Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sveden Ya?

There I was, on a limb, in Sweden. I thought I’d jump out of the norm and take a flight to Stockholm. Why? Dunno really, maybe it was because I read those Dragon Tattoo books. But anyways, here was I, in Stockholm, without a plan or a clue.

The point I’d like to make in this blog is that it’s possible to go somewhere random and out there without an itinerary except your boarding passes. As in my previous blogs, I’d wager it’s the best way to learn and to experience foreign cultures, but also a really easy way to drop a lot of cash and wander around like an idiot in the middle of Stockholm for three days — probably a product of planning the trip late in August.

Things to know: Sweden is on the Kronor — easy, 10 kronor is almost a British Pound. Easy enough to translate. The language, though, was a bit tougher. They mostly speak Swedish, reserving English for schools or learning just enough to take money from tourists. It didn’t pose too many obstacles except when it came to ordering food or asking for directions, but it was manageable. But the thing to really know before you go somewhere is what you’re going to do and where you’re stayin.

I flew in late, just in time to see the sun setting beyond the North Sea, but by the time the shuttle took me from Stansted Airport to Stockholm it was already 8:00pm, not to mention I lost an hour on the flight. Easy, I said, I’ll find a hostel…sounds simple, but the ones I found in walking distance were closed to walk-ins without prior booking. So note, current and future study abroaders, that it is important to book your rooms early! It’ll save you money. So what I ended up doing was asking a cab driver to find me a cheap hotel, which was not too cheap, but a bed’s a bed after 12 hours of shuttles, trains, and planes.

Day two I had one goal — see the Viking museum. Check. Was a nice place, well located and easy to get to…even when its 5c and raining outside. But what then? I wasn’t sure…the tourist place I found wasn’t helpful for day-to-day activities in Stockholm, so I figured I’d go about the town and find my way to a hostel which, while cheap, reminded me of a Motel 6 without any walls.

The next day I did what I did the first full day and walked around, going into the many souvenir shops and seeing what there was to see. Oddly enough, my trip coincided with the New York Rangers playing some pre-season thingy and the Red Hot Chili Peppers — too bad tickets were sold out (for the concert…not hockey). Beyond that there wasn’t much to do for an American in the city.

My flight was to leave Sunday morning at 9am, which seemed like a good idea, until I realized I had to take the 8pm shuttle to the airport to take advantage of my 100 Kronor return ticket. Saved me another hostel/hotel bill, but a night in a small airport isn’t the most comfortable, especially when they shut off the heat and it starts frosting in the Scandinavian tundra. The night was uneventful, but filled with laps around the airport, 8 cups of free coffee, and a two hour nod-off on three fold-up chairs I found.

Enough ranting. I had a good time, saw cool things, and survived. That’s about all you can ask for on an on-the-whim trip. But, next time, I will remember the following…1) check the weather, 2) brainstorm a few viable touristy places to visit, 3) book hostels in advance, 4) bring plenty of cash in case the ATMs don’t take American cards, and 5) bring a friend. No matter how painful it is to plan and compromise trips with other people, it’s hard to call it a trip unless you have more than a few pictures and carved Vikings to show for it. for the picture at the top -- in order to get pictures of not just buildings, but you, it takes skill and craft. You need to find an older couple, preferably with a camera themselves, to take your picture. Don't ask some random kid.

-Brennan Girdler

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