Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stockholm, Sweden: Hot Shot!

Another weekend has come and gone, and once again I am bursting with information to share with you all. This may be due to the fact that I went to Stockholm this weekend, but irregardless of destination, it always seems to be a trend. As per last week's post, I will give you a bit of preamble to the events that occurred previous to Stockholm. This is largely because Oslo is a fantastic city in its own right, and to just share stories of foreign cities wouldn't really do the blog justice.

One specific event that happened a few days before my departure to Sweden was going to a Norwegian hockey game. I learned on my way to the arena that it was a match between Valerenga Oslo and Sarpsborg Spartans. It was convenient that these are the top two teams within the Norwegian hockey league. I ended up going with friends from all different countries, (USA, France, Australia, Italy, and Norway), which instantly made me feel like the hockey expert, as I am from Canada. In fact, at some points during the game I would be quizzed about rules and what was generally going on in the game itself. This is a few of us at the beginning of the game (right). You may all now note that I am wearing the Canadian Olympic jersey with pride (and I noted to my housemates earlier that it had the odd scent of gold medal). This turned out to be quite useful later in the game when I found out there was a Canadian player on the top team in Norway (Surprised?). My French roommate yelled out his name at the end of the game, and I stood up and pointed at my jersey which received a nice big thumbs up from him. Needless to say, the Canadian player was also the only one to receive three penalties in the game.

Whenever Valerenga Oslo scored we all stood up and pretended to be die hard fans. Such celebrations included; 1) the giant hug 2) the fist pump 3) the ecstatic jump, and of course we sung along loudly to their surprisingly entertaining goal song. I was also really interested by the "golden helmet". Essentially, the leading point getter or best player on each team gets to wear this hilarious looking golden helmet. I have included a picture because I just thought it was too priceless. Overall, the game was a really great time, and to be completely honest it was just great to get back into an arena. There is just something about the uncomfortable seats that smelled of salty arena popcorn, and a fresh sheet of ice. Maybe it's a Canadian thing.

Now onto home sweet Stockholm. This is an impressive city. Stockholm is essentially 14 islands that are connected by 56 bridges, with the main island boasting a population of around 700,000, and all of Stockholm holding around 2 million. It is no surprise that Stockholm frequently refers to themselves as the "Capital of Scandinavia". After being to Oslo and Copenhagen I would agree with this statement undoubtedly. We arrived in Stockholm on Thursday night, and took about an hour bus to the central station. Our hostel, City Backpackers, was in an amazing location right downtown in Stockholm, and was actually voted the "Best hostel of 2009" on Hostelworld.com. I definitely couldn't refute that. Jon, Grant and I had an incredible night on the town which involved everything from eating kebab, dancing, and an hour's walk around Stockholm. We considered stopping at the casino on the way home, but thought better of it.


We got up bright and early, despite our horribly loud Spanish hostel-mates, and this is the first sight that we saw (left). Stockholm is breathtaking in all respects. It is largely considered to be one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, and I could definitely not dispute that. We decided that we would walk around all day and explore the city. When we got to the city center we found some absolutely delicious Swedish food that would have cost us a ridiculous amount of money in Oslo, but Stockholm is cheaper ( I suppose this is a trend when you live in arguably the most expensive city in the world). We continued walking, and found this beautiful street lined with shops that showed the trendy nature of Stockholm. It is pictured on the right hand side. Stockholm is a great mix of old and new with some areas breathing history, and others giving off an unmistakeably trendy vibe. We finished off our travels for the day towards the old area of "Gamla Stan"(Old Town), which we would see later the next day as well. However, there is one picture that I can't neglect to show as the sun was fading at the end of the day. This appears to be classic Stockholm, where the beautiful buildings gather around the still lake. It is a city that could make their own postcard company.

I feel as if I have already written quite a bit, and don't particularly want to bore everyone, so I will try and explain some of the highlights of my trip fairly briefly. Firstly, Jon, Grant and I went to a casino just near our hostel, which ended up being a fantastic time. I started off on some Roulette, and as per usual lost all my money in a ridiculously short period of time. However, we all payed a small 30 kroner entry fee to get in so we thought we better get our money's worth, and headed straight to the slots. We found the greatest slot machine in the entire world called "hot shot". Basically, if certain images aligned it would say "Hot Shot!" and this hilarious techno music would start playing while slots spun and gave you a chance to win more money. Each time we almost ran out ,and we would hit a "hot shot," which eventually became hysterical. It would also cause us to fist pump to the music and generally make fools of ourselves, but, hey, it was priceless. Later that night, we walked over to a local watering hole. My favorite part of the night was wandering outside for a moment and seeing a extremely random Canadian flag flying in the wind outside the establishment. There seemed to be no explanation for it other than the likely fact that they were preparing for my arrival.

Another significant event in the trip was going to the Vasa Museum. Basically, it is a museum that holds a Swedish military ship from the 1600's that only made it about 1500 meters off the dock because it wasn't balanced properly. The salt content in the Baltic Sea preserved the ship in almost perfect condition, and it definitely showed. Also, we ended up pretending we were 18 years old to get free admission into the museum. To the left is a great shot of the ship, which is a sight I will never forget. This museum truly gave me some perspective into the great (and old) history within Scandinavia.

In all my travels away from Norway I am trying to be careful not to view Oslo as just a "docking point" of sorts to other destinations. I realize that I have to remember that Norway is an amazing country, but generally I am constantly reminded of this, and plan to travel around it extensively. Today, for example, I went skiing about 2o minutes from Oslo, and witnessed some of the most picturesque images that I could imagine. These are the images that constantly reaffirm my decision to come and study in beautiful Oslo.

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