Stockholm, Sweden!

We made it out of Malmö! After an eternity of being trapped, we made it to the eastern coast of Sweden! The train was fun and we sat with a man from Malmö who translated all of the announcements for us. Usually they announce once in Swedish and once in English, but not this time! This trip combined with my time in Jordan has made me realize how English is truly the universal language. We haven’t met one person who doesn’t speak it and people seem offended when we ask “Do you know English?” before asking a question. It makes me wonder if the entire world will have a common language in the distant future. It also makes me a bit irritated that America is too lazy to value second language education in elementary school. Yes, there are weekly classes of Spanish or French, but as soon as we reached middle school, they stopped. Students here take English their entire student career and are flooded with English in the media. It would be nice if America had an equivalent.

As soon as we reached Stockholm, we went to the metro station to meet our couchsurfing host, Johan. He is Swedish but grew up in Spain. He showed us to his apartment which is in the fancy area of Stockholm’s downtown. We dropped off our stuff and then went to the harbor to try and buy tickets for the ferry the following night. Unfortunately they didn’t sell tickets in advance so we went shopping instead. Stockholm’s downtown reminds me a lot of an American city. There is some nice architecture but it is mainly very modern and urban looking.

One of the sights I wanted to see in Stockholm was the famous bank where the term “Stockholm syndrome” was coined. The term refers to captives who develop a fondness for their abductors despite the horrific situation. In this bank, robbers held hostages in the vault for several days and, after their release, showed empathy for their captors – hence the term Stockholm syndrome. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find the bank.

Johan showed us around downtown and the waterfront. It was so cold in the city! This entire trip has been frigid and I’m pretty sure I’ve only taken my coats off to sleep. We returned to his apartment and he made us Swedish meatballs!!

We had reservations to go to the ice bar – a bar made 100% out of ice. Apparently each city has one, but I thought it would be fun to go in Stockholm. We suited up (I wore a shirt, sweater, leather jacket, down jacket, and rain coat) and ventured out into the cold. The ice bar was a lot of fun. We only had 45 minutes and one free drink, but it was worth it! Even the shot glasses were made of ice!

Afterwards we bar hopped a bit until finding the most bizarre thing I’ve encountered on this trip so far…. TGI Friday’s.

In Stockholm, Friday’s is a club/bar complete with velvet ropes, a bouncer, and thumping techno music. Usually I avoid American chains while abroad but agreed to this one as it is nothing like Friday’s in the states. Johan asked what American Friday’s were like and I found it hard to explain. They aren’t particularly cheap like McDonalds, but not expensive, either. I settled on saying that “only families and old people go there.”

The conversation I had with the Friday’s bouncer has been bothering me for awhile. It went something like this ….

Bouncer: Can I see your ID?
Katie: Sure!
Bouncer: Ohhh! Kentucky!!?
Katie: Yes! America!
Bouncer: You won’t like me, then…
Katie: Why not?
Bouncer: I’m Iraqi!

I tried telling him I had been to Jordan and know arabic, but he wouldn’t listen. On the way out, I said “bye” in Arabic and then we had a brief conversation in which I redeemed myself, but I still cannot stop thinking about it.

I suppose it makes sense – Americans think Arabs hate us and vice versa – but I’ve always thought of myself as outside of that assumption. In Jordan, everyone at least asked my opinion on political matters instead of assuming. I suppose this was an experience in generalization that every foreigner has when abroad.

I also experienced the exorbitant cost of Scandinavia. I’ve been living pretty frugally – couchsurfing and mainly eating granola bars I brought from home- but I decided to splurge on this Saturday night. We bought drinks at every bar at about $8 per beer, but at Friday’s, I ordered a mixed drink and one shot and it was 180SEK OR $27! And it wasn’t even strong! I definitely won’t be drinking again until Russia where you can get $2 beer and a $4 bottle of vodka.

The next morning we ate breakfast and ventured to the old city. It is an island between north and south Stockholm and it apparently is the “Venice of Scandinavia.” The cobblestone streets are lines with beautiful buildings and tourist shops. I’m trying to buy a smallish flag from each country and then stringing them together, nautical style. I also bought a loose leaf tea infuser with a small wooden horse attached. These horses are the most popular souvenir and elaborate ones cost $20! I also got a Christmas ornament for our house that says “God Jul” which means “Merry Christmas” in Swedish. It is on everything we see!

We went back to his apartment and packed up our stuff to make the 5:30pm ferry. It was an overnight ferry. We booked the cheapest room which was still $65 per person. It reminded me a lot of the bedrooms on my dad’s railcar, except the bathroom was as big as the bedroom itself! The ferry was gigantic and also operates as a cruise ship. I somehow fell asleep at 7pm and slept straight until 9am. It was the best sleep I’ve had all trip!

The food on board was ridiculously expensive. $15 for breakfast! I always try to spend my extra change that exchange places don’t accept on cheap granola bars or yogurt to carry around. Between yesterday and today, all of my meals have been less than $5 total. I bought yogurt for $2 and coffee for $3 and the rest has been food I brought from home. I can’t wait until Estonia and Russia where basic meals don’t average $10.

We just arrived in Helsinki where it is a cool 18 degrees F. Much warmer than the negative temperatures in Denver!

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