I have been travelling again, and this is the best I could come up with for an opening sentence. I think I caught a cold or something on a plane and as such am a baby and am going to blame that sentence, and this one, on it. This is doubly-weird because I decided to post that piece on "The Emotional Toll of Climate Change" last month instead of this one and so am editing it months later and am once again struggling to recall what all happened. Protip fellow bloggers and wannabe bloggers: blog in the moment. Human memory is not great for specifics. Anyways, back to Kostyn of the past: I love travelling. Like really love it. But I also hate planes and airports, and strict scheduling. My parents came and visited me in Denmark, and I got to do a super fast single-day Copenhagen tour featuring The Little Mermaid, Nyhavn, and Christiania before we came to Aarhus. In Aarhus, I showed my parents the various libraries and cafés I spend my time in, along with bars and restaurants I could never go to were they not taking me out. As such, the trip was filled with many treats, of which I was filled. Similarly, I took them to see the wonders of ARoS and one night even subjected both them and some friends to a night out which I had to bail from leaving both parties socially stranded.
After a couple of days exploring Aarhus, we got on a plane to Stockholm, the first city of our trip I had not visited prior. All three of us spent much of the rest of this trip in awe. Arriving in Stockholm, we quickly realized that we were totally not cool enough. Stockholm, as it turns out, is a definitively cool place full of definitively cool people. We realized this after taking the most impressive train I have ever been on when the lobby of our hotel was scored by club music and shockingly beautiful people in shockingly club-like dress. Still blinking, mouth agape, we opened the door to our room only to find gold finished fixtures, some poor creature’s pelt on the foot of one of the beds, and comedically trendy light fixtures. I have never felt so simultaneously impressed and underdressed. When we were ready to hit-the-town, as it were, we found our way to this killer izakaya place, Lokal Izakaya, which, near the end of our meal, was also transforming into a nightclub. At this point, we retreated back to the hotel excited to find what other seemingly ordinary not-clubs could turn into clubs for us tomorrow.
The hotel stay (again travelling with my parents comes with major perks), came with breakfasts in the form of a free-for-all buffet. Everything was delicious but the first day — and maybe this is because of Easter or something — was so busy and helter-skelter that my dad spent most of the morning trying to wrap his head around the insanity that took place over his eggs. We then moseyed on over to the Royal Palace. In my post about Copenhagen, I talked about how weird and wonderful it is to see things that I had basically only read about in fairy-tales (e.g. castles, palaces, kingdoms, etc.) but I had never been in a palace that was anything like the Royal Palace. It was intense. A massive building/complex full of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, clothes, chandeliers, bedrooms, writing rooms, offices, dining rooms, and quarters which I have in my mind associated with fantasy are real and can be seen and walked through without reaching the limits of movie sets or fiction. The Palace was beautiful and fascinating and where I think I got a pretty decent history lesson. I have found it especially fascinating to hear about events through the lens of modern monarchies. This seemed most notable in the descriptions of the French Revolution in the exhibit on Axel von Fersen and Marie Antoinette’s secret love affair detailed in coded letters called “I love you madly,” which was really interesting. The use of emoji, however, was mildly infuriating. Beyond history, years of slowly cooling anti-theism, and an obvious preference for more democratic systems, I have little to say on the subject of monarchy here, and even less to say about the Swedish one.
Later in the day, we met my parents’ Swedish friends which they had not seen for 25 years, one of whom, Cecilia, is the woman my sister is named after. To some degree, this distant Swedish namesake was a mythic figure to me, for I knew nothing about her beyond her living in Sweden. It was utterly fantastic to meet these two lovely women and some of their families, and they were the best tour guides we could have asked for. Seeing my parents reconnect with friends from years past resonated with me as I gear up to leave some of the friends I have grown so close to in Aarhus. We began by exploring Gamla stan (the old town), the area of Stockholm with the most history, carved through by tiny walking streets, bars and cafés underground, and through inconspicuous and ancient passageways. Then, we crossed the bridge over to the Northern part of Södermalm and explored some of the lively café-laden streets, stopping for a beer, and then moving further on to Mariaberget, a spectacular look-out from which much of the iconic areas of Stockholm can be seen in all their glory. After taking in what we could, we continued to explore the city, eventually ending up in Stockholms very impressive art gallery of a metro. Many of the stations are beautifully carved stone, and some of those are decorated and painted. For some stupid reason I didn’t take any pictures, but you can just check it out here. While we didn’t spend much time on the metro, on my next visit, I want to do a full tour. We spent the rest of the afternoon touring Norrmalm before getting a lovely dinner in Kungsholmen and parting ways for the night.
The following morning we met back up with Cecilia and took one of those somewhat cheesy looking boat tour things, and it was great! I was very skeptical but happy to go along for anything. The view from the water and the quite informative audio guide blew away my expectations. I’d actually highly recommend one of these if you want some relaxing time while seeing pieces of the city that might be hard to access on your own with extra historical insight. We spent some of the early afternoon partaking in Fika (the Swedish cultural concept word for coffee and cake) and saw some more of the commercial Norrmalm area before parting ways with Cecilia and her family. We then ventured our way to the Vasa Museum. The homepage of the museum's website says better than I could have, “[t]he Vasa ship capsized and sank in Stockholm 1628. After 333 years on the sea bed the mighty warship was salvaged and the voyage could continue. Today Vasa is the world's only preserved 17th century ship and the most visited museum in Scandinavia." The story, while horrific at the time and in near history, has by now, become somewhat of a hilarious historical oddity but with significant implications about the period in which it was built, when it was salvaged, and today, while it is being taken care of and continually restored and preserved. The gist of the situation is that the King of Sweden at the time, Gustavus Adolphus wanted a massive and symbolic ship to demonstrate his and the country’s power and wealth while striking fear into military opponents. The King was insistent on hastily getting the ship on the water and dictated some dimensions himself though they made it incredibly unstable. As those who knew of the instability were unwilling to speak up and against the King, it was set off on its maiden voyage and sank after only 1300 metres in view of much of Stockholm (Museum's History Page; Wikipedia). The ship is massive and genuinely imposing to museum visitors who can view the ship from above and below. It is a breathless sight and the surrounding exhibits featuring various aspects of the ship and finds from the wreckage are unbelievable. Following this, we wandered more of the city and eventually ended up at a delicious Lebanese restaurant called Restaurang Underbar before going out to try some proper snaps at Rolfs Kök.
On the following and final day in Stockholm, we checked out of the hotel and began wandering. My parents spent a fair bit of the trip discussing the merits of “Kostyn’s Two-Week Exercise and Diet Program” which included, according to them, eating little, at odd hours, and walking upwards of 20 kilometres most days. I think we could have gone harder but DJ is coming in a month and her and I will undoubtedly push the limits of this system. Anyways, we walked again through some of Norrmalm, eventually going to the Kulturhuset, a cultural centre wherein galleries are hosted, films can be viewed, along with theatre and much more. While there wasn’t too much going on when we visited, we did get to spend some time of the top floor viewing an exhibit of local photographers, which was beautiful, and visit their Swedish design store. Also, the view from the top floor from the tower is quite spectacular, so we got to take in more of the city. From there we walked through Gamla stan into Katarina-Sofia the borough on the East side of Södermalm which was an area we had little explored prior. We didn’t have much time there however and continued on stopping in a few shops along the way and looking at some street art without taking really any photos. We then walked all the way back to Kungsholmen stopping briefly for fika at Vete-Katten and caught a bus to the Stockholm Skavsta Airport hotel and planned the ensuing days travelling through Rome while having drinks from the bar. My parents and I were fairly impressed with the airport hotel, so much to that we asked the person at the desk what was up. She basically said that since they were the only hotel people could go to for an early flight out of Skavsta, they had to be quite nice; a position which we found extraordinary refreshing comparing it to the too often North American mindset of “well, they have no other option so lets gut them for a terrible stay.” It will be no surprise to most readers that part of the reason I wanted to do my exchange in Denmark (/Scandinavia broadly. Through all of the Scandinavian cultures are distinct and should not be considered as same) was to get first-hand experience with their social systems and way-of-life which we in Canada are often told is either ‘a golden utopia,’ or ‘a crumbling impossibility.’ Our experience with the hotel is a taste of a small part of the attitude-difference. I will return to the Danish and more broadly Scandinavian ways of living on this blog very soon.
As the “Part 1” bit of this entry’s title indicates, Part 2 will follow soon about Rome and seeing as I have just returned from Belgium, you can expect one on Belgium in short order. For now though, thank you so much for reading, and I’d love to hear from you! Do you like these travel blogs? Shall I continue pieces like this once I have returned to my home continent? When I do, do you prefer it when I name the restaurants and shops I go to, or is that like a weird/gross influencer thing? No idea, let me know!
Warm regards from Aarhus,
Lovingly and well edited by my spectacular mother.
EDIT 1 — the following day — 12:35: rearranged the first two photos. And properly credited my mother as editor.