As many of you know, I've been on a long trip to look for a place to live. The biggest candidates appeared to be Warsaw and Tallinn, for reasons that I may discuss in another article. When I was planning my trip, I noticed there was a big problem: no cheap direct flight between Warsaw and Tallinn. I had to triangle with another city. To make the most out of it, I wanted to include something beautiful, something I've been wanting to see for long, but not necessarily to live in. Ryanair gave me the option to fly to Stockholm for just 15 EUR! I couldn't say no! As there is a flight to Tallinn almost every day, I decided to stop in Stockholm for 2 nights, so to enjoy the city center. Everyone told me wonders about the city center. To make everything easy and more manageable, I chose to sleep at City Backpackers hostel. This hostel is well placed, it offers a cozy environment, smiley staff and it has a reasonable price for Stockholm. I paid 33 EUR a night for a 6-beds mix dorm. It is important to notice also that at the hostel you can find board games and many books. They can help you kill time and socialize when the heavy rain hits. Yes, in Stockholm it rains a lot, it's windy too, so you might spend much time indoor. And yes, it's cold, even in August. Bring a jacket and an umbrella even during summer...
Stockholm's Historical Center
The first thing that impressed me about Stockholm is the size of the historical center. I've never seen so many historical buildings over such a wide area, an area that stretches over multiple islets. Stockholm lies on an archipelago of micro islands. This is why it's called the Venice of the North. You can see that this place used to be a big metropolis already in 17th century! Very impressive.
Walking through the narrow, stoned paved streets gives you the incomparable pleasure of time traveling. Let yourself get lost in these streets and see where you'll peer out. You may bump into the premises of the Nobel Prize!
I was delighted to see that I arrived in Sweden just in time to celebrate 100 years of democracy in the country. It was 1921, when Swedish women won the right to vote, radically changing the country from a patriarchal society to the motherland of the equal opportunities.
With this delightful note in my mind, I kept walking through the beautiful buildings. In every corner there's something interesting to see.
I stumbled into the Royal Palace too, but it's under restoration so I have no photo worth to share. The whole city is undergoing big works. This is President Corona's hand. The virus is renovating our cities! Thank You President Corona!
Normally, I don't eat meat, both for health and ethical reasons, but when I travel I become a panther, a ruthless predator in search of fresh meat. This predator couldn't leave Sweden without trying reindeer meat. I stopped at Kryp In restaurant, where I had my precious reindeer meal (literally precious, it costed 40 EUR!). Everything was cooked at perfection, including a sublime potato puree! Reindeer meat is something like I've never tried before. It feels like beef, but it's much more tender, very tender. The taste is a combination of classic beef meat and liver. Don't be scared, it reminds liver but the taste is more delicate and gentle.
Yes, in Sweden you tip. How's tipping by card? Because Sweden is almost a cashless society, you'll tip by card. The waiter will show you the net bill on the terminal screen and will ask you to enter the total amount with the tip. So, if for example the bill for your meal is 250 SEK, and you want to leave 20 SEK as tip, you will enter 270 SEK in the pin pad. Remember, to calculate the price in EUR, you just need to divide by 10, so 10 SEK almost equal to 1 EUR. Try to tip around 5%, not too less and not too much more. The good perk of Sweden is that water is served for free!
When I googled what I could visit during my short stay in Stockholm, the first thing that came out was the ABBA Museum! I'm not joking! Of course, when it comes to music, I can't resist, so I took the tram and went there! Hilarious fact happened on the tram; I asked the staff if I could buy a ticket on board and their reply was shocking: “Well, we're getting off, so there's no one checking. You can ride for free!”
One would expect Scandinavians to be so strict and so loyal to the rules. You would never expect they encourage you to break those rules! It felt like being in South Italy! Whatever...
Benny, Mari-Frid, Agnetha and Bjorn. I didn't know much about their pre-ABBA solo careers and it was weird to listen to them singing in Swedish!
ABBA invented the modern pop music, but they were far from being a plastic band designed by a label. They were musicians who were brought together by life, first as couples, then as a band. Two couples band is something unique.
ABBA befriended each other out of concerts held in Sweden by their respective bands, and started to play together for fun. At some point, Bjorn and Benny thought that the girls' voices sounded great together and producer Stig Anderson had the intuition to see the great potential in the four. He wrote the hit Waterloo for them, thanks to which, ABBA won the Eurovision 1974 in Brighton, the event that brought the band and their music to the world. Pop music was never the same again.
There are several “artefacts” to admire in the museum, like ABBA's several gold and platinum discs, the extravagant clothes used for their performances and some interactive games. The coolest game is “The Fifth Member”. You have to choose the song you wish to dance, jump on a black stage and in a second ABBA's ghosts will appear on stage to sing and dance with you!
The ticket for the museum is 260 SEK, which is roughly 25 EUR. Not bad for Stockholm prices.
Walking Through Stockholm
Best advice is to start your day early. Here everything closes early. Museums are all well shut by 5.00 pm. Restaurants and bars are off by 10.00 pm. I know, it's sad but that's what it is. It's a pity because I couldn't make it to the Viking Museum.
The islet of Djurgarden hosts the most interesting museums. Beside ABBA, you find spots like the Alcohol Museum, the Naval Museum and the Nordic Museum (Nordiska Museet). It's in the garden beside the latter that I had a “mystique” experience... I was enjoying a walk in the green when I spotted a monumental cemetery. If you read my previous post about Warsaw, you know how I fall for old cemeteries. Maybe I'm a descendant of the Addams family... In this beautiful cemetery, something supernatural happened. Happy music started to play and I felt like the dead wanted to dance too, with me! I started dancing like crazy among the tombs and it was heavenly!
I want this video turned into hologram and play at my funeral! Yes, the same idea used in the ABBA museum.
I wish I could dance more, but the rain said it was enough. I took another free bus and went back to the mainland center.
When I was in Warsaw, I was impressed (and even a it amused) by how disciplined Polish are when they wait for the green light to cross the road, even when no car is on sight! In Stockholm it is quite the opposite. The red light is just a warning, but you can pass if no car is on sight. If a car is coming, well... run! :D
As I'm on a trip to shop for a new place to live, people asked me if I'd ever live in Stockholm. No, I wouldn't. The first reason is obvious: climate. I'm ready to live in a cold place, but I can't accept to wear a jacket even in August! Give me at least 2 months of summer!
On the safety side, I have to say that I didn't like Stockholm. Too often you bump into weird people that look clearly high and harass you with stupid questions like "do you have 100 dollars?". Or for example, in a kebab place I saw a man (again high) shouting at two girls sitting two tables away from him. The girls got uncomfortable and left the premises, while the restaurant owner escorted the crazy dude out of the place because of his odd behaviour. You always have the feeling that you're going to bump into these crazy heads.
I could also notice and heard how it's hard to integrate with the locals. The Couchsurfing community seems silent and the Internations don't look so vibrant here. Even at the hostel, the guys told me that social life in Sweden is everything but exciting. Given my current mental health conditions, I'm afraid it would be a problematic place to live in.
Last but not least, the cost of living is exorbitant. At the time of writing, I'm eating an halloumi burger for 220 SEK, aka 22 EUR! I want my future employment to be fully remote, so the place I'll choose to live must offer a competitive hedge between my income and the cost of living. To live in Stockholm, I should be millionaire for the life I want and yet I'd feel like I'm wasting my money.
What I loved most about Stockholm? I realized it after I was standing still in the present moment at the International Restaurant, where I had my precious 220 SEK halloumi burger. Iron Maiden was playing on the radio, Run To The Hills! Sweden is the motherland of hard rock and metal. Wherever you go, this kind of music will play. I felt cuddled by those notes and safe from the empty reaggeton and EDM tunes!
Yes, let's wrap up Stockholm according to my senses!
Weather: What can I say? Stockholm is the closest I've ever been to the North Pole. It's freaking cold, even in August! It rains a lot and rain always comes along wind, so even the umbrella can result pointless in many instances. Just find a warm indoor space and sit to drink an expensive coffee or don't go out at all...
People: I didn't have any chance to interact with the Vikings much. They looked quite stressed and distant. Now I see why the didn't need many measures against Covid-19... Yes, many asked me about the legendary Swedish women. On Tinder they look like goddesses, but I couldn't see these deities in the streets. I guess that Instagram filters don't work offline... The Swedish girls who live in Malta are way hotter! ;-)
Food: This was the most delightful aspect. I had already the pleasure to try some Swedish food in Malta, so I wasn't surprised that the local food is excellent. Then I fell in love with reindeer... I hope Santa will forgive me. As The Killers sing: “Don't shoot me Santa Clause!”
Cost of living: It's really high. If you're a student, I suggest you to visit Stockholm when you'll get a job. If you really can't wait, take a bed at City Backpackers hostel and eat humbly at a Kebab King place. Are you thinking to move here or have you received a job offer to relocate in Stockholm? Make sure they are giving you at least 50-60,000 a year. Euro of course!
Safety: In general, Stockholm is safe. However, expect drunk or high dudes who might harass you. Other than that, petty crime is almost non-existent, so you will be fine.
Landmarks: How many landmarks you want! I just scratched the surface, but Stockholm has always something beautiful to display, in every corner!
Transport: It's OK and if the guards tell you that you can ride for free, just ride for free!
Don't forget to try the metro! The main stations are pure artworks! Creativity at the public transport's service!
Nightlife: Not the best. Everything closes at 10.00 pm... They say in the weekends is better, but also that the real possibilities to enjoy are the expensive clubs.