Still on theme we took the T-bahn one stop along the way as we didn’t have enough time to walk all the way into the city. When we emerged from the subway Jonas’ started with his factual knowledge. “Here was where all the poor workers of the city used to live, but now people like me have pushed them out so they can no longer afford them”.
Jonas’ then walked us up some rocks. Apparently this is where all the kids like to drink. All we knew is that it was extremely windy, but we had a great view across the Riddarfjärden to the city centre on the opposite bank.
The cold was a bit too much so we continued walking. We passed Jonas’ favourite fika place, which was unfortunately closed, and a street full of art gallerys that Jonas loves to have a peak in through the windows. Here are some more factoids that we learnt from our host;
- Sweden used to be a backward country until the 1940s with most people working in agriculture. This was quite surprising to us as Sweden is now a big economy, so we assumed it had been like this for a while. Similar to all other western powers, apparently not.
- Sweden wasn’t involved in World War II, but as they saw all the other countries modernizing after their citys had been demolished they decided they should do the same. So they demolished all their old buildings themselves and put in nice tower blocks instead. What a tremendous error that was!
- Part of their backwards nature meant that most people were against having a railway network put into the country as that was a sign of industry which equalled bad.
- The socialists were in power for 70 years – which pretty much makes Stockholm a socialist dream. This included the city being built on the “ABC” principle – home, work and commercial areas were all separate in the city. This is changing a bit now though as a few little shops are appearing in people’s neighbourhoods.
- It takes a long time for big construction projects to get approved because everyone can file a complaint about it. This is a reason why it took 40 years to decide to build an underwater tunnel for trains – even though there is only one train track in and out of the city at the moment which is unsafe. It was originally built to handle ten trains a day but today takes 550.
- The Nobel Prize is kept in Stockholm City Hall.
- No one actually lives in Gamlastan (even though it’s really pretty) and is mainly just for tourists.
- Artists are subsidised by the government to work and live in old houses that need to be preserved. There is obviously some controversy over this.
- Jonas had studied first at Upsala, then Leiden, then Cambridge.
We walked across a bridge into Gamalstan and here we bought some touristy souvenirs, myself some badges (I actually had a variety to choose from), and Klemetnina some postcards. Jonas pointed out buildings telling us all about them like how Parliament was 100 years old. Klementina and I weren’t as impressed with how old the building was as much as Jonas thought we would be, though we faked it of course. Stockholm (and the Netherlands too as it has only existed for about 450 years) made me realise that England was a really old country and I appreciated it more for that.
Suddenly the train station was in sight and I realised our week was over. Jonas told us one more fact; that this train station was special as trains could leave through both sides whilst normally in cities all trains terminate there. We then said our thanks and goodbyes. We were on time for the bus to the airport. However this was not enough for us to be getting this bus though. As we tried to enter a lady told us the bus was full and we would have to wait half an hour for the next. Great. Luckily we had planned the airport regulation “arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight leaves” so we would be fine. We finished the rest of the Rekordilig cider and caught the next one.We again didn’t answer our query of whether Klementina can just go straight through to security as she went to the desk while I disposed of our water in the toilets. We still had another problem though as Klementina still didn’t have an entrance stamp into Sweden in her passport. We thought we go through security and then find the passport control and tell them what happened. However when we got to the gates there was no one at passport control. We were confused what to do now and pondered it until we decided to go talk to security about it. After several radio calls a guy came over and took both our passports. I was excited as I might be getting a stamp too, even though I didn’t need one. Unfortunately my wishes were not granted as he came back saying “sorry I didn’t need to take your passport”. No stamp for me or proof I had been to Scandinavia (sorry Nordic countries). Klementina comforted me saying her stamp wasn’t that good quality. It wasn’t the same.
At the gate we met another UCUer who said we could use her OV rail card when back in the Netherlands to get to Utrecht. We were happy with this as it meant we got 40% off our train fare. When we arrived in Eindhoven we saw even more familiar faces returning to UCU after their own exotic trips to Spain and Morocco. I was jealous of them even though we had obviously had a better time than any other person at UC. Winning the hitchhike, seeing a new country everyday (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Sweden), staying with awesome couch surfers and fulfilling our wish of visiting Scandinavia (sorry Nordic countries) and for the same cost as travelling directly back from Belgrade. Plus all of this with the great travelling companion of Klementina. I am only in the Netherlands for a year and the holidays at Exeter do not match up with those at UCU so we will not be able to defend our hitchhiking title. And we are also not sure of when our next adventure will be with our plans diverging as Klementina can’t visit me in the UK as she’d have to buy a €90 visa, she has to work in America for the next two summers and I will be revising over the Christmas and Easter holidays next year. Then who knows what we will be doing after we graduate. I hope we will meet up and do it again.
We sat on the bus, train, then another bus reminiscing of the trip, what we had learnt. Which apparently wasn’t how to say please, thank you and sorry in all the languages we encountered. We made this our goal for next time. Nonetheless it had been an amazing trip.