Yes, you read that title right!
After day after day after day of grey overcast skies I found myself under the bright, beautiful sun today.
Of course the day didn’t start out like that…
I had a 6am flight out of Gdansk this morning which meant I had to catch a bus leaving town at 4am.
Yeah, not alot of sleep last night…
I left the hostel around 3:30am and went into the cold, dark and rainy night.
This being Saturday night there were actually a ton of people at the bus stop waiting for a bus to take them home from a drunken night.
Nothing like taking a city bus for an hour at 4 in the morning.
Anyway, I arrived at the airport just after 4:30, dropped my bag, and checked in.
I’ve lost track of how many flights I’ve taken in the last couple of years but I will say this was the first time I went through the security detector, had it beep and been told to stand by the side.
The officer came over and swabbed the palm and back of my hands with a paper strip and then did the same with my bags.
Apparently the detector had beeped because it detected drugs.
Naturally nothing came of it and I was waved on my way a couple of minutes later but it gave me a little bit of excitement in my rather boring and routine airport security checks.
The choice of food for breakfast was pretty limited and I ended up having the, oh so wholesome, hotdog as my first meal of the day.
I also bought a pack of gum trying to use up the last of my zloty coins as currency exchange places always only take bills.
At the other cashier someone was buying a bunch of cigarettes and the girl was scanning his boarding pass I guess because maybe there’s a limit to the number of smokes you can transport.
But then when I went to pay for my gum she asked for my boarding pass too – seems it’s just a rule.
So, yeah, showed my boarding pass so I could buy my $1 gum.
We arrived in Stockholm just after 7am to a bright sunny day.
It was something I certainly hadn’t expected as I guess I just assumed it would be grey and cloudy for the remaining couple of days for this trip.
It wasn’t even that cold out – it said it was 3C but actually felt warmer than the 10C rainy day before in Gdansk.
The airport I landed at, one of three for flights into Stockholm, was Skavsta which is actually a whopping 100km away from downtown.
That’s actually one of the downfalls to taking a discount airline – they usually land at a smaller airport way out of town.
The bus ride into town actually cost more and was longer than my flight.
The flight was only $13 (yeah, you read that right) and the bus ride worked out to $15.
Also, the flight was only 70 minutes while the bus ride was 90 minutes.
But still, pretty cheap way to get from country to country.
I actually found my hostel pretty easy compared to some on this trip I’ve had to search out and was there in no time at all, checking in around 9am.
My room wasn’t ready yet so I stored my bag in the luggage room and decided to go on the 10am free walking tour while it was being made up.
This tour was a little different in that most tours in cities are just of the old town while this one actually of everything outside of the old town.
We saw the building where the Nobel prizes are awarded each year and found out some cool stuff about how the annual ceremony came about.
The Nobel prizes are actually named after Alfred Nobel who in the 19th century invented dynamite making him very rich.
When his brother died the paper accidentally ran an obituary for him instead that labeled him “the merchant of death”.
He was crushed by this label so on his own death he left money to fund the Nobel prizes and they are now held every year on the anniversary of his death as a sort of memorandum.
I also learned that while Spybar is a really cool name for a bar, in Swedish “spy” translates to throw up.
And that the rich here will order a bottle of expensive Champagne and have the waiter just pour it down the sink in front of everyone to show everyone how rich they are.
And that new parents get 16 months off between them to take care of their newborns with 13 of those months paid at 80% of their salary.
We were shown a couple of elm trees that were the precipice for the Battle of Elms.
As metro stations were being built the government planned to tear down the two trees and accompanying shack to build a new station.
The people revolted tying themselves to the trees until the government finally relented.
The story isn’t really about saving a couple of trees though. This was simply a symbolic start of a movement to “stop cutting down Stockholm” as the city was being torn down piece by piece to make way for rebuilding.
If it weren’t for the Battle of Elms the Old Town would no longer be standing as it was next on the list of areas to be rebuilt.
After the battle new building regulations were put in place including limits on how tall buildings could be and that is why Stockholm is the way it is now.
There was actually so much we learnt in the two hours on the tour but you get the idea.
It was a good tour.
When it was over it was just past noon and I had already felt like I had done a full day.
I mean, considering I started my day at 3am I guess that’s pretty accurate.
After going back to the hostel to check in I headed straight back out to get a quick bite to eat.
This being Sunday alot of stores were closed so my choices were even more limited.
Finally a reasonably priced restaurant nearby serving Swedish food was proving to be somewhat of a challenge.
After walking around for quite awhile I finally just gave up and went to Burger King – I needed to eat!
Since I was getting all Americanized anyway I popped in next door to Dunkin Donuts and grabbed a smiley face donut.
Ah, smiley face donuts – the way to my heart…
To give you a quick idea of how much more expensive things are here in Sweden – the Burger King combo meal worked out to about $13 while the single donut was about $3.
After filling my belly I went back to the hostel and went to bed.
I was exhausted and slept for a few hours.
At 5:30 I awoke from my nap and took a much needed shower and, oh my God, it’s amazing how great I felt.
After chatting awhile with the people staying in my room I headed back out for dinner.
Come on Swedish food!
I walked around for about an hour and finally stopped in a bar/restaurant that had a reasonable menu.
I started with Vastkustora pa toast (prawns, smoked salmon and egg mixed in mayo atop of toast) and then had Pyttipanna (a hash of potato, diced meat, onions and fried egg) for dinner.
The bill came out to 179SEK ($30) which, for this city, is pretty reasonable.
Afterwards it was just another night in for me.
And so ends day 34 -only one day left before USSR Trip 2015 comes to an end…