We had a Monday off from school, and my former roommate (Michael) got five of us together for a whirlwind trip to Stockholm, Sweden. We got exceedingly cheap airline tickets, and did not book any kind of housing -- so as to keep the costs low. We figured, "Hey, it's Stockholm! Somethings got to be open all night."
So, off we went. We left Kandern at 4 a.m. for the 3+ hour drive to the airport. The the flight left at around 9:30am,
Here are a couple cool pictures from the flight. A sea of clouds. And a close-up of the same scene. Pretty cool, huh? (Can you locate the tower in the first picture?)
to an airport a little way outside of Stockholm, arriving at around 11:20am. Then the bus trip to Stockholm itself (which, incidentally, cost about the same as the flight [not counting taxes]), starting just a couple minutes after noon. I think it was around 1:15pm when we circled the wagons at the Stockholm bus/subway central station, to decide what to do.
In a rather haphazard manner (not at all what I would have done on my own!), we headed off for the "Old Town" ("Gamla Stan") island part of the city. There, we strolled around through various shops for a while. Then, the fact that all the museums would be closing at 5:00pm finally sunk into people's heads [oh... I'm not one to whine or anything, but I'd already figured that one out...], so we made our way to the main museum that folks wanted to see. [Personally, I had done zero research to even know what was available. So I was just going along with whatever others wanted to do.] Alas, the subway did not get us very close to this museum, so there was much walking involved. We reached it a few minutes after 4:00pm (and already sunset).
This is the Vasa Museum, which consists of a building built up overtop a 1628 royal warship named Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage, less than a mile or so from dock! (Oops.) The ship was raised in the 1960's, preserved, and floated on a barge into its present location. Cool. Lots of nice carvings, including many nice kitty cats (of the lion variety -- and these kitties had teeth!).
When we got booted out of the museum at 5:00 (or so), we were left to basically just wander around. We walked back to the Old Town island, in the vain hope of seeing an Ice Palace hotel thingy. But like everything else, it had closed by then. Turns out it was a good thing that we had done the shopping earlier, because even the tourist stores were closed. So, we hung out in a cafe for a couple hours, then decided to try riding around on the subway for a bit, just for the fun of it [we had purchased 24-hour subway passes]. We decided to pop into the university and look around -- and this proved to be very fortunate. Because .... drum roll please .... that is where I saw my only Swedish kitty cat!! I of course felt it was my duty to make friends with him, which proved to be quite successful, as you can see in this photo.
Then we headed back to the central bus/subway station. We looked through the station stores a bit -- where I happily found some Swedish Berries candy [just like they used to have at the ol' college bookstore back home]. Go figure; I guess they really are Swedish. They were horribly expensive, but I needed to dump my remaining Swedish currency; so I bought about $6.50 worth. That left me with just enough cash for a box of orange juice and a trip to the restroom. The others bought silly things like English-language magazines... such profound things as "Glamour" and so forth. Oi. Swedish Berries are much better.
And so, we settled into the benches for a short night's sleep -- since the bus back to the airport left at 4:00am. As most people started clearing out of the station, and it got less crowded, it seemed that we had achieved our plan. Until, that is, the security guard came around a little before 1:00am and informed us that the station was closing and we had to leave. Oh.
So, we were thrust out onto the balmy streets of Stockholm at 1:00am. The security officer had told us about a 7-11 and a bar that were open all night. Well... he was wrong. The 7-11 was only open until 2:00am, and the Irish bar that he seemed to refer to was no better. However, we did find that some of the other 7-11s were indeed open all night. Yes, Stockholm is pretty much dominated by a plethora of 7-11s. Who'd have thunked it? So, we landed in a 7-11 that seemed to be staying open all night and began to settle in. There wasn't much space, but we claimed a small table and chairs along one side of the room -- just between the door and the garbage can. Then, we pulled out the cards and began to play Go Fish.
This went on fine for quite some time, until the apparently-homeless guy showed up. He was nice enough, really. And his English was pretty good. [A happy fact is that virtually everybody we met spoke excellent English. I'm quite impressed with Sweden's school system's 2nd language education!! However they do it, it works marvelously.] Anyway, this homeless guy -- who looked totally nordic -- struck up a conversation. You could immediately tell that his brain wasn't quite all there anymore -- like, maybe 90% still going, but something had happened to the rest. As I say, he was nice enough -- except that he was clearly "hitting on" one of the ladies in our group. She was up to the challenge, though, and kept him going in pleasant conversation. The real problem came when the guy's friend showed up. His brain was clearly further gone -- like, down to 70% or so. He played us a very enthusiastic number on his harmonica, and then started getting rather rude. The first guy also started getting a bit more forward. So, we gathered up our stuff and beat a hasty retreat, back out into the cold. Alas, we never finished the last hand of Go Fish. :-(
By then it was about 3:00am, and we had only half an hour before the bus station opened back up. So we just wandered around the darkened downtown store district, stopping into another 7-11 for a little while. Then it was back to the bus, back to the plain, back to the waiting car, and another 4-hour drive back home to Kandern.
It was absolutely crazy. But we survived. We were totally drained, but we survived. I can't speak for the others, but I struggled to stay awake for most of the day Monday, until about 7:00pm. I then slept for 13 hours.