My flight arrived at the Stockholm Vasteras airport around 9PM on Tuesday the 9th. As it was a very small airport, the bags were delivered within minutes of the plane’s landing, and within fifteen minutes of collecting my bags, there was a bus headed for central Stockholm. I bought my ticket, boarded the bus, and texted my couch surfing host to let him know that I had arrived and was on my way. I slept lightly on the bus ride because they had turned off the lights, so I was unable to read. Once at the bus terminal, I boarded the Metro and took it to Thomas’s stop, which took about thirty minutes. Upon exiting the station, Thomas was there to meet me, and we walked back to his apartment. I settled in, and we stayed up for a couple of hours chatting about life and our travels. Thomas took a road trip around the States last year with two Swedish friends, which was really interesting to hear about; he’s seen more of the U.S. than I have! Also, he went to China for the 2008 Olympic Games! Thomas had work in the morning, and I was tired from my day of travel, so bedtime it was.
On Wednesday, I woke up and decided that I wanted to seek out some of the notoriously good thrift stores that Stockholm allegedly has. I located a few shops, but found no vintage treasures as I was hoping that maybe I would. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Stockholm, taking in the scenery, before returning back to Thomas’s. I was tired and considered napping, but instead watched a movie, and around 8PM, Thomas came home from work. That night we talked lots more, and ended up watching some American television programs that Thomas enjoys.
On Thursday, I once again set of to explore the sights. I chose to go to the Vasa museum, a museum that houses a full 17th century ship that sunk in the bay, minutes after beginning its first voyage. Over 300 years after it sunk, the ship was retrieved from its watery grave, and restoration began. Because the ship sat in water for three centuries, the restoration was painstaking, as well as being totally novel. It was the first time a feat of this kind had been attempted. The ship itself is truly impressive, and the building that houses is seven stories tall in order to accommodate its full height. The work that has been done to preserve this beautiful ship is remarkable and truly laudable. After the museum, I walked around the city more; Stockholm is a city made up of fourteen islands, and sometimes getting to where you want to be requires a rather long and winding path. Around 7PM, I returned to Thomas’s so that I could get ready for the show I was going to that night. I doubt that anyone who reads this will actually know who this band is, but I went to a venue called the Strand to see Slagsmalsklubben!! This Swedish band is comprised of six guys on analog synthesizers, playing electro. Their name translates to ’Fight Club.’ I’ve been listening to them for years; I nearly went to go and see them three years ago when I was in Paris for the summer… but I decided that flying across Europe for one show was a little ridiculous, and so, I crossed my fingers and hoped that they would still be together when I next returned to Europe. The doors were at 9PM, and the band didn’t go on until 10PM, and they played for a little over an hour. The show was insane, and their performance was frenetic. There were black lights that lit strings hanging from the ceiling, as well as the logos on their outfits, and their hands. The strobe lights were flashing, and at one point, they used a bubble machine filled with a fluorescent bubble solution to blow bubbles throughout the club. When the bubbles popped, they left glowing specks on our skin and clothing, making us all look like glowing freckled, frenzied, dancing bodies. I took some videos of the show, which you’ll see below, and I imagine that most of you will think I’m mad for digging this music. After the show, I headed back to Thomas’s, getting back around 12:15. He was already asleep because he had work early in the morning, so I followed suit.
On Friday, I once again set off to see Stockholm, with the goal of heading to the Modern Art Museum. Usually, I skip art museums because it tends to be the same thing in every city; there is little distinction between the various countries. However, the day before, I had seen a poster advertising one of their visiting exhibitions, and when I saw the name, I was truly amused, and knew that I would have to visit the museum, based on the name of the exhibition alone. The title is inappropriate, so I won’t repeat it on here, but the artist’s name was Lee Lozano, so if you’re truly curious, I’m sure some clever googling will give you your answer. Or if you like, ask me through a medium that is not this blog, and I will tell you. The exhibition was excellent, and the rest of the museum was also very pleasant. After the museum, I took to the streets of Stockholm and explored more on my last night in town. When I got back to Thomas’s, he was already home from work, and he made us Swedish meatballs for dinner. We talked and watched television before going to bed.
On Saturday morning, I woke and got my things together in order to leave, headed for Umea, some 700 km of Stockholm. I was hoping to stop in a city called Harnosand, to meet a friend of Sara’s, Maria-Thérèse. Unfortunately, she was extremely sick at the time, so I was not able to get to meet her. However, because she is a absolute doll, she got me a place to stay for the night in Umea with her friend Anna… so to Umea I was heading. Thomas left for work, and I left about thirty minutes later. Here, my (not-so) brilliant scheme begins. I took the metro to a stop that is close to the E4 freeway. I walked to the entrance ramp and stood there with a sign for Umea, thumb out. That’s right. I tried my hand (or is that thumb?) at hitchhiking; I was ‘inspired‘ to do so after rereading ‘On The Road‘ only a month or so before. Damn you Jack Kerouac, damn you and your beat verse that flows through my veins, encouraging me to go with that crazy flow.
The Umea sign had little luck, so I made a new sign reading “E4N.” Not too long after the creation of the new sign, I had a ride to Uppsala, about 70 km up the E4. The guy was really nice and told tales of when he and his friends would hitchhike in their youth; he worked for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and had for the past twenty years. He said that he would drop me at a convenient place where I would have the best luck hitching a ride further. Somehow, we managed to miss all convenient exits, and eventually, some 30km outside of Uppsala, he dropped me off at a ramp, that despite his very best intentions, saw very little traffic. After an hour, I had had no luck whatsoever, and I decided that I should hitch a ride back into Uppsala and just take the train to Umea, or I was never going to get there… which wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but I was due to catch the ferry from Umea to Vaasa, Finland the next day. So, I changed directions, and made a new sign for “Upp” and soon had a ride back into town from two blokes. One of them spoke English quite well and we chatted on the way. They were nice and were coming back from playing a football game with some friends. They had a dog with them that they were watching for a friend, and she sat at my feet almost the whole way into town. They asked me where I needed to go, and I asked them to drop me off at the train station, at this point, resigned to the fact that I would have to catch a train or a bus north if I ever wanted to get there. There was a train leaving within fifteen minutes of my arrival at the station, so I decided to go for it. I texted Anna and let her know that I would be arriving around 8PM. She gave me directions so that I could get the bus to her place, and once in Umea, I did exactly that. Once at her stop, I texted her and she came to meet me. We went back to her apartment and spent the night hanging out with her friend, Johannes, watching the Swedish final of the Eurovision song contest, and then watching Mr. Deeds before going to bed. Anna was beyond sweet, and so, so accommodating. It warms my heart when I think about the fact that she agreed to host me for the night after a friend, who has never even met me, asked if she’d put me up. This girl truly has the Couch Surfing spirit, though she is not even a couch surfer! She should be!! I really enjoyed the time I spent with her as she was a tremendously kind and joyful girl.
On Sunday morning, we had breakfast, and I quickly showered before we left for the port. Maria-Thérèse’s sister, Louise, had offered to drive us out to the port so that I could catch my ferry, which was extremely generous of her. On the way to the port, we picked up Johannes, who wanted to come with us. The port was over 20km outside of central Umea, and she took time out of her Sunday to help me. The kindness of strangers is a beautiful thing. Once at the port, I said thank you’s and goodbye’s, and went to the desk to check in for my 1PM ferry. Upon doing so, the man at the desk informed me that the ticket I had booked was, in fact, for the 8AM ferry that had left from Vaasa to Umea that morning. I have NO idea how it happened, especially as I was positive that I had checked and double checked my booking to ensure that it was correct. Luckily for me, the man was wonderful, and said “Don’t worry, hold on,” and he tap-tap-tapped away at the computer, and handed me a ticket for the ferry for which I had intended on making my booking. Unfortunately, the ferry was an hour and a half late due to the thick ice that covered the Gulf of Bothnia, but eventually, the ferry had arrived, we boarded, and before long, we were on our way to Finland. Looking out the window at the front of the ship was quite incredible because the path that the ferry followed was icy water filled with huge chunks of ice, and aside from the icy path that we were sailing through, everything else in sight was solid white. Finally on the way to Finland, all was well.
The view over central Stockholm
This was the decoration around an entrance to a building. I thought it was pretty cool.
The ice that covered the river has broken up, but in certain areas, still sits in large clusters. In this area, lots of birds sat on the huge chunks of ice.
A gorgeous boat that sits in the harbor; it’s a hostel!
A small scale model of what the Vasa would have looked like before sinking.
The ship’s decorations, as they would have looked in 1628, the year of the Vasa’s maiden voyage.
The whole thing was a total trip, and such a good time.
The ferry on the way to Vaasa, Finland. You can see the specific path that the boat is following.
So, there’s Sweden done, Finland up next!