I love Stockholm.
Take a giant bowl and throw in art, engineering, 15% emigrants bringing their own cultures, and a heavy music/punk scene, then sprinkle in some supermodels and a lot of fashion, and bam – you get Stockholm.
Stockholm is spread across 16 small islands, all connected with trains and bridges.
The city is amazingly clean, the people have been friendly, and nowhere have I felt in any danger. It reminds me a lot of north-Chicago, but with a little more graphiti. The subway is outstanding, and my 220SEK subway card was the best investment of my trip. Thanks to good old Swedish socialism (and the taxes they pay for it), I can use the same card for the buses, subway, and boats. Boats? Yes, the city is actually spread across 14 islands so there is water everywhere. There is plenty of old architecture, and in Galma Stan (the old towne) there are narrow brick streets and almost a thousands years of history to rival even Dublin.
Stockholm calls itself the “capital of Scandanavia”. I dont know how Oslo or the others feel about that, but I can see how such a claim could stand. They have an election going on now and unlike America’s 2 parties that count, there are many here. They subways and streets are lined with posters and volunteers handing out propaganda. So far, I have gathered that there is a socialist party, communist, moderate (conservative), and new feminist party that wants to change all the street signs of people crossing to show half in skirts. (Yes, I am serious). There is also a king, which like most in the world now days, doesnt really run the country.
The flight attendants gave me the wrong impression. I expected to be the short one here at 73 inches tall and to be the only brown haired freak on the streets. Not true, there are quite a few immigrants in Stockholm thanks to Sweden’s very open policy, and so I look just like anyone else. In fact, with so many Arabs and Italians here, the blondes seem to be the minority.
Sweden has been at peace for over 150 years. Now I see why. The policemen patroling the streets are decked out with SIG automatic .45 pistols, and a belt full of radios, grappling hooks, and other assorted gadgets that would make Batman jealous. They patrol in pairs and are very friendly, but seeing them armed to the teeth is quite a change from Ireland where they had 1 pouch on their belts, presumably carrying a card with foul language on it to use in the most extreme of situations. 🙂
The average dress of the locals here is about the equivalent of date-night in America. I always find myself feeling like the under-dressed backpacker bum in my jeans and Keene sandals. Even the punks are quite fashionable and look like they just walked out of an oldschool Def Leopard video or something. They are also very friendly. I have not found a single person that did not immediately switch to English once they started talking to me. They seem very happy to do it, and regardless of age, speak better English than most Americans do!
The food here is interesting and not bad. Lots of fishy based stuff (surprise) and by my second day I was eating “Sill” which is chunks of raw fish in mustard. Its actually good! There is also “Fill” which is a cross between sour cream and yogurt, and the everpresent meatballs. The meatballs, potatoes, and berries, is their version of the American hamburger and you can find it anywhere. It is very delicious but leaves your stomach feeling like you just ate 10KG in rocks instead of meat. There are lots of budget options too, permanent street food shacks that serve up good sausage and kebabs for those that want to save money and die at age 35.
Overall, I think Sweden is probably the most expensive place I have visited. Lucky for me, this is offset by the fact that my friend Elin I am visiting here, knows how to live for very cheap. Just about anything that has to be imported here (things other than meatballs, volvos, vodka, or potatoes) will leave your budget in tears. I even paid 2 dollars for a can of Mountain Dew softdrink at a foreign grocery store. I walked by and after seeing it, couldnt resist the sweet substance that reminds me of home so much.
Despite the expenses, I love Stockholm and could spend some more time here. The weather has been very accomodating, which is good for those of us who leave jackets in other countries, and it is everything that I expected from home of Volvo, IKEA, and Absolut!