Well, I have returned to the small city of Växjö. There is such a large difference between Stockholm and this city--think Minneapolis to Backus. Okay, okay, probably not THAT big a difference, but you get my point.
The train ride there Thursday night was pretty uneventful. I completed my required homework (read Ronia The Robber's Daughter) in about an hour and a half, so I listened to my music while Rachel watched Grey's on my computer and Tommy did his homework. The only eventful thing on the train ride was that Rachel spilled dark chocolate on her white shirt--and when she went to use my Tide Pen, it ran out. Needless to say, her shirt remained stained. That's when I knew I was going to be in for a good weekend.
We arrived in Stockholm around 10-ish, and got stuck in the Metro for a good half an hour before we figured out where we had to buy our subway passes. And, knowing Rachel, she got the wrong pass (she was supposed to get the 72-hour pass, but was only given the 24-hour pass); this proved to be an issue later in the trip. Anyway, after finally navigating our way to the hotel, which was attached to The Globe (which in all reality looks like a giant Death Star), we decided we were hungry, so we ate at the only place we knew was open: the hotel restaurant. Not only did we arrive 10 minutes before the kitchen closed (which really ticks off the cooks, fyi), but I paid 15 euros for a hamburger. It was ridiculous. Anyway, we all passed out shortly after that.
The next morning we awoke (to my displeasure) at around 8:30, grabbed breakfast, and hit the town. The first place we went to was Gamla Stan, or "The Old City". It was here that Stockholm officially was located long, long ago. The streets were narrow, and tiny shops were situated throughout the streets. The best thing was that many were cheap souvenir stores--shotglasses, t-shirts, postcards, knick-knacks, etc., for cheap. It was awesome. Then we hit up the Royal Palace. I got to see a little of the changing of the guard before a certain member of our trip began to complain about the fact that a line will form for tickets. So we left. The palace was amazing. The rooms were huge and spacious; gold was littered throughout the palace. There were portraits of numerous famous Swedish royalty, and even the guest bedrooms were simply amazing. Add to that, the treasury was filled with the most bling I've ever seen in my life. I've decided another life goal of mine is to somehow become a member of royalty. All you princesses, keep an eye out for me.
After the castle, we went to the main center of Stockholm and did some serious shopping. I bought an awesome jacket from Jack and Jones, and Rachel and Tommy found some calendars and clothing of their own. There are so many shopping malls in the center, as well as the main street just packed with people and shops. We literally spent about 4-ish hours just walking the streets and looking in shops. Oh, yes, and most shops here have floors (FLOORS!) dedicated to Christmas decorations now. Ridiculous.
After heading back and dropping our stuff off, we went back into town and ate at a sushi bar (I didn't.. I wasn't feeling sushi, and it was much too expensive anyway.. I ate at McDonald's) and just walked around. It was a good time. Then we headed back to the hotel, watched Seinfield, and passed out.
The next day we awoke yet again at about 8:30, ate breakfast, and headed back into town. This time, we went to the Vasa Museum right away. It was everything my presentation said it was. It was phenomenal. To think that such an old of a ship, in such great condition, can be seen by people today is incredible. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Full of information, videos, and exhibits, the museum was a good time. They also had a Titanic exhibit, but we all decided against that. We also decided against going to the zoo, as it was raining outside. Not the best zoo weather in my opinion.
After the Vasa Museum, we went and did some more shopping and saw more of the city. Around 6, we headed to a pub called The Big Ben Pub, and enjoyed some drinks and food. And then, Rachel and I (but not Tommy, because he was too indecisive and missed his chance to make a reservation...) headed to what would be the best part of the trip--The Stockholm Absolut Ice Bar. Everything, and I mean everything, was made and sculpted from ice. In fact, the bar itself was -5 degrees celsius, so all of us were required to wear a parka and gloves, which were included in the price. Our drinks were also served in a glass made from ice; it was awesome (and a little cold). We also met some other Americans who were studying in Switzerland--one from Colorado, and one from Utah. My Colorado hat definitely gave it away that we were from North America. And Rachel's picture button on her camera fell off in the ice bar.
After 45 minutes, our time slot was up, so we left and hit up a Swedish casino. Apparently I'm the only one who knows how to play video poker, as Rachel and Tommy both lost their money in about 2 minutes. I came out ahead. I've had my share of practice in a casino, I guess. Oh yes, the piano player/singer definitely dedicated a song to us: she saw what we were drinking, said "looks like tequila over there", and started singing and playing "Tequila Man". We all got a kick out of that. She was quite good, and really funny. Oh yeah, and lesson for Rachel: even though I told you many times, you are not allowed to take pictures in a casino. That's a no-no. Which you found out from the bartender.
After the casino, we headed back home. It was incredibly late, and we all had to get up early to pack and get going. So, Sunday morning, we got up at 9, ate breakfast, packed, and headed to the city. We were planning on putting our backpacks/bags in lockers in the train station so we wouldn't have to drag them around with us all over the city, but they proved way too expensive. We carried them with us. I'm pretty sure I will forever have back problems due to this trip.
After we arrived in town, Rachel decided she wanted to see the Museum of Modern Art. Each of us on the trip got to pick one thing he/she wanted to do. Mine was the Vasa Museum, Tommy's was the Big Ben Pub and the Swedish casino, and Rachel's was the Museum of Modern Art. Now, I'm definitely not one who enjoys art. In fact, I'm 100% sure of that after seeing that museum. It was just so.. strange. And undeniably creepy. I felt more uncomfortable and scared leaving that museum than when I watch a horror film. Let me paint you a picture: one of the pieces was a shovel. A shovel, people. Maybe I'll go back home and send in a wheelbarrow as a piece in an art museum. Ridiculous. Oh, and Salvador Dali, you are one messed up man. You creep. Your mustache is the definition of either A) a crazed mass murderer, B) pedophile, or C) All of the above. If you can scare a 20 year-old with a normal photograph of yourself, you know you have problems. Oh yes, and there was a piece in the museum that depicted JFK hanging on the cross, without hands and a completely disfigured body, as well as his brother Robert in the same fashion. They say art does its job if it stirs up emotion in its intended audience. If that's the case, then this definitely was art. Not only was it sacrilegious, but I felt it was a blatant jab at the assassinated politician brothers. I'm not a nationalist in any sense of the word, but that was just wrong.
After the art museum (from which I am still recovering), we went back to Gamla Stan so Tommy could go into his sci-fi bookstore again. I think that was his favorite part of the trip--the bookstore. After that, we all headed back to the train station, stopped at Max for lunch (so good.. puts McDonald's and any other fast-food chain to shame. Seriously) and hopped on the train back to Växjö. I'm pretty sure I'll be heading back sometime soon; four days is not enough to see everything in the best city in the world.
(The giant street with a plethora of shops)