Sweden: A Tale of Two Cities

It's hard to believe just 4 (and a half) days have passed since we arrived in Sweden. Seems like much more than that. We spent the first 2 days in Stockholm before taking the train to Gothenburg.


We had a really nice time in Stockholm. There are several really nice museums to visit and the entire city is eminently walkable. When we arrived we managed to get our room at the hotel early (thanks Jie!) and take a 2 hour nap to make up for the lack of sleep on the flight over. After that we had lunch and started to explore Stockholm. We slept too late to watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, so instead we decided to see Skansen, an outdoor Swedish folk museum.

Distances on the map were deceiving in Stockholm. Things looked like they were far apart, but in reality it was often only a 10 minute walk. That first day we decided to take a ferry over to the Skansen as it was all the way across the bay. We couldn't get on the ferry that arrived just then as we didn't yet have our pass. After I bought one we realized the ferry wouldn't be coming again for over an hour. We killed thirty minutes playing tag in a nearby park, only to realize that trams were passing by every 5 minutes that would take us right to the museum. So...we took a tram.

The museum itself was a lot of fun for Walter. We saw glassblowing, a 1920's era machine shop (I thought that was really cool...they had leather bands to connect the machines!), and a ton of animals. Not a place I think I would enjoy nearly as much sans-kid, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. In the evening we had an overpriced meal (like all our meals in Stockholm!) and called it a night.  Here are photos of an old skool machine shop switch, Walter on a ride, hanging out with a lemur, and touching a creepy spider (clockwise from top left).

On day 2 we spent the morning exploring the Royal Palace area, including sort of watching the Changing of the Guard and seeing the Armory museum. I say sort of watching, as we found a prime spot to watch the procession enter the palace area.



Unfortunately, that meant we had to join a complete crush of people to see the actual Changing of the Guard, and I think only Walter, who was on my shoulders, could actually see anything except the tops of rifles and flags.

After a nice lunch in the park we headed back to the ferry stop and rode the ferry back over the bay to the Vasa museum. The Vasa is a ship built in the early 1600's to the exact dimensions requested by the king. Unfortunately, those specifications were too narrow for the height, and at the first stiff breeze the ship capsized, sinking just 40 minutes into her maiden voyage. Lucky for us, the conditions in the water were such that the entire ship was very well preserved, making for a fantastic museum display. And afterward we had a very pleasant 30 minute walk along the water back to our hotel. No tram or ferry required.


Our last morning we had a couple of hours to kill before our train, so on a whim we walked over to Stockholm City Hall. Originally we were just going to walk around outside, but Walter talked us into a tour and I'm glad he did. We didn't realize it, but city hall is the site of the Nobel prize gala for all but the peace prize (which is handed out in Oslo). There is a grand room at the end of the tour that is completely covered in a thin coating of ~24 karat gold. It was remarkable and probably the single coolest site in Stockholm.

Full Stockholm photos: http://markandjie.smugmug.com/Gap-Year/Sweden/


At some point we realized that we had only given ourselves 1.5 days in Oslo, and were starting to regret putting Gothenburg in our itinerary. And then we arrived there. What an incredible different from Stockholm. Where Stockholm is historic and filled with tourists, Gothenburg felt vibrant, energetic, and full of locals. Much more our speed. Walking from the train station to our hotel was very reminiscent of Amsterdam with the throngs of people, canals, and high energy level.

Photo credit: Walter Ralls

I wrote down some promising restaurants and we headed out to explore and find dinner. Again, distances were deceiving as what looked like a hike clear across town on the map was just 15-20 minutes of fun exploration. We found a really cool "steampunk" bar called Steampunk Bar that had a couple of gluten free beer options. Hooray! Afterwards we walked around the corner to a packed tapas restaurant and had our cheapest and best dinner yet in Sweden! It was a good night.

For our day in Gothenburg we checked out the fish market (think Faneuil Hall in Boston, but about 1/4 the size), walked around most of the area around the city, and finally wound up at the Universerium, a cool family science museum. Afterwards we headed over to a square where Jie found online there are food trucks each Saturday. There were, and we had a blast trying different foods and listening to a Swedish band play country music.

Full set of photos from Gothenburg: http://markandjie.smugmug.com/Gap-Year/Gothenburg-Sweden/

Some final thoughts on Sweden (for now, anyway, we'll be back for one more night in 10 days or so):
- Jeez, food is expensive
- Gothenburg is not even in the Rick Steve's guide book, but we'd certainly be poorer if we'd missed it
- Swedish trains >> Norwegian trains - no seat reservations on our norwegian train to Oslo, the wifi barely works, and it's sloooow
- Walter likes to play tag. A lot.