Thursday, February 24, 2011

swedish fish

Sweden was awesome! Even though it was freeeeeezing cold (-10 C) and they actually didn't have any swedish fish. We landed about 80 minutes outside of the city in what appeared to be the middle of a forest where they randomly decided to put an airport. After trading our euros for Swedish krona (1 SEK = $0.16 USD) we took a bus through the breathtaking country side into Stockholm. Sweden was just hit with a huge snowstorm two days before we got there so everything was white and clean and riding through the forest with the sun setting made me feel like I was on the Polar Express or something. It was very magical. We also passed by the first and biggest IKEA in the world. Once we entered the city we hopped off one bus and jumped on another one that took us to the island that our ship/hostel (af Chapman) was on, got our sheets and towels, met our roommates, grabbed some dinner and went to bed.

The next morning we ate breakfast on the ship. It consisted of a variety of bread, cold cuts, cheese slices, tomatoes, and red peppers - not your typical continental breakfast from the Holiday Inn but very Swedish. We then went on a tour of the city. We also took an 'ice-breaking' ferry out around the archipelagos, which are the group of islands that make up the city. If you didn't know, which I had no clue, Stockholm is actually made up of several islands, many of which we explored, and people live on them and there are daily ferries that go in between all of the islands and the mainland. While we were on the ferry trudging through the frozen water I kind of felt like we were in Alaska. Then we went to the visitor center to get some advice on where to go while in Sweden because we had no idea.

We then ventured to the Vete-Katten, home of the first cinnamon bun. Although it didn't quite look like the cinnamon bun that we had in mind is was veryyyy good and the coffee was the best coffee that I have had in my entire life! Well, so far. Next we went to the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum). The Vasa is a ship that was built in the 1600s and sunk after 20 minutes during its maiden voyage. It was supposed to be the king's biggest and most powerful ship in his entire fleet, but it was made too tall and top-heavy so it didn't last very long. The ship sunk to the bottom of the harbor in the Baltic Sea but over 300 years later she was brought back out of the water, preserved and fixed up and now rests in her own museum. It was amazing! The ship was huge (5 stories high) and was in great condition. They even had the skeletons of the crew members that went down with her on display, which was a little freaky, but still really cool. In order to best preserve the ship the museum has to be kept dark, cold, and damp which added to the whole experience.

The next day we spent walking around Gamla Stan, aka the Old Town, where the Royal Palace is located. The island is made up of lots of tall buildings that are all very colorful and lots of fun little shops and cute cafes. At around noon we headed the Royal Palace to watch the changing of the guard ceremony. The palace was so cool! It looked like something you would see in a movie or storybook - it actually reminded me a lot of the movie Anastasia, I don't know why, but it did. It was very difficult to take the guards serious because they were wearing silly looking uniforms and even though they had huge guns they didn't look real. And if someone got to close to something they would stomp towards them and then do this little twirly thing and then walk back. They weren't very intimidating but if you starting walking towards a restricted area they would yell 'halt!' and then continue with they stomp and twirl routine. The ceremony was also entertaining, they shouted weird stuff and did like a stomp routine. I'm sure it was supposed to be a very serious ceremony, but I thought that it was funny... Then we went on a tour of the apartments in the palace. And ah! The rooms were amazing! They were full of really beautiful old stuff - everything from ravishing rugs, paintings and statues. But the coolest part was that the rooms we explored are actually still used today when really important people come to the palace. So they just take down all the signs, roll the carpet back, and put fresh linens on the beds! One of the rooms was even closed due to the 'King's orders.' How exciting!

Next we wandered to another island in search of a cafe called Hermans, which we found due to Fran's excellent navigating skills. Not only did we find the cozy cafe, but we had a spectacular view of Stockholm! Oh it was just so great! Not to mention the cuisine was superb! We took our time eating and just relaxing before heading out into the bitter cold to do some more exploring. We stumbled upon Stockholm's tiniest house and I bought a little swedish souvenir for my dad before heading back to our ship to hangout. We were exhausted and in bed before nine. Before leaving Sweden the next morning we went back to Gamla Stan to enjoy one last cup of the greatest coffee in the world at this awesome cafe! Apparently it was used in the 1200s as a stable; it was very cool. And then we trudged through the fresh snow with our backpacks to the train station to take off on our next adventure.

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