Sunday, April 21, 2013

The American (Even More) Abroad, Part 1 of 3: STOCKHOLM

So, as the title alludes to, this is the first post in a series of three that I will be writing over the course of the next week. Just a few days ago I returned back from a ten day trip traveling across the Baltic Sea, starting at Stockholm, stopping in Helsinki for a day, on to St. Petersburg for three days, and then once more a day in Helsinki, and finally four days in Stockholm. I started the trip taking a 14 hour night train from Luleå to Stockholm (on which I only slept for an hour) and then made my way with my group of exchange student friends to the ferry terminal at the harbor. We boarded the boat and then shipped off overnight to Helsinki. But I'll tell more about that part of the adventure in a later post as I mentioned before.

This post is all about Stockholm. However, I honestly don't know where to begin. I did so much in Stockholm that I can't recall everything at the moment. One thing that sticks out is that I stayed in a hostile for the first time, and I loved it! Such a stellar mix of culture, just like my experiences so far in Luleå with the other exchange students.

Most of the group I was with returned to Stockholm on another train, but my friend Tim (whom I've shared with you in a previous post) and I wanted to really see what the city had to offer. Also, we both share the same mentality about touring a new location: walk around, see what you see, and travel off the beaten path on occasion. You never quite know what you'll see or who you'll meet. That's one of the best parts of traveling at such a young age here in Europe; there are countless young travelers just as interested in exploring new things as you. Although I'm ultimately a tourist, I'm not confined to a secluded "on-holiday/vacation" paradigm. For example, after taking a free tour of Stockholm, of which the tour was comprised of mostly other students, Tim and I ended up having a coffee with two people from Canada and Australia. I can't remember their names, but in a way that's the best part. We all get along and can relate regardless. Besides, I'm terrible with names...

So, the pictures...

The first shot is from the top deck of the Viking Line ferry as we departed Stockholm. To the left in the photo is Gamla Stan ("Old Town" translated) and Strandvägen ("Beach Road") to the right. As you can tell from the photo that Stockholm is a very old city, founded in 1250. The buildings all around the city, not just Gamla Stan, accentuate the history of the area. Also, I have always loved seeing how old architecture is combined with modernistic styles that preserve the timepiece but also reinvigorate the building (or entire town) to be a useful space again. Stockholm does just that. The city even places ordinances on certain districts to maintain the architectural history and culture.

But to give you a better idea of what Gamla Stan is truly like, there's no better way than to walk in the narrow streets up close to all of the colorful facades. Fun fact: the narrowest named street in Gamla Stan is no wider than a meter. This accolade also hints to the rich history of the city. Although there seems to be a labyrinth of streets here, it is quite easy to find your way throughout the entire city. The districts are more or less broken down by islands. So, for example, Gamla Stan is a small island in the middle of the city, all on its own. So, no matter which way you walk, you'll always run into water. 

Next, Strandvägen. The most sought after place to live in Stockholm (and subsequently, the most expensive). It was reported that a woman waited over twenty years for an apartment on this street. And I'm not saying she was waiting for a certain apartment. No. She was willing to take ANY apartment on this street. Now, the lady is in her seventies, finally enjoying her small, hardwood-floored piece of paradise.

Later, walking ever further away from the city center, Tim and I arrived at the telecom tower, which is (supposedly) the highest structure in all of Scandinavia. The tower, more specifically named Kaknästornet, houses a restaurant at the top, providing a birds-eye view of the city in all 360 degrees. One thing that struck odd to me was the lack of a city skyline. But then I recalled that this isn't the US, where almost all of our cities tend to incorporate skyscrapers of some fashion. But, as mentioned previously, Stockholm takes pride in it's heritage. In a way, although the city is old, it's a breath of fresh air away from the metallic, rectangular protrusions we're all too familiar with.

Away from the cities and architecture, Tim and I were also very interested in Sweden's government. I mean, after all, Stockholm is the capital. We took a guided tour of the Parliament building. But we were quite intrigued with the whole government that we ended up returning to Parliament the next day to join the gallery and watch the politicians do their business. We were lucky the day we went because the agenda was filled with nothing but discussions on the national budget, something us Americans are sorely familiar with back at home.

Finally, since I'm drawing comparisons to the US government, the last photo here is of Sweden's "white house." Or, rather, "white apartment." Yes, the white building seen below, flanked but the government buildings on either side, is where the prime minister resides while holding office. Quite modest compared to the real White House.

Naturally I did many more activities throughout the city during the course of my four day stay, but I think you get a general idea of Stockholm. Things I didn't include were the palace, treasury, etc. since photography was not allowed inside the palace. I do want to note one thing while mentioning the palace. Security for all of these official buildings is very, very, very lax. I never had to go through security to go through the royal apartments in the palace (although I did go through a checkpoint to gain access into the Parliament building). Or, from the prime minister's residence, people are up close and personal to the building, unlike our president's home. After witnessing all of this, you really do understand how safe Sweden really is. I never feel nervous walking around anywhere in Sweden, even at night. It's a great feeling!

So, I'm going to wrap this post up. It's already long enough. Keep checking back this week for the next two entries in this series highlighting my trip across the Baltic Sea.

Finally, I want to dedicate this post and the rest of the posts in this series in the loving memory of a passed family friend, Faith Fearer, who died of natural causes right before my trip. I wanted to dedicate this to her for two reason: 1) it is the best way I know how to honor her passing, although it doesn't do much justice, but also 2) she always enjoyed reading my blog posts and told my mother how much she enjoyed them. So, with that being said, this one is for you Faith!

As always, if you have a good word, feel free to drop a comment below and keep checking back from more awesome adventure reports. Skål!

- Jonathan

1 comment:

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