Stockholm Journal: Day 6 –

I’m goin’ to Gamla Stan,
Only got twenty kronor in my pocket,
I, I, I’m huntin’, lookin’ for a Semla,
Stockholm’s f*cking awesome

Well, the last day is done – only 9 more hours before I leave the land of the $20 hamburger. I swear, I burned through my money so fast here, it’s fortunate I was only on my own for 3 days. Next time I decide to come to Scandinavia, I’ll take out a bank loan first. Despite the weakness of the dollar, it’s still been a great experience.

Speaking of the weakness of the dollar, today was my souvenir shopping day. I only have really two people to shop for not counting myself, but it was still hard. There’s so much cheesy crap out there you don’t want to buy. Of course, I had little problem finding something for ME – how could I possibly leave Scandinavia without a pair of clogs? These basically attached themselves to my feet when I stepped into the store and refused to come off until I promised to take them with me.

They make me feel just like Pippi Longstocking!

Shopping can be pretty overwhelming here, truth be told. Like any big city, there are tons of stores and shopping complexes. I went in and out of all of them without finding anything much (well, much I could afford – there’s tons of cool stuff here). I did manage to snap a picture of a life size Hagrid effigy though, made entirely of LEGOs.

My original intention today wasn’t only to shop. I really meant to get to the National Museum to see the 19th century art, but the damn place was closed. None of the promotional brochures mentioned that little fact, so I didn’t know it until I showed up. They’re renovating and won’t be opening again (and then in a temporary space) until June. Disappointed, I went on down the road to the Modern museum, although modern art really isn’t my thing. They were having a show of work by an abstract painter named Hilma Af Klint. She was active in the early part of the 20th century and her work was pretty freaking amazing.

Why did I not know about her? I venture most people don’t which goes to show again, how skewed art history is. All that abstract art made me hungry so I walked back toward the Kungstragarden and grabbed the only thing you can eat in Stockholm for under $10.

At these prices, you'd think you could get a bun that fits.

That kept me going for another round of shopping. I went back to the Gamla Stan and ended up walking all the way through it toward Sodermalm (where, if I was big on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series, I would probably have been looking for literary references). Along the way I saw many buskers, generally funky-looking street kids belting out one American song or another. Guess who kicked all of their skinny little butts? THIS guy.

He doesn’t look like much, but he was belting out an incredibly soulful version of the Kings of Leon song, “Somebody”. I was honestly shocked at how good he was and gave him some money.

I was far more impressed with the street singer than I was by this ridiculous shop. Yes, it means what you think it means.

I was also pleased to see the Swedes have good taste in video games. Go Tomb Raider!

Too soon the day was basically over – shops here close up between 4 and 6 o’clock which was just as well since I was sick of fighting the crowds. The Gamla Stan is the main tourist area and holy crap, it was packed. I never vacation during the high season and so being here now during prime time reminded why that is. The narrow streets of the Old Town were shoulder-to-shoulder and it was very clear to me that no matter where people are from, when they’re on vacation with their families, their brains effectively shut off.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people standing open-mouthed blocking an already-crowded street or looking at maps in doorways to shops or changing direction suddenly and elbowing you in the ribs. It’s just not all that much fun to be in a beautiful, historic place when there are thousands of crabby parents and children maniacally eating ice cream and buying plastic viking helmets and forcing themselves to have a good time.

Squeezing out of the crowded Gamla Stan streets, I went near the water to an outdoor bar and hung out sketching a while. It too was packed, but once I was in my seat, it was pretty nice. I wish it was my job to do that every day.

This seagull likes the idea too.

On the way back to the hotel, all that good feeling was blown when I couldn’t figure out where I was. I thought I took the right train, but when I emerged I was somewhere I didn’t recognize and by then the beer I’d drunk by the water wanted out. I walked and walked and consulted my map repeatedly and still didn’t know where the hell I was or which way I was going. I had to wee so badly I decided it was worth a $25 entree if I could just use the restroom so I swerved into the nearest place – a Thai restaurant. It was boiling hot inside and the pad thai was unsurprisingly bland but ah well. It was better than wetting myself on the street.

Funny thing though – I walked a bit more after eating and realized in short order, that I was a mere couple of blocks from my hotel. Next time I come to Stockholm I’m bringing a compass.

Well, in 9 hours I have to get up and catch a 6:25 flight to Amsterdam. I’ll be happy to see the hubster and the pups but Stockholm’s been a gracious mistress. The main reason I say that, aside from the city’s beauty and history, is its people. I’ve had nothing but polite service here and strangers everywhere have been helpful and kind to me. It’s almost enough to restore my faith in people. Well…not entirely, but it certainly helps.

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