I have seen Jean and Maggie a couple of times during the conference already, but when the conference ended it was time to move from the city center to their apartment, just on the opposite side of the conference complex. It was great seeing them again after 2 years. Time flies by so fast, the last time we saw each other was when they visited us in Slovenia.
I started my first day of vacation with Jean showing me his workplace – he works at King (The Candy Crush developers). I must say I haven’t seen such a great offices anywhere. Everything was decorated with motives from Candy Crush game, they had arcades, trampolines, pool and foosball tables, about 50 micro ways, free drinks and on and on, they even had a zen garden and rooms with beds, where you could take a short siesta. It really looked like a joy to work there, I’m wondering how they can do any work done.
After the tour of his office, we went to visit a friend of his, where we had a BBQ at the top of the roof of 15 story building. The views were nice, the sun was setting, and the food was great. It just so happens that his friend is from Croatia, so it was lots of fun teasing him (and his Croatian friends that were there) about losing the finals a week before.
One day we rented a car and drove about 200 km out of the Stockholm, it was interesting seeing this part of the Sweden, again lots of forests, lakes but the vegetation was different from the north. There was also a farm here or there. Our destination of the day was moose farm/safari. We were able to see the moose from close, even pet them a bit, it was so much fun. They are such a funny animal, very high and big on four tiny legs. Their fur was really fatty/sweaty, hard to describe, supposedly they excrete something that helps them stay cool/fend of mosquitoes or something during the summer. There were also some baby moose running around happily, such a joy to watch.
After the moose farm we also visited a nice castle/villa near a lake. It is especially known by having lots of traditional Swedish deserts. I tried several cakes and after we were full we slowly returned home to Stockholm.
It was fun hanging out with Jean and Maggie, we visited different parts of Stockholm, tried tons of different restaurants and also cooked some interesting dishes at home. We also visited an “old school” arcade, full of Japanese arcades, supposedly they are still popular there.
One day Jean and I went to the outskirts of Stockholm and rented a canoe. It was supper fun paddling along the small islands in Stockholm’s archipelago and looking at big villas at the water’s edge. It was really serene and calm, a place to relax and talk. Will have to look if anything similar is possible here in Slovenia.
I was also very happy to try Japanese food again, another restaurant that I found really fun was an Italian restaurant, where kitchen was open, so you could watch how they made your food. Supposedly couple of months ago it was even more open, as you directly told the chef what you want, and he made it right in front of you, but it was supposedly too stressful for them, so they change it, nonetheless the food was great. As usually, when I’m with Jean I also tried something weird, this time it was some weird tea with milk and weird balls of soy or something inside – really disgusting stuff.
All in all the days flew by in an eye blink. It was really fun hanging out with them and visiting the city. The Stockholm during the summer is totally different experience than visiting in the winter, while the winter version is fun to experience, I would definitely recommend coming in summer as there is so much more you can do and see.
Soon it was time to say goodbye, we went for one last lunch at a pizzeria nearby. Its fascinating how Swedes (or rather people owning pizzerias up there – they are not native swedes in general) have absolutely no idea how pizza should look like. They always put a lot of some weird ingredients on it, the pizzas are usually very large and taste mediocre at best.
The reception event for the conference happened on Sunday at the Stockholm’s Skansen ZOO. The last time I was here we also visited the zoo, but it was during the winter, when half of the animals were hibernating or sleeping, or were not seen since it was dark at 3pm already. This time we had all the zoo for ourselves, since the event started just after the zoo closed, at around 5 pm.
The weekend, we visited, was also the weekend of the finals of the football world cup and on the sunday France was playing against Croatia right around this time. I’m saying this because when we came to the event, we were the only Europeans there, everyone else were in a bar or somewhere where they were streaming world cup. Speaking of streaming, it was weird, in whole Stockholm, we couldn’t find a big TV/Screen in the open, where they would stream the cup, this is especially weird, since Sweden did quite well at the cup. I’m confident that even Slovenia, that did not qualify for the cup, had more screens in the open than Sweden. So in the end, Vito and I ended up watching the final game on the phone (thank god for roaming in EU), surrounded by hundreds Asians, looking weirdly why two guys were screaming at the phone.
After the game finished, we had free time to go around the ZOO. The sun slowly began to set, even in Stockholm, days were much longer than in Slovenia at that time, sunset was around 9.30pm. The animals were playful and active during this time, and it was a wonderful experience, much better than my last visit during the winter.
When the sun finally went down, most of the animals went to sleep. I found an elk that was particularly interesting at that time, the sun was setting and it highlighted his puffy hair over his antlers, it looked like his outline was shining.
I’m still wondering how Swedes always manage to fully book their trains. I mean we were traveling on January 1st from 8 PM to 9 AM next morning and the train didn’t have a free sit. I’m saying this because (again) we got seats with table, which wouldn’t be that bad if there weren’t people sitting on the opposite end. It’s impossible to fall asleep less than a meter away from a complete stranger, at least for me. So I spent most of the 13h ride awake, watching movies on computer. Thank god each sit was equipped with electricity socket.
We arrived to Stockholm main train station at around 9 AM next morning. Luckily we quickly found or way to the hotel, which was situated maybe 10m away of train station’s entrance in the very centre of Stockholm.
Despite official hours for check-in started in the afternoon, hotel staff was very friendly and allowed us to check-in right there in the morning. In retrospect I wish they hadn’t. Instead of a room with great view over the city, we got a room in 6th, floor with great view of office building, next to the hotel. They probably would have given us room with better view, if we asked, but I was so tired back then my brain only wanted something to sleep in.
After few hours of sleep, on bed that felt like sleeping on a cloud, we were ready to go explore the city. Firstly we went on a guided tour of the old city (the oldest island). We saw royal palace, parliament … and learned some history of Stockholm and how it became to be what it is today.
After the tour we explored the modern city centre. Predictably the whole city was still decorated from Christmas, so there were lights and ornaments everywhere. Streets were clean, there were lots of people, thousands of shops, I swear on one street there were 6 H&M shops, 10m from each other.
The sightseeing soon turned into hunting for food. We haven’t eaten anything since lunch in Luleå so we were starving. One might think it would be easy to find a place to eat in a city like Stockholm. Well yea, if you’re millionaire. All the restaurants were fully booked or prices way over our budget. To top it off in the whole city (extended) centre, we couldn’t find not one super-market like store. After hours of searching we gave up and settled for Max – Swedish McDonalds, although I think it’s better than latter.
After this we made our way to hotel to a warm shower and cosy bed. I think I slept for over 14 hours that day, finally woken up by Veronika nagging to go to the breakfast. Hah breakfast … I remember laughing how expensive it was (15€/person), when we booked hotel. But now it didn’t feel that expensive, at least compared to the rest of Stockholm.
The breakfast was a buffet, I don’t remember ever seeing so much different food in one place. There must have been 10 kinds of bread, thousands of salamis, hams, cheeses, even one really really smelly cheese which almost made me puke when I tried it. Really I don’t know if I ever ate something so disgusting, it smelled like feet and tasted like… old socks. There were a lot of sweets (pastry), homemade marmalades, honey, cereal, fruits… There were even different kind of sausages (although Swedish sausages all suck :P) and lots more. For beverages they had about 10 different kinds of tea, coffees, freshly squeezed fruit juices etc.
The weirdest thing about all this was as it was buffet you went there and took whatever you wanted on your plate. But as soon as you ate or drank something a waiter almost ran to your table to take your plate/glass to make room for new one. I’m not sure why they did this, I think one day I drank 5 glasses of juice, and each time from a new glass.
All in all breakfast was great and almost worth the money. Veronika and I both got so full we couldn’t move, but somehow managed to venture into the town again. This time we went to see change of guards at the palace, and then walked to the island with ZOO and Vasa museum (one of the most famous museums in Sweden). For some reason everything (in Sweden?) closes really early in the afternoon so despite walking for hours to get there we didn’t have time to visit anything. We returned back to the centre.
In the evening we went to the cinema to see the Hobbit. I wanted to see how HFR movie looks like and just so I can see a cinema that’s not Kolosej in Ljubljana. As everything in Sweden, we paid around 25€/person per ticket + 5€ for 3D glasses. The cinema room was nice and cosy, it looked new and pristine, no torn sits or anything. At the beginning of the movie hostess came and spoke something in Swedish, I’m actually intrigued on what she was saying. All in all I think the movie was great. The picture was bright and sharp, probably because of HFR and the story was what I expected.
After the movie ended we slowly left the theatre but not before doing something that my friends today teas me every time I talk about Sweden. Paying 5€ for glasses I thought (and still do) that I bought them and not just borrowed them, so I just took them. Not only that, I saw other people leaving them on some trash-bin so I took two more from there. Just to make sure, I can faster earn their value back here in Slovenia. =)4
After the movie, Max burger followed and then hotel. Despite having bad view, hotel room was amazing. It was big, bright and modern. Weirdly the most astonishing thing for me was the bathroom. Shower alone must have been 6 square meters. Not only that, whole bathroom had floor heating, so your feet didn’t got cold when walking barefoot through it. We also got those hotel shampoos, conditioners etc… And they smelled amazing, I can still remember the faint lime and lavender smell if I close my eyes, and in case I ever forget it I have 3 bottles of it at home (what did you expect from me =) ). Main room consisted of one big and cosy bed, office table, TV, AC, minibar… The most amazing thing here, was the lighting. Swedes really know how to light up the place, probably because they live half of the year in dark. We had numerous lights of all shapes and colours to create romantic ambient, which would probably go great with the view over the city.
On Saturday we got up early and walked to the other side of the city to visit ZOO and Vasa museum.
Zoo was OK, although so far our ZOO Ljubljana is the best one I’ve seen. In the ZOO they had mostly Nordic animals that have natural habitat in Sweden. I finally had a chance to see a moose up and close. I already said how big it is and that was when I saw it from afar. Sadly I couldn’t get close enough to touch it, which was one of my main goals of what TODO in Sweden. In the ZOO we also saw (I think it’s called) sea cow. It’s the fattest thing I ever saw, that moves. It’s so funny how it looks like a barrel with a head and it looks so friendly with those big puppy eyes. This one just came up close to me and stared at me for minutes as in give me some food please.
After the ZOO we went to see Vasa museum. This is a museum build around an old ship. The story goes that Swedes made a ship which sunk on its maiden voyage, just after living harbour (boy they must have been a great shipbuilders =) ). Anyway few years ago they found the ship, which was surprisingly intact, which is even more amazing if you know that it’s made of wood and it’s around 200 years old. If I remember correctly for some reason there are no certain kind of bacteria in the water that would digest wood.
After they found the ship they then lifted it out of water and build a museum around it, so now you’re able to walk around this enormous ship, and learn about it. Sadly it’s not permitted to go on-board.
After the museum it was evening already so we went to the Max one last time. This was it, my last day in Sweden. Next morning we only had time to eat breakfast, pack up and board the bus to the airport. Shortly after I was sitting on plane counting down my last minutes of this great adventure…