Monday, May 12, 2008

Stockholm and Clean Lungs

Poor readers! I promised you Stockholm almost a week ago and have given you NOTHING! Today it’s cloudy and considerably cooler in Riga – what a great end to an absolutely fantastic weekend of sunny weather. Friday I had my lungs X-rayed (and I’m CLEAN! No TB in these puffers!) and was going to take all of my documents to the respective department today, but realized that I had left my passport at my apartment (note: last night/today is my last day of apartment sitting, so all of my belongings are not where I am), so I get to try again tomorrow. And if I haven’t already said so, I have my official and for-real work permit, so now all I need is the stay-in-Latvia permit! Keep your fingers crossed!

Stockholm, much like Zurich, has nothing really pretty to it, but has something about it that makes you want to go back.

There is a free city bus that leaves the centre once every hour on the hour and drives you to IKEA. The same bus drives you back to the city centre from IKEA once every hour on the half hour. I learned only post-Stockholm that the IKEA we went to is the largest IKEA in the woooooorld! And it was glorious. It’s kind of a slow-sloping spiral design, so you see everything at a nice, slow pace. Real Swedish IKEA’s have “family” goods: shampoo, lotion, toothbrushes, bathrobes, jogging suits, etc. Families also get a discount at IKEA with a special Family Card.

For lunch we ate real Swedish IKEA meatballs, from the motherland source, with a nice glass of lingenberry juice on the side.

We hit up more or less every H&M store we saw – and yes, they ARE all different. At least what you can't find at one you could find at another, and some "special" items weren't available at other H&M stores (like this dress thing I bought. Yes, Kaija bought a dress thing. Of her own free will. And it’s girly. But has a good deal of black in it [HAH!]). The other things I picked up almost made my flatmate cry from joy because they weren't black. She was very proud that I came back with clothing in colours.

We also managed to take a quick jaunt through the Old Town on Gamla Stan. We got as far as the Parliament and the Royal Castle, then hit up this little square with the Nobel Museum and three buildings that look suspiciously like the Three Brothers here in Riga. Then it was time to head back to the hotel to pick up the rest of our loot and find our way back to the ferry. The ferry on the way back was very... "Eastern European", as my father put it after hearing my description. In comparison to the near-luxury we experienced on the way from Tallinn to Stockholm, the Stockholm to Riga trip was mostly groups of middle-aged people drinking when they got on the boat, drinking that evening on the boat, drinking that morning as we drew closer to Riga, and drinking while we were waiting to get off the boat. Getting off the boat… let’s just say that, had there been a real emergency situation, we would have all been screwed. There were no announcements made regarding where we were to disembark, no ferry staff walking around directing people where to go (in fact, some were even standing in the cattle-drive like lines with the rest of us, checking messages on their mobile phones). It wasn't until 20 minutes after we were docked that an announcement came saying "Uh.... all passengers please disembark the ferry via the vehicle cargo area..." So down, down, down we went into the cargo area where cars were parked, and then out the back of the ferry onto solid, Latvian concrete. This ferry was also much shakier than the Tallinn-Stockholm ferry.

None of us, however, got sick from the trips. The rides were both considerably smooth, no trouble, no turbulent waters. Only the back-trip was a bit shady.

Overall the trip was a hit – we talked, we laughed, we took pictures. Our feet hurt like the flipping dickens. I smile to myself thinking back on it. We got back Sunday late morning, then had a few hours to recover before heading out to the National Opera to see Latvian a capella group Cosmos showcase their new album. The concert was a great end to a great weekend.

Good things about Stockholm:

-Wayne’s Coffee (a coffee CHAIN with coffee to go that uses lactose free milk. Excellent coffee in good sizes and somewhat decent prices)

- H&M (um, duh.)

- IKEA (loves the free transportation to and from)

- 7-11 (oh yes there IS! At least one 7-11 per block, sells anything your heart may desire)

- good coffee, in general.

- decently cool architecture

- lots of good things to photograph

- the people are society-nice. This means they’re not Minnesota or Iowa overly nice, but just actually nice people who are fond of helping out if needed.

Next time I head back I’ll be all about hitting up the museums – we didn't have enough time this trip, but next trip that's all I plan on doing :)

Aaah yes, and I get my new baby (a.k.a. computer) next week! I’ll be whole again!

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