One of the biggest differences about my #1Month2Wander is how unplanned my itinerary has been! In all my previous travels, I have taken the time before hand to write out a detailed itinerary from city to city and attractions I want to see. With this entire trip being planned so impulsively, though, I suddenly found that everything I needed to do in New York City by the end of the year, I now had to do in one week. There was just no way I would be able to spend hours planning out my route, booking hostels, etc. I opted to buy a one way ticket to London & eventually a flight from Dublin to San Diego for Christmas, and that was essentially it. Patrick’s desire to go to Copenhagen changed my first weekend's plans, and then as I was browsing flights in Stephen’s flat, I found a ticket to Stockholm with Ryanair for $10 in the middle of a Tuesday. Boom. Done. That alone determined I would be staying one extra day in Copenhagen beyond Patrick & then rerouting my travels towards Stockholm. What a world that we live in where I can pay just $10 and get transported to another country on a flying hunk of metal!
As cheap as the flight was, though, I definitely realized some downsides to this option later on – for one thing, daylight is literally fleeting in December. The sun rises around 8:00am and sets by 3:30pm, meaning the “myth of the 1 hour flight” (which I was already aware of from my semester studying abroad) took out a solid chunk of daylight to explore the city. Unfortunately as I planned things further & tried to prevent my following cities from running into the same problem, it meant that at max I could only spend 24 hours in Oslo!
So what do you do when life hands you yellow lemons? See that the grass is greener with Hannah Greene, of course! Hannah is a senior at UPenn who is in my sorority, Chi Omega, and when she saw I was planning on visiting Stockholm she reminded me of her own semester abroad (chronicled in her blog here) and sent over some recommendations! When I told her about my daylight dilemma, she literally responded back with a full itinerary with screenshots of my walking routes in case I didn’t have WiFi. I kid you not. This girl goes ALL OUT and I love it! It was both so unexpected (because who would expect something this generous?!) yet so expected (because lets be real, us Penn Chi O girls know how to run the world and get. sh*t. done.). But all in all it was so incredibly helpful to fully maximize my Stockholm experience. So after arriving in the evening at my hostel, I ran off to go get a hot cocoa from Chokladkoppen, walked around the old cobblestone roads on the island of Gamla Stan, and headed to Kungstradgarden (the King’s Garden) for Christmas lights and to check out the ice skating rink. Hilariously, there were a couple of boys playing American football while skating which seems both ridiculously fun and ridiculously dangerous.
For dinner, at Hannah’s strong urging of course, I decided that despite the price, I was going to treat myself to a meal of authentic Swedish meatballs at Prinsen. I am happy to report that it might have been the best decision of my life. I will dream about these meatballs for the rest of my life, you guys. You know that moment when you bite into something truly well-made and delicious, and this extra special taste bud in your mouth that you forgot about gets activated? It just jumps out and goes “Oh my god! I’ve been hiding for so long, but now I have life again!” Yeah, that’s what happened on my first bite. I normally get food fatigue halfway into my meal, and instead I kept nibbling on my lingonberries. Even when I was contemplating whether I was too full to eat more, I held onto my fork so that the waiter wouldn’t try to take away my plate. That’s commitment to food, my friends.
Pleasantly satisfied with my current state of life and concluding that the meatballs alone were worth the trip to Stockholm, I ventured off to Fotografiska at around 9:30pm because amazingly it stays open until 11:00pm nearly every night. This was particularly useful considering all other museums closed at 5:00pm or 6:00pm, not to mention extremely exciting considering I’m sort of kind of interested in photography…
The museum was incredible! There was such a clear distinction between how other museums display photographs and how a photography-specific museum displays photographs. Most museums are brightly lit and display a collage of photographs together on one wall – visually it does’t quite invite you in to truly view the photograph. Fotografiska, on the other hand, had dim environmental lighting with strong lighting that enhanced rather than altered the colors. One of the main exhibits was of Martin Schoeller’s work, with enormous prints of public figures. There was such a hyperrealism to the photographs, such a different way of viewing these people that you see plastered on media each and every day. It was also interesting to see how his rarely unaltered style put all of his subjects on the same leveled playing field, providing an objective view of each person. Getting down from my lofty high horse, though, can we talk about the fact that Taylor Swift's photo is right next to Obama's? That's literally the first thing you see when you walk into the entire museum. Props, girl. Props.
Finally, in the morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to grab a Swedish cinnamon roll (kanelbulle) at Fabrique bakery, took a quick run through the food market Ostermalms Saluhall right when it opened, and then walked across the bridge to the island of Djurgarden to see the boats and architecture! If I had more time, I would definitely have tried to go to Skansen (open-air museum & zoo) or the Vasa Museum (enormous Viking ship museum) since I heard both are incredible. Alas, I suppose I’ll have to come back again!
Many many many thanks to the incredible Hannah Greene for maximizing my spectacular Swedish experience under such tight time constraints!!
- I stayed at Skanstulls Vandrarhem Hostel (might just be listed as Skanstulls Hostel on some websites) and quite liked it! I stayed in a 4-bed mixed room, but since it is off-season there was only one other guy in my room. The room had individual locks & lockers, enough outlets, and a light by each bed which is pretty crucial. The bathrooms were clean and spacious with plenty of toilets, showers, hooks, flat surfaces, etc. They also had a really cutely decorated communal kitchen & dining area with free coffee / tea / pasta. Location was great as well – it was close to the T and in the hip newer neighborhood of SoFo. The only two things I didn’t like was 1) the front desk hours of 8am-8pm really limited my ability to check-in late and check-out early, and 2) you had to pay to rent sheets which I find quite annoying. Ultimately, though, I’d definitely come back again!
- Be very careful with which airport you are flying in and out of! When I bought my $10 ticket, I didn’t realize there were 3 & that I would be flying into Skavsta which is about an hour and a half outside of Stockholm. This, again, took away from my daylight! I took the Flygbussarna (fancy coach airport buses, easily bookable online and when you get ther!) to T-Centralen, the central station. On my way out of Stockholm, I again took the Flygbussarna, but this time to the Arlanda airport which is much closer.
- In the city itself, the public transit system is pretty great! I bought a 24 hour pass and used the subway multiple times & even jumped on a tram at the last minute when I read some signs & realized it was going towards my destination. It probably helps that I have multiple years of East Coast public transit under my belt, but I still think others would have an easy time navigating the area!
- One thing interesting to note, is that Swedish taxicabs aren’t fare-regulated! I wasn’t planning on taking a cab to begin with, but just in case you are, heads up!
- Prinsen – all you need in life, really. It’s a more upscale restaurant, but I didn’t get any judgment from the waiters for being in my cardigan, t-shirt & jeans.
- Candy – Hannah made a great recommendation to stop in the Presbyran since Swedish candy doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup. The watermelon tubes (?? I don’t know my candy terminology) were definitely my favorite! However, I couldn’t tell the difference visually between some tasty licorice and some horribly disgusting sour-prune-flavored black candy, so…be careful with that one.
Can't believe I've done 3 blog posts thus far! Onward and onward!