Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Did you remember to get your shots?"

In proper Abroad Wonk (we're gonna wonk around the clock tonight, we're gonna wonk wonk wonk till the broad daylight) fashion, I only have one class, which I'm halfway through as we speak/type, from November 22-January 18. Most other people have exams and classes and papers and other academic burdens, and to avoid bothering them and bugging them to go out at all times, I planned a solid ten days of traveling to get out of everybody's hair and/or Sweden. First stop: Stockholm. I realize that that is still in Sweden, but it's also a five-hour train ride away, which is longer than it takes to get across multiple countries on continental Europe, so whatever.

Jasmien, Natsuko, Joy, Yuri, and I departed at the way-too-early hour of 5:27 AM to catch early train out of Gothenburg. We bought our tickets so early that first class ended up being cheaper than second class, so we got to ride in style like the classy broads we are.

Well, except Jasmien, who quickly found herself on the receiving end of mocking texts. "Here come the servants to fan us and feed us grapes!" "Do you think you could push the train a bit more quickly?" "I hope we don't crash into a lake because I don' think there are enough lifeboats for all of us..." Anyways, upon arriving, we checked into our hostel (this was my first stay at a hostel, and it was definitely less seedy than expected), and trekked out into the city. Stockholm was gorgeous, and a really great city, but it was miserably cold. How cold? This cold:

Sexy, right? We had to duck into a store or cafe every 20 minutes at max to avoid freezing to death. I never believed the cold weather/catching a cold correlation, but the next morning I woke up feeling positively awful, so there you go. Despite illness and a slice of the impending Scandinavian winter, Stockholm was fantastic. Riksdag and Kungliga Slottet (Parliament and the Royal Palace, respectively) were definitely highlights.

I'm enamored with the idea of having a figurehead monarchy that stands there and looks pretty and can technically do whatsoever its little heart desires but never actually would, much to the dismay of my European friends who are like THEY'RE SO EXPENSIVE BLAH BLAH BLAH, to which I reply, maybe, but aren't miniature horses worth it?

Kungliga Slottet is actually only used for official ceremonies and what; the royal family and all of their splendor reside at Drottningholmet outside of Stockholm. With no one to actually protect (besides, does the Swedish royal family actually have enemies?), the guards are there more for effect and spectacle than safety, which means that they're super friendly. They were joshing around with little kids, taking pictures, being friendly and human, etc. Jasmien and I snagged a picture with them, which means that I could leave Sweden tomorrow and be a happy camper:

They were also super cute when they were changing:

Not really sure what they're charging? Norwegians? Litter? Baggy jeans? Anyways, we also hit up City Hall (twice, we trudged through the blizzard only to be told that there were no tours that day due to a concert, major burden), which was gorgeous. It is also the location where the Nobel Prize ceremonies are held. Being so close to the reception, the chairs and speakers were already in place, and it was pretty cool to be pre-mingling among the academic elite.

I usually never pay for guided tours, but it was only 40 SEK, and Tara highly recommended it. Totally worth it. You find out so many things you would have never known, like how long it took to Prince to paint the al fresco mural of Stockholm, or why a totally brick room is called The Blue Room, or why the mosaic in the ballroom features a person without a head (five years, an indecisive architect, poor planning/decapitation legend).

While we did make a few stops at cafes for some bone-warming soup (mmmm, mushroom soup), we got really good at eating on a budget. I practically lived on a bag of clementines and loaf of bread for three days. Also, not to brag, but we totally got to go to H&M Home, the first of its kind in the world.

No big deal. It was actually quite small, and pretty disappointing, since I was expecting IKEA but more inspired by cheap sweaters and going-out dresses.

We finally got back to Gothenburg at 1:30 AM on Tuesday, two hours later than expected. Since Swedes are so nice, though, they gave us 50 SEK vouchers to use in the train station for food, coffee, etc., and after a bit of a grift, we found ourselves with 450 SEK to kill. I swear to god, there is nothing more delicious than a McFlurry and a cup of earl grey tea on Sweden's dime.

As per uje, more pictures on www.picasaweb.google/sarahhaack, and a select few below:

the metro!

"you look homeless"

clowning hard, or hardly clownings?

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