Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Playing in Stockholm

Stockholm, Sweden
After 15 months of traveling, I was coming home from Stockholm, Sweden. It was my last chance to play in Europe; so, I was going to stay one week to live it up with the Swedes in their glitzy and creative and elegant capital. On my flight home, not only was I impressed with Stockholm; I was so sad to go.

I stayed at the Generator Hostel and chose it because of it's reasonable price and it's close location to the central metro and train station in Stockholm. It's one of those new and trending hostels that cater for backpackers looking to meet people like themselves from other countries.

After checking in, I met my roommate from the Netherlands, a Dutch guy name Daan. We got to talking, and later we sat in the lobby - where I met a number of Germans and other Dutch people. We'd often have breakfast together downstairs with the other guys and meet again for dinner. During the days most of us did our own thing.

Swedish meatballs at Mom's Kitchen
During the days in Stockholm, I drank beautiful coffee and ate good food and went to several museums. Swedes love their coffee, and I was particularly impressed with JOHAN & NYSTRÖM, which served a unique and aromatic aeropress coffee.

I told the owner, after I drank it, "It makes me feel so happy." He said, "That's what we aim for." So of course, I went a couple times a week, where I would write and read and do research.

For food, Daan and I ate local Swedish food often at a place called Mom's Kitchen. Although everything is expensive in Sweden, the food is at an awesome price for amazing food. The first night - Daan had meatloaf, and I had fried herring (a fish) with lingonberries, which is a kind of Swedish berry. The second time we went, we had Swedish meatballs in cream sauce with mashed potatoes.

A Picasso in Moderna Museet
For museums, I went to the Moderna Museet (Modern Museum). The museum is divided into the modern art gallery and the architecture exhibits. I don't know much about architecture, but I loved some of the Picassos at the museum. There hasn't been a Picasso I haven't liked though. (Guernica is still my favorite in Madrid.)

But I think more than the museum, I'll never forget the amazing walk from central station to the museum - where you must cross through the richest streets in Sweden and where we could view all the elegant and tall buildings on the waterfront. The sun shone, and it was pleasant, which in turn made all the people on the streets pleasant too. It's also fun to walk across the bridges to the different islands. Stockholm is capital made up of different islands - which are connected by bridges.

I also met with my friend Ivan - a Swedish friend I met from a different time and place. He wanted to become a doctor and was taking their standardized test. I haven't seen Ivan for awhile, and so when we met me at the metro stop, he gave me such a big and warm hug. Ivan, was super tall and big too and had blue eyes and long blonde hair tied in a ponytail. Back in the days, they would've hired him as a raider on a viking ship.

View in walking to Moderna Museet
He took me to an Indian restaurant, where we both ordered butter chicken. There, we caught up about our lives. I told him, it was cold and rainy. He said, "You should've come in the summer."

I told him, "I came the day the summer ended." And we bought laughed at hearing it. I gave him a big hug and said let's catch up again before we left.

On another day, Ivan and I met again at the subway stop. We took a ferry to the Swedish king's former hunting island. There, Ivan asked if I'd like to go to the ship museum or the aquarium.

Yellow sea horses
we saw at the aquarium
I choose the aquarium. I felt like we were kids again on a field trip. We saw the Amazonian fish, the tropical aquarium, and the native Swedish fish - both fresh and saltwater. The best thing at the aquarium was there frog exhibit - where they showcased frogs from all over the world. For the first time, I saw those brilliant and gem-like poison arrow dart frogs I've seen in books. They looked like little rubies and sapphires and amethysts that could jump. They looked very cute, but I heard one drop of their poison into your blood could kill you.

Some of the frogs looked like they came out of Jurassic Park. For instance, one of the frogs' claws had fingers that looked like sticks. It was a very bizarre but interesting creature indeed.

After, Ivan and I talked at there cafe, where I ate a shrimp salad. They told us the aquarium was closing down in two weeks. So, I felt like I made the right choice to pick it over the ship museum. We sat at a place that overlooked the water into the skyline of the city. I told him how much I enjoyed Sweden over Stockholm and how friendly the people were. I told him a story.

Daan, Me, (Portugese guy), Remi, and Belinda in Stockholm
(From left to right)
One day, while Daan and I were walking to get dinner, we passed by an art gallery, and I was taken by the watercolor paintings of cats and mice. A dignified elderly lady told me, "It's a book signing for a children's book. Go in and look." I told he we had to get to the restaurant before it closed, but we chatted for a good 10 minutes about our lives. She told me her children were coming to Los Angeles and wanted to see Mexico.

I don't know why, but I made a choice. I should offer my place. So, I did. When we left, she gave me a hug too; I didn't even know her. I told her, "Oh, you're a lot friendlier than the Danes." She said, "You can't trust Danes. They have an ugly language." I started laughing so much.

Ivan smiled. And I said, "Congratulation Ivan. You're not like the Danes. You don't have ice in your blood."

Ivan and I took a walk back towards my hostel. When he went as a far as he could, we said good bye. I told him to keep in touch.

Later at the hostel, as I walked out of my room, a Dutch guy said, "Hey - you're the American guy. You sat our table."

I remembered and said, "Oh, yeah. What's your name?"


"Oh, that's such a cool name. It's the name of my favorite X-Man." Then I said it in the French way - "Reh-mi!"

"The French way is way better than how the Dutch say it," Remi said. "You were at our table with the other Dutch guy [Daan]. I was sitting at the other end." Because Daan was so tall, Remi sometimes called him the "Dutch Michael Jordan." Remi made me laugh a lot.

"Oh, yeah. But I couldn't see you."

Later, we all started hanging out. Remi was really into organizing outings. He created a WhatsApp group and let people in or blocked them out. Remi kept complaining about a dumb guy who wanted in, but Remi wouldn't let him in.

On the last night, we were all going to a night club. Before going, Daan and Remi and Belinda from London and I all ate at a French restaurant nearby. We all ordered cocktails. Daan and Remi ordered quail in truffle sauce; they booked looked happy with their food. I ordered a foie gras taco. Belinda ordered a number of tapas. Remi was really into the waitress, who was cute and gorgeous and kind. We all talked about how the Swedes are beautiful and have an elegant and dignified vibe about them.

That dinner cost, but it was so worth eating outside - where the people envied us having a good time. The beautiful blonde girls who walked down the rich street did little stunts that forced us to stare at them - such as twirling their hair with their fingers while they passed us. Even the table next to us seemed full of happiness and said "Good bye," but we didn't even know them.

We went back to the hostel to drink. We picked up two other guys, one from Germany and one from French-Canada (which is a bad place, because it's second to both the U.S. and France). The German was grumpy.

When we got to the nightclub, there was a long line. I tried to ask the bouncer if he'd let me and skip the queue. He wouldn't, but I knew I almost got in. So, I brought Belinda with me. We said it was her birthday. He didn't believe us, but it was. He checked her ID and then mine, and he let us skip the queue. Unfortunately, we still had to pay. (I still wonder if I could have got in for free, had I done more. Hmmm...)

At the club, I sat down with Belinda - waiting for the rest. Two Swedish guys immediately joined us. We chatted. They bought Belinda drinks for her birthday. One was in the army. The other was a university student. They were very kind. It was the first time I met some new Swedes their age. They were from the country up North.

After our friends came, and everyone partied and danced until closing time at the club, which was 3AM. We ordered a taxi. I said good bye to everyone. I slept two hours. Then, I checked out and made walked to the metro station with my luggage. I was going to the airport. My sabbatical was over.

Well as Zara Larsson said: "My dream is to have a bed of my own in Los Angeles and one in Sweden."

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