Saturday, April 29, 2017

[STOCKHOLM] Colder, Blonder, Pricier

I try to avoid Scandinavia whenever I can. As they say in Europe, as you venture farther north the people become blonder, the prices go higher, and the weather gets colder. The good, the bad, and the ugly. My problem is that my return KLM ticket is dated May 1. My Schengen visa expires April 30. Do you know how expensive rebooking a KLM ticket can be? And so I had to look for alternatives and when it comes to cheap long-haul flight between Eurasia, Norwegian is the name you should always remember.

They have hubs in London, Oslo, and Stockholm. Instead of paying 400 bucks to rebook my KLM flight, I decided to just buy a one-way ticket from Stockholm to Bangkok. Paying less than EUR 200 (~PHP 11,000) for a flight that already included check-in baggage and a meal, it was a no-brainer. The flight itself was fine, except that we left an hour later and there wasn’t even an announcement from the ground staff, as if such occurrence was normal. Hey, it’s a cheapo airline. Deal with it.

I flew with SAS from Berlin to Stockholm. It was just a bit pricier than Ryanair but at least we took off from Tegel, which was way closer to Wedding. Arriving close to midnight, I researched my options well. Those automated Flygbussarna kiosks are useless. Just go straight to the customer service desk and buy your tickets there. I suggest buying a 24-hr T-bana card. The 24 hours is activated upon first use. You can also buy several one-way SL tickets from there. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a convenience store.

My itinerary was the Flygbussarna bus all the way to Jarva Krog and then I had to transfer to the 540 bus at Ritorp and transfer to the 514 at Rinkebysvangen. The 540 was the last one for the night, which meant catching it was crucial. I missed it. Why? The stop was under construction and there were no signs saying where the alternate was. When the bus finally passed by, I waved like a lunatic and was ignored by the driver. I later found a make-shift stop unrecognizable in the dark 200 meters away. Damn it, Sweden.

To cut the long story short, I paid like a thousand pesos for an effing 10-minute taxi ride to catch the 514, because this is Stockholm and everything is expensive as fuck. I did not include that in my final accounting because in my ideal world that a-hole driver showed a bit of compassion and stopped for the idiotic foreigner. Whatever. It was late and he was probably rushing home to rest and spend time with the family. Charge to experience. I mean, to credit card. Yes, the taxis accept credit cards, too.

In fact, I didn’t withdraw a single centavo in Stockholm. The city is credit card friendly yet they are also tough on security because they ask for an ID for verification. I was finally able to use my 24-hr card the next morning. I must say I love Stockholm’s subway stations. They are so artsy in a non-conventional kind of way. I mean, Pyongyang and some former soviet states usually decorate their subway stops with chandeliers and all that luxurious kind of shit. Stockholm’s looks like a museum or an avant-garde art exhibition.

Since this is just an extended transit, I opted to limit my sightseeing activities around the area of Gamla Stan. I think that means Alte Markt in Swedish. Typical Germanic setup! I got off at T Centralen and just walked everywhere. I love the contrast on this side of town. You have old style churches competing with modern skyscrapers in terms of height and grandeur. And yet the bridges and canals just give off a lazy kind of vibe. Or perhaps laidback is the appropriate term? Tourists and locals share the streets.

The color scheme of some old buildings reminded me of Potsdam. I wonder what particular school of architecture those peach brick facades and light green roofs subscribe to. As with many churches in the Germanic world, the towers prefer sharp spires, making them look like the typical headquarters of a Disney villain. These churches are centuries old. I can only imagine how sinister they looked like back in the day when there were no modern skyscrapers in sight. Cue in the lightning and heavy rain.

The Gamla Stan has a very long history which I will not share here because I am not aware. Hahaha. Wikipedia, guys. All I recognize is that the popular selfie spot appears to be that small square with the pale red and yellow houses side by side. Both serve as cafés nowadays and tourists are forever scrambling to snap their selfies in front of those two. The best way to enjoy the place is to get lost in it. After all, Gamla Stan has its own system of narrow alleys that transport you back to the medieval times.

My gallivanting eventually took me to the Royal Palace. Of course, the façade exuded luxury and grandeur, as expected. The sculptures were exquisite and I can only imagine how lavish everything is inside. Lifestyles of the rich and the famous, bruh. And the royal! They have to constantly remind you of that. Why else would they put a gold plated life-size crown to embellish the front gate? The view from there is lovely, by the way. I think it’s the canal on the other side of the road that should be thanked for that.

Gamla Stan is its own island and there are several others worth visiting, if only the weather was pleasant. I decided to end my tour at Riksplan with a good view of the Riksdaghuset as my parting memory of Sweden. I am planning to learn Swedish in the near future so this won’t be my last time here up north. Hopefully I get to stay longer next time and see more. Maybe I’ll make an effort to visit the museums too, who knows. For now, it has been a good introduction.

[STOCKHOLM] Colder, Blonder, Pricier

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