Something Swedish


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Visiting Stockholm

For a list of things to do in Stockholm, scroll to the bottom of the page.

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I’ve been living in Sweden for three years, visiting for six, and yet have never made the trip to the capital until last weekend when a friend invited me along for the ride. While we didn’t have time to go to any of the museums or see many of the sites, we had fun nonetheless.  Stockholm seems to have a lot to offer when you have the time.

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After a 6 hour car ride we arrived at 3:00pm,  exactly ten minutes before the only thing we planned to do – a 90 minute boat ride. Our guide explained the history and significance of buildings and statues as we glided through the water with the beautiful view of Stockholm’s quaint skyline on the horizon. If the weather would have been better we would have seen it all during sunset, but it was grey skies the whole day. Still, Stockholm was beautiful.

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By the time we made it back to land around 4:30, it was dark and we were freezing (because of course when everyone went back inside the boat after 15 minutes, we stayed on the roof for an extra 30 soaking in the sites…and the frostbite)

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So, we walked towards the only thing we recognized, the royal castle, and darted into the first nearby café we found. It was cozy, the beverages were warm and the pie was delicious.  Little did we know that everything would be closed by the time we headed out again, being 5:30 on a Sunday.

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Café from Day#2, Chokladtoppen

Luckily we were more interested in walking around and looking at the buildings anyway. We wandered around taking photos of everything while laughing at nothing.

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My favorite part was all of the winding  side alleys.

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All the while, I made mental notes of everything I wanted to do when I came back (preferably during better weather).

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Eventually it was time to eat and go back to our hotel, we had more traveling to do the next morning. Stockholm at night and Stockholm during daylight are two very different things – both picturesque in their own ways. After about an hour of re-exploring the area around the castle it was time to go; my friend’s sister had a plane to catch and we had another 6 hour drive ahead of us.

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After doing research for this visit (naively thinking we would have more time), asking Something Swedish readers for advice on Facebook, and actually being there and getting a feel for the city here’s my list.

Some things to do in Stockholm:

Museums:
The Vasa Museum: See a ship that sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage (due to having too many canons) right outside Stockholm and was salvaged in 1961. Due to the low salt content in the water on the west coast on Stockholm the ship remained well preserved and is an incredible and unique piece of history.
The Nobel Prize Museum: Take a journey through the past 100 years of extraordinary ideas, inventions, discoveries, initiative and courage that has molded the world we live in.
The ABBA Museum: The one thing everyone knows about Sweden in ABBA, so why not learn more about them and “experience the feeling of being the 5th ABBA member”
The Museum of Spirits: Also known as the Absolut museum, this is a chance to mix  a liquor tasting with history and art of “Swedish people’s bittersweet relationship to alcohol”.

The Medieval Museum: A free underground exhibition that gives you a taste of history, from architecture to daily living.

To See:
Gamla Stan “The Old City” The original city of Stockholm before it expanded. This is where we spent all of our time/where all these pictures are from.
The Changing of the Guard Watch the ceremonial tradition outside the royal castle
Skansen World’s oldest open air museum displaying Sweden’s traditional culture and architecture
Stockholm’s Subway Art  90% of the subway stations are decorated with art (sculptures, mosaics, paintings, engravings) by over 150 artists, some worth a special trip to see.

To Do:
Boat Tours We did the “winter tour” but will certainly be back to do another, the bridge tour is supposed to be magical.
Hot Air Ballooning A unique way to experience Stockholm
Ice Bar Who doesn’t want to get drunk while in a winter coat, drinking from an ice glass and sitting on an ice chair?
Stockholm Improv This is supposed to be a very funny improv show about being a foreigner in Sweden.
Skyview on top of The Globe Get a great view of the city by sitting on top of the largest hemispherical building in the world. Or go inside the globe to watch some ice hockey!


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Something Swedish in New York City: Visiting The Highline

2013-06-24 05.50.06It’s that time of the year! Visiting family, friends, and good ol’ NYC. Last year was my first “visit” back home, but not my first time being a tourist (I’ve done that every time my husband came to visit me over the years). Experiencing your own town as a tourist is like visiting a completely different place. You want to do, see, and learn more which means actually appreciating all that stuff around you that you would normally ignore. This is especially true in NYC, where there is so much going on all the time and not enough time to slow down to even notice.

Last year I had been in Sweden for only 6 months before we came back, this time the gap has been a whole year and a lot has changed in that time: Namely me. I’ve adjusted and adapted to my life in Sweden, so I’m here to tell you that reverse culture shock is a real thing. For my visit last year I ignored Something Swedish, since it wasn’t anything to do with Sweden, but since I now have readers from all around the world who might think it’s fun with a change of scenery, I’ll try to give you a taste of my trip!

Our first big outing was to the Highline, which we have been meaning to see since it was opened in 2009. The Highline is a public park built on an old elevated freight train track which preserves the old history and structure and adds a beautiful touch of greenery, artwork, and plenty of places to sit down to relax and soak up some sun. Stretching between Gansevoort street (south of West little 12th) and W29th street, it’s a great walk above the busy yellow cab filled streets below with an awesome view of Manhattan from a new angle among the rooftops, which is amazing for photos.

The old tracks:

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The view down Manhattan Streets:

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Artwork:

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Relaxing:

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The rest/random:

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There are lots of entrances/exits so this is a great way to walk through a small part of the city to get where you need to go with some refreshing scenery, no cross walks, honking cars, or street vendors. Great for easing back into the hectic city from a small laid back town in Sweden.

Bonus! Hubby has started up his own blog and his first post is featuring his select favorite photos from today’s outing. Check it out here: Ensorcella


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A Splash of New York

So, our guests from New York are on their way back home- it was awesome to see them and to be with friends from home for a few days!

Admittedly, their being here did confuse my brain a bit- arriving straight after Easter when I was exposed to almost all Swedish language and culture for three days straight at my in-laws, it felt extreme to be with them with no transition. They instantly noted that I picked up an almost-not-really-Swedish-accent when we met up on Sunday and by Tuesday I sounded like a New Yorker again. Going (running) to SFI straight from dropping them off at the train station on Wednesday was pretty unproductive as my mind was not really understanding Swedish again yet.

On Easter Day morning (don’t worry, we celebrate on Saturday here in Sweden!) hubby and I went to Goteborg. We stayed at the Ibis – a boat hotel!

Then we all set out with two museums in mind. We went to the Goteborg City Museum, which has the remains of the only viking ship in Sweden (or at least the largest amount/best preserved). The exhibit also showcased weapons, coins, jewelry, pieces of clothing, and more. The rest of the museum was a little more broadly  themes around Swedish life, culture and history, not only the viking age. We then took the tram to the Art museum, which has the largest amount of Scandinavian art.

Later on we made our way to Fangelset, the venue for a melodic death metal show, an old prison across from a cemetery. Our guests were very interested in seeing the metal scene in Sweden, so going to a show was top priority. The bands we saw were Agalloch and Velnius, both from the U.S. ironically, but nonetheless the crowd and atmosphere was Swedish. While death metal isn’t exactly my scene, it wasn’t my first time going to a show and I immediately saw that this was different. My husband must have seen me looking around because he leaned over and explained that Swedes just stand and listen, pay attention and appreciate. There was a lack of wildness that I had anticipated, there was no movement anywhere outside the slightest head bang which usually stayed within a 30 degree angle like an exaggerated and aggressive nod of approval. There was no dancing, moshing, moving, talking- I felt like I was standing amongst the  zombies. Eventually we spotted two or three who really stood out in the crowd, but would still be considered tame. There was also a lot more personal space, no pushing or shoving or standing on top of each other. It was a fun change of pace.

The next day we went back to Halmstad, the contrast between Goteborg and a smaller town was unpleasantly exaggerated by being a red day (holiday) and the windy rainy weather. Our options for Monday were extremely limited but we made the best of it by introducing them to Swedish pizza for lunch, relaxing, having a home cooked diner, playing pool, and then going to McDonald’s since it was sadly the only place open to just sit around and have some coffee.

The next day we set out for a Swedish Lunch Special, which is from 11- 3. After looking at a few menus and options we found a place just in time (2:45), most places were already done serving and we were the only ones at the restaurant that late in the afternoon. I was excited that our guests loved the traditional food and were impressed by how cheap lunch specials are in Sweden. Then I showed them the castle, old prison, and church. Site seeing is no fun in the rain so we were going to cut it short as we stumbled upon a cafe which I have seen before but haven’t yet tried.

It turns out to be the second oldest building in Halmstad (Aside from the castle and church) and it was absolutely perfect and picturesque! I will definitely be going there more often, they have good coffee, a great selection of tea and a charming…everything. We took quite a few photos and I plan on going back for more! It was nice change to step away from the larger cafe chains in town.

A few hours later we all got dressed up and went to Verona for a nice dinner. They loved the food and really enjoyed the planksteak- success! I really wanted to get a photo of the four of us, but it just never happened. Afterwards we went to another coffee shop until it closed.

Even though the weather was gloomy and it was a holiday we had a great visit and it made me even more excited to visit home in June/July! It was special to have guests from New york after being here only 5 months! I love playing host and showing people around, hopefully next time we have guests we will have more room and nicer weather!


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How to Spot a Tourist in Sweden

This weekend we will have visitors from New York!

I am super excited to see them and for them to see and experience Sweden, not only because it’s where I live now but because its a beautiful country rich with history, tradition, and culture! Walking them through a few things and answering some questions made me think of being a tourist in Sweden. I decided to compile a little list to point out some culture differences between New York and Sweden, based on my personal experiences, stories I have heard, things I’ve seen when my family visited, and the questions my friends have asked in anticipation of arriving. **Some exaggeration and/or Halmstad specific examples might occur.**

How to spot a Tourist in Sweden

  • The confused person standing at the crosswalk not sure when to go. A look of panic and frustration as they dash in front of your car even though you are already stopped in the middle of the intersection waiting for them to cross.
  • The ones pointing, giggling, and taking photos of/with exit or entrance signs. (Utfart, Infart)
  • The ones taking photos of ANY signs, trash cans, buses, cobblestone, etc.
  • Enters your home without acknowledging that everyone else has taken their shoes off.
  • Speaks slowly, expecting you to hardly understand English.
  • Says “Hey” to everyone and wonders why it is not obvious that they don’t speak Swedish.
  • Walks blissfully unaware while you are trying to cycle past them; they don’t seem to have the sixth sense of being able to hear your tires as you approach, nor the slight ring of your bell.
  • Is more worried about getting hit by a car than a bike.
  • The one who is still bundled up while the Swedes are grilling and sunbathing.
  • Is shocked to see any other ethnicity in Sweden – anything out of the blonde hair and blue hair stereotype is surprising.
  • Wants waffles or pancakes (Snack food) for breakfast instead of open sandwiches, and “regular” sandwiches for lunch instead of full “dinner” meals.
  • Laughs louder than everyone else in the room, usually at things you do not find so funny.
  • Talks louder than everyone else, all the time.
  • Insists on striking up small talk with every stranger.
  • Expects stores to be open no matter what, at any time.
  • Talk about Ikea, Abba, and the Swedish Chef non-stop.
  • On the hunt for Swedish Fish.
  • They are surprised to find H&M in Sweden.
  • Gawks at the amount of fathers with strollers in the street.
  • Doesn’t expect a bar to close at 2am.
  • Tries to book a hotel room where smoking is allowed.
  • Leaves the largest tip for dinner at a restaurant. Or any tip for a lunch meal.
  • Doesn’t order a sweet pastry with their coffee, or even worse – doesn’t drink coffee.
  • Orders water, then spits it out when the bill comes.
  • The only one at the restaurant not eating plank steak.
  • The only one at the restaurant not eating their burger with a fork and knife.
  • Asks for a doggy bag to take home their left over food.

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Any to add? Hope these were fun to read or relate to!

Being Easter weekend I would greatly appreciate some things for them to do in Goteborg that might be open/available this time of year! Any suggestions? Also #1 things in Stockholm if only visiting for one day!


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Traveling to Denmark Taught Me These Things:

It feels good to be home, and even better it felt great that our  apartment in Sweden is where I craved to go when I was done with Denmark and wanted to go home. (This weekend made 4 months that I have been living here) Despite visiting Sweden before, this was different, this was my first time really being a full on tourist. I experienced a lot and got to see many things I also learned some things along the way that I wanted to share.

1. Walk more – if you plan on visiting another country and are an ambitious site seer, start walking more BEFORE you go. Walking 5 hours every day kicked my butt! I don’t get as much walking time as I should but now that I have so many hours of walking recently on my feet, I plan to start walking more every day.

2. Careful on Cobblestone – If you are not used to walking on these beautiful stones, don’t over do it. Unless you are wearing some very thick soled shoes you WILL feel the pitch, angle, and depth of each cobblestone in the soles of your feet and your ankles. I have very sensitive feet, so maybe I am overstating, but I advise to avoid it if there is any smooth path along side the picturesque walkways.

3. Beware the Bikes – I’m serious. This also holds true for Sweden, as I have almost been run down a few times, but ESPECIALLY in Copenhagen be aware of the bikers. I think this would be applicable for any one traveling anywhere, and even more so for Americans I think because we do not have the same massive bike culture as other places. Just be careful. Cars are not the only thing that can run you down.

4. Obey the Lights – Being from New York I don’t have the patience to wait for a light to turn red, if there’s no cars a-comin’, I’m a-goin‘. DON’T do this is Copenhagen. You will notice that everyone waits very obediently at every single cross walk, even if there are no cars (to the point of construction on the street and no cars allowed), everyone WILL wait the whole duration of a do not walk sign. This is also found in Sweden, but not too the 100% degree. The reason is that the drivers and bikers in Denmark are known to be more  aggressive. So, watch as the locals do and do the same when it comes to walking into streets.

5. Respect Bike lanes – This goes along the same lines of the last two but I just wanted to point out that bikers do not really appreciate you standing in their lane completely unaware of their presence as you are trying to get the perfect angle of a photo of some building. Just Saying.

6. Don’t over do it – It’s okay if you don’t see all the sights, it’s more reason to come back another time. Instead of walking an extra 3 hours one day I decided to skip seeing a few things and I am glad I did. You can’t see everything you want unless you are there for a very long vacation. Pick and choice your top ten and enjoy them longer rather than running after site number eleven.

7. Relax – On my last day I didn’t do anything. I left the hotel at 8 am,went to the bakery and picked at my food for 90 minutes while reading a  book, watching people come and go. I didn’t inhale my food, but enjoyed it. When I left I walked for 20 minutes and sat on a bench for 30. An hour later I sat on a fountain for an hour, people watching. I walked and sat throughout the city until 2pm and just slowed down, read half of my book and didn’t worry about running to my next Danish destination. Being in another country isn’t all about the sites,  museums, or shopping but about seeing the day to day life.

8. Disconnect – That last day of relaxation I didn’t take a single photograph. Not because my SLR camera died, I had two back up cameras, but because it would have ruined the vibe. I didn’t use the computer, the phone, I just sat back, watched, and read. Soaked in the sights instead of trying to get the perfect angle of them.

9. You ARE a tourist – Don’t be afraid to be new. I had to let go of my protective veil that I use in Sweden, where I try so hard to fit in and not bring attention to the fact that I am not from here. Being a tourist in Denmark made me relax on this front a lot, it’s okay to be different and from somewhere else. You are allowed to be lost, not fit in, not understand, do things incorrectly.

10. Don’t forget where you are – This not only goes for where you go and travel but where you are from. Every town in every city in each and every Country is unique, with it’s own history, beauty, and culture. You are always visiting, or living in, a city where others would love to be, it might not be the number one place you have ever wanted to go but you are experiencing SOMEONES bucket list, so enjoy it and embrace it the way they would.

11. Touristing alone is not so bad – I was only alone half the time, but the sentiment and experience still holds true. I took the train one way alone and every day from 9-4 I did all my touristy stuff alone. It seemed terrifying and impossible, I thought I might stay in our hotel room during the days instead of explore. But once I was there I was no longer scared, the fact that I am not often alone and have not done any solo adventures did not stop me. I became braver at approaching people to take my photo. I conversed with people. I was able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, at my own pace. As long as you are smart and safe  and aware about everything around you (And have a good sense of direction) I think that it was a defining experience to explore a new country on my own each day.

12. Learn – Don’t walk away from a new country with only photographs. Take the time to listen to tour guide stories, read planks on buildings and statues, remember where things are, when things in history happened. On my first day I was sitting on the stairs of some building, writing in my notebook and eating a banana when a tour group walked up to the building and the guide started talking about it being the royal church. Having survived for 800 years through wars and great fires it was burnt down in the 1990s due to a firework landing on its roof. It was rebuilt 5 years later for the queens birthday. I was amazed, I followed them to the two next buildings and listened in from a distance. The next day I decided to take a canal tour to hear some more.

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I enjoyed Denmark a lot, but even more so I enjoyed the experience. I knew once I moved to Sweden I would want to travel more, and a part of me found that exciting while some of me found it to be scary. It wasn’t scary at all. At the end of the week I was looking forward to going back to Sweden (a part of me felt like I was cheating on Sweden with Denmark!) but I enjoyed the stay. Make sure you don’t over stay your own welcome, as in how long you are comfortable being somewhere – it depends on your desire to be in that specific country, and your ability to be somewhere new for how ever long. If we were in Italy or France, or one of the countries I have always dreamed of going, I would have wanted to stay longer and experienced even more. Looking forward to my next adventure, whenever/wherever that will be- for now I am still experiencing Sweden and loving it!


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A Trip Across the Bridge: “En resa över bron”

This week hubby and I are going to Copenhagen, Denmark. Actually he is already there, my train leaves in about 5 hours. It’s a work trip for him, filled with workshops, lectures and seminars – I’m just kind of tagging along. Even though I’ve taken the train many times into Denmark to get to the airport I am still a little nervous about the two and a half hour trip. I know its not so bad- I have my ticket with car number and seat number as well as what time the train arrives at Copenhagen so it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll miss my stop. I’ve just never done it alone, and suddenly I’m reminded that I’m in a different country. Aside from the actual trip I will be spending most of the time flying solo while he is working 9-4. Thankfully we have been to Copenhagen before and I understand where the hotel is and remember some of the close by area. We went for two days last summer but it was raining the entire time (we went through two umbrellas), so I’m really  looking forward to getting some nice photos this time. Even if I’m a bit nervous about spending so much tourist time alone I know it will help me – at least I won’t feel the need to fit in and understand the language, I can be a real ignorance-is-bliss-tourist for a few days.

My photo obsession last year in Denmark was to get a photo of all the elephant on parade statues that I could find:

Found 16 elephants but only posed with a few. I just read up on the Elephant Parade and found out that there were 100 statues and only in town for two months- I had no idea! I’m glad we got to stumble upon some of them!

Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do or see in Copenhagen? I have a small list that I’ll work on along the way. Time to get ready to go go go!

Yogurt Surprise - berries, bananas, and grapes inside - topped with a chocolate heart!

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