Instagram feed

24 August 2011

Welcome to Stockholm

Day 63: Friday, 22 July 2011

Stockholm. The capital of Sweden, and the largest city in Scandinavia. After over 2 weeks in surreal, unfamiliar, and fantastical Estonia and Finland, it was a surprise to be back in more familiar and… conventional surroundings. (It was my first time in Stockholm, but I had been to Sweden, Malmö before; and the language is one that I can sort of figure out).

My main impression of Stockholm is that it really is cosmopolitan, and that the people are so incredibly hip and trendy. Seriously, all around me, whether walking or on the metro, the people seem like they came straight out of a fashion magazine. It's like someone took all the urban chic young people from New York and put them in their own city. Maybe because I had spent much of my trip in rural areas, the transition to the city seemed so abrupt.

But Stockholm doesn't feel like a full "big city". It is all just so safe everywhere. I wasn't familiar with the neighborhoods, but I still couldn't imagine there being many ghettos here. The city is quite gorgeous too, with several islands forming part of the city. The buildings are both colorfully pastel and darkly ominous. There was more to this city than meets the eye, but at this point in my trip, I was frankly more interested in finding a comfortable place to put my bags down and rest than trying to crack the mystery of yet another city.

I arrived in Stockholm on Friday at 7pm, and Lisle was there to greet me as I exited the terminal. The ferry ride was a long one, but it ended up being not so bad, as I spent most of my time on my laptop. Lisle and I walked into town, each of us carrying one of my bags (which still ended up being heavy). The sky was golden, the air warm, and the city abuzz anticipating the weekend.

Lisle had spent the whole day in Stockholm, and she had met another American girl named Stephanie, who was very cool and whom we simply "had to stay with"! So Lisle and I waited at the McDonalds by the train station until Stephanie contacted us. We then took the train to Mariatorget, where we waited for Stephanie. She arrived like 15 minutes later, having just received a confrontational phone call from her boss telling her to come to work the next day and understandably upsetting her.

Nevertheless, she welcomed us to her amazingly cute apartment. Located in a clean and trendy neighborhood, it was furnished with slightly quirky but baroque accents, much like a girl with black eyeliner and pink lipstick. It fit Stephanie perfectly - she's a fashion student and interning with a Swedish designer. We spent the evening chatting and looking at Stephanie's impressively professional portfolio.

The next day, Lisle wanted to buy her train ticket to Oslo, because you can get a good deal on a last-minute ticket. We left with Stephanie around 9:45am, as she walked to work, and Lisle and I then walked around the area (Södermalm) toward Slussen, another trendy area (ok, let me simplify - every area in Stockholm is "trendy"). Lisle got her morning coffee and we continued, through the old town on an island (Gamla Stan), where we saw a narrow street and some cool buildings. There were plenty of tourists on the main touristy streets. We passed Parliament and walked into the city proper. I never got to buy a Swedish flag, even though I found one store selling it for €10.

We proceeded to the central station, and then we had a very difficult time buying Lisle's tickets. It turned into a 45-minute or so ordeal. I have never experienced such a frustratingly difficult train station. We went to the automated ticket booth, and it took like 15 minutes waiting in line behind many different people. But the automated ticket booth would only take credit, and Lisle wanted to pay with cash. So we went inside the office, where you had to take a number. Our number was 909, and they were only serving 650-something. Unbelievable! And we weren't sure if we got the right number, because there were also different sets of tickets, depending on whether you were getting a domestic or international ticket. So after waiting another half an hour (and it was very crowded, we could barely even maneuver around all the big bags of luggage). I then decided to just pay for Lisle's tickets with my credit card. So we went outside and waited in another couple lines. I calculated that even if they served 2 people a minute, we'd still be waiting another 45 minutes. Finally, we were able to buy the ticket - but what an unbelievably frustrating and stressful experience!

I would never have expected that the worst and least efficient train station I have ever been to would be in Stockholm.

No comments:

Post a Comment