It’s been a long five years since I left Sweden. A lot has happened in the meantime, I have visited 3/4 of countries in Europe, been in Australia, Hong Kong and USA, some of it as business trips to different conferences or meetings. It just so happend that this year the biggest conference for AI was happening in Stocholm, it was a no brainer, I had to go. I have planned my trip so I had about 8 work days in Stocholm at the beginning then 4 days with Jean and about a week in Luleå.
We flew from Ljubljana over Copenhagen to Stockholm. We arrived in early afternoon and quickly took the fast train to the city. The train is I believe quite new, and much faster than the one I took to Luleå all those years ago, somewhere at the midpoint the train slowed down a bit, probably waiting for another train to pass, and my coworker complained why are we going slower than Slovenian trains, after checking the actuall speed, the train was still going 180km/h.
We soon reached our hotel, it was located in the city center, on the same square as the cinema, from where I watched Hobbit last time I was here. The hotel was nice, with view over the square, the whole hotel was themed like an movie stodio, with losts of props from movie sets in early 20th centruy.
The first thing we did, after checking in was fiding some food. As it usually turns out in foreign countries the easiest thing to find is usually a fast food joint on a nearby corner. Since we were in Sweden, we decided to go into a Max – a Swedish version of McDonalds, although much better. It was interesting to find that you did all your orders through machine, got a number and when your number was up you could go pick it up.
First couple of days were very intense workwise, I had one presentation the next day early morning and another in two days. Despite the work I still managed to walk around the city a bit, find my favourit food in Sweden and do some basic sight seeing.
The last time I was here in Stocholm it was early January, the days were extremely short, there was snow, cold and fog. During the summer it was completely different city, we were just so (un)lucky to go there during one of the biggest heat waves in Sweden’s history. The skys were clear, the sun was shining 18 hours per day and the heat, the heat was unbearable. Since usually Stocholm only has couple of hot days (about a week) per year, almost nothing has AC. The worst was using metro, it must have been over 40 degrees inside, and to top it off they were always crowded. Another thing I noticed severly different than from my memories were amount of people on the streets. The streets were crouded, there were really a lot of tourists in the city and you could spot them a mile away.
The conference was in a big convention center to the south of the city center. It should be an easy place to reach, just hope on the metro infront of our hotel and jump off infront of the convention center. However, commicaly, the escelator broke (so it turned into the stairs?) on the main train station and because of this almost all lines had some problems, ours for example didn’t run. So instead of 20 min of no-transfer travel, we had to ride 2 trains, walk 20minutes to change train somwehre in between and all this in 35C. To ease the transfer, we took a taxi couple of times, when we had lectures really early in the morning, the taxi fare was about 50€ for 15min drive.
Despite all, the conference was interesting, but what was more interesting were the events that accompany it. We had a welcom event at the Skansen ZOO, then reception at the city council, dinner at Vasa museum and another dinner at University of Stocholm.
After one week the conference was over and it was time to move to Jean’s appartement. He was located just beside the conference venue, so I was able to visit him few times already.
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…