Stockholm, Sweden

Trip Start Feb 27, 2008
Trip End May 28, 2008

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Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 81 - 7:39 (am)  Construction begins on the floor directly above us. I can't recall the last time I work up to the sound of a table saw, but If it never happens again I'll be better for it. I check the time and roll over wrapping the pillow around my ears.
8:02 The table saw has stopped but now they're installing something with a nail gun, or maybe they're shooting down the Luftwaffe, I can't tell.
8:15 They're not going to stop are they? I resign to the fact that the day has begun and crawl out of my bed.
8:30 I crawl back into bed. I thought I could get a jump on the day since I was so rudely awakened. Apparently everyone else had that same idea, the showers are full, everyone is taking forever in the showers and one of them is leaking into the hallway.
8:38 Sudsy water is creeping down the hallway, I ponder going downstairs to tell someone, but the bed was still warm and I had a feather duvet. I'll just let the people on the floor below us go tell someone about the leaky shower when it starts dripping on them through the ceiling. (I can be a little irritable when woken up by power tools in the morning.)
9:00 our roommate has had enough of the construction too, he goes to shower but returns after being chased down the hall by the creeping suds, packs his bag and checks out early. I don't blame him.
9:10 Karla had earplugs in but the hammering is finally too much for her, she wakes up and goes down to get a pastry for breakfast. I pack my bag
10:01 We're checked out and Karla's already in the yarn store next door. It was closed Sunday so she's eagerly waited 2 days to go inside this store. She said it was cool but the Kronen-to-dollar ratio make it not worth it. In case I haven't mentioned it, all the Scandinavian countries use the Krone as their unit of money (Finland uses the Euro). Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have their own and they are something in the neighborhood of 5-9 Kronen per Euro depending on the country.
10:30 Our Danish money has been changed into Swedish money and we're getting ready for the train. When your mornings start like this, you know the day has to get better.
Trains cross the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden every twenty minutes, from there we caught the train north to Stockholm. The fast trains in Scandinavia arecalled the X2000 series trains. Brand new trains with cushy seats, wood trim, power outlets at every seat, and the best part. Wireless internet! That's right, for as much as a hotel or an airport would charge you for internet, you can surf on the train traveling at over 130 MPH. When you hear about the quality of life being better in Scandinavia, even though the taxes and cost of living are high, this is what they're referring to. The fact that this technology is available and not put into place on all trains everywhere makes me mad at the train companies. Adding internet to trains may be expensive, but AC power plugs are not that hard to integrate into a train and in this digital age that we live in, I think free AC power is a birthright like internet. Don't get me started, I might ramble.
Stockholm is a city positioned on several large islands. At first glance it would appear that the city has a river flowing through it, but it if you look far enough, the river is actually the ocean and it encompasses most of the city. Between the northern and southern parts of the city are two islands, one is small and houses the Royal palace and other important government buildings. The larger island has the old town on it. Thin medieval streets separate 16th and 17th century houses with neat shops on the ground floor. On this island are the Royal apartments, church with clock tower, a town square, the Nobel Museum and other cool stuff. We arrived in Stockholm about 4:00pm and we found our way to the hostel, which was actually a boat. Along the inner harbor in Stockholm there are several boats parked along the seawall that are permanently moored. Our hostel was an old cruise liner that has been converted. The Rygerfjord is about 150 ft long and has three decks that can sleep about 30-50 people. It's nice for a change, but I felt a little strange sleeping on a boat again, even if it is parked, the beds are small and space is tight. I'm not complaining, our room was still nicer than anything I've EVER slept in on a job. That night we walked through old town, everything was closed so we just window-shopped. In need of some American vibe we took the subway to the Hard Rock Café for dinner. Some people can bag on me for eating at chain restaurants when I'm on vacation in Europe, but those people can shove off. I invite them to go somewhere and find a nice place on the first night when they're in the town, then guess what you want off the menu when you don't know the language. Sometimes it's better just to walk into the Hard Rock Café and say, "I want a cheeseburger" in English and know that you'll get quality food while looking at Rock and Roll memorabilia and watching music videos.
When we finished dinner we went back to the hostel, it was a very unnerving because it was 9:30 and the sun hadn't gone down yet. In may it's light until about midnight, even then, there is a low glow on the horizon where the sun is, this glow slides across northwestern horizon until it increases and dawns on the opposite side. I would definitely need to have a blackout room if I lived in the far north. Not much light came in through our little porthole that night thought, we slept just fine.

There is a reason they went around the world in 80 days. It's because after 81 days of traveling, you really don't want to travel any more. Regardless of where you're at. But we were in a new town and we had lots to see, we pushed our tiredness aside and pressed on.

Day 82 - The sun came through the port hole early this morning and I was the first one up so I walked down to the supermarket to get some doughnuts and let Karla sleep in. After doughnuts and OJ we set off to explore Stockholm. It was threatening rain but we had my umbrella and we were determined to see the city. First things first, it's time to do laundry. Apparently, everybody in Stockholm owns a washer and dryer because there were none to be found on the north side or in old town. On the suggestion of the girl at the front desk, we took the subway 15 minutes south to find a laundromat. Just like getting a bed on an overnight train, Karla and I have learned the value of having your laundry done for you. Especially when you are on vacation and you could be walking around the city instead of doing your laundry. After dropping off the dirty clothes, we walked around old town where we had window shopped the previous evening. We saw lots of neat local shops, same as before, but now they were open.
It started to rain while we were walking around so we went to the Nobel Museum. Stockholm claims Alfred Nobel, though he was raised in St. Petersburg. The inventor of modern day explosives left his fortune to the foundation that bears his name. The museum was a little bit about Alfred Nobel and a lot about the Nobel Prize and its recipients. A few of the exhibits were dedicated to the inventions, achievements, or books that award winners created. While I toured the museum I thought about the Discovery Civilizations program that I watched in Romania about Alfred Nobel. How it happened that the show was on while I was there was pure chance, but it made the museum very enjoyable to have a history of Alfred Nobel still fresh in my brain.
The rain had subsided while we were in the museum. We continued our tour around the city, crossing the island to the north side of town. When it came time to pick up the laundry, I left Karla at a café to read and enjoy coffee and a cake. I rode the metro and delivered the laundry safely without fail. I know that I'm making Stockholm out to look like a pretty boring city, If the Nobel museum is the most exciting thing a city has going for it, it's in a lot of trouble... Actually the city is beautiful and has lots of things to see, but Karla and I had seen enough art galleries and churches already, Stockholm had a theme park like Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, but we already went to Tivoli Gardens. For the most part we just wandered the streets looking at the nifty shops selling knit mittens and matching sweaters and what not. The city is amazingly clean, I didn't see very much litter around the city and what's more, I didn't see anyone cleaning either. I find it hard to believe that nobody litters in Stockholm, but the cleaners must be really efficient and work only at night. We folded our laundry and packed to leave the next morning. Stockholm was neat, but I don't know if it was worth the 3 days and 12 hours of train rides that it took to get there. If I had it to do over again, I think I'd stop in Copenhagen.
Day 83 - I was the first awake again. Doughnuts and juice were delivered to her sleepy majesty promptly on time. We said our goodbyes to Stockholm and borded the X2000 back to Malmo. This time I bought the internet pass for the ride. It was the most entertaining train ride I've ever been on! I think that if I had food, water, AC power and wireless internet, I could sit for a really long time before I got bored. In Copenhagen we had a lay over of an hour before our overnight train to Amsterdam. We were hungry but didn't want train station food so I ran down the street as quickly as I could and got Mexican food at the same restaurant we at three days ago. The food was just as good to go as it was when we ate in. Luck was finally on our side and Karla and I got a coachette all to ourselves on the train. We folded down the seats and watched 10,000 B.C. it was a crappy ripped version, but it didn't matter, the movie was terrible. I fell asleep in the middle of it. Part of me wants to watch it again just to make sure the plot didn't develop late, but if it hadn't become interesting in the first hour, the film didn't have much potential. The train was a little late but Karla and I didn't mind because we were able to sleep in. The difference in our attitudes was amazing compared to the debacle on the way to Hamburg, I don't EVER want to do an overnight train without a bed again.

Day 84 - When we arrived in Amsterdam we booked our tickets to our next stop (Rennes, France). The train left at 7am the next day, it was a drag but the only way we could get there in time to pick up the rental car we reserved. We checked into the hostel but our room wouldn't be ready until 3:00 so we dropped our bags off up in the storage locker and went downtown. At the first café we went to we met two people from California. We chatted about the west coast for a while and compared our European vacation experiences. The day was nice so we walked down to Vondel park and sat by a lake for a while.
Our hostel room was an 8 bed dorm and completely full. The roughest part about a full dorm of people is the schedule of people going to bed and getting up. In the case of our room, two British guys stumbled in at 4 in the morning and made a bunch of noise going to bed. Then at 6:30 Karla an I (who went to bed at 11) had to get up to catch our morning train, so I'm sure we bothered everyone in the room. Except for the British night clubbers. Hostels have enough to do dealing with all the people checking in and out, but if they could make a few dorms the early risers and a couple for the night clubbers, that might help the guests experiences a little in the hostel.
Karla and I walked around the city enjoying the perfect day. We'd already seen all the tourist things so now we could stand by and watch all the new tourists in line while we enjoy coffee across the street. We relaxed and let the day slip away slowly. At 8:00pm we met up with the Californians again and had some drinks at some random bars. Apparently we went to Burger King late that night. I was informed of this when I found ketchup on my sleeve the next morning.
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