Yes, the sun has set over Stockholm, at least for me. Time to move on. But before I make the rail travel to Oslo, in neighboring Norway, I’ll offer some last thoughts about the front half of my journey.
It was easy getting into Sweden as it was leaving. Flying over to Oslo from Orlando, Florida took just a few minutes less than 8 hours. Mucho tailwinds accompanied the flight, pushing the speeds of the plane to the 640 mph range for much of the journey. I didn’t know it at the time, but the strike by the Norwegian Air pilots that ran for 11 days was settled on the day I flew with them. Guessing the International service wasn’t affected, but on that day, March 10th, 160 domestic flights within Norway were cancelled.
Anyway the arrival was painless, passport control was a breeze, less than three minutes, and I didn’t have to deal with the luggage because it was routed straight through to the airport in Stockholm. I had another fight ahead of me, and from Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport to Stockholm’s Arlanda takes about 45 minutes in the air, and no passport control upon arrival.
At Arlanda airport I was able to purchase a 72 hour travel card, which would get me through three days, and a ticket for the Arlanda Express, a train from the airport which zipped me to the Stockholm Central Station. There I bought a sim card for my unlocked HTC phone. I handled the navigation to the apartment without undo stress.
My thoughts about Stockholm are simple to describe – I liked the place. Most everyone spoke English and the folks who worked in restaurants and coffee houses, Tourist information centers, train conductors etc, were all a fairly cheerful lot. As were the people you met on the street. The Swedish are a tall people and there was an interesting mix of foreign emigres in Sweden. Many North Africans, Middle Easterners, Indians, and other assorted Asians. I did notice many people soliciting ‘spare change’ in the T-Bana (subway) and they seemed to all carrying placards that read Sofia 2015. Many were possibly gypsies – but in the main they were passive rather than aggressive.
Which made a fine contrast to the fairer Swedes. Yes, I saw many of what could be called Swedish blonde women, and most of the older men all looked like they were direct from Central Casting for the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film series. Older men who looked like Max Von Sydow seemed ubiquitous and/or omnipresent. In the US, what we saw as the Millenium trilogy of films, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – were actually six 90 minutes TV broadcasts in Europe. So it was fun to see some of the scenes from the TV series that did not make the cut into the films that were seen in the states. Yes, I watched them in the later parts of the evening. In Swedish with no subtitles.
On my second night in Stockholm, I chose another ‘neighborhood’ restaurant near the apartment in Sodermalm’s Telebruksvagen Street. It was a Thai restaurant called Butsaya Thai. It was about a six-minute walk from the apartment. I had the Panang Curry with chicken, spring rolls, and a coke. The check came to 250 Swedish Krona which was about $28 US.
I thought that was kind of high for a neighborhood restaurant. I mean I am talking neighborhood rather downtown in the district with fancy hotels and the like. But as an example of Thai cooking, it was superb.
By the way – there’s no tipping per se in Stockholm. Rather you have a 10% service charge added on to your bill. I paid in cash, and made my way back to the apartment quite happy.
My last night in Stockholm, I dined in the very same area, on the very same street. This time it was Indian food. The place was called Amazing India. And you know what, it was amazing. I ordered the chicken biryani, a rice dish with seasoning that you will notice but not be overpowered by. A sauce was served on the side. I also order a Kingfisher, which is an Indian beer, and for a bread = I had a plain paratha. The bill in this place came to 240 Swedish Krona including the service charge.
Do you remember the film The Sunshine Boys, a Neil Simon tale of two old vaudeville comedians? In the film. the character played by Walter Matthau was the comic Willy Clark. In it he said that words with ‘k’ in them are funny. Try this – the Swedish word for chicken is ‘kickling’. We will now resume the travel part of this post.
And once again, I was most pleased. But eating out is expensive in this city. Even a cappuccino and blue berry cake at the Expresso House (pictured above & below) in the train station ran 70 Krona – about $8.15 in US $.
Most people I saw eating out asked for water to drink. Lunch time, most people buy pre-made sandwiches. Why? Because the delicious and crusty baguette is the key element no matter what the sandwich includes.
Getting around in Stockholm was very easy. I can’t say that I know for a fact about the morning rush hour. But the T-Bana, the bus and the trams all seemed quite efficient. Coming in from the Airport – there’s no need to indulge in a taxi. Either the Arlanda Express train or the special Airport buses work just fine and are likely more comfortable.
Walking about in Stockholm seemed quite safe, and as the city is a series of islands – it seems you are never all that far from a water front. The architecture in place was not so interesting to me, as the larger buildings seem so big and governmentally austere, solid and almost foreboding, – less than warming or inviting. But there was always the pleasant apartment house to bring things back to a ‘local’ level.
But I won’t say the same for the people. Words like dour and stern do not apply. I found the Swedish people lively and cheerful as well as helpful and happy. People live well in Sweden and earn good money. I’d love to go back to Stockholm some day and see the city with leaves on the trees and flowers in bloom. And with a warm sun on my back.