Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friendships Are Life-Long

I have been so blessed to have a lot of really wonderful friends. Some have been in my life for only a short period of time, largely due to geography, while others have managed to really stick around despite the distance. While the internet has provided a number of services that make it easier to remain in contact with people around the world, nothing replaces actually have a chance to spend real time with them. What an amazing gift to have been able to visit with my lovely friend Malin twice in the same year.
Life being the way it is, she unfortunately had to be at work most of the time we were in Stockholm, but she was absolutely amazing in making us feel more than welcome. Mark really wanted to make sure he experienced Swedish culture through cuisine, and Malin was more than happy to help us out with that. During the course of our stay she made us Reindeer gravy with mashed potatoes and Lingonberry sauce, Swedish Moose Meatballs with milk boiled macaroni, ice cream with Cloudberry sauce, and Swedish pancakes with an assortment of berry toppings. She was an incredible host, and is just an all around amazing person who I am so thankful to know. What an amazing holiday.
And now I'll tell a bit more about the running around town that we had a chance to do. On Friday we did a lot of walking through the city. Once again we discovered a super cool church not far away from Malin's place. And yeah for fall colors!

Then we made our way to the main tourist shopping area of town. It was fun to wander around through the shops. I found a nice journal in a Swedish paper store which made me happy. Nice to get something that is so suited to my personality :) I also enjoyed the little mascot on the street.

Our walk took us through the shopping district and then to another entrance to the old town island. I enjoyed the entry gates. Pretty majestic.

We enjoyed more little tourist shops, yet somehow managed not to spend all our money. This time we avoided the pricey cafes in that part of town however. Definitely a wise move. I stuck to just taking some pictures rather than pulling out my wallet.

After a quick lunch we headed to the Music Museum and we really enjoyed it a lot. The price was right (only 50 SEK) and there were sooooo many hands on exhibits. It was super cool. Plus they had all sorts of different instruments from around the world to look at with headphones to hear samples of them in action

We might not have had a chance to get a good photo of the ABBA house, but we did enjoy the ABBA display they had which included actual instruments used by the band as well as a room where you could dress up and sing Karaoke. Pretty entertaining. Too bad my voice was mostly out due to my silly cold.
They also had a nice display about the opera singer Jenny Lindwho toured the world in the 19th century and is now featured on the 50 SEK note.
On Saturday, our last real day in Stockholm, Malin was free and so we sent Mark back to the museum for a while so we could do some shopping. It was great to have a little girly time and to enjoy H&M in its natural habitat. They had some good sales going on, and I had my fashion guru along to help me pick up a few things with which we were both well pleased. After the little fashion frenzy, we met up with Mark again for lunch at Max to try Swedish hamburgers. The place was pretty much packed out, which we soon came to see was a very common situation for the places Malin liked to take us :) It reminded me a bit of eating at City Super in Hong Kong and having to stare at people at their tables, willing them to finish faster so we could sit. We did finally get a seat and everyone enjoyed the freshly made burgers, and yet another taste of Sweden.
The three of us did a little more shopping to find a souvenir or two and even managed to get a couple boxes of The Royal Wedding Chocolate. We found it pretty entertaining. It was even more interesting when we opened it up at home and found an even larger photo of the wedding couple inside. The oldest Swedish princess and heir to the throne got married this summer, and these are some of the leftovers that they're trying to sell while they're still good. It really was very impressive chocolate, and we ate it in pretty straight order after we got home.
Wanting Mark to have a chance to experience Fika, which is the Swedish term for the time in the day when you take a break and eat something sweet, Malin took us to another packed out place. This one was a little French cafe that specializes in ENORMOUS Swedish cinnamon buns. One was more than enough for the three of us together.

Before the trip Mark and I had done a little research to find out top sights in Sweden, and one of the things we read about was the TV tower. Since we'd been talking about it since the first day and still hadn't made it there, Malin suggested we go and see it while she worked on making the Swedish pancakes for dinner. It was too bad she wasn't able to come with us, because it ended up taking quite a while to get there and back, and that meant less time to spend with her, but that's the way things go sometimes.
The walk there through Nobel Park, a place that was originally meant to house a large monument to Nobel (which was rejected) and now is the home to all but one variety of plant that grows naturally in Sweden, was really beautiful. We had to pause to get a photo or two along the way.

We also enjoyed lots of views of the TV tower itself on our walk up.

We took the turbo elevator thirty floors to the top and enjoyed the view from the restaurant as well as the outdoor caged in view on the level above. It was all pretty breathtaking.

The run/walk back to Malin's, after being informed by the bus driver that we couldn't buy tickets on the bus, was even more breathtaking. But somehow we made it and were rewarded with Swedish pancakes and amazing company. We stayed in the rest of the evening, tired after all the running around, and knowing that the 5 AM alarm would come all too soon once again.
All our transport home went pretty smoothly, but we still didn't get back to Marianske Lazne until about 6 in the evening, making the trip about the same length in both directions. In all, it was a really great trip and I'm so thankful for having had the chance to have yet another amazing travel experience.

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