That One Time I Went To Sweden

Over the holidays, I spent two weeks in Sweden visiting my friend Siri.

I flew out of Charleston Saturday morning and arrived in Stockholm early Sunday morning. I usually feel pretty disoriented from plane rides, but the long flight and time change really wiped me out.

After navigating from the airport to meet Siri at Central Station, we traveled together back to her apartment. My first few hours were spent napping. After waking and having a late lunch with Siri, Marie (her flatmate), and Simon (Marie’s partner), we all went Christmas tree shopping. That night, Marie cooked a delicious meal, the first of many during my stay.

One of many meals prepared by Marie.

One of many meals prepared by Marie.

In all my experiences traveling, I have always been appreciative of how warm and welcoming people have been. Siri and Marie’s apartment felt like a second home to me. It was so nice sharing space // meals // time // stories.

My first morning, I enjoyed breakfast with Marie and Simon. A typical Swedish breakfast includes bread (either soft or a special hard bread with a cracker like consistency), cheese, yogurt, muesli // cereal. Oh, and bread is usually buttered and doctored up to include sliced cheese and sliced vegetables like cucumbers and red peppers. I ate a lot of open faced sandwiches while I was in Sweden. It was also my first time using a cheese slicer. What a nifty invention.

After breakfast, I ventured to the city center to explore by foot. Siri had school seminars during my stay so there were a few days where I explored solo. That afternoon, I met up with Siri and we visited the Popkollo office for Fika, a term used to describe having coffee or taking a coffee break. It was so nice seeing some familiar Popkollo faces and meeting some of the other staff members.

Popkollo staff members.

Popkollo staff members.

Popkollo headquarters.

Popkollo headquarters.

The next day, I went to the Vasa Museum with Marie. In order to get there, we took the subway to one stop and then a ferry to get to the island where the Vasa Museum is located. The Vasa is a massive war ship that sunk during its maiden voyage during the 1600’s. It’s the most well-preserved warship from that time period. Apparently the Vasa Museum is one of the most visited museums in all of Europe.

After the Vasa Museum, Siri met up with Marie and I and the three of us went to Skansen - it’s an open air museum and zoo in Stockholm. You actually feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. We had lunch at one of the restaurants there. I ate Swedish meatballs for the first time. They were served with potatoes, lingonberries, and pickles. It was really tasty. It was interesting visiting Skansen. Many of the buildings there were brought in from other parts of Sweden. It’s almost like a tribute to the history of the country.

Swedish meatballs with potatoes, pickles, and lingonberries.

Swedish meatballs with potatoes, pickles, and lingonberries.

My fourth day in Sweden was spent shopping and preparing for Christmas Eve. In Sweden, folks celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day. Siri’s family was kind enough to welcome me to celebrate and share the day with them.

Christmas Eve was such a fun and interesting experience. Siri and I celebrated the holiday with her family. We arrived at her dad’s apartment early so that Siri could figure out logistics for the visit from Santa. Something interesting about Christmas in Sweden is that it’s typical for someone to dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve to deliver presents. Sometimes it’s a family member. Sometimes it’s a neighbor. I think it’s a fun way to bring a little bit of magic to the holiday. Within an hour, the rest of the party arrived. The company was great - so was the food (and alcohol). Traditional Swedish holiday food consists of pickled herring and lute fisk (lute fish). I tried all the things and felt so welcome. It was a special way to experience the holiday season.

The next day (Christmas day), I took another Jen solo exploration day and visited the Fotografiska museum. The main exhibit was a body of work from photographer Martin Schoeller. The museum also had a smaller exhibit called ‘Where the children sleep’. Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman has been documenting Syrian refugees. It was a really emotional exhibit. I actually started crying reading some of the descriptions.

Before I went home, I wandered around Gamla Stan (old town) and ate my first Swedish street hot dog. It was one of the best hot dogs I’ve ever had. That night I was able to Skype with Isabel and my parents. Isabel was 6 hours behind and my parents were 9 hours behind.

The next day, Siri and I met up with her older sister and nephew to go ice skating. It was so much fun! I rented a pair of ice skates for an hour but couldn’t actually handle being out in the cold for more than 45 minutes. After skating, the four of us went to a place called Vete-Katten, a popular cafe. That night, we went to Siri’s friend Tove’s house for dinner before heading to a karaoke event. Siri put together this really amazing carrot soup and Tove whipped up some homemade bread. And karaoke was a blast (for those of you who don’t know, I’m a big fan of karaoke).

On Sunday, I went to the Moderna Museet. There was a special exhibit from artist Olafur Eliasson. The exhibit itself was extremely interactive. One room had a wall constructed entirely of moss. Another room had a rotating projector displaying various panels of colored light. One room was lit entirely by yellow light which was super bizarre. It was a little freaky to be honest, but in a really interesting way. On Sunday night, it snowed! It was such a magical experience for me.

Monday was my last full day in Stockholm before Siri and I headed to Malmo to celebrate New Years. I did some last minute gift shopping and also walked around a large graveyard. I passed it every day on the subway when I was traveling between Siri’s apartment and central Stockholm.

The next day, Siri and I travelled to Malmo by train. I’ve always enjoyed traveling by train even though I don’t have much experience traveling by train. I think I have been on a total of 7 train rides, all within the last 3 years. Anyway, we got into Malmo somewhat late that night so we just went straight to Alva and Michelle’s apartment. They were kind enough to host us during our time in Malmo.

On Wednesday, Alva, Siri and I took a day trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. A bridge connects the two cities and folks can travel back and forth by train. We got a late start to the day but planned on visiting Louisiana, a contemporary art museum located just outside of Copenhagen. We stopped in the city first to grab food at this restaurant that offers a vegetarian buffet. It was pretty tasty. After the meal, we got back on a train and headed to the stop that would bring us closer to the museum. We had to trek to the museum in the dark which was a bit disorienting. The darkness during the winter months is just a really disorienting thing.

The museum was really wonderful. There was an exhibit from Yayoi Kusama, a rad Japanese artist who has been making art for over 50 years. Similar to Olafur Eliasson, her exhibit was very interactive. At various points you could enter rooms filled with mirrors and lights. One room was white but people had the ability to stick a colored dot anywhere they wanted to. It was a good time.

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The next day, New Years Eve, we walked around Malmo for a bit. A lot of the stores closed early so we went home on the early end in order to plan dinner for the evening. I wasn’t feeling well so I decided to rest so I could at least stay up until midnight to ring in the new year. Alva and Michelle were really wonderful hosts. I didn’t even mention that Alva has the most adorable cat named Lisa. She slept in the same room as me every night.

On Friday, our last day in Malmo and my last day in Sweden, Alva, Siri and I went to this really amazing falafel shop called Jalla Jalla. We walked to a nearby park and sat and watched people ice skating while we ate. The falafel was so good! Siri and I brought all of our stuff with us so we could head to the train station from lunch. Alva walked us to the bus stop and Siri and I took a bus to central station. The train ride back to Stockholm was relaxing. I spent part of the evening packing and then called it an early night.

The next morning I got up early and had a light breakfast before starting my journey to the airport. Siri rode with me to central station and waited with me until the airport bus arrived. I was sad to say goodbye but also really thankful for having such a great host during my trip.

Overall, my trip was so memorable. I met some really amazing people, ate delicious food, got to experience new things, learned more about Sweden, learned more about myself, and will never forget my time in Scandinavia.