I think that my first exposure to Sweden must have those classic 90’s Bud-lite beer commercials featuring the Swedish Bikini Team and then again when they made an appearance at the end of the movie “Dumb and Dumber”. As the time for my departure to Stockholm came nearer, I began to wonder just how accurate these portrayals were. On my flight up there, I ended up sitting next to my friend Mitch who I know from the University here and who is also from Stockholm, his departing words to me were, “Yes, the women are really that beautiful.” Needless to say I was really excited to experience this whole “northern culture” seeing how I have always wanted to travel to Scandinavia and in true Josh fashion, I didn’t do that much research before hand and decided to just roll with the punches and see what happened. This is what I did know about Sweden before going.
1. It is the home of absolute Vodka
2. Tiger Woods’ wife is from Stockholm
3. it’s expensive to buy stuff there,
4. They don’t use the Euro,
5. They still have a constitutional monarchy.
I thought I had all the bases covered you know? I mean what else was there to learn. Upon checking into my room at the hostel, I met a fellow traveler passing through on his way to Croatia for New Years. Turns out he was from Encinitas and also attended SDSU as well as knowing some of the same people I do. What are the chances right? Well the next day we ran into a girl at a coffee shop and it turns out that she was originally from Stockholm but had just returned home from living in Encinitas for 10 years. Finally it made sense to me, all the beautiful women in SoCal aren’t native Californians, they are all Swedish transplants! Mystery Solved.
Stockholm is an entire city made up of many islands; Stockholm actually has more water running through it than the entire city of Venice. In addition to all the canals, there is an outer archipelagos’ ring where a lot of people have summer vacation homes, and according to Mitch, if it was summer time then we would defiantly be spending some time at his family’s vacation home. (Note to self: go back in the summer time) The Swedes themselves are a very friendly people and they all speak really good English,( at least the ones I met) the reason for this is because apparently, unlike Germany where all American shows are dubbed into German, the Swedes run the original programs in English but subtitle them into Swedish. That’s not to say that they don’t have any Swedish shows, because they do, but they also have a lot of English shows.
Stockholm is a beautiful city in the dead of winter, still very alive and vibrant even though all the trees are dormant and the canals are frozen over. They also have many beautiful museums. Of the two Museums that we went to, the Vassa Museum must have been my favorite. The Vassa was a Gunship that sunk in the Stockholm Harbor in the 1600’s and wasn’t rediscovered until the 1950’s. It was salvaged and resorted and now sits in a museum on one of the many islands as a tribute to the Swedish Naval Prowess in the 1600’s. The second museum that we went to was the Nobel Museum. Truth be told, I had high hopes for this one because of the grandiose size of the building, but once I entered, I was severely disappointed, it had only 4 rooms downstairs and not many exhibits. There was a small exhibit featuring the current winners from 2007 and yes when I walked by the Al Gore part, I shook my head in disgust. Then they had two rooms where they showed bio-docs on past winners and an additional small room that housed a brief history of Alfred Nobel. Very anti climatic and not very impressive considering all of the good that man kind has reaped as a result of the works of the winners. Although, they did have all the winners on banners and what they won for on a rail system that would move across the ceiling but the only problem with that was that after 10 minutes of looking up my neck got a cramp in it.
Johnny and I had just about all of the tourist things taken care of except for the Absolute Ice Bar. The bar is constructed entirely out of ice, even to go as far as have all the cups for the cocktails made out of ice, a totally cool concept. Seeing how the bar is kept at a constant 23 degrees, we were outfitted with shiny blue parkas with furry hoods and gloves (I sort of felt like Luke Skywalker wearing mine in Empire) and were only allotted 45 minutes in the deep freeze. So my buddy and I being bartenders decided that we would ask the bartender (do I really need to say how beautiful she was) if we could have pictures made with her but we needed to do it in such a way that it wouldn’t come off as creepy. So I decided to tell her that we were bartenders/students back home just like she was (truth) and we traveled a lot together (lie) and every bar we went to in a new country, we would take pictures of us with the bar staff (truth) and put them up in the bar back home (an almost truth) I am not sure if it was the thought of having her picture up in a bar back in SD appealed to her, or that I looked like Han Solo in my parka, but she obliged and well she will now have a place with the Waitress from Prague and the Go Go dancers from Budapest on my screen saver.
So in a nutshell that was Stockholm, and I keep on coming back to two thoughts, 1. The most beautiful women in the world live there and it is a consolation prize for living in such a cold place in the winter and 2. The city has captivated me and I can’t wait to go back in the summer.