Andy took:

Scandinavia! Day 5 – Still Stockholm

We had another late morning today – we didn’t get moving until nearly 11. We took the subway into town and walked over to City Hall, or Stadshuset. There we got tickets for the tower tour and had about 25 minutes to kill. We wandered the grounds – it’s right on the water so there are some nice views. The most interesting view, however, was the Stormtrooper! I have a picture of him below.

The tower tour has two options for the first half – you can walk all the way up (about 365 steps) or you can take an elevator halfway and then walk the rest. Mom and Dad took the elevator; Andy and I walked. I had to stop and rest once, so I know I need to get in better shape. Up top the views are amazing. I took plenty of pictures, and so did Andy. Only one spot made my stomach flip, but I did grip the rail firmly the entire time. Heights, I do not love thee.

We had lunch in a cafe on the grounds of City Hall, then stepped outside to discover a marathon had started while we were inside! I had noticed a few people with race numbers, but I didn’t think too much of it until we saw floods of people going by. Apparently it is the ASICS Stockholm Marathon. One guy ran by in dressed as a beer bottle. Sadly, I did not get a picture.

We meandered our way through the city, passing through Riddarholmen, which houses the oldest building in Stockholm. It’s a church – we didn’t go in, but Andy and I circled the building. We ended up back in Gamla Stan to go to the Nobel Museum. We giddily looked up Selman Waksman and took a picture of Satoshi Ōmura’s mention in honor of Grandad. The main thing I took away from that museum is that there are a LOT of people more accomplished and more intelligent than I am. I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand half the words describing why various scientists won the award.

After a quick stop at a cafe for some ice cream, we headed back to the apartment. On the way we ran into some Australians who had been on the Vasa tour with us yesterday. We chatted with them and their Swedish friends for a while before we got on the subway again.

Dinner took us back to Gamla Stan, to Slingerbulten, a Scandinavian restuarant. We tried smoked reindeer for an appetizer (tasted just like any other smoked meat, and not at all like Rudolph’s tears). The rest of our meal was equally tasty. I’m loving the food, atmosphere, and, well, just everything about this city so far. I definitely recommend it, and it’ll be on my “Places to return to” list.

Now we’re back in the apartment, ready to pack up and head to Öland tomorrow.

Final thoughts on Stockholm:

  • Definitely get the 72 hour transit card. It more than paid for itself in transit rides. You can get it at the info desk in the airport.
  • Everything is expensive. Everything. Come prepared to spend, and spend big. Don’t be alarmed if your entree is $20 or more…at the cheaper restaurants.
  • Everyone is SUPER nice. They patiently tolerate me stumbling through my only Swedish (“thank you”) and will answer all your questions.
  • You won’t stick out if you aren’t blond. Yes, there are a lot of blonds, but there are plenty of us dark-haired folk, too.
  • Airbnb is totally the way to go. Made for a nice relaxing start to each day – no rush for breakfast. And the wifi is a big plus.
  • Early June is a perfect time to go. Pleasantly warm the entire time and only one mini storm.
  • Gamla Stan, Gamla Stan, Gamla Stan!

Tomorrow – heading south!

Stormtrooper here. The rest of the pictures here.

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Scandinavia! Day 4 – Stockholm

I slept REALLY well – thank you jet lag! Yes, I know I said you suck yesterday, but I’m grateful for the full night of sleep.

Best part of the morning – Weetabix! I love that cereal!

After a leisurely breakfast, we headed back into down to take the ferry to Djurgården, one of the islands. The ferry ride over was beautiful – today was a sunny day with highs in the upper 70s. I saw the most awesome rollercoaster on the ride over – picture on the picture page – but we weren’t there for the amusement park. We had better plans!

We started in Skansen, the open air museum/park, where we had lunch. What was our first real meal in Sweden? Meatballs, of course! They were tasty. Andy and I wondered what kind of meat we were eating, but of course the menu didn’t specify. After wandering Skansen, seeing old buildings, getting caught in a brief thunderstorm, and learning about the Sami people while we sheltered from the rain, we headed over to the Vasa Museum.

The museum is impressive. The have an entire salvaged ship inside – the Vasa. It is a marvel of great and awful craftsmanship at the same time. Over 700 statues and carvings, and two gun decks… and a poor design that meant she sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage. Oops. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and funny and made me feel unaccomplished because he spoke English, French, and Dutch in addition to Swedish. And he was probably 10 years younger.

After the museum, we headed to what Mom thought was the highlight of the day: Abba The Museum. I have to admit, I loved it. I loved dancing to the songs, playing with the sound mixer, making a “music video,” and, y’know, learning about the band. They have an entire room of outfits. So much fun!

We headed back to Gamla Stan for dinner and sat outside at a restaurant in a little plaza-like area. The temperature had dropped so they turned on one set of heat lamps. Just as we were finishing, the other set came on and a cheer erupted from all the outside seats.

We have no idea what we’re doing tomorrow, but I’m sure it will be fun!

Check out the pictures!

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Scandinavia! Day 3 – Stockholm

First, apologies for the length of this post.

I was surprisingly awake when we arrived in Stockholm at 7:30 am, considering I couldn’t sleep on the plane. It was an oven! Anyway, we arrived, Dad changed some money and got our public transit cards, and we headed off in search of the car rental.

Much dragging of suitcases and asking for help later, we finally got on the bus to the car rental. We acquired our car and spent forever trying to figure out the best way to put luggage in the back without having it show. We finally decided we couldn’t and we’d have to take our chances on not being robbed.

I’d downloaded maps of Sweden before we left, so with the help of my iPad, Andy deftly navigated us to our first stop – Drottningholms slott, the royal residence. We then spent another few minutes trying to figure out how to get the car to lock. Mom even resorted to reading the manual, but it was in Swedish. It turns out you can’t lock it unless you’re standing at least 5-10 feet away. So weird.

Drottningholms slott was impressive – obviously, since it’s a palace – but I’m not sure how much we appreciated it. Between the jet lag and the several HUGE groups of noisy tourists, it wasn’t exactly the nicest tour. The gardens were beautiful, but we just didn’t have the energy to explore them. So instead, we piled back into the car and headed to our lodgings while we’re here – our first experience with Airbnb!

The apartment is small – mini kitchen, mini bathroom, one big bedroom and one living room with a convertible sofa-bed. But it’s light and nicely furnished and the owner left us lots of helpful notes. And it’s got wifi! Yay!

We all settled in to nap for a bit, although as is typical Dad got up before the rest of us and took a walk. He found the nearest transit station and pointed it out to the rest of us when we went out for groceries later. Swedish grocery stores – at least the one we went to – are pretty much just like those back home (unless you’re shopping at a mega-Kroger). I figured out which milk we wanted with my handy-dandy offline Swedish/English dictionary. Yay! We stopped and picked up strawberries on the way home. The only thing we couldn’t find was a box of tissues.

After another brief rest, we headed out again to dinner (Chinese, translated from Swedish with my app again), followed by a trip to Gamla Stan, the Old Town. It’s classic Europe, and I really enjoyed it. We wandered and took pictures and wandered some more, until we felt that it was close enough to a normal bedtime to head home. Jet lag sucks.

One picture here. A few more pictures here.