09 January 2009

The hills are alive...with the sun of sweden

we met up with daves geology friend jason (who we had planned the trip with) at his b&b (in the norrmalm area) this morning and explored the city together.

the sun was out and the temperature was great and we were ready to see what stockholm had in store for us. this is a country that created IKEA, H&M, Volvo, and Saab, i mean, theres nothing these people cant do. we didnt have a plan except to hit a few islands and maybe a museum.

stockholm is a coastal city that is broken up into 14 islands. there are about 3 islands that are considered the ‘city center’ area, and the others have their own characteristics. stockholm has the opposite problem of venice, instead of sinking each year, it actually is stilling rising at a rate of 10 mm per year (due to glacial rebounding).

we came out of the area where we were walking and hit the water where several islands and bridges converged. we could see the brilliant sun shining off every beautiful building on the waterfront. everywhere you looked was a postcard. it felt futile to point the camera in any one direction and the low angle of the winter sun made it nearly impossible to do it justice in any picture we did end up taking. the city felt magical, like it can only truly live on in your memory.

after gawking at the waterfront, we crossed a bridge to the small island where the ‘old town’ historic center is, called gamla stan. touristy, but also full of character. the buildings were painted in lively colors and the roads were very narrow. for being such a small piece of land, it had quite a steep hill on it. we quickly got to the other side of the island and hit more water, more sun, more beautiful buildings and we spotted a large bluff across the waterway. we aimed for that direction as we crossed another bridge and walked onto another island (sodermalm).

(buildings in the old town area of gamla stan)

we strolled along the water of this island taking in the scenery. we climbed higher and higher until we came up to a historic fishermen village. sodermalm used to be the working class island (now being gentrified by young people) and apparently this is a little protected village with small old houses that use to belong to the stockholm fisherman. each house was well cared for, had a great view, and was the size of a cottage. it musta been some consolation for the hard work of a fisherman to get to climb the hill at the end of each work day and be able to look out on your beloved city.

(a fishermans house, painted red supposedly to emulate bricks that they could not afford to build their houses out of; dave and i playing on a nordic playground. that sled was fast!)

we came down from the high bluff to get back to the waterway on the south side of the island to finish our loop and look for lunch. we grabbed a generic coffeehouse lunch at a place with eclectic american music playing. we then headed back to our starting point. it was around 2:30p when we noticed the moon was out and the sun was starting to set.

(the moon is up on the left and the clock on the right says 2:32pm; us)

we made it back to ostermalm (a main island) and headed to the tiny island (skepps-holmen) where the modern art museum was. while crossing the bridge to the island we took some nice sunset shots (time approx 3:15p) and enjoyed the beautiful colors of the sky.

(a swede fishing in the canal; twilight on the way to the museum)

the modern art museum was well laid out and had some nice pieces from artists we knew. thankfully it was a strong but small collection because our feet were crying from all the walking. we got a snack in the café and rested. I chose a nice swedish cinnamon roll with large sugar crystals on top, mmm, and a cookie that was basically flour, butter, sugar, and cinnamon that melted on your tongue like a huge sugary snowflake. yum!

when we left the museum at 5:30p, it was pitch black, looked and felt like it was 9p. the lit-up buildings and the water and the near full moon made the city look just as magical at night as it did in the day.

(on the way back from the art museum)

we made it back to our apartment (on ostermalm) in time to regroup and head to the restaurant our host family suggested. it was a nice restaurant in a little theater. when we sat down and were handed menus, we realized it was a french restaurant. we contemplated bailing on the place to find something else (how embarrassing to eat at a french restaurant in sweden when you live in france?). alas, we stayed and had a nice meal. good olive bread, a tasty bourgonion beef dish for dave with great flavors and a fish and seafood dish for me that was pretty good. most impressing was a family of four sitting near us. their two children were maybe age 7 and 9. the family comfortably switched between swedish and english throughout their meal. everyone in stockholm speaks at least 2 languages. no one expects you to know swedish and is perfectly capable of communicating in english with you, apparently without a grudge. how nice!? and yet i felt kinda guilty. i dont know any swedish except that their word for hello is ‘hej’ but it is pronounced ‘hey’ and thank you is ‘tack,’ pronounced 'tek.'

i nearly crawled home after dinner, as my legs and hips protested further agitation and decided to crash in for the rest of the night. dave went out to enjoy the company of his geology friends (another geo colleague named nadja was also there to get some training at a stockholm university).

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