Started the morning with the Stockholm Free walking tour of Galma Stan with Priyanka as my guide. She is originally from India but moved to Stockholm 2 years ago to study Environmental Development & Urban studies and is now studying Swedish and Architecture. It was 13°C and sunny out.
Facts about Sweden & more specifically Stockholm from the tour:
-Sigtuna – 1st settlement. Estonians were the first to attack. Galma Stan – created a fort city to stop the plundering.
-Stock means log; Holm means home – They installed logs into the water so the boats would hit it and go down from invasion.
-Stockholm is the most populated Scandinavian city.
-It is the Venice of the north with 14 islands comprising the main city.
-The knights took their own island beside the main island
-Vasterlanggatan – longest street – Separated the 2 body of water to transporting goods
-Swedish is a straightforward language – especially if you are English speaking – vegetables – green things
-Little mirrors are all over the window facades to pull in natural light into people’s homes and also able to see what was happening in your neighbour’s house – gossip mirrors
-Golden Phoenix emblem over the door. Sweden had the oldest insurance and bank – the houses with this emblem would be the first to be saved in case of a fire.
-Sweden is all about gender equality
-Almost 50% of priests are female
-Sweden is all for Same sex marriage
-The church space is open for many uses besides a place of worship such as Concert venues and orchestra performances.
-Everyone brings in their own faith
-Majority of people are Agnostic or Atheist but still pay to the church for all the stuff above
-You can opt out of paying church tax
-There is German part of Town in Galma because they did so much trading of wood and iron
-The narrowest street (Mårten Trotzigs Gränd} was created by a merchant who wanted his own alley. The Government said this merchant can make it but it has to be discreet and now it’s one of the most famous Photo spots in the city.
-Iron ties on buildings – iron pieces outside of a house to hold the wooden beams
-Swedes pay high taxes but get good benefits such as mat leave, 160 days paid leave for taking care of sick children, free education, free healthcare
-Social benefits – If you work full-time, you get 25-35 days paid vacation and holiday pay is higher than normal pay. They know holidays are more expensive so they raise the rate during that travel period.
-Swedes goto Berlin for the weekend to party because it’s so much cheaper to fly there and purchase alcohol than to party in Sweden.
-Starting 3000 euro month with 22% tax
-They try to keep the low income and high-income brackets closer together. The higher tax bracket end up paying more tax, which can be up to 75% higher.
-Sweden, Denmark & Finland had a trade union but the Danish King was in power so the Swedes kept fighting and so, the St George and the dragon defeating the dragon tells the story of their relationship. The royal Swedish knight is from Denmark and the dragon is Finland and the man that is squished beneath is Norway
-For the most part, Swedes have a friendly rivalry with Danish.
The Ikea owner was dyslexic so he couldn’t remember numbers. He named products after regions and for named products such as carpets and doormats after Danish regions – stepping on Denmark passive aggressively.
-The red blood square – red house left with 93 white rocks to represent the lost lives that day by the Nobel prize museum
-Swedes do a lot of eco friendly progressive things such as many second hand spots and even have a mall specifically for that.
-Cash is NOT key here. In fact, there are very limited places to use it as card and tap are implemented everywhere including public toilets. I asked Isabelle to get me some Swedish krone so I could tip but I had a hard time getting rid of the rest of the krone I had.
Ok, back to my day. After the tour, I was on my way to head underground to explore some of the wonderful metro stations until a group of girls passed by with Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate) signs to only realize it was Friday and every Friday especially in Stockholm where Greta Thunberg is from, they have Fridays for future protests (also other places around the world have these gatherings now). I made my way to Mynttorget and was surrounded. Youth came in from all nearby streets chanting and holding handmade signs. There were an array of characters from small children to highschoolers to adults. The actual protest was well-organized and oh so many people.
As the protest march had commenced, I continued on underground and visited a bunch of metro stations that are all differently themed and use the space well. The metro stations in Stockholm are works of art. Roughly 90 out of 100 stations are decorated or painted by different artists going back to 1950. The Stockholm Metro stations have been referred to as the “Longest Art Gallery in the World”. There are definitely many blogs you can read that can help you plan your own adventure underground. There are also tours. This is when getting a day pass for the metro truly comes in handy. There are a few of the blog posts I used to help me identify a few stations I wanted to visit in my limited time.
I had planned my route underground with some fun stops along the way. Coming out of one of the stations, I went to the Stockholm Public Library that features a round room – definitely need to be super quiet in there. And while in Sweden, you have to fika (making time in your day to either catch up with friends or just taking time in your day to have a coffee/tea with a pastry such as a cinnamon bun). I had fika at Cafe Pascual with a nice tea and cardamom bun thanks to my friend Katherine’s recommendation. Isabelle had told me the use of cash to pay for things here is seldom as you can tap for everything including public toilets. Café Pascual follows that formula as no cash transaction is allowed and must be tap.
Around 3-330PM, the stations had gotten busy with people coming off of work, so I made my way over to Fotografiska. It was such a treat especially since the lead exhibit was from a photographer named Jimmy Nelson. He has dedicated the past few decades photographing the last tribes of the world before they to become extinct. There was a certain point in time that I had also applied to become a photographer to join his community and also contribute to this wonderful photographic endeavor but unfortunately I came close but not enough to join his team. Fotografiska has multiple floors with multiple artists on display at all times.
This day in particular was chilly at times and wet at times. I met up with Isabelle after work and we grabbed dinner at Kvarnen. I ordered the Isterband (sausage with potato and beets). It is one of those classic Swedish comfort dishes. Since the night was young, we went a bit of bar hopping from Lilla Hotellbaren to Omnipollos hatt (which also serves amazing stone oven pizza) to Södra Teatern (4 floors in the hotel with different music – when we were leaving, the first floor had a live band including a saxophone). Considering the thickest layers I had was a long sleeve, a hoodie and a rainjacket, the night was a little chilly but still good vibes.
Started our morning in Polhemsgatan neighbourhood having brunch at Newt. Banana pancakes, cinnamon roll, eggs and avocado on toast, turkey sandwich & juices. We checked out City Hall (you can’t miss it – look in the sky for the 3 gold crowns) and hopefully climb up (SEK60) the tower for a view of the city. We were going to climb up but the next scheduled time was 45 minutes from the time we were there and we didn’t want to wait. We decided to walk over to Monteliusvägen and see the opposite view. It is such a cute and quiet spot to hang out.
We walked through Soldermalm which was booming with people as the weather hit 21°C today as oppose to the rain and cold the day prior.
They had this farmers market where people were also doing a garage sale/secondhand thrifting. It’s crazy that there still is no physical money exchanged and they use e-transfers via Swish to purchase fresh produce to a child selling their old toys.
Isabelle’s boyfriend Love joined us and our first stop was for ice cream at A.H. Glassbar – I got the mango passion fruit and it was delicious! We ended up eating and sitting in the sun at the park on the corner in Nytorget where loads of people were also soaking up the sun. This was one of the rare places that still accept cash but you can also pay via Swish (Kindof like Venmo or EMT).
We continued to walk through Soldermalm and made our way over to the ferry terminal to go across to Djurgården. They have their own amusement part called Gröna Lund Tivoli but it was closed for a private event. We went to Skansen (an open air museum, zoo and event venue). We thought the autumn fair was happening that weekend but unfortunately it was the following week. We did see a lot of animals and the old ways of living in Sweden. It kindof reminded me of Centre Island & Black Creek Pioneer Village back in Toronto.
We made it to Kungsträdgården (true city centre) where we took in the last good bit of sun and heat by the water fountain. I also grabbed a Daim (Swedish chocolate bar made from crunchy almond caramel covered in milk chocolate) ice cream.
Love left us and we went on our way to Jakobsberg, the neighbourhood where Isabelle grew up.
We went over to her childhood friend Malin’s place. We were also joined by her sister Anna for taco night. The sisters are super sweet who have the most memorable adventures travelling with one another. Malin also made this chocolate cake which was supposed to be a mud cake but nonetheless delicious all around. We spent a good amount of time on the couch just chatting away. A good way to end the night and my final full day in Stockholm.
Stockholm, Sweden – Copenhagen, Denmark
After a light breakfast, Isabelle brought me to the bus stop where I was catching my bus to the airport and we said our goodbyes. Sad to leave Stockholm but the 2 full days there felt much longer.
Back on a plane I went and this time to Copenhagen. Met back up with Winnie after her short stint in Barcelona and London.
We purchased our Copenhagen cards and off we went. 2 stops from the airport, we stopped at Kastrup Søbad – a public sea bath. The weather was a warm 18°C and sunny when we arrived. We hopped back onto the metro system and made our way to our Airbnb out in Skovlunde. Skovlunde is about 20-30 minutes outside of the city centre but our location was a 5 minute walk from the train station.
We settled in then ran to catch the train into the city. We decided to head over to Freetown Christiania and took a look around. We spotted the spiral tower of Church of our Saviour however we arrived just after 7PM so we were unable to go up.
Christiania is a small part of town that has a grey area in terms of laws. intentional community and commune of about 850 to 1,000 residents. Copenhagen has had issues in the past with the drugs that were being distributed however in Christiania, they are able to sell kush and marijuana to an extent. At least this way, the drugs are being regulated a bit better. You are not allowed to take photos in certain parts of this town and you will definitely be called out or yelled at if you do so in the non-designated area.
We were famished and quickly past through the skatepark of the main area of Christiania. We found one of Thomas Dambo’s recycled wooden sculptures called Green George.
We then found ourselves on the main street where no photos are allowed. There you can find a street filled with merchants selling their fine selections of kush and cannabis freely. They have it all displayed nicely for you to walk up to.
We continued through to find a really cool vegetarian restaurant called Morgenstedet. We shared the baked dish with 3 salads for 110DKK ($21.65CAD).
Winnie had mentioned this restaurant that is suppose to be one of the best in the world called Noma. We walked to it but of course it was dark and closed by the time we made it there. We walked along the waters and it was super calm and quiet but the homes surrounding were definitely stunning. Big windows and you can definitely see into the homes which held beautifully designed and furbished interiors. (sign me up for a home here geeez). We continued walking over to Kobenhavn K through a system of bridges and saw the famous Nyhavn buildings at night and surrounding area. I thought Copenhagen would be similar to Stockholm but they both have such different vibes.
Originally, we had Tivoli – the oldest Amusement part in the world on our itinerary however, we didn’t realize that Tivoli’s summer season official closed that night. We just missed out. They close after the summer season and reopen for Halloween.