sunny days in sweden, or, two days in stockholm

The third stop on our list? Stockholm, Sweden! I’m really, really glad we had two full days here; I don’t think we could have seen everything we wanted to see in just one day.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about Stockholm at first, but by the end of our second day there it had risen to second place on my list of favorite cities we visited (the first is Copenhagen, probably for the rest of forever).

Where we stayed: Radisson Blu Strand Hotel

What we did: ABBA Museum, Vasa Museum, Fotografiska, Hop On Hop Off bus, Nobel Museum

Where we ate: The Strand, Strandvegen, Fotografiska Café, Restaurant Agaton

On Tuesday morning, we flew from Bergen to Stockholm, with a brief layover in Oslo.  We made it to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Strand, in time for lunch, which we ate at the beautiful and new restaurant at the hotel!  I ordered baked cod with potatoes and a side of…mashed potatoes.  The limit to how many potatoes I can eat truly does not exist.

We then headed to our first stop of the day and the thing we were probably most looking forward to in Stockholm: the ABBA Museum! And y’all, let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.  As informative as it was entertaining, it blasted enough ABBA music that I’ve had “Waterloo” stuck in my head since leaving (no, seriously).  Such a fun museum if you’re a fan of ABBA or Mamma Mia! (And goodness knows I’ve seen that movie enough for all of us)

Very near the ABBA Museum is the Vasa Museum, so we headed there next!  The entire museum is based around a ship that sank in the Stockholm harbor during its maiden voyage in 1628.  No, that’s not a typo.  The ship was raised in the 1961 and now sits, 98% original, in the center of the museum.  The fact that it’s still so intact, and with such detail, is incredible.  Surrounding exhibits tell the story of the ship, its passengers, and the circumstances of its sinking.  The movie about the ship that the museum shows is entire in Swedish…but somehow that didn’t stop my mom and I from watching the entire thing?  Surprisingly, we didn’t understand much.

As it turns out, when you wake up at 4am and the sun sets before 5pm, you get hungry for dinner fairly early.  We went to a restaurant near our hotel called Strandvegen. When we walked in for dinner at 3:30pm, the waitress asked us if we were there for a late lunch.  We just went with it.  While the menu offers some unique dishes (grilled octopus, anyone?), I went for rotisserie chicken with french fries.  Yes, I ordered the one thing on the menu that came with french fries.  Don’t worry, I hate myself too.  I continued this American food trend and ordered the apple pie with maple syrup, bourbon, and ice cream for dessert!

Our first stop the next day was Fotografiska.  The museum features only temporary exhibits, but all the exhibits there when we went were absolutely stunning, especially Paul Hansen’s “Being There” and “Last Night in Sweden”. The exhibitions serve as a poignant reminder of the duality of beauty and pain in the world and how the two exist simultaneously.  It’s also a statement about the power of photography and the importance of telling the stories that don’t get told.

I really loved the artist statement that Paul Hansen included at the beginning of his exhibit.  The exhibit centers around the current refugee crisis and the human impacts of these wars and conflicts.  His work as a news photographer has brought him to some of the most broken and war-torn areas of the world; his photographs have brought both those areas and those people closer to home.  On the power of photography, he writes:

“To me, images are so much more than inky squares between the lines in a newspaper or click-friendly light-squares on a screen.  They are fragments of time past that, regardless of personal input values, previous knowledge, education, age or background, can be regarded as windows into other people’s realities….For me many of the stories are ultimate manifestations of the dysfunction of those in power, usually men, who build walls in order to create a hard boundary between us and them, creating a dark place where fear of the other can be transformed into live political ammunition.  I have themed the photo essays in various forms.  Some travel far and long over time and space while others are more focused on subject and place.  But whatever the environment or circumstance, what you will experience is a single long unified story with a common denominator: It could have been you.”

The “Last Night in Sweden” exhibit title references a speech made by Donald Trump in which he politicizes Sweden as a country in crisis due to their “lax” immigration policies.  The speech plays on a TV in the corner of the exhibit as you walk through; the photos within the exhibit are a response to what actually happened “last night in Sweden”—the mundane and beautiful realities of everyday life: picking children up from school, cooking dinner, giving birth, and human interaction.  Henrik Berggren, historian and jury member for the exhibit, wrote the following about why the exhibition is so important:

“The resulting images do not present a paradise or a perfect society; instead they constitute a response to Donald Trump’s politicized image of Sweden as a country in crisis.  One could say that the life of a nation is an agreement to continue living together.  Human co-existence is an act of will and the nation is thus a daily referendum providing us with the opportunity to choose what type of people we want to be.”

We ate breakfast (a delicious pumpkin car that I wish I’d eaten five of) at the café on the top floor of Fotografiska.  The café says it’s the second-best restaurant in the world, and after that pumpkin bar, I’d have to say I agree.  Also, I mean, look at this decor!

We then did a Hop On Hop Off bus tour of the city.  It was a great way to see the parts of the city that were a little farther out and that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.  Like the rest of our trip, we walked everywhere in Stockholm and never had any problem getting anywhere that way!  After riding the bus for a full loop, we got off at Gamla Stan, or Old Town.  There, we stumbled upon Restaurant Agaton, where ate a delicious Italian lunch!

After a little bit of souvenir shopping (somehow getting a keychain for my collection always ends up with me buying far more than just a keychain), we headed to the last museum on our list: the Nobel Museum.  I’d highly recommend doing one of the guided tours they offer—you learn a ton of information about the history of the Nobel Prize that you wouldn’t otherwise get!  The museum is small (they’re moving to a brand new center soon!) but beautifully curated and includes a number of videos about Nobel Prize recipients and their research!

I found the “Literary Rebellion” photography exhibit at the rear of the museum an incredible look at the quiet resistance found within the pages of novels:

“What is a literary rebellion? Can literature change the world? To read and write is a slow pursuit, and often a solitary one.  Still reading and writing are often seen as something threatening.  Texts have been censored and banned, authors have been threatened, persecuted, and even imprisoned for what they write.  In the photo exhibition Literary Rebellion, twelve Nobel Laureates in Literature are depicted in the Spanish photographer Kim Manresa’s gripping and beautiful images.  The authors have in different ways used their writing as a way to question, create change and make resistance.  Through their literature, they have in different ways worked to create and maintain spaces for the free word.”

We didn’t feel like finding yet another restaurant for dinner, so we decided to head to the grocery store and pick up some bread and cheese and make a little picnic in our hotel room!  Waaaay cheaper than any restaurant we’d eaten so far, and when is bread and mozzarella cheese not 70% of every meal I eat anyway?

That night we spent a few hours researching our next stop: Helsinki!

Things you should know: There are two companies who run hop-on, hop-off bus tours of Stockholm: City Sightseeing and Red Sightseeing.  We used Red Sightseeing.  I’d recommend City Sightseeing.  We didn’t have a terrible experience, but they were in the middle of shifting from their summer to (their much more limited) winter schedule and definitely didn’t have that all figured out.  The buses were also running fairly delayed and the many of the headphone jacks didn’t function.

Check back tomorrow to read all about our grand church tour of Finland’s capital!

Read about the first three days of our trip here: Overview | Stop #1: Aarhus | Stop #2: Bergen

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