Wanderlust: A weekend in Stockholm

Opinion by Johnny Bartz
April 6, 2011, 12:29 a.m.

Wanderlust: A weekend in StockholmIt must have been one of those I’m-about-as-pleased-as-a-wet-cat days when I threw my broken umbrella on the ground, took off my awkwardly muddy pants and booked a ticket to Sweden. Scandinavia in the winter is cold, snowy and dark, however I couldn’t resist free lodging and a chance to practice my Swedish.

The whole week before I debated whether or not I should even go. It was kind of like the time I found an amazing quads-length orange, pink and magenta knit angora hipster sweater online — the epitome of a bad-purchasing choice. The sweater and my trip were both huge mistakes, financially and just in general, but I legitimized. I could work on the plane and wear my sweater in Sweden!

I fell asleep as soon as I was underway, in blissful absence of my roommate’s loud nocturnal typing. Before I knew it I was at the Arlanda airport, clacking my way across the hardwood floors and uttering dumb phrases in Norwegian to the beautiful Swedish immigration official. She smiled and said good morning to me in English, which I counted as at least a partial win. Luckily, all Scandinavian languages are very closely related, so if you know one, you can kind of communicate in the other two. Not that it matters though, because everyone speaks English.

I took the high-speed train into the city and watched the falling snow against aspen trees. It was the cheapest choice, and I was quite pleased that I qualified for the under-25-child fare. I cursed the developed world because the WiFi wasn’t working and thought to myself, I wonder how I will meet my friend at the train station.

Back in my Boy Scouting days — no joke, Wilderness Survival merit badge — we were taught to stay put in one place when lost in the woods. Surely this applied at the train station. I pawed once or twice at the odd Swedish telephone, but after swiping my credit card in a few places, I decided that I had none of the appropriate coins. I have a bad record with foreign payphones. Luckily I arrived on time, unlike when I planned to meet up with a friend at Platform 9 3/4 on a jaunt to London earlier this year. Eventually I was found.

I packed light, so my friend and I did a bit of exploring of old Stockholm. Seeing the bridges, statues, architecture was all well and good. I wasn’t in the museum-ing type of mood, so I instead posed in front of particularly precarious historical figures. I was quite impressed with a swan, duck and goose smörgåsbord — as in they were being fed in the park and I took pictures — quite cultural. The Grand Hotel, Royal Palace and several churches are all within walking distance. Skating in the park was pleasant, and to top it all off there was a U.S. space exhibit in the mall.

At lunchtime, we ventured to an all-you-can-eat sushi place. As it was also the cheapest lunch option, I was a bit worried. I was hungry and wasn’t about to offend my host, but let’s just say that some of my sushi connoisseur friends would have been disappointed. As my host was quite excited about sharing this secret sushi place, it became my immediate favorite food. I love this sushi! On the note of food though, one cannot leave Sweden without trying Swedish meatballs.

A serious concern for those traveling to Scandinavia is that alcoholic beverages are ridiculously expensive due to high taxes. It’s perfectly legal to bring from home as long as it’s within the country-specific limits — for Sweden it’s 1 liter of spirits or 2 liters of wine. I received a king’s welcome when I unwrapped a bottle of Svedka — ironically much cheaper in the U.S. This was soon supplanted with Red Bulls, chips and biler, a Swedish candy akin to Swedish Fish, except shaped like cars. I’m fairly certain you can buy them at Ikea (but I’m not really allowed to go there since my Norwegian family wouldn’t approve). It was truly a feast fit for a coterm!

Nightlife in Stockholm is superb, however as with everything in that city, get ready to spend your money. To say I was partying with Swedish pop stars may be a bit of an exaggeration, however I was told at least twice that I had just met so-and-so, a Eurovision hopeful from last year. Not to mention the fact that the pre-party was primarily my friend’s colleagues from the local strip club. And yes, we danced to Abba.

Upon my return, my plan for blonde hair got vetoed, but I at least picked up some sweet hair wax for my new do — the perfect match for the ultimate hipster sweater.


Johnny wants to know what your favorite Abba song is. Let him know at [email protected].

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