Stockholm, round three

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On my trip back from Gothenburg, I decided to spend a night in Stockholm because I did not know if I would have a chance to visit again. I checked into my hostel about 6 in the evening. Then, I walked around Östermalm, one of Stockholm’s ritziest neighborhoods. I had a lot of fun windowshopping at the uspscale stores surrounding the Stureplan square. Most of them were already closed, but I didn’t really mind. I wasn’t going to pop in and buy a pair of Prada heels anyway!

I ended my time in Östermalm with chips, guacamole, and a margarita. None of it matched up to what I could get in Texas, but it helped with my cravings for the real thing. Afterwards, I caught most of the Eurovision finals in my hostel.

I started the next day with brunch in a trendy part of town called Södermalm. Then I took the metro to Kungsträdgården Station to see some of the station artwork.

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From Kungsträdgården, I could walk to the Royal Palace. I had visited the armory before with my family, but this time I was able to visit the royal treasury and royal apartments. Before touring the inside of the castle, however, I got to see the changing of the guards! This was a nice surprise because I thought it happened earlier in the day.

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After visiting the palace, I went to Monteliusvägen where I enjoyed the beautiful view of the city you can see at the beginning of this post. I then relaxed with wine, cheese, and a book before catching my train home to Uppsala. I made sure to get home early in the evening so I could call my mom for Mother’s Day. I’m so glad I got to experience more of Stockholm before I have to leave!

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Gothenburg

I took a trip to Gothenburg over the Ascension Day break. Because I only have a few more weeks in the country, I wanted to visit another Swedish city before finals. Situated on the country’s west coast, Gothenburg is Sweden’s second biggest city and is a regional hub of art and culture. I had a wonderful time on my visit!

I arrived in the city on Tuesday afternoon. The first thing I did was explore Haga, a neighborhood famous for its 19th-century wooden buildings. With all its shops and cafés, Haga is a popula tourist spot but was very quiet when I visited as pictured below.

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My first night in Gothenburg wasn’t too eventful because I was tired from the train travel. I caught the first Eurovision semifinal and went to bed.

On Wednesday, I spent most of my day on the Gothenburg Archipelago. I took a ferry to the islands of the southern archipelago that cannot be reached by car.  First, I visited Styrsö, likely the largest of the southern islands. Styrsö boasts many swimming spots and nature trails. I explored the island on one of these trails, but the water was slightly too cold for swimming. I still had fun wading around and sunbathing. A lot of families were visiting the island that day, but I had broad areas all to myself once I was far enough along the nature trail!

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In the evening, I explored Gothenburg’s nightlife along a street called Andra Långgatan. I caught most of a metal band’s set in one bar, which was a lot of fun! After poking around in a couple more bars, I went back to my hostel for the night.

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I started Thursday at one of the city’s many parks. I bought an ice cream cone and looked at plants from all over the world! It was a beautiful sunny day, so a lot of other people were there enjoying the weather. After seeing the whole park, I went on a sightseeing boat tour through the city’s canals. I learned a lot about Gothenburg’s role in Swedish history.

The tour let off at Kungsportsplatsen, the starting point for the Avenyn. The Avenyn is a small entertainment district centered around a street called Kungsportsavenyn. I headed to the Gothenburg Museum of Art at the other end of the Avenyn. I saw a lot of Nordic art and learned about the art movements that called Gothenburg home such as the Gothenburg Colorists. I also got to see degree projects by art students from the University of Gothenburg at a gallery adjoining the main art museum.

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I had dinner at a seafood place just off the Avenyn. Due to its coastal location, Gothenburg is famous for its fresh seafood. After dinner, I went to the hostel to catch the second Eurovision semifinal.

On Friday, I visited another art musem, the Röda Sten Konsthall. This museum was housed in an old industrial building and also featured works from Gothenburg art students, this time from the photography program.

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After fika at the Röda Sten café, I went back to Andra Långgatan. There, I saw a performance from a musical duo at a record store and coffee shop. The performance was a lot of fun and the artists were very talented.

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I got dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant after the performance and returned to the hostel to rest up for a travel day. I am writing this post on the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm, where I will spend a night before returning to Uppsala. I had a lot of fun in Gothenburg and am glad I am experiencing more of what Sweden has to offer before going home!

Valborg

IMG_4490Yesterday was a very exciting day to be in Uppsala: Valborg! Also known as sista April (the last day of April), Valborg celebrates the coming of spring. Every Swede I’ve met told me I was lucky to be in town for Valborg, so I was eager to experience it for myself! Although Valborg is on April 30th, the festivities take place for a few days before and even the day after. I had a much quieter Valborg weekend than most Uppsala students, but I did meet up with my friend on Sunday to enjoy the nice spring weather in the park. I wanted to make sure my weekend was restful because I knew I would have to wake up early on Valborg itself. I was out the door before 8 AM, practically a miracle by my standards!

Typical Valborg fare includes champagne and strawberries, and I honored this with a strawberry-topped custard and some sparkling wine as I started my day. It is totally normal to drink throughout the day on Valborg and most Uppsalians even participate in champagne breakfasts! I then scouted out a spot near the Fyris River for the day’s first order of business: the raft festival. Every year, the engineering students design elaborate rafts and ride them down the river that cuts through town. Watching the rafts was a lot of fun! I got to see them up close with my friend the day before.

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After watching the rafts for a couple hours, I decided to track down some lunch. This was not easy because of how many people were participating in Valborg! The whole town took on a sort of carnival atmosphere that was fun to observe as I wandered around. After lunch, I sat in the shade of a tree by the library and listened to a pep band performance before the mösspåtagning, or Donning of the Caps. Swedish students get a student cap upon graduating secondary school. They look like white sailor hats and have different insignia based on where the student attended school.  At the Donning of the Caps, thousands of Swedes waved their student caps in the air. It was a very impressive sight, but what impressed me the most was how long people hold onto their student caps. I noticed several older Swedes with well-worn caps participating in this tradition. Afterwards, I stuck around to hear the men’s choir perform a couple of songs.

Although I had a lot of fun at Valborg, I did not participate in all the festivities. If you want to learn more about the  holiday, feel free to consult these links. I am so glad I got to experience this unique Swedish tradition!

Amsterdam

I departed Berlin on Saturday afternoon and arrived in Amsterdam that evening. After settling in to my hostel, I took a nighttime walk along some of the canals. It was a good opportunity to take in the city because I would not be in Amsterdam proper for very long the next day. My first impression of the city is that it was very quiet, although this likely had something to do with Easter being the next day.
My first stop on Sunday morning was Zaanse Schaans, a small historic town near Amsterdam with well-preserved historic windmills. It was nice to see them while sipping on some famous Dutch cocoa.

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I had been anticipating my next stop, the Keukenhof tulip garden in Lisse, for weeks. Although not all of the tulips were in bloom yet, it was still a beautiful way to celebrate Easter and welcome the spring.

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Afterwards, I took the bus back to Amsterdam so I could visit the Rijksmusem. I could have spent all day at this world-class art destination, but I didn’t get there until shortly before closing. I’m still very glad I went because I was able to see a Van Gogh self-portrait and Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. The museum café stayed open later than the art gallery so I was able to sample some Dutch cheeses before catching the first train of my trip back to Sweden.
My time in Berlin and Amsterdam was short but sweet. I hope to return to these cities one day for a more in-depth experience, but I can safely say it was my best long weekend ever!

Berlin

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Due to some train troubles, I arrived in Berlin about nine hours later than I expected. Because of this, I wasn’t able to explore the city as much as I would have liked. I still had an unforgettable time!
Friday morning, after a breakfast of streusel, I headed out to the DDR Museum. It was a very entertaining way to learn about life in East Germany! In keeping with the Cold War theme, I then took a stroll along the East Side Gallery, a series of murals on the remains of the Berlin Wall. I spotted the famous mural of Brezhnev and Honecker kissing, but was not able to get a good picture because of the sun

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Next, I headed back to the center of the city. I saw the outside of the Reichstag building, but I did not want to go in because there appeared to be a long line with metal detectors involved. I then took a moment to visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

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Besides the striking design, what stood out to me about this memorial was how honest and unmissable it is. The structure takes up almost an entire city block near Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building, two of Berlin’s most popular tourist attractions. It is not intended to be a memorial for World War II, nor to the Third Reich as some abstraction, but to the actual Jewish lives lost. Visiting the memorial was a sobering experience, but it was interesting to see how Germany confronts its past atrocities at least in one context.

My next stop was the Brandenburg Gate, pictured at the beginning of this post. The gate marks the start of Unter den Linden, a stretch of historical buildings. I had a lot of fun walking down Unter Den Linden and admiring the architecture. The biggest surprise was seeing the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby out of the window!

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One thing I wish I had more time to experience is Berlin’s world-renowned nightlife. I briefly stopped in a nice bar after dinner but did not stay for long; I wanted to be well-rested for my journey the next day. I also wish I could have engaged more with the city’s history. Overall, however, I am very satisfied with my trip!

Easter in Sweden

It’s been a lot of fun to learning how Swedes celebrate Påsk, or Easter. One of the first things I  noticed were the decorations. A popular Swedish decoration is a påskris, a tree with feathers on the branches. From what I understand, these were traditionally real dyed feathers, but substitutes such as paper are becoming more common. For example, below is a påskris in Uppsala’s city center.

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I also noticed some unique Easter products in stores. One of these was the Påskägg; Swedes enjoy one big Easter egg with a lot of candy instead of several eggs with only one or two pieces of candy each. I treated myself to a påskägg a week ago! Påskmust also becomes available in stores this time of year. It is a seasonal soft drink that differs only in name from julmust, the Christmas version. I tried some påskmust for myself. I was not very impressed with it, but I had stored it at room temperature so all the carbonation was already gone.

Today in Swedish class, we learned about more Easter traditions. The Easter holiday starts on Thursday with what is known as skärtorsdagen. “Skär” comes from an old word for cleaning and the day commemorates Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. On skärtorsdagen, children dress up like little old ladies and go door-to-door exchanging Easter cards they drew for candy. According to Swedish folklore, the night of skärtorsdagen is when witches travel to Blåkulla to fraternize with the devil. Good Friday is known as långfredagen (“Long Friday”) in Sweden. This is because traditionally one could not do anything or go anywhere except for the church on that day. This is not the case anymore, however. The Swedish celebration of Easter begins on Saturday for påskafton, Easter Eve. This is when Swedes have their big Easter dinner. The festivities continue until the traditional Easter Day.

Unfortunately, I will not be around to experience most of these traditions. I am using the school holiday to visit Berlin and Amsterdam and board my first train at 2 this afternoon. I am very excited to visit these cities and will report back soon!

Uppsala with family

On my last day with my family, I showed them Uppsala. I took them to see where I live followed by a late breakfast of semla at Cafe Storken. Then, we saw some other sights in town like the university buildings and the cathedral. I’ve been in the cathedral before but this was my first time to spend more than a few minutes in there.IMG_4237.JPG

We had our lunch at Max, a Swedish burger chain I like a lot. Then, we headed to Gamla Uppsala. It was too cold to spend much time there, but we saw the old church and the burial mounds. We returned to central Uppsala for a fika with Swedish princess cake. Afterwards, we poked around the stores in the center of town until it was time for dinner. We ate at a Spanish restaurant that I had been eyeing but never before had an excuse to try. Finally, my family went to the train station to return to Stockholm and I took the bus back to my corridor.
I’m so glad I got to spend a week with my family. Although Uppsala does not have as many attractions as the other cities we visited, I enjoyed letting my family experience my daily life here.

Stockholm, round two

My family joined me for my second visit to Stockholm! We stayed in Gamla Stan, the old town, which I had not seen before. Our time in town was not continuous; we were based there all week but went to spend nights in Kiruna and Copenhagen. I did not take many photos during this journey to Stockholm so all the pictures on this post are from my mom. If you know her at all, you know that taking a lot of pictures was not a problem for her!

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After flying back from Kiruna, we visited the Vasa Museum on Djurgården. I had already visited the museum on my first trip to Stockholm, but I enjoyed it just as much my second time around. Later, we met up with one of Avery’s old friends who moved to Stockholm a few years ago. She and her mom gave us a tour of Stockholm as we headed to get dinner together.
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We spent the next full day, Tuesday, in Stockholm. I made sure my mom and sister tried traditional Swedish semla before heading out for the day. You can see what they look like above. First on our agenda was the ABBA museum, where we had a lot of fun with all the interactive exhibits! Avery left afterwards to spend a few more hours with her friend. Meanwhile, my parents and I grabbed lunch and toured the Nordic Museum to learn all about Scandinavian culture. We then checked out the Dala horse museum near our Airbnb. All of the Schneiders reunited for a cozy dinner in Gamla Stan.
On Thursday, we landed back in Stockholm after our visit to Copenhagen. We visited the Nobel Museum, which was very inspiring. Then, we saw the armory in the palace. There was a special exhibit all about Marie Antoinette’s relationship with Axel von Fersen. For dinner, we went to a place purporting to serve medieval Scandinavian fare. I got to try mead for the first time!
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On Friday, I showed my family around Uppsala and they took the train back to Stockholm for another day of exploring on Saturday. I did not join them for the final day because I had an essay to write; believe it or not, I’m still a student!

Copenhagen

IMG_4231On Wednesday, we caught a morning flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. The first thing we did was grab lunch at a local café. Afterwards, we embarked on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. Our time in Copenhagen was limited, but the bus tour allowed us to soak up the city in a short amount of time. One of the highlights of the bus tour was the Little Mermaid statue commemorating Hans Christian Andersen. We also enjoyed learning about Copenhagen’s historical palaces and monuments.
After the bus tour and a coffee break, we headed to Christiania. Christiania is a tiny pocket of the city that has been fairly autonomous since the 1970s. Denizens of Christiania insist that they are not a part of Denmark or even the European Union. The area has a cute art gallery and is fun for people-watching.
Our next stop was Magasin, a posh department store celebrating its 150th birthday this year. We did not buy any clothing, but we did pick out some fancy chocolates!
Before dinner, we grabbed a drink at Mikkellen, a fancy local brewery. I had actually tried one of their beers in Uppsala! We had a seafood dinner on Nyhavn, a waterfront stretch of bars and restaurants. Next, we headed home to prepare for an early flight back to Stockholm.
Copenhagen is a beautiful and vibrant city. It has a more bohemian reputation than Stockholm, which is confirmed by all of the music venues and street art around town. Although we visited on a cold and rainy day, we were still able to appreciate all of the beautiful architecture and scenery!

 

 

 

Kiruna

On Saturday, my family flew up from Dallas to visit me. After spending a night in Stockholm, we headed to Kiruna. Kiruna is situated north of the Arctic Circle in the Laplands, the very north of Sweden. We spent our night there in the Ice Hotel. Although we got to tour many of the ice rooms, we stayed warm in a chalet overnight!

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In addition to touring the Ice Hotel, we got to go dogsledding. It was truly an unforgettable experience! We were not able to see the Northern Lights, but the night sky was illuminated by thousands of stars due to the lack of light pollution. It was well worth braving the freezing temperatures.

Later that night, we enjoyed refreshments at the Ice Bar. It was actually warmer in there than it was outside! Overall, we had a truly one-of-a-kind experience in Kiruna. I can’t wait to enjoy more of what Scandinavia has to offer while my family is here!