Stockholm

By abbieredmon

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Fortunately, the weather in Zagreb changed on my last day there to a cold and rainy autumn, so my arrival in Stockholm was less of a jolt than it could have been. It is certainly chilly here, but it makes for an appropriate cozy atmosphere when you're inside a coffee shop having a fika with a friend.

So, let's start there with one of my favorite things about Stockholm so far:

Fika!

For Swedes, "having a fika" means taking a break from work, shopping, or whatever you're doing to have coffee and something sweet, like a pastry, with a friend. For me, the custom is amended to replace coffee with tea, but the "something sweet" stands firm: The most traditional fika snack is a cinnamon roll. The Swedes even have a holiday for it: kanelbullens dag (Cinnamon Roll Day!) on October 4. I'm quite sad to have just missed it.

Swedes LOVE their coffee, but I don't get too many funny looks when I order tea. (Okay, maybe just a raised eyebrow or two.)

Funnily enough, a local told me that PressBryån actually sells a pretty good cinnamon roll. These are the little news kiosks that you can find in most subway stations, train stations, and any decently busy shopping street. I find it funny because that's like saying that in U.S., the best apple pie can be found at 7-Eleven.

At any rate, I heartily approve of the fika, and I think drab, autumn-cum-winter weather is the perfect time to enjoy it!

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I had a very Scandinavian evening last night: Swedish meatballs at Pelikan in Södermalm, then a projection of Björk’s Biophilia at a theatre down the street.

The restaurant is quite nice -- great for a special evening out or to experience some high-quality traditional Swedish food (prices aren't SUPER-budget friendly, but then again, not much in Sweden is!). The dining room is a warm space with high ceilings and really neat lighting. I think the building is quite old.

I ordered Swedish meatballs, which come in a nice brown gravy with a few gherkins, some ruby-red lingonberries, and a side of VERY buttery mashed potatoes.

The meatballs were definitely superior to the ones found at IKEA, and I was happy to have experienced the difference :)

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The highlight of the evening was a projection of Björk’s Biophilia at Bio Rio, a very cool old theatre they now use for lots of things like this, as well as ballet and opera and live concerts.

The movie/concert itself was… appropriately weird, but it was fun, and the crowd made for some great people-watching, haha, even if it was much tamer than I was expecting.

We all sat in our seats and watched it like a regular movie -- which, honestly, made sense, because it was full of a lot of graphics and effects that were super trippy: Starfish scurrying under the ocean, blood pumping through veins, flashes of shapes and colors, etc. I kept wondering if I would enjoy it more if I'd eaten mushrooms beforehand, haha.

Björk herself was wearing a very strange dress that looked to be made of plastic, but it had these big air pockets all over. She basically looked like she was wearing bubble wrap. Oh -- and a massive, colorful afro wig. Gotta love Björk. She's not afraid to be herself.

Afterwards, there was beer at a bar down the street, but I was le tired.

(Image borrowed from IndieWire.com.)

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This morning I woke up and went for a run around Gamla Stan, and after a shower and breakfast, I went back over to have a proper look around. Gamla Stan means “old city,” and it’s definitely got a lot of charm. Really beautiful (and colorful) buildings, tiny alleyways with low, arched entryways, and cobblestones (of course).

I walked around a bit, had a hot chocolate, took a few photos. There are a couple of main drags, with lots of shops and (ha) currency exchange kiosks. The Nobel museum is in Gamla Stan, but I didn’t go inside. You can likely take tours of the Royal Palace, too, but I didn’t do that either :)

Nope, instead of seeing anything that most people want to see, I contented myself with just walking around, like I always do.

The layout of Stockholm is really interesting because it’s spread across 14 islands. So there are lots of bridges and ferries connecting everybody and everything, AND tons of nice waterfront real estate! We all know I love a good waterfront, so score a few points for Stockholm there. Stockholm also has a shit-load of shopping. You can walk from the south end of Gamla Stan, across Helgeansholmen, and a full 16 blocks into Norrmalm on a pedestrian-only street completely lined with shops and restaurants.

I love how much people bike in this city, too, for two main reasons: (1) Conquer the cobblestones!, and (2) Stockholm’s bike lanes are awesome.

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I have accidentally become a regular at this vegetarian buffet a block from where I'm staying in Södermalm. And I'm not even sorry about it.

For 80 krona ($11 U.S.), you can eat as much as you want -- and have coffee afterward. The options are nice -- falafel, chickpeas, lentils, veggie lasagna, some sort of potato-stew thing, lots of different hummuses and tzaziki, bean salad, and other morsels like beets and green beans and dried dates. There's also free bread -- as much as you'd like.

It's a good deal, especially if you're very hungry.

The place isn't huge, and it fills up quite quickly. People are good about sharing space and treating the tables cafeteria-style, though, and you might find yourself elbow-to-elbow with a stranger or two over the course of your meal.

After a few weeks of having lots of meals by myself, I think I have been gravitating toward this place because it's full of other singles, too. Instead of sitting at a table at a restaurant by yourself, eavesdropping (or trying not to) on the conversations of the coupled-up diners around you while you wait awkwardly for your meal to come, it's nice to be in a place where everyone else is sort of minding their own business quietly, too. Like you. Reading, flipping through an iPhone, or just generally staring around, like I tend to do. AND, there's no waiting for food, because it's a buffet.

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This is a happy little "coffice" (as @Dorothy would say!) in Stockholm to spend a few hours working. I've come here on a few different days for a change of scenery.

They take their coffee quite seriously, so if you are a connoisseur, you should be happy here. As a tea drinker, I've been pleased with the house-made ginger tea and the rooibos I sampled.

There are several different small rooms to sit in, which is nice because it keeps noise levels down. They play their music relatively softly, and it's instrumental and unobtrusive. There are some plugs around (though I make a point to not have to plug in while out and about), and the WiFi is solid.

The staff is quite chill and really helpful -- their English is great, too :)

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I went climbing with some friends tonight, and afterward, we got beer and Thai food at this cool bar/restaurant in Södermalm. The name means "elephant boy." The food was quite good, and it's a nice place to hang out, drink, and linger.

I've now been to two climbing gyms in Stockholm -- I can't remember the name of either, but both are just south of Södermalm, across the bridge. One on the red line, and one on the green line. The one we went to last night, on the green line, is bouldering only, but the one on the red line has a lot of rope climbing, too. Both gyms were really nice, and it was fun to climb with some climbing friends of friends.

Sorry I don't have any pictures :(

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I'm back in Stockholm after my jaunt to Tallinn, and today I returned to Gamla Stan to soak in a bit more of the charm before I have to leave this lovely city.

I had intentions to buy an etching of a Stockholm cityscape that I'd seen while window-shopping there last weekend, but when I found the shop again, I also found that the price for such a souvenir was out of reach. I was super bummed as I've decided that I'd like to collect little etchings or drawings done by locals as a way to remember some of the places I've been in Europe. I have one of Budapest, and I bought one in Tallinn, too.

Anyway, I consoled myself with a crêpe at Café Art -- squeezing in a Stockholm crêpe at the last minute.

Such a good choice -- this café makes a very thick, eggy crêpe. Just how I like them! It came with a bit of jam but (as all great crêpes should be) was delicious all by itself, too.

Of course I did not take a photo of the crêpe (surely you expect this level of underperformance from me by now?), but I did grab a few shots of the interior -- the café is underground in a cave-like space. There was a (fake) fire in the fireplace (which also had a spiral staircase in it?), and several cozy rooms for dining with candles burning, etc.

My newest theme seems to be that dining in a cave is preferable to anything else. So far, the caves haven't disappointed. In addition to the crêpe, I had a really nice homemade tomato soup here, too.

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I spent my last night in Stockholm at a pizza party with a bunch of Italians. It felt right.

I was connected with a friend of a friend here in Stockholm who happens to be from Italy. She happens to have some other Italians friends in the city. We all happened to get together on Halloween and make pizza. Shit happens.

Basically, we had a fantastic time, took some flattering photographs, and laughed until our stomachs hurt.

Oh! And I tried pizza with horse meat. That was definitely a first, and I felt conflicted about it, honestly. I put horses in a similar category to dogs and cats and hamsters — if a large percentage of the population keeps it as a pet and names it, I don’t really want to eat it. But that’s not really a hard rule; it’s more like a guideline.

I call the evening a resounding success overall, though.

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