Min första dag (my first day, the winter tour)

I knew I’d be excited when I arrived at Stockholm Airport this morning, but I didn’t realise how excited I would be. There was obviously an ear to ear grin on my face, and it seemed to be noticed by a couple of people I passed coming in through customs, as they smiled back at me.

Getting through customs wasn’t without a drama. I have a stupid little momento of a holiday from the past – a rock – which I carry with me everytime I go on holiday. Well, it showed up on the scanner as a liquid based object, causing much alarm for a few minutes, and meaning I was the absolute last person to get through customs, The escalator had actually stopped by the time I got through. It wasn’t enough to take away the excitement I felt on arriving in Stockholm in such a different environment to the last time I was here, nearly two years ago.

It’s cold. It’s really bloody cold. Though I’ve just read in an email from Gustav that I’ve “brought the warm weather with” me. And there’s a completely different vibe about the place. There are virtually no tourists here, which compared markedly with the last time, in the midst of summer, and at that time, with Europride also underway.

The hotel I’m staying in – The Clarion at Skanstull – is reasonably empty. When I arrived early this morning – I took the bus, by the way, not the express train, so I could see more of the countryside – I came straight here, hoping to drop off my bag until today’s later planned 3pm check-in. “The room’s available now, if you like” the woman behind the counter told me.

Having dealt with the formalities of the day, including checking in, buying a beanie and some extra gloves, and buying a 30-dagarsbilljet (a thirty day public transport card, costing about $115 AUD at the moment), I headed off for the Stockholm Winter Tour.

In summer, when you go on the tour most of those on the tour spend most of their time on the top deck. In winter, it’s the complete opposite with everyone huddled up downstairs, although an American woman, two Brazilians and a German couple and I braved the conditions spending most of the tour on the top deck, though occasionally popping downstairs to avoid frostbite. As wonderful as the tour of the archipelago is in summer, it’s equally stunning in winter, especially when we started getting into the ice. The tour guide, who was excellent with a lovely warm sense of humour in her commentary, conceded at one point she would just forgot the commentary for a while, as we all made our way quickly to the top of the boat as we began breaking through the ice.

There were some great sights to see, including the boat refuelling stations which obviously have an important role to play in summer, but which were completely frozen in today. After a while being on top of the boat I started to get quite cold. For just a moment I wondered if I had pushed myself a little too far. My hands and feet weren’t numb, but they were getting close to it, despite all of the cold weather preparations I’d made. So I spent the final 20 minutes or so of the tour downstairs looking out the windows and enjoying a coffee.

Of course, it might have been that it just suddenly became deeply cold. When I popped into an Italian restaurant for lunch – lasagne and a glass of red wine to warm me up – I was really starting to feel the cold. But then I realised, I just needed to eat, and to come home and have a little afternoon nap. The impact of a 24-hour flight, a major weather change, and a major time-zone change cannot be underestimated.

After a little nap and some daytime Swedish television – it’s just as bad as ours – I headed back into the city for a look around Gamla Stan, and then finally around Sergels Torg.

As you walk around you need to watch your feet a bit more, which is a bit of a challenge for me. You know how some people walk around always looking down? Well, I’m one of those people who always walks around looking up, always looking at the sky, or the buildings or whatever. Today, I’ve learned I need to look down occasionally too, keeping an eye out for those well trodden paths in the midst of the snow that can help you avoid falling over.

The people are all dressed remarkably similarly: big black puffer jackets, jeans, beanies and boots. Thus, I look completely at home here.

I obviously still stand out a little in conversation. I’ve been really happy with my ability to shop, order lunch, and go about my daily business in Swedish. I’ve surprised myself, actually. But I obviously speak Swedish with a weird accent. As I’ve made these purchases, the people I’ve dealt with have looked at me to say… “you’re speaking Swedish, but it’s a weird kind of Swedish”. Unlike the last time I was here – in the midst of the tourist season – I’ve heard virtually no English, except for the bloke at the shop a little while ago when I bought the power convertor who responded in English to everything I said. I guess he wants to practice also?

After a bit of a mid-afternoon shock with the cold, now that I’ve slept a bit and eaten properly, I’m feeling quite okay with the chill.

I’m lovin my first day.

10 comments

  1. Fab story and photos – one of the best you’ve done on the blog. It all looks so different there, I’m getting a shiver just looking at the photos. Keep up the blogs! Hugs!

  2. How exciting James, brings back memories! Remember you do have to look up…I remember warnings about it when I was In sweden as people had died from being hit by huge chunks of ice falling from the roof as it starts to thaw! Wonderful update and amazing how active you are on your first day! lots of love, Yvette xxxxx

  3. I wish I was there actually, I never sightsee in Stockholm anymore because I’m too busy when I’m there. Was it Krister Henriksdon that committed suicide?

  4. You can take the boy out of Lismore but you can’t take Lismore out of the boy. You didn’t actually say how cold it was – like minus 20 or minus 5? A friend of mine who lives in Thailand and speaks Thai sometimes just has people look at him weirdly (or not understand) because they look at his white face and expect English come to come out of his mouth and can’t quite comprehend that he is speaking their language. Maybe that is what is happening to you! People are shocked because you are so fluent!! ;) Glad you are having fun already

    • Ordering coffee and a beer isn’t fluent !!! :) Though I did watch a bit of Swedish “wheel of fortune” today and followed most of that.

  5. yikes, I always carry around rocks too…I hope it’s not going to be a problem in the many airports I will be passing through on my trip! I am surprised to see so much sun in your photos…I was expecting it to be dark and gloomy…

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