For those of you holding your breath, I made it to Sweden in one piece.
Exhausted and jet lagged sure, but here I am.
It was a nine hour flight from Beijing to Copenhagen (ten if you count the hour we spent sitting on the runway waiting for our turn to take off), where I got processed/stamped into the EU. I was to spend an hour there before my flight to Sweden so I figured what else to do but check out the duty free; make the most of the tax free alcohol before having to take out a mortgage just for a drink. Alas, here I was to meet my first frustration with the EU rules. It turns out that once you land in the EU you must pay tax on all things; the duty free stores are for passengers leaving the EU only. So here I was talking to a predictably gorgeous shop assistant about the merits of duty free systems in civilized nation-states, trying to helplessly convince her of the futility of charging duty on goods before even entering a country.
The flight to Sweden was uneventful, and managed even to get a little sleep on the plane. For the record, even the Danish scenery (from the air, at least) is beautiful; windmills strategically dot the horizon, with some even installed in the ocean, haystacks and clean air completing the picture of the venue for the December Climate Change conference (they even have the catch phrase “Hopenhagen”).
I arrived at the airport on time, and was greeted at the gate by Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba. Okay so that’s a lie. They don’t actually meet everybody at the gate of Stockholm International (Arlanda). They don’t even play Abba on the stereo in the arrivals lounge (or Roxette, for that matter).
I was met at the gate by my friends Rob and Emma (the reason I’m here on this trip) and after allowing me to stop to fill in a complaint card about the distinct lack of local music on arrival, we embarked back to Uppsala (30 min north of Stockholm). The scenery was distinctly beautiful, if for no other reason than I could see it without the tint of pollution, and was probably very similar to the scenery you’d see driving State Highway 1 (North Island) in NZ, only without the constant road works.
Yesterday I went with Rob to explore the city of Stockholm. We started with a tour of the Vasa Museum which houses a massive ship that sunk in the Stockholm harbor in the 1600s because, basically, it had too many cannons for the amount of ballast it had. They managed to salvage it back in the 1960s, and keep it in a climate-controlled museum designed to limit the moisture and temperature to stop/slow the rotting. Very cool.
We then strolled past the native Canadian geese and took some lunch at a piazza somewhere in South Stockholm (no herring on the menu, so I had the salmon), where we sat for an hour or so catching up. We then strolled around the ‘old city’, which is basically what you think of when you think of Stockholm (or google images of it). It was crowded, but not in a painful way like Beijing, but it was also very cool – lots of old buildings and shops and stuff.
Today, more Stockholm.