Sunday, September 05, 2010

Heading Home – Day 16

Well folks, another vacation comes to a merciful end.  I’m currently sitting on the airplane, somewhere over the… well, I’m not sure exactly where.  This plane doesn’t have a mappy map showing us where we are.  But we’re about 4.5 hours out of Seattle, so probably coming off of some polar trajectory over Canada at this point would be my best guess. 

Where did I leave things off last?  Oh yes, Friday was about as uneventful as I really expected it to be.  Continued to get some work done, but really just wrapping things up in preparation to go home.  Oh, and my Swedish coworkers gave me a present to take home with me… a bona-fide Swedish-made cold.  Actually, it’s very mild at this point, just a bit of congestion and hopefully that’s all it will remain at.  I’m sure my coworkers in Seattle will appreciate me not sharing this particular gift with them. 

As a result of said cold, I decided to take it easy and not push myself too much on Saturday.  Though even at that, I headed out and strolled Gothenburg for the better part of the afternoon.  It started out as a cruise ship pulled into port along the river. 

Cruise Ship pulling into harbor.

Being a Saturday, the locals were out in full force doing one thing I’ve noticed they really love to do… go shopping.  One of the more interesting places I stumbled upon was the local market, where obviously all of the locals picked up a lot of their groceries.  Honestly, in all of my travels the past two weeks, I hadn’t even considered the lack of the modern American convenience… the supermarket.  Then again, I was also constantly in the city, and if you ever try to find a supermarket in downtown Seattle, that wouldn’t happen either.  But regardless, the Gothenburg market was a sight to behold.  Though definitely smaller than, say, Pike Place in Seattle, there was definitely a certain charm to behold.  And if there’s one thing avid blog readers should have learned from these past two weeks of blogs:  I’m all about the charm. 

So let me take you on a little photo tour of the Saluhallen market in Gothenburg.  Friends, right here we have a veritable smorgasbord of the finest olives North of the Mediterranean. 

Saluhallen Market - We've got Olives...

Olives not to your liking?  Not a problem, how about some find bread from the local bakery?  Who doesn’t like bread?  Well, maybe those with a gluten aversion, but I’m sure we can find something to suit you. 

And breads, lots of breads...

What goes well with bread?  Did someone say “Variety Meats?”  Oh, wait, that was me.  We’ve got quite a selection of tasty meat products for you to feast on.  And look at the fine gentleman behind the counter just waiting to serve you. 

Come get your processed meats...

Wait wait, don’t run away yet!  I’ve still got more to show you!  What’s meat without cheese?!  How do you like it?  Mild or smelly?  Bleu or white?  Soft and runny or hard and robust?  That’s right, friends, we’ve got it all here at the cheese market. 

Cheese?  Yes please!

For my lactose-intolerant friends, I’ve got a solution for you… SAUSAGE!  And remember the golden rule of sausage… don’t ask what’s inside, just enjoy! :) 

Sausages, my oh my.

Neat some snackage?  How baout some dried fruits and nuts.  Make your own trail mix.  Or just munch.  It’s up to you. 

Fruits and nuts, make your own trail mix.

Not enough meat yet for you?  Well, fear not.  We haven’t even touched salami yet… the food so good it gets its own counter!  But first you do need to know what kind of salami you want, please consult our handy-dandy salami chart:  

Please refer to our salami quick reference poster

And on to the salami selection: 

Salami is yumi.

Looks good, no?  Couldn’t say it better myself.  Hmmm, someone needs some fiber.  Time to take a stop by the produce stand. 

Something healthy?  Yes, we've got fruit too!

Delicious and nutritious!  But I would be neglect if I didn’t stop by and pick up some delicious fresh pastas for dinner.  Those tortellini look good enough to eat! 

How about some fresh pasta to go with that?

Well, we’ve almost come to the end of our tour of the market, but what am I missing?  Oh yes, MORE MEAT! 

You want meat?  We've got meat!

Them’s some mighty tasty looking steaks!  Nobody makes cows like they do in Sweden.  [Editors note:  I don’t really know if that’s actually true, and if so whether it’s a good thing or not…]

Well, this has been an eventful journey.  It’s now 11am Pacific Daylight Time, which means just 4 more hours on this plane before I can return home, keep myself awake until a reasonable end of the day, and then enjoy a nice long night’s sleep into a happy Labor Day holiday.  Seriously, someone needs to invent a faster means of transportation between continents. 

On the bright side, the flight is once again quite pleasant.  The seating configuration on this Boeing 767-300ER aircraft is 2-3-2, and I’m in one of the aisle seats of the 3, but through careful planning [not really], basically the only empty seat on the plane is right next to me.  So I have the luxury of two tray tables, and all the extra space I want. 

No personal TVs on this plane, but we’ve just completed the third in-flight movie of the trip.  First we had The A-Team, which was really nothing more than a typical action-thriller, I guess loosely based on the back-story from the TV show of the same name.  Whatever, it was OK.  Netflix it when it comes out on DVD. 

Second movie was The Joneses.  I actually watched the first half of this movie on the way over, before my in-fight video screen broke and I never saw the end.  This was a fascinating movie about what is termed “stealth marketing”.  People planted in a affluent community, but with the sole secret purpose of showing off all of their fancy stuff in hopes their neighbors will go out and buy them.  The premise is actually quite brilliant, though the plot is actually pretty predictable, but worth seeing just to watch the pieces of the real story fall into place over the course of the movie.  This would be a great group movie night movie, because the group reactions would be priceless. 

Excuse me while I interrupt this review to comment on the gentlemen across the aisle and a row in front of me, who has had what I conservatively estimate is his 8th glass of chardonnay.  I really wouldn’t have noticed, except that every time he finishes a glass, he’s the type that will ring his call button to get the flight attendant to bring him another glass.  He’s minding his own business, I’m just intrigued to see how this one plays out. 

The third movie on the list this afternoon was the Steve Carrell and Tina Fey rom-com Date Night.  As much as I think I would have enjoyed the movie, it was an appropriate time in the flight for a brief nap.  So I’ll leave that on the watch list for another time. 

Final movie on the docket just started.  We’re now at the point in the flight where everyone’s sick of movies and/or sleeping, so we get older movies.  Today it’s The Blind Side.  I am sticking with the iPod on this one.  Though rather disappointed, because if we were flying TO Europe, the mystery older movie would be Quantum of Solace, which would have been fantastic.  C’est la vie.

Maybe if I keep writing throughout the rest of this flight, this blog entry could go on for about 10,000 words or so.  Fortunately for you, you all probably stopped reading after my tour of the market [I know I would have], so I’ll just wrap it up here. 

I now return you to my regularly scheduled intermittent blogging. :) 

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Working in Göteborg – Day 10-13

As expected, once the work week started up here, things got a bit busy.  When I haven’t been working, I’ve been out and about the town, and then I get back to the hotel and sleep is the highest priority.  But some interesting happenings. 

Out the window

The view from my hotel room on the 9th floor is actually quite tolerable.  This was the view on the first night, when the rains were still passing through.  Fortunately, after the work week started the weather cleared up and has been cool, but sunny and mostly pleasant the whole week. 

Out the hotel window at sunset.

Göteborg seems to have a little of everything.  Part old shipping town, part college town, and now part tech town.  I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with the folks in our office here.  They all are great people and like to have a fun time at work.  Almost reminds me of the office back home in Seattle. :) 

Canal in Goteborg

Among the more interesting things that happened, the other day I went out to lunch with some folks from work, and went to this Swedish bistro.  I took the opportunity to enjoy a food I have never had before.  Can you guess what it is?

a)  Alligator
b)  Reindeer
c)  Piranha
d)  Rattlesnake

Answer after the picture…

Goteborg streets

The correct answer is:  (b) Reindeer.  Though as it was prepared the dish looked almost identical to a traditional American Thanksgiving day meal.  It consisted of reindeer (with bacon) and mashed potatoes, all covered in gravy, with some lingonberries on the side.  Really, if you replaced the reindeer with turkey, and the lingonberries with cranberries, you would have Thanksgiving all over again.  Though it was quite delicious, actually.  I can now check reindeer off of my mystery meat checklist. :) 

Some various pictures around the office are on the Picasa album

Tomorrow is the last day of the work week, then I have a leisurely Saturday before the long flight home on Sunday morning.  Final vacation updates probably on the way home. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

On the Train Again – Day 9

After a leisurely morning where I did next to nothing except for watch old episodes of Frasier with Norwegian subtitles, I’m back on the train and heading off to Gothenburg.  This time I’ve just got a short leisurely 4-hour journey out of Norway and back to the Swedish empire. 

Nothing at all too exciting going on here right now.  The train was packed full when we left Oslo, but has now actually become rather empty as many have gotten off at various stops in the southern part of Norway.  I’ve now got two seats to myself and am relaxing and stretching out.  This leg of the journey is on a Norwegian NSB train, rather than the previous two trips on Sweden’s SJ line.  Different looking trains, but really not much else difference beyond that.  My only beef is that the vast majority of the seats on this trip happen to be facing backward.  I’ve determined that I don’t really like riding backward, I’m much happier riding in the forward direction. 

Though I must say, this is by far the most scenic of any of the trips I’ve taken so far.  Norway is fantastically beautiful country (and I must say, definitely has the coolest flag of any of the Scandinavian lands). 

After today, I expect the blog postings to slow down a bit, as I get into a very routine week of work in Gothenburg.  There may be some surprises though, which could provide some interesting material.  And I’ll try to take some exciting pictures of our office to get the perspective of what the “real world” (as opposed to the “tourist world” of Sweden is all about.  I’ll be sure to keep my camera on me even at work.  You never know I’ll find something interesting.  :) 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

English as a Common Language – Day 8

Today I’ve been taking it pretty easy.  Just wandering around Oslo, seeing what I find to see, and avoiding the random rain showers that keep occurring. 

Before I give the daily recap, I want to go back to a topic I touched on a few days ago.  As I’ve pointed out, most everyone in Scandinavia speaks English.  But contrary to what most of them may want to admit, really, English isn’t a second language to them, it’s their common language.  In Norway, they speak Norwegian to each other, but they speak English to everyone else. 

Why is this important?  Because they have absolutely NO problem speaking English, if they know you don’t speak Norwegian.  But they only way you know is if you start speaking English first.  I’ve had the worst time as I start picking up small words and phrases in these languages, and when I use them, they assume I know their language and start talking to me in it.  This is fine, but then they find out I only really speak English, and THEY actually are feeling bad and apologizing to me because they weren’t speaking in English.  The moral of the story:  contrary to popular belief, it’s actually better not even to attempt to speak their language.  :) 

Today was rather uneventful, actually, so this should be short.  I started out on this dark and dreary morning heading up to really the only place that everyone said “you have to go there,” the Vigeland Sculpture Park. 


Though most people know it as “the park with all the naked statues.”  If it weren’t raining I probably would have wandered around longer, but as it was I can’t say it was particularly exciting.  It was a nice big park though.  At the center was the “tower of naked people” (I’m rusty on the direct Norwegian translation). 

It's made of naked people!

Moving on, I headed back toward the main part of the city, and did pass by a pretty cool cinema called the Oslo Kino Colosseum.  Looking it up after the fact, it’s the largest cinema in Northern Europe, and the largest THX cinema in the world.  Pretty cool building too. 

Yup, a theatre.  Oooh, Toy Story 3 now playing!

And then it started raining a lot.  A LOT.  I huddled with some people under an awning on a street corner and watched as the water slowly filled nearly to the height of the curb. 

Now it's REALLY raining

Then across the street from where I was avoiding the rain happened to be the National Gallery.  It was all art, but did have some pretty cool paintings, most notably Edvard Munch’s The Scream. 


The rest did include some pretty cool Picassos, Renoirs, Monets, Manets, and one of Van Gogh’s self portraits. 

I continued on to do some shopping, trying to find something definitively Norwegian to take home.  But instead was distracted by a bunch of pretty colored yarn. 

Norwegian yarn store.  Look at all the pretty colors.

I looked at a wide array of Norwegian sweaters, and decided that I wouldn’t spend $400 on something I actually WOULD wear, let alone something I probably wouldn’t. :)  Though some of them did look nice.  Perhaps I’ll find something before I leave Oslo tomorrow. 

I leave you today with one of the most “interesting” street art I came across in Oslo.  I call it Norway’s “Salute to Aluminum Foil.”  Enjoy!

A Norwegian Salute to Aluminum Foil

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oslo That Ends Well – Day 7.5

First a more thorough recap of the journey from Stockholm to Oslo.  The train emptied in Karlstad onto 3 waiting tour buses bound for Norway.  There were actually many people going to somewhere inbetween Karlstad and Oslo, which allowed one of the buses to load just those going direct to Oslo and we could go without having to stop. That wasn’t so bad.  The bus was relatively peaceful, and the windows actually clean so I could take some good pictures. 

Beautiful Sweden

And there was plenty of good pictures to take.  Green trees, deep blue lakes scattered and abundant, and rolling wheat fields.  Beautiful countryside!  That’s why I didn’t take a plane.

The hotel room in Oslo was quite a bit larger than the previous ones in Stockholm or Copenhagen, but I wouldn’t necessarily say “nicer”.  I also am in a smoking room, so the smell of stale smoke permeates the room.  But then again, so it also permeates the streets in all of Scandinavia.  Geez people, stop smoking. 

Hotel room in Oslo

After dumping all of my stuff and reloading to head out, I wandered out for my typical first orientation to the city.  I start walking until I get lost enough, then figure out where I am and find my way back.  And I usually find lots of good stuff along the way. Today I found… lots of shopping, and this jolly fellow who was quite pleased that I threw a crown in his podium. 

Hello kind stret person

I ran into Oslo Cathedral, and on to the Akershus Fortress.  Trolls guarded my journey.  

Norway likes their trolls

I also came across the Nobel Peace Center, which was interesting considering I found the Nobel Museum in Stockholm.  But the Peace Prize gets awarded in Oslo rather than the rest of the Nobels which are in Stockholm.  The Peace Center had a big exhibit on Obama, which I did not go see. 

Nobel Peace Center

Finally, as I continued my wanderings back towards the hotel, I came upon this large building, the only one in Oslo with 10-feet high fences and armed guards at all of the entrances. 

The only building in Oslo with a 10-foot high fence surrounding it.

After getting the evil eye from most of the guards who saw me taking pictures of the building, I knew for certain it couldn’t be any other building than… 

Must be the US Embassy

The U.S. Embassy.  Visitors unwelcome.  The sign out front pretty much says “go away”.  Actually, I think it says “if we didn’t ask you to, don’t come in.”  This is by far the highest security building in Oslo.  For comparison, the King’s Palace is right across the street.

The Royal Palace

And besides the Royal Guards patrolling out front, who will smile and take a picture with you if you ask nicely, there’s nothing too menacing or intimidating there.  You can even get close enough to actually touch the building… which I did just to prove I could.  Try that at the U.S. Embassy. 

Touch the palace (try doing that at the US Embassy...)

Of course, you could also be the Canadian Embassy on the other side of the palace, which occupies one floor of a non-descript office building, indicated only by the presence of the maple leaf hanging out front on the flagpole. 

Canadian Embassy... see the flag.

Tomorrow I’ll endeavor to go somewhere interesting.  Hopefully the rain is done after today, and I can have a nice day to explore with my last real day of “vacation”, before I head to Gothenburg on Sunday to get ready to work next week.

Plenty more interesting pictures in the Picasa album for you to check out. 

Nobody told me there would be a bus – Day 7

Up in the morning, actually kinda tired when I got up, which is a first for this trip.  Slept great last night though.  Today is the transit day to Oslo, and what a transit day it’s shaping up to be. 

After shoving everything back into the suitcase and laptop bag, I checked out of the hotel and had about a little over an hour to get to the train station, so I decided rather than hopping the subway down to the station, I would just walk the little over a kilometer down there.  It turned out to be a good choice, since it was such a nice morning. 

As usual, I make it to the train station earlier than I needed to, but that’s not a big deal.  It was nice to sit around and relax a bit first.  Then made it to the platform and the train arrived. 

Now, first off, this is not exactly a glamorous high-speed train like I came in from Copenhagen on.  Though honestly, speed-wise I can’t tell the difference and I think the difference in top-speed is only about 20kph in this case.  However, the bigger surprise that I had not been made previously aware of is that they are doing work on the tracks to Oslo, so after a 3-hour train ride to Karlstad, I get on a bus for another 3 hours to Oslo.  NOT impressive.  Here I was expecting a nice relaxing train trip, lounging in my meager window seat, looking out through a window that probably hasn’t been washed in 6 months, but it was my personal space.  Now, I’m going to be trapped on a bus for 3 hours after being trapped on a train for 3 hours. 

Oh well, I’m here for a Scandinavian adventure afterall, aren’t I?  Maybe the bus won’t be jam-packed full and I’ll have a little more space than I would expect.  I can think positively. 

No internet to post this until later, so more updates to come as we go.  [9AM CET]

[Update 3:30pm CET]

Well, I actually made it.  Checked into the hotel no problem.  Plenty of updates to come later, but for now I’m off to wander the town… and find some food.  Mmm… food.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Museum Fatigue Sets In – Day 6

I really use the museums as a convenient excuse to drag myself to different parts of the city.  It works out pretty well, but after a certain point you just get sick of them all.  Today I finally reached the “museum fatigue” point, probably because there wasn’t anything historical about most of them themselves, they were just buildings with historic stuff in them.  Or something.  But, for my last day in Stockholm it went something like this: 

I started out heading over to the Ostermalm neighborhood, and went to the blandly named History Museum.  Even though its name was rather uninspired, the museum itself was probably one of the more interesting and well-designed museums I’ve been to yet.  Really, this museum is dedicated to the history of the Swedes, from before they were Swedes to where we know them today.  The museum itself was just interesting.  I give lots of credit to the airport-terminal inspired gallery, that I just thought was a creative design idea:

One gallery themed like an airport terminal

Following the History Museum, rather than taking the bus down to the next museum area, I decided to walk the kilometer or so down the road.  It was quite nice (until it started pouring down rain).  But along the way I seem to have run into Embassy Row.  Without looking too hard I ran into the Hungarian, Turkish, and Korean embassies.  Though according to Google Maps, I walked right past the US Embassy without realizing it. 

Hungarian Embassy 
Hungarian Embassy

Fortunately for the pouring rain, this time I brought my rain jacket with me, and all was fine.  I checked out the Maritime Museum, which was decidedly yawn.  Then I went next door to the Sports Museum, which was also pretty yawn, but they did have a curling stone, so I guess they aren’t all that bad.

A curling stone

Moving on to the Police Museum, this one was relatively newly constructed, and pretty poorly maintained.  And boring.  Though I suppose it was interesting looking at their CSI field kit display: 

Don't forget the numbers!

What is a field kit without useful numbers to put everywhere.  I don’t see any chalk though… how are you supposed to outline the dead body!?  Obviously an incomplete kit. :)

Finally made it on to the one museum today I was really looking forward to the Technological Museum.  This was pretty much like going to the science center, but also had some more interesting museum-like exhibits as well.  The museum is in what looks like it once was a top-secret national laboratory, or at least some non-descript industrial building that you really don’t know what goes on inside. 

Technology Museum

It was at this point museum fatigue started setting in, and after an hour and a half, I just had to leave.  I still saw plenty while I was there and it was certainly an interesting museum. 

I thought I was done with museums for the day, until I wandered past the Musikmuseet.  And of course, I couldn’t pass that up.  I’m glad I stopped, because it was a fun place to just play instruments and make noise.  Though it would have been nicer if I were there by myself, because all of the other people making noise on the instruments were driving me bonkers.  My music friends can relate, when there’s just people banging on instruments and making noise, rather than at least trying to do something melodic.  It’s like having a room full of 30 kids with recorders all noodling at once.  Kill me now.  But I digress. 

In an interesting coincidence compared to last night’s blog post, one exhibit offered me an answer to a question I didn’t bother to look up… WHO is that lady on the 50 kronor bill? 

AHA!  So that's who's on the 50 kr. bill!

Well now I know.  It’s Jenny Lind, The Swedish Nightingale.  A famous opera singer.  Though my favorite comment in the exhibit was something to the effect of, “What did she sound like?  We don’t know, because no recordings persist.”  But she must have been fantastic anyway. :)  Though I just keep flashing back to the movie Singing in the Rain.  Nevermind.

Among their many exhibits, including the obligatory tribute to Sweden’s own ABBA, was an entire floor with a salute to drums.  Seriously?  Are drums really that important that they need their own exhibit?  Every drummer I’ve known has been… nevermind. 

So the drums exhibit did include something I had a ton of fun with. It was a dynamic sculpture called the Rytmobil.  Basically it was this strange collection of noise-making stuff, that was played by a computer, and you could program your own drum beat track to control the 5 elements. 

A do-it-yourself music sculpture

My beat was pretty rockin, given what I had to work with.

The drum pattern I programmed into it.

That concluded the first bulk of the day, but a trip to Stockholm would not be complete without a stop at the World’s Largest IKEA store! 

Oooh, Aaahh.

Yes, it was big, 4 floors of Scandinavian-designed junk.  However, I can hear your question now, if it’s 4 floors, how can IKEA control you in one single loop around the store like they’re known for?  Easy, the main store is round.  You start at the top, and you wind your way down, round and round until you reach the bottom and check out.  Other than that, it’s like every other IKEA I’ve ever been to.  Except for the restaurant. 

So the top floor has the big IKEA restaurant, where I couldn’t resist enjoying some dinner. 

The IKEA restaurant, the most popular part of the store

The place was packed, crazy full of people.  But who can resist the quality cafeteria-style food at ridiculously low prices?!  For my diner I decided to break with the easy mold of meatballs and mashed potatoes and instead go with the more delicious sounding sausage, potatoes au gratin-ish, and pickled beets.  I splurged and also got a salad and chocolate mousse for dessert, with a lingonberry soda to drink.  All that for the ridiculously low price of 40 kroner, or about $5 US.  And it was yummy. 

My dinner.  Delicious.  And only 40 kr, or about $5.

As I then circled my way to the bottom of the store, I found on the second floor the 5 kroner cafe!  Everything 5 kroner! 

Cafe 5?  Everything 5 kr.?  That's insane!

5 kroner is essentially zero dollars.  OK, it’s actually about 65 cents US.  Still pretty good deal for your snackage.  Hey, it’s a big store, you’ll probably get hungry every floor or so.  Finally I made it to the bottom, where I found… ANOTHER cafe.  Geez.  I plowed through the warehouse of IKEA goods, and to the checkout, to find of course the snack bar.  (What if you get hungry before you make it to the car?)  All in all, it was interesting, but it was IKEA.  I would go again just for the food though. 

Well, that was a long day and a long blog.  If you made it this far, kudos.  Time for me to get ready to go to bed, before I have a 6-hour train ride in the morning to Oslo, where we will continue my final 2 days of “vacation” before heading down to “work” in Gothenburg.  As always, plenty more pics on the Picasa album.  See you in Oslo. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Money Rants – Scandinavia Edition

I’m taking this break from my usual vacation recaps to do what I do so love: rant about something I have zero control over.  Today’s rant:  Money.

Now, I have my issue with US money.  Yes it’s boring, yes it’s predictable, yes it all looks the same, but there are some good things going for that. 

Swedish money annoys me.  Someone had the bright idea to make the bills larger in size as the denomination goes up.  This sounds useful in principle, but for goodness sake, a 500 kroner practically requires a folder to hold onto, let alone a wallet.  I understand that the different size money helps people to differentiate easily, that’s good.  All I ask is that you take one of the dimensions and make it constant.  Make them all the same width and vary the lengths, that’s fine.  At least I can fit them in my wallet comfortably without them hanging all over the place. 

However, the Swedish 50 kronor note is by far the coolest looking piece of money I’ve ever run into: 

banknote%20sweden%2050%20krona%20obverse[1] banknote%20sweden%2050%20krona%20reverse[1]

I love the music theme of the bill.  I’m sure there’s some greater significance to it, but I don’t care.  I just like it. 

Then there are the 1 kronor coins, which get thrown around like US pennies (and are worth about a US dime), but are larger than a US quarter.  I don’t understand this.  The next larger denomination is the 5 kroner coin (which is maybe slightly smaller than a US half-dollar).  The problem is there’s nothing inbetween.  So as a result you get a whole lot of these “giant pennies” that just weigh down your pockets.  Not impressive. 

Danish money has its own quirks, not to mention its own exchange rate.  One thing I found interesting is that the smallest banknote they use is the 50 kroner note, any 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 kroner are in coins.  This means dealing with a lot of 20 kronor coins, and they’re like, real money.  It’s like having a $4 coin in US money, not something you want to just lose track of.  It actually feels a lot more like Canada where real money is in coins, rather than the US where anything in coins is pretty much useless. I know we Americans hate change (both the coins and the concept), and really don’t want to carry around pockets full of coins when we can have nice crusty disease-laden $1 bills to throw around.   But it seems to me like nobody has it right. 

Danish coins, 25-ore (cent), 50-ore, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 kroner

Not to mention, both Sweden and Denmark are E.U. countries, and neither subscribes to the Euro.  Having their own currency means that money changing is a big business around here.  You really find currency exchanges on nearly every street downtown.  (Which actually offer very competitive exchange rates, I found, at least exchanging among the Scandinavian currencies.) 

Well, that concludes the money rant for now, until I’m sure I’ll have something to complain about Norwegian money too.  But that’ll have to wait.  Go back and read my real blogs about stuff that matters.  :) 

Or continue to look at my constantly updated Picasa album

Stockholm Sweet Holm – Day 5

What a day it has been.  I’ve ventured all over Stockholm exploring, well, mainly museum after museum.  They call themselves “the city of museums” and I really can’t disagree.  You can’t go 50 meters in this city without running into one. 

I started out early, and found the one museum that opens earlier than all the rest, probably because it’s one of the most popular, the Vasa Museum.  Built to house the nearly-completely salvaged remains of a 17th century built ship, that was too top-heavy and sunk on its very first voyage not to be raised for 300 years. 

The Vasa

Everyone says this is the “must see” museum of all of Stockholm, and I’d have to agree it is quite impressive, as confirmed by the literally dozen tour buses parked out front and swarms of people coming in to view it, led by their tour guides with their silly little stick “follow me” signs. 

Moving on, I went next door to the Nordiska Museet, that really is a museum of Swedish cultural history.  Many displays showed Swedish life through the past several centuries, and how people live and work and do whatever it is that they do.  Interesting, yet I’d have to admit I didn’t spend a whole lot of time reading the displays, probably because they were mostly in Swedish.  :)  Though the architecture of these giant old buildings is pretty cool, and the central hall of the Nordic Museum was worth taking a picture of: 

The inner hall of the Nordiska Museet

It was at this point in the day that it started raining, something that it would continue to do throughout the rest of the day.  Having dressed as I did in Copenhagen and realized that wasn’t going to suffice for the colder, wetter climate of Stockholm, I took a detour back to the hotel to reequip myself.  Pulled out the raincoat, put on the goretex shoes, but still left the shorts on… I am a Seattlite after all. 

I hopped the T-Bane down to Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm.  Just stepping off the subway you realize you’re in a very different part of town from the main downtown core in Norrmalm. 

Olde town

Narrow little streets, mainly pedestrian traffic everywhere… I finally found the “charm” in Stockholm, I just had to know where to look!  This is what you would expect when you think of a European city.  After wandering a bit through the streets, I came to the Royal Palace, home of the King.  I happened upon the changing of the guard, which honestly seemed rather disorganized and non-ceremonial, but I’ll chalk that up to my own vantage point. 

Guard people

It was at this point, in the rain, after being smacked around by countless umbrellas by people who don’t know how to use them properly, that I decided to turn around and go back to the other side of the palace.  I went to Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities, which really was two halls of statues and busts, and not much else.  Then I came to the Tre Kronor Museum, down under the palace, which contained a bit of the historical artifacts that weren’t destroyed when the original palace (the Tre Kronor) burned to the ground who knows how long ago.  Then I went upstairs and viewed the Royal Apartments, which was quite interesting.  Many of the rooms are used for special ceremonies and royal events, but when they aren’t they’re all open to the public (for a small fee) to view.  It was interesting.  Finally I made my way over to the Treasury, and went down into the vault to view a selection of crown regalia, which was quite unique.  I enjoyed that most all recent monarch’s crowns are Swedish-flag blue, which makes them look rather, cheesy, but Swedish. :)  I actually thought they were neat.  Unfortunately, unlike the Danish Treasury, pictures aren’t allowed in the Swedish one, so you’ll have to just imagine what they look like. 

Conveniently located next door to the palace is the NobelMuseum, celebrating the history of Alfred Nobel, and the Nobel Prizes. 

A noble Nobel museum

I found this to be a very technologically-savvy museum, with lots of interesting displays they have put together in very contemporary ways, using the latest technology.  It’s not a large museum, but definitely was interesting enough for a walk through.  Unfortunately, no dynamite was available in the gift shop as a souvenir.  Pity. 

Finally succumbing to hunger, I stopped by a small pizzeria and must have been hungry because I hate a huge Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizza all by myself.  And it was delicious.  Certainly as good as most anything I would find back home… actually, comparable to Pagliacci, now that I think about it more. 

After a quick jaunt to the Post Museum, where I learned all about the interesting history of the Swedish Post service, I headed back on the subway to the National Museum  (not to be confused with any of the other museums that may seem national, this one’s the real National museum.) 

The museum is apparently in the process of restoration after 143 years of change.  Trying to let natural light back in after years of windows being closed off, and walls being put up, one of their galleries of busts is quite the view: 

Very utilitarian display don't you think?

As far as I’m concerned, this is brilliant.  Spare me the busts on a pedestal scattered about, just put them all out and let me look through them like they’re on the clearance rack at Walmart.  At least I know what’s there and it’s all in once place.

And thus the museum closed at 5pm, as with most all museums in the city, so I braved the 5pm rush-hour commute back to the hotel on the subway.  Crazy yet efficient.  After hating the confusing and difficult-to-navigate city when I first arrived, I now actually find it to be remarkably easy to get around once you figure out how everything works.  Or if you just aren’t afraid to get lost.  Now if it will just stop raining.

Tomorrow I’m off to Ostermalm, another different neighborhood, with more different and interesting things to see.  Perhaps some other things that I’m not quite used to yet.  One more day in Stockholm then another train and off to some adventures in Oslo for a couple of days.  Now it’s time to relax.