Sweden’s got (meat)balls
Our flight landed in Stockholm late in the evening. The airport was tiny, and our flight was apparently the last one for the day because they closed it down behind us. We wandered outside to discover that we were in the middle of nowhere. We could see what looked like a strip mall in the distance, but there wasn’t anything else around. To be honest, it reminded us of our own Will Rogers Airport back home in Oklahoma.
This was a whole new country, language, and currency to figure out.
We walked around, trying to find a public transportation option. But it was late and we were exhausted, so we ended up hailing an Uber for the ride to our hostel. Thankfully, some modern conveniences were universal.
We got to our hostel around 10:30 pm. We hadn’t had anything to eat since our fries and waffles in Brussels, but we were too tired to try to find anything at that hour. So after we checked in and found our room, we claimed a couple of empty bunks and went straight to bed.
When we woke up the next morning, we were ravenous. We found a street vendor near our hostel and because we don’t speak Swedish, pointed to a picture on the menu. The food item we received was a hot dog with mustard, ketchup, mashed potatoes, and lettuce all wrapped in a giant flatbread.
I have no idea what it was called and it was a strange combination of flavors and textures, especially for breakfast. But I realized how much I had missed mashed potatoes. It was comfort food, in its own weird way.
The temperature in Stockholm was in the 60s and it felt incredible. Spain was in a heatwave when we left and we were so happy to have some relief.
On our first full day in Stockholm, we toured the city hall. It was by far the most impressive government building I had ever been in. The council holds their meetings in a room designed after Viking longhouses. The ceiling of the room is painted to look like the night sky, as the Vikings would open the shutters for fresh air.
Fun fact: the word “window” comes from the Norse word meaning “wind eye”.
After the tour, we climbed the tower for the best view of Stockholm.
We observed our first fika, the Swedish tradition of an afternoon coffee break which includes a pastry. This was the type of cultural exchange that I was most excited about: good food, good coffee, and a new pace of life. Fika embodied that for me.
For dinner, we splurged on authentic, delicious Swedish meatballs. The restaurant we chose makes meatballs from a variety of animals including bear, reindeer, moose, and wild boar. We opted for the Swedish Classic, unsure of what combination we would get but willing to take our chances. It was delicious and worth the splurge.
After dinner we wandered the streets of Gamla Stan, taking in the old town scenery. Satisfied with our first day of sightseeing, we made our way back to our hostel to rest up.
This was our first time staying in a bunk-style hostel that wasn’t an albergue with pilgrims. It felt much more like sleeping in a room full of strangers than it had felt on the Camino. We were more cautious with our belongings, making sure we secured our packs in the lockers before we left the room.
Hostel life felt like our official initiation to becoming world travelers.
Stockholm: The City of Museums
Another fun fact: Stockholm has more than 50 museums, several of which are free. We narrowed the list down to 3 (which was ambitious of us) and set out for another full day of exploring.
The first stop was the Vasa museum, which holds a recovered ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was submerged for 333 years. It is the world’s best-preserved 17th-century ship and Scandinavia’s most visited museum.
We also made it to the medieval history museum before they all closed for the day. One museum that didn’t make the cut for us was an ABBA museum, but we were happy to take advantage of the photo op with some cutouts.
After the museums closed for the day, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the waterfront and enjoying a picnic in the park.
Stockholm is one of the cleanest, most relaxed, most beautiful capital cities I have ever been to.
At the end of a full day of walking around the city, we opted for a faster mode of transportation and I rode my first Lime scooter. We rode together, Andy drove, and laughed and squealed like a child. It was a blast and I hope we always find opportunities like this to play and have fun.
For our final day in Stockholm, I wanted to visit the Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery), a cemetery that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
I do not know enough about art, architecture, or landscape design to speak intelligently about it. So I won’t. But the use of light and dark, water and plant life in Skogskyrkogården represent the circle of life in the most beautiful way.
The inscription above an archway to a chapel means “Today me, tomorrow for you”—a simple, perhaps morbid reminder of the fate that awaits us all.
Among many notable people buried here is American-Swedish film actress Greta Garbo.
I know cemeteries are not usually at the top of “must-see” lists for most people, but this was such a beautiful space and was definitely worth the stop.
After we left the cemetery, we boarded a bus from Stockholm to Sundsvall to prepare for our next big adventure.