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Old 05-02-2010, 11:31 AM   #1
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Not So Scandalous Scandinavia

Picture it: Sicily, 1932….whoops wrong story! The year was 2009 and I received an email that looked like it was from some office wonk. It didn’t have any logos or letterhead or anything like that. It informed me that I had just won a sweepstakes from Travelocity. I barely recalled having entered this sweepstakes. What did I win? I won a trip for two to the Øresund region. Whaaaat? I won round trip air fare from the nearest airport to Copenhagen, Denmark, two nights in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, and two nights in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Malmö, Sweden. The trip included a Copenhagen city pass that provides free public transportation and free admission to a myriad of sites for 72 hours and a Malmö city card with the same benefits. My immediate concern was is this legit. I was just waiting to get an email asking me to send money to a numbered bank account for a minor Swedish prince that was bankrupted.

There are a couple of down sides. Now I'm not trying to whine. However, I am disappointed by a few things. First, I was assuming I would have up to a year from notification to take this trip. This is not the case. I was notified in mid-September 2009 and told that I had only until December 31, 2009 to finish my trip. This gives me very little time indeed. Additionally, observant passporters will note from my signature that I went on a trip to Peru in mid-October, smack dab in the middle of this time period. I had no idea that I would be winning this contest. My boyfriend, Craig, and I have meagre incomes and all of our discretionary income had been dedicated to our Peru trip. While Travelocity is paying for most of the trip, they are not paying for food, beverages, transfers and things of this sort. I do need SOME money. Therefore, I really can not go until AFTER the Peru trip. After doing a bit of research I discovered that the Øresund region basically closes down a lot after September. I'm assuming because it's FR@@#$%ing COLD!!! A lot of the stuff that I would want to do I would not be able to do because it will be winter. Of course, this makes sense. I'm sure it's easier squeezing me onto a plane to Scandinavia during low season than it would be during peak season.


The second disappointment is the fact that since I have to take this trip in 2009, Craig can NOT go with me. He will have taken his paid time off for 2009 already, much of it due to traveling to visit me or me traveling to visit him (long distance relationship issues) and our Peru trip.


The good news is I have a very good friend who is completely free to go. My friend Josh and I always have a good time together and laugh a lot. We have shared hotel rooms in the past in Washington, DC and in Miami. He doesn't snore. We get along great. In fact, last night we were out celebrating his birthday. I also chose him because he had been a bit down in the dumps since he was unemployed (don't have that nasty need to request time off from work business) and he had been having horrible dating problems (finding someone sane and stable ain't easy). I figured he could use a pick me up. He has since gained employment.


When it comes to travel I am a firm believer in guidebooks. Thankfully, you my Passporter friends, should totally “get” the importance of this piece of advice. Once it became a reality that I was going on this trip I purchased my handy-dandy “Rick Steves’ Scandinavia” guidebook. After reading a little bit I started to think (always a dangerous thing). I thought to myself, “you know…Stockholm is not all that far from the Øresund in the grand scheme of things. On top of that I hear it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.” It took little convincing to get Josh on board to tack on a couple of days on to our trip to see Stockholm and pay for it out of pocket.


It turns out that it took about a month to sort out all of the travel arrangements with Travelocity. A big part of the problem was it took two weeks just to discover what entity was paying for all of this.


Before we knew it Josh and I were on a little propeller plane hopping from Philadelphia International Airport to Newark our gateway hub to the land of handsome, tall blonde men (Sssh! Don’t tell Craig).


Squatsie the gnome and I are anxiously waiting to board our SAS plane that is in the background at lovely Newark, New Jersey.



Since I took this trip way back in mid-November, I really can’t recall a lot of details and what few notes I had taken are now lost. Consequently, this report will be lots of pictures and less wordy on my part. SHOCKING! I know.


We flew SAS over to Stockholm. I thought we would sleep overnight on the transatlantic flight. Silly me. It seemed the staff was constantly offering meals, snacks, drinks. I had the aisle seat and I had trouble resting with all of the activity whizzing by. Overall, the coach experience on SAS is a good one and I would recommend the carrier should your travel dreams take you to the land of the gorgeous Nordic ones. They did not skimp when it came to keeping me fed. I feel in the 21st century air travel means hungry travel ordinarily. The exception to this rule seems to be for long hauls.


We land in Stockholm. There is a wonderful, lovely express train service that takes you from the airport into the heart of Stockholm. However, that is a rather pricey option for us. We select the more affordable Flygbussarna which is an airport shuttle bus. The ride is about 45 minutes and cost us roughly 100 Swedish kroner which at the time was the equivalent of $16 USD. It was easy to find and we experienced no problems with the trip. Luckily our arrival did not coincide with high traffic on the roads.


The roomy and comfortable Flygbussarna



I had pre-ordered a city pass for Stockholm online before I left home. From the bus station we consulted a map and made our way to Sverige Huset (Sweden House) which is the main tourist information office to pick up city passes. It is a wonderfully sunny day. We experience a brisk, chilly wind. The weather is much like early winter at home. Instead of mid-November it feels like mid-December to me. We are definitely in the land of the North.


Josh moments after our arrival in Stockholm, Sweden




I am on my way to the Sweden House. The jackpot trip has begun! Side note for you Disney folk: on my bag that is hanging off my shoulder is a Tinkerbell luggage tag. That's right, only a real man can pull off Tinkerbell.



Scenes from walking the streets of Stockholm









NEXT
: Do you see our hostel? I don’t see our hostel. Aren’t we there yet?

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Old 05-02-2010, 01:37 PM   #2
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Yay! Another Douglas adventure. Can't wait to see how this trip unfolds.
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Old 05-02-2010, 01:39 PM   #3
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Great start! I am so looking forward to hearing all about your trip, it's just a shame we couldn't meet up with you guys.
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Old 05-02-2010, 02:29 PM   #4
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Great start Douglas! Can't wait to hear more!!
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:55 PM   #5
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Great start!
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Old 05-02-2010, 10:11 PM   #6
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Great start! How awesome to win a trip like that!
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:59 PM   #7
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Great start! Can hardly wait for the next installment!
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Old 05-03-2010, 08:41 AM   #8
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Great start!! I can not wait to read all the details after reading all your fun times in Peru.
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Old 05-03-2010, 02:27 PM   #9
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I'm absolutely intrigued and can't wait to read more!!
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:28 PM   #10
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Yay! Another Douglas TR!!! Great start!
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Old 05-03-2010, 10:06 PM   #11
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Great start! I'm so excited that you're writing another TR so soon after the Peru one. How cool to win a trip like that!
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Old 05-09-2010, 05:04 PM   #12
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Great start! How cool you won the trip!
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Old 05-10-2010, 08:21 AM   #13
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Josh and I had very little problems making our way to the Sweden House after we were able to orient ourselves on the map at the bus station. We kept our eyes open and enjoyed the busy shopping and business district of the city. I happily clicked away on my camera. Once again I took oodles of photographs and you will only be seeing a small portion of my favorites and those that help to illustrate my story.



The Sweden House was a small, little office in a large business complex on the ground level. It was about a seven block walk from the Central Station. When we arrived there weren’t any other visitors. So I had one person looking to find my city pass called the Stockholm Card that I had ordered online before I left while Josh had another person helping him purchase his pass right there. He ended up getting his pass before I got mine because for some reason the woman assisting me had to look in about five different places before she found my card. We got a 48 hour pass for roughly 540 Swedish kroner ($77.15). The pass included all public transit, almost every sight we wanted to see (over 75 attractions), some free and discounted tours, and a little handbook. I highly recommend purchasing the Stockholm Card. It is a real money saver when you consider everything that it covers. I also recommend waiting and purchasing the card when you get to Stockholm. I found that there were issues in trying to purchase things online ahead of time for Swedish things in general (more about that later). Save yourself some peace of mind and make the purchase in person. Besides the ability to purchase a Stockholm Card they had pamphlets galore on anything and everything you would want to see and do during your stay in Stockholm. They also had computer terminals that provided sightseeing information.



Inside Sweden House, the tourist information office. We are on our way out. Notice how there are now people taking care of business. That's because I'm always the trendsetter.





Brochures galore inside the Sweden House






Ordinarily money is tight with me. On this trip it was especially so. I had just spent a significant sum on my trip to Peru the month before. While I was away in Peru things had come to a head between my landlord and my roommate. Our suspicions had become crystal clear that we were dealing with a slumlord who just wanted to sit back and collect money in his lazyboy while we had to live in unsafe living conditions. My roommate and our landlord came to an understanding that we would be moving out in a month. While this might sound alarming since this all took place while I was away in Peru, it was not. My roommate Tristan and I had already decided we were going to move before I left for my Peru trip. Now I’m in a situation where when I return from Scandinavia I will be moving to my new residence in a few short weeks. Moving always entails a lot of money. There’s first month, last month’s rent, security deposit, movers, etc.

Knowing that money would be tight I found very inexpensive accommodations in Stockholm. Josh and I would be staying in a hostel. However, this hostel is rather unique. It is a boat sitting in the Riddarfjärden lake. We were about to enjoy the flair of maritime atmosphere on the Red Boat Mälaren. I had reserved a twin bed cabin. Showers and bathrooms were down the corridor. Linens were available free of charge. Frequently in hostel situations linens are not included and there is an extra fee.


Stockholm is built on a collection of islands. The city originated on the island of Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan is the “old city”. Our hostel sat across the lake from Gamla Stan on the edge of the island Södermalm.


Next on our agenda was to check in to our hostel. We walked about 3 blocks to the subway station near the opera house. We took one train that took us back to the Central Station and then another train that took us to the Gamla Stan station. From there we hoofed it across a bridge that spanned the Riddar-Fjäarden to get to the island of Södermalm.


When we emerged from the Gamla Stan station, I really started to get excited. The city’s charms were working on me as we walked through the edge of the old city.



Note the artwork throughout the subway station. That is Josh making his way through. Poor boy hasn't learned the art of traveling light and pays for it a bit on this trip. I was much happier with my convertible carry-on sized bag.






This was one big subway station!






Having emerged from the Gamla Stan station we are about to cross over to Sodermalm








Walking the streets of Stockholm





As we get to Södermalm, I was getting anxious. I couldn’t see the hostel. You would think that a bright red boat would be fairly obvious to spot. We walk and we walk. I gripe a little about not seeing our hostel. Josh then spots it. I for the life of me can not. Josh is 6’3” tall so I guess that must be the advantage. It just seemed to take quite a while to walk over to our hostel. In reality it was only due to my anxiousness.

We arrive and fork over what seems like a huge wad of Swedish kroner for our room. While it was a lot of paper it equated to about $80 for the two of us. Trust me, this is incredibly cheap for Stockholm. Stockholm is a very expensive city and we were staying in the heart of it all. The location was really great. Our room was very cute and nautical. We had bunk beds. I let Josh pick which one he wanted and he chose the upper bunk. I preferred the lower bunk anyway. Yay! We both win. The room is very tiny. There isn’t much room to maneuver. We have a little window looking out. The water line is just under the window. The window looks out onto a great view of Gamla Stan. We unload our stuff and regroup ourselves.

Where is that red boat?



There it is! Yay! Our home away from home for two nights.



Two adult men in a teeny-tiny cabin proved to be less trouble than I expected. If you want to be able to see Stockholm on a budget I definitely would recommend The Red Boat. This is our cabin.



NEXT: Winding narrow, lantern lit streets, a refuge from the cold, and smartly dressed young men
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Old 05-10-2010, 08:26 AM   #14
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Great update Douglas! What a great place to stay! Hurry back with more!
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Old 05-10-2010, 01:16 PM   #15
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What a neat place to stay!
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