Scratching Stockholm & Tossing the Travel Guide

by Molly Kenney

Stockholm seemed like a great starting point for our European adventure. Fjords, fish, the Absolut Icebar — what better way to kick off a month of traveling to eleven cities in eight countries?

There are at least five reasons this assumption was incredibly flawed.

1. The Absolut Icebar was closed for remodeling, which is done every six months. This information should really be reported by the BBC or another international new source, because vodka, shiny blue capes, and ice glasses are one of the main draws of Stockholm for pretty much every college student. I discovered this sad news on the bar’s website the night before we left, and I should have recognized the frosty omen. No ice bar for us.

2. “Central Stockholm” is a term used loosely in Stockholm’s travel guide. Our hotel, the cheapest option I could find (at $150 per night), was described as “downtown.” In reality, it was a half hour outside of the city center by metro, next to an LG phone factory. The desk attendant and our trusty guidebook to Europe both marketed the best attractions as “right downtown,” but my tram and metro costs reflected otherwise.

3. The prices, dear god, the prices: As soon as we arrived, it was immediately clear that Stockholm is one of the most expensive cities in the world. It made London seem cheap, and after almost eight months there, I can assure you that there is nothing inexpensive about that city. Stockholm’s metro was $7 per one-way trip, a drink was about $12, and anything but a Swedish fast food joint was completely too expensive for consumption, although my amazing mother (to whom I owe much, including money) funded an Easter dinner full of fish. Oh, and thanks to the U.S. economy tanking, all of the dollar prices listed in our 2007 guidebook were completely inaccurate. I’m still recovering from the sticker shock.

4. Apparently, Sweden, though not a particularly religious country, really likes Easter, which fell on the second day of our visit. In preparation and celebration, almost every museum and store were closed both Saturday and Sunday. The only museums still accessible were the Vasamuseet, containing the famous Swedish ship that sank in 1628 before leaving Stockholm’s harbor, and Skansen, a giant replica Swedish village and zoo. While ships and lynx are very interesting, they weren’t my reason for coming to Stockholm and didn’t seem worth the frostbite I nearly acquired getting to and from the museums.

5. In the Stockholm area, like in New England, it snows. However, in New England, we forecast our blizzards, while in Stockholm, they pop up and no one is prepared, or seems to care. On our trip to the airport for our flight to Berlin, our shuttle bus had to take rural back roads because of several snow-related car accidents on the highway. The extra hour this new route added would have been fine, but our bus fell victim to unplowed roads and caused a four-car pile-up in the middle of nowhere. No police came, but none of the drivers, even the man who no longer has a back window on his car, seemed to mind. Some forms were filled out, and we drove off, leaving the other cars by the side of the road. What a wonderful afternoon in Stockholm.

The rest of our European adventure thankfully went smoothly, but this first stop was a voyage in itself. Sorry, Stockholm, but I’m not a fan.

(Photo of Stockholm by mrlins of Ashiya, Japan via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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