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Published: June 18th 2009
Sweden is a beautiful country, and the capital, Stockholm, is full of lovingly maintained heritage buildings on a group of islands connected by bridges. The best thing about Sweden, though, is the well natured, friendly attitude of the locals. Everyone we've spoken to has been very helpful and polite, and seem intent on making us feel at home in their country, and we were also impressed at how fluently most of the population speaks English.
We were staying in Sodertalje most of the time, which is a half hour train ride from Stockholm Central. Our Couch Surfing host, Jonas, has been incredibly welcoming, and has helped us immensely with our travels. He's shown us some fantastic sights at every opportunity and taken every effort to make us feel comfortable in his home. He has also introduced us to some typical Swedish cuisine, including liver paste and pickle sandwiches and blood pudding. Thanks Jonas!! 12/6/09
We had a reasonable sleep on the plane and arrived in the morning, so after catching the shuttle bus into Stockholm Central we thought we could have a wander and check the place out. Of course, we just managed to stumble into all the
nearby tourist traps, and our bags began to feel heavier and heavier (and Karen was becoming suitably precious), so we decided to grab lunch at Burger King (way better than HJ's), and try to find our hotel.
Central Station was pretty confusing, in fact we're still having to ask directions when we go there. It's a huge underground network of platforms with half a dozen entrances, but if you know your way around it it's a highly effective means of travel. Anyway, we managed to find our hotel and relaxed for the rest of the day, and got a good night's sleep. 13/6/09
Saturday morning it was time to pack up and jump on the train to Sodertalje to meet our Couch Surfing host, Jonas. He quickly made us feel at home in his apartment, and we dumped our bags and went back into Stockholm.
Jonas took us to a dance party in a small natural amphitheatre, which was held by locals and was a bit of a free for all. Unfortunately, the weather had subdued the celebration (it was raining and miserable for most of our first week in Sweden), and only a few die hard
locals were dancing around in what was now a mud pit. It was a shame because the party had the potential to be awesome. We then walked back into town and had some beautiful sushi in a nice and quite authentic Japanese restaurant.
Jonas then took us to some interesting parts of the city. I was particularly intrigued by the artistically decorated substation in Kungstradgarten. Doesn't sound very interesting, I know, but it has to be seen to be believed. It's a large substation that has been decorated with statues and other features from an old castle that burnt down over a century ago, and parts of it look like an old ruin. Other parts look like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, and others have a rough, cave like appearance. Apparently this is what Jonas believes to be the best of many themed stations, and is indicative of the Swedes' devotion to their heritage.
We also took a stroll through Gamla Stan (Old Town), which is which is almost like going back in time. Of course everything is fitted with all the modern conveniences, but cobbled streets and architected stone buildings give a glimpse of what life
was once like. There we enjoyed coffee in a cosy, underground coffee house, and finished off the day with a couple of beers in Jonas's favourite pub, which serves only the best available. 14/6/09
Every Sunday, Jonas and his friends catch up to hang out and play games. They're all fairly geeky like me, so I really enjoyed their company. Their apartment was shared by Martin, Josephine and Egil, and they had some other friends around - Marcus, Victor, and Martin's younger brother Patrick. Martin and Josephine have a baby on the way and have just put down a deposit on a house in the country (congratulations guys!), so half their lives was packed away in boxes (I know how that feels...). We played a card game called "Give Me the Brain", where we were all zombies in a fast food restaurant trying to get our jobs done and finish work. We played a couple of other games, then Karen made everyone play poker. Unfortunately I was knocked out fairly quickly, after managing to fold my only two good hands before the flop. We got home fairly late, and Jonas was off to work the following morning. 15/6/09
We spent most of this Monday in Skansen, which Karen describes as 'the Sovereign Hill of Stockholm'. It's a large network of museums on Djurgarden - an island devoted to heritage. We spent a few hours there before returning to Stockholm to make our way back to visit Martin, Josephine and Egil for dinner. We had a large stack of pancakes, with all the toppings, followed by wedges a la Karen. We had previously convinced them to watch Australian classic "The Castle", as we'd been discussing differences between our cultures, and someone had mentioned "Crocodile Dundee" and we couldn't let that stereotype go unchecked (although they were obviously aware that this was an American impression of Australia). I think they enjoyed it, and now have a different version of the Australian stereotype. Martin showed us some of his home made movies, which were also pretty hilarious. They were very nice people and we'll catch up with them when we're next in Stockholm (in 1 week). 16/6/09
On Tuesday we took a sightseeing boat ride around Stockholm harbour, which was really nice, and it was well timed as this was the first sunny day we had (being the middle of
Summer and all...). We made some small stops on Djurgarden and Skepps Holmen (the old military centre of Stockholm), before returning to Stockholm Central to get some drinks for our last night with Jonas.
We returned to Sodertalje in time for dinner, as we were having blood pudding with Jonas and his girlfriend Veronica (who was over from Gothenburg for Midsummer). The blood pudding, despite my previous trepidation, turned out to be very nice, and quite nutritious. We had a couple of glasses of wine and watched The Umbilical Brothers (Jonas was shocked that we, a couple of Australians, hadn't seen them before) until we fell asleep.
Extra special thanks to Jonas, who not only welcomed us into his home, but spent a lot of time with us and gave us a proud and enthusiastic representation of Sweden. An excellent host and good bloke - cheers!
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