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Same trip, different cold.

What better way to follow a freezing Copenhagen than with a frozen Stockholm? A five hour train ride later and that’s where we landed.
By time we would have waited through security lines and boarded a flight that would only last an hour then found our way to downtown it’d equal out. So rather than subject ourselves to airport tortures we found ourselves in first class five hours from Sweden. Five hours goes by really fast when you’re sitting in oversized chairs with ample leg room and free snacks. It wasn’t too much more expensive than a regular ticket, so we splurged but when you’re stuck for five+ hours it should at least be a consideration! We left from downtown Copenhagen mid-morning because I like to look out the windows. Night travel is great if you want to sleep while you gain miles but that’s not me. I prefer not to be the driver for that same reason; I like to see the world as it passes by. Trains are the best because you can get up and stroll down to the café car for a beverage and still get to see the tiny towns that dot the countryside. You can glimpse so much more of a country by just looking out the window.
As the train skated, and by skated I mean the Apollo Ohno type, over frozen fields and iced lakes I found myself in a winter wonderland. The train leaned ever so slightly on the turns around the lakes, it felt like bird gracing the frosted water ever so slightly with its wings. Entranced by the elegant motion I blinked and found myself in Stockholm. The cold in Sweden is accompanied with much more grandeur than Denmark. Bolder waterways and larger buildings set the stage for the second half of our Christmas escapades.
I can’t keep surprises, particularly when I’m really excited about them! I have given every birthday, Christmas and anniversary present to the husband at least two weeks early, regardless of his protests for wanting to wait till the day. Since I ruined his gift two weeks prior I decided to treat him to something we both love. We love doing the cliché. You eat pasta when you go to Italy, attend Oktoberfest in Germany and wear kilts in Scotland. So what do you do in Sweden? Get a Swedish massage of course! I never understood what people did for spa days before. Seriously what do you do all day when a massage or facial only takes sixty minutes? Nothing. You do nothing and it’s glorious! You do nothing in the sauna, then you do nothing in the steam room and follow it up with nothing in the pool. They even have quiet rooms so you can do nothing in silence, pampered silence. Since it was a special Christmas present, purely because I didn’t spoil it too much before, we went to the Grand Hotel Nordic Spa. Doesn’t it just sound divine? Divine indeed! Cliché Swedish massage, check! Ultimate relaxation, check! It may sound cliché but countries are known for those specialties for a reason so enjoy them, regardless of anyone’s eye rolling!

This is Gustaf. I always make the weirdest friends.
This is Gustaf. I always make the weirdest friends.

Hours after arrival we still hadn’t been to our hotel. The poor spa hostess must have been bewildered by our disheveled appearance, full packs in tow.  After getting a little Nordic recharge we made our way past the life size electric moose display to our hotel, the Story Hotel Riddargatan. It’s described as urban Swedish chic. With modern furniture including purple velvety booths at breakfast and bold décor, I’d say that was accurate. We were greeted by Luca in the elevator. Maybe greeted isn’t the best description. Every floor had a theme. Our second floor room was accompanied, with every push of the button, by a booming voice telling us, “My name is Luca. I live on the second floor.” Now every time we go to a hotel’s second floor we still mimic our friend Luca! Luca lives on every second floor as far as we are concerned.

sweden town

Have I mentioned that Stockholm was cold? Oh right, just in case you didn’t get that, December in Sweden is freezing! We continued our unpreparedness from Copenhagen into Stockholm. That of course didn’t stop us from walking the city. From the old town with colorful rows of delicately topped buildings to the Nobel Museum and the Fotografiska, we walked it all. The Nobel Museum was fascinating. We are also the types that like the boring stuff but seemingly find it enthralling. Alfred Nobel’s vision for the future of humanity is inspiring and gives hope for all of us. One of my favorite quotes can be found on the wall:

The mere formulation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.

– Albert Einstein

I find those words so insightful into so much of my life, both professionally and personally. If you are unfamiliar with Nobel’s story I encourage you to look into it!
After learning to our heart’s content about the history of the Nobel Prize and the amazing things people have done over the years (people are awesome by the way! Faith in humanity restored!) we set off to another museum, Fotografiska. This photography gallery was set on the opposite bank of the city to where we were staying so we were thoroughly numb upon arrival. Photography is my favorite form of art. I find it both beautifully technical and perceptively unique.  There was a Jimmy Nelson exhibition that I was eager to see, it did not disappoint! His work documents those rare cultures that are struggling to maintain in both our ever evolving natural and created worlds. Beautiful, exotic and narrative, the images he captures are breathtaking. If you ever have a chance to see his work in person, go! It’s worth it.

sweden metro

The art in Stockholm isn’t confined to the stark white walls of museums. If you’ve read any travel material on the city you’d already know that they have adorned the rugged subway walls with magnificent murals. The sheer size and saturation of these works is worth pausing to gaze. Even if you choose to walk the streets above it’s worth an hour and a couple bucks to hop around the subterranean just to take it all in. My favorite stop is the famous T-centralen station.  You can see all the amazing stops here to help map out your tour of the underground.
My creative curiosity satisfied once more, we shuffled back to the hotel to warm up… again. The whole trip was exactly that, a cycle of freezing and unfreezing. Contrary to our temperature, cyclical our experiences were not. Similar to how waiting to have time to go and experience life is nonsense, waiting for perfect conditions is too. Sun drenched days are limited and there are too many places to choose from to fill that calendar. The trip will be amazing any season, the important thing is that you just go.

Gustaf hitchhiked his way back to NY
Gustaf hitchhiked his way back to NY


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