Sunday, June 14, 2009

14 June

Today is the last day of my trip. What?!

Somehow I was fortunate enough to have nice weather two days in a row; the sun was shining again when I awoke this morning.

I met Marie and her roommate for coffee at noon, and then spent my afternoon visiting the Danish National Gallery and the fortified citadel in the north of the city. The National Gallery was great (free admission!) and had a fascinating collection of artifacts from 20,000 BC to present day. They had arms & armor, pottery, and jewelry from the stone age, bronze age, and iron age. I was really impressed by the quality of the preservation.

The citadel was really neat too (also free admission.) Visitors were invited to walk along the ramparts, which overlooked the water and the surrounding area. There were a lot of people out today enjoying the nice change in weather, and it was certainly nice to be among them.

Tomorrow I have to get up at (censored) o’clock to travel across town to the airport to catch my morning flight back to the States. Fortunately, Continental has great entertainment options on their transatlantic flights, so the trip shouldn’t be too grueling. I will finally land in Raleigh at around 3:30 pm.

I only have a few days in Raleigh before I’ll be heading back up to Blacksburg, where I have two jobs for the rest of the summer to earn money so I can eat in the fall.

I am looking forward to seeing some of you in a few days!

The Copenhagen Opera House

Farewell photograph. I need to shave...

Shields from the bronze age

More picturesqueness. <-- That is a real word

Pretty Anglican Cathedral overlooking the moat across from the citadel

13 June

I got up nice and early this morning and caught a 7:50 train from Göteborg to København (Copenhagen), Denmark. Most of the ride was pretty uneventful. The weather was cloudy and we traveled through mostly rural areas until we arrived in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, near the southernmost tip of Sweden.

We were parked in Malmö for about 15 minutes before setting out once again to cross over the Kattegat into Denmark. The crossing was pretty dramatic – we were high above the water for several minutes on a huge bridge before plunging into a tunnel and finishing the last bit of the crossing underwater, finally emerging in the Danish capital, København (pronounced Cope-m-hawm).

What a beautiful city! Apparently the city was just emerging from a week of constant rain showers as I arrived. A friend of mine from high school, Marie LaHaye, is spending part of her summer in Denmark studying psychology and working with special needs children in Copenhagen. She met me at the train station when I finally arrived at about noon, and we spent the day exploring the city together. We visited the historic old town, grabbed some lunch, and finally hit up a grocery store for some dinner fixings. I cooked my favorite dish, lemon ginger chicken, for Marie and her roommate.

I am staying at the Denmark City Hostel, which is conveniently located only a few blocks from the train station and the city center. It is the largest city hostel in Europe, boasting a remarkable 18 stories of rooms. I am on the 13th story, and my room has an incredible view. Unfortunately, the hostel is run by fascists who charge $15.00 for breakfast and $8.00 for an hour of access to their wifi. I am somewhat appalled, but at least the rooms are nice.

As a side note, the bar/café I am in right now is playing Def Leapord. Pour some sugar on me.
After dinner I took a second walking tour through the city to appreciate the pleasant weather and ambience. Being rather exhausted after a long day, I came very close to just collapsing into my hostel, but resolved to explore the city again by night. I was handsomely rewarded by a spontaneous midnight fireworks display just as I arrived at the central square. People streamed out of the nearby bars and nightclubs to watch the display. I asked several Copenhagen natives what was going on, and they were just as surprised as I was.

Just a regular Saturday night, they said.

Marie is good at taking pictures (Gotcha!)

Countless canals

View from my hostel. Nice, yes?


Friday, June 12, 2009

12 June

Well, today it rained all day. Hard.

The two main things on my agenda for my last day in Sweden (yikes!) were visiting the Volvo headquarters/museum and the Palmhuset (a gigantic greenhouse with several self-contained ecosystems worth of plant life.

Thanks to the great public transport here, I was able to minimize my exposure to the constant downpour and visit both places. In between, I got to see some more of the city. The Volvo museum was really cool - it housed nearly a hundred cars, trucks, and engines from the company's 80-year history. There were also a number of recent concept cars, including one that actually takes 3 cars worth of air pollutants from the ambient atmosphere and absorbs them into its catalytic converter as it drives. Very cool.

Palmhuset was also exciting to see. Each of the five sections of the greenhouse had a distinct temperature and humidity. As a result, trees and plants from 6 continents can be housed inside.

At the end of the day, the conditions shifted from steady rain to sporadic torrential rain, adding considerably to the excitement of pedestrian travel. My shoes and socks are now totally soaked from walking through puddles for hours, but my jacket is holding up alright.

I fly home in less than 72 hours... it is really incredible how quickly these past weeks have gone by. I still haven't seen Copenhagen though - so I still have that to look forward to!

This concept car was designed exclusively by a team of women engineers.
"A car that meets the expectations of women exceeds the expectations of men"
The headrests have grooves in them to accommodate ponytails.

This concept car cleans the air while you drive it

This is not a car at all

11 June

Today I traveled from Stockholm (on the Baltic coast) to Göteborg (on the coast of the Skagerrak.) Göteborg was founded by Gustav II Adolf, a.k.a. Gustavus Adolphus, in the early 17th century. We know the city as Gothenburg.

Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city, is ideally situated at the mouth of the Göte river. Its strategic location has made it the busiest port in Scandinavia, and today Gothenburg is known as "the face of Sweden." After traveling across the country from east to west, the most noticable thing about Sweden was its flatness, especially in contrast to Norway. Sweden's flat terrain make it ideal for high-speed rail travel and agriculture, and I have certainly noticed a pick-up in the speed and quality of the trains over here.

I arrived in Göteborg at about 1:30, and contrary to the weather forecast, it wasn't raining. Rather, I was greeted by relatively amiable overcast skies. I spent the afternoon exploring the city and walking around the harbor. As the day progressed, the skies darkened gradually and it began to rain. I headed back to my hostel (via a very extensive tram system) at around dinnertime and made myself a nice frozen pizza.

One of the city's many canals

The Göteborg Opera house, which overlooks the river

Bicycle path

Thursday, June 11, 2009

10 June

For anyone expecting a day of wild kayaking, rich in capsizing and collisions with cruise ships, I apologize. After several days of better-than-average weather in Stockholm, the conditions returned to normal today, with rain and temperatures in the low 50's.

I went and watched a very wet changing of the guard at around noon, and otherwise spent the day walking around the city again. I was determined to find a cheap place to eat that wasn't cheeseburgers/kebabs, and after a long hunt, I found a hole-in-the-wall Sushi/Thai place with really good prices. I considered getting the sushi, but I was famished, so I went with a pad thai dish. IT WAS SO FREAKING GOOD. Best pad thai I think I've had. The nicest part was that it was only 89 SEK including tax and tip, making it essentially the same price as a thai entree in the United States. Dinner was definitely the highlight of this rainy Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

9 June

I was really tired last night... I haven't used any buses or trams since I arrived in Trondheim a week ago, so I've been walking 10-15 miles a day. Good exercise, but at the end of the day I'm beat! I resolved to reward all my city trekking with a night of sleep sans alarm (For the first time on the whole trip!). A dangerous prospect.

So I awoke at noon to a sunny city and a maid cleaning the room. To make up for some of the lost time, I ate my breakfast on the go (a cinnamon roll and a coffee) and headed over to the National Museum, which is basically next door. My favorite part of the museum was the section with the Swedish design. I got to see the famous "Concrete Chair" and a plethora of other super cool furnishings. Unlike the National Gallery in Oslo, I was actually allowed to bring in my camera, so I took a ton of pictures. There was also a whole section of European art from the 16th century to present. There was a large collection from the famous Swedish painter/designer Carl Larsson, as well as some selected works from Monet, Degas, Gauguin, and others. The paintings were cool, but the 5000 square feet of Scandinavian design (furniture, silverware, light fixtures, and much more) was really awesome!

After a few hours in the museum, I set out into the heart of the city again, with no clear intentions but to walk. The weather has been really great since I got hear, so it's been nice to just wander around. I got a nice hot lunch, capped off with a crepe at the neighboring cafe. Then I walked over to the central station and grabbed my reservations for Thursday's train to Göteborg.

Tomorrow is already my last day in Stockholm... I haven't decided exactly what I want to do yet...

Tune in tomorrow afternoon and find out!

These billboards are all over town - I like 'em!

The cuteness brigade is in attack mode!

Stockholm's National Museum

The famous "Concrete Chair"

Cool cabinet


8 June

So today I finally checked into my hostel in Stockholm. I wasn't allowed to check into a room until 3, so I had a lot of time to kill with my luggage. I left all my clothes in the storage room at the hostel and went for a three-hour walk through the city.

This hostel has a pretty bizarre wireless internet set-up, so I was hoping to find a cafe somewhere and grab a coffee/check my email after walking around Stockholm for a while. That didn't go very well... I went to seven different cafes, none of which had wifi or any employees that knew of a cafe that did. I eventually broke down and just had a cappuccino sans internet. While there I was able to use wifi from Burger King of all places, but after 20 minutes I was prompted to pay by the minute.

When I was finally able to check into my room, it was time to hop on the train again to head back to Uppsala for a barbecue with Caitlin's hallmates. We grilled up some tasty local sausage and steaks and indulged in some interesting conversation. While abroad, my favorite thing to talk about is the local perception of America. I try my best to be a good ambassador.

After dinner and a few beers it was about 10 pm and finally darkening a bit. I walked back through Uppsala one last time and took a few parting photographs before catching the 10:09 train back to Stockholm. I was hoping to get some dramatic nighttime shots when I got back, but it turns out that the Swedes actually turn off most of their lights at night... so it was... dark.

Stockholm by night

Barbecue time!

A pleasant evening in Uppsala