Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stockholm Clean and Bright

Needless to say, Stockholm is very cold. Around 35 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. I came prepared, however, and am making the most of the brilliant sunshine that has blessed my first full day in Sweden. Despite being definitely off-season, there are plenty of European tourists in the city, clogging the streets of the old town (Gamla Stan) and filling the blessedly smoke-free cafes. The most interesting sight so far has been a runner dressed in a bright red body suit that completely covered his head, with only eye holes cut-out!

Though Stockholm feels very European, so far I have found the coffee (my true love) to be quite awful (which is disappointing considering a cappuccino costs $5 or more). On the other hand, the desserts and pastries are to die for. Given that Swedish cuisine is mostly meat and potatoes, I could end up surviving on just desserts alone.

I was looking for things uniquely Swedish, so I went straight for the Nobel Museum. As you can guess, it is all about the Nobel Prizes, something about which I previously knew little. In a nutshell, they were established by the will and testament of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish engineer and chemist who most notably invented dynamite, and were first awarded in 1901.

My guidebook also mentioned a planned ABBA Museum, but I have yet to find it – I thought that when in Sweden, one should pay homage to its most successful export! Instead I visited the Medieval Museum of Stockholm which is housed in some excavated medieval ruins under the city. It contains incredible detail about medieval life, which just made me appreciate our modern life so much more!

Tonight I meet up with my group and guide and tomorrow I fly to Kiruna in the north. I will not post again until I get back on Sunday April 3rd since I am not taking my computer (there isn’t internet access anyway).

Friday, March 25, 2011

In Transit - Scandinavia here I come!

It's not an easy task to get from Encinitas to Stockholm. Of all of the options, I chose car to LAX, direct flight from LAX to London Heathrow, and connection to Stockholm on British Airways. The non-stop to London was fast: only 10 hours - about the same time to get to the Cook Islands! Barely time for one movie before falling asleep.

For those of you who don't know, my itinerary is one day in Stockholm before joining a small group from Mt. Travel Sobek to fly to Kiruna in northern Sweden (above the Arctic Circle), where I will spend 9 days dog sledding, reindeer sledding, staying at the Ice Hotel, and (hopefully) seeing the Northern Lights. I won't have internet access during that time, so reports and photos when I get back to Stockholm on April 3.

After my Arctic adventure, I will spend a few days in Stockholm, then move on to Finland and Estonia before heading home. At 3 1/2 weeks, it is the longest I have been away since my 6 weeks of adventures in Bolivia in Ecuador at the end of 2009.

So stay tuned!