So how did it all end? Well, we flew from Tromso to Stockholm for four nights. When I had planned this trip it was Copenhagen and Stockholm on either end of the “Great Arctic Adventure” to recuperate, first from our busy home lives and then from our busy adventure lives. So far, you know how it’s going and I believe there was a collective sigh of semi-relief (we weren’t landing in California after all) when we arrived in Stockholm exhausted and sick, Grant especially. Well, I was neither.
Scott had found a great apartment (Residence Perseus) in an historic building in Gamla Stan, the old part of Stockholm (we’re talking Middle Ages) and it was perfect. Snuggled into the twisting, beautiful and antiquated alleys of Stockholm’s original city center, it was quaint on the outside and perfectly modern and comfortable with high speed internet on the inside. My only complaint about that apartment was the lack of towels, which we will get to later. The four of us made like bears and prepared to go into hibernation. Important on the list was food gathering at the local market, a five minute walk away through charming pedestrian only lanes. I went with Scott while the kids relaxed. We hunted for tuna casserole ingredients, a favorite dish from our year of travel and always an adventure finding the correct ingredients.
Back to the apartment to make dinner and relax. Scott bustled around the kitchen and I kind of helped here and there but mostly just had a glass of wine and watched. The kids were happily sprawled out between their bedroom and living room, a luxury they had missed in the cramped quarters and busy schedule of the past two weeks. I’m just going to tell you, we didn’t do a whole lot in Stockholm which was probably a waste of a cool city but we were tired, and on that first night in that cute apartment with my sick and tired family, I realized that what I had really been missing was this. This night reminded me so much of our life on the road. Scott was cooking, the kids were nearby and doing their own thing and I was right in the middle, maybe not blogging my heart out, but I was making notes about moments I wanted to remember and just enjoying that all my chicks were within arms reach. It was just the four of us with nothing to do but be together and that is what I miss the most at home. I LOVE and I know, I know, I am selfish and unrealistic, but I love just the four of us, the rest of the world be damned.
So what did we do with our time in Stockholm? Well…Scott cooked his specialties for us. Above are the famous breakfast potatoes (famous for after a year of practice never turning out the same) and scrambled eggs.
I wandered through the old town near our apartment for hours every day and took pictures of things I thought interesting or beautiful. An alley with graffiti…
Evidence that Pokemon was alive and well and selling lunch in Gamla Stan.
Above, the spire of the German Church through snowy branches, also called St. Gertrude’s Church dedicated to its namesake Saint Gertrude, patron saint of travelers and in our neighborhood.
I loved these glowing paper stars which I think look like snowflakes (although that makes no sense). They adorned windows in all of the places we had visited, brightening the dark days of winter and just looking cozy and welcoming. Just a heads up Scott…If we decorate for the holidays this year, I’m thinking you’ll be working on ingenious ways to hang a bunch of these in our windows…Sweetie:).
Just another quaint lane to stroll down. It was very cold though, so it was a cross between carefully strolling and cautiously stomping one’s cold feet on the slick cobblestones to try and stay warmish. By the time we made it to Stockholm, the temperatures had dropped quite a bit making the Arctic temperatures of the week before seem downright balmy.
Those little lanes from the photo above would meander around and then pop out into plazas displaying fountains, statues, lit evergreens and the facades of traditional Swedish buildings.
This courtyard was a five minute walk from our apartment and the location of our local market and yes, it is at least as cold as it looks, probably ten degrees colder.
Another cold but pretty photo near our apartment
Cinnamon, cardamom buns or Fika Bread (Kanelbulle, Kardemummabulle or fikabröd ) which I could not resist, but didn’t really love upon tasting. Don’t worry though, if you don’t like the traditional pastry, the options abound. Swedes practice fika with zeal, much like the English enjoy afternoon tea with the exception that fika can be any time and multiple times a day. Roughly translated, fika (a noun and a verb) means to take a break, usually with other people be it colleagues, friends, family or a date. Oh, and the drink of choice is coffee, not tea, sometimes juice, lemonade or soda, but never alcohol.
My family had thrown in the tourist towel and dug in to our cozy abode, but I could lure them out for food. I drug Grant out into a snow storm for fika. There are pastry shops and coffee shops in great abundance.
They also came out of hibernation for a reindeer dinner at a nice Italian restaurant with a bathroom situation that we found rather humorous (don’t worry though, there was another option) and then there was our Mexican food expedition…
One afternoon when Scott and the kids were in need of a small activity and Scott was tired of cooking and craving Mexican food, we ventured out for a walk. It was freezing cold and windy as illustrated by the icicles and the flags on the buildings above.
It was about a mile of cold and slippery walking out of the old town across the river and into the Södermalm District, a more modern shopping area with lots of trendy boutiques and restaurants. We found our dinner at La Neta, slang for “the real deal” and while we chose this place for its reasonable walking distance , the food was good and authentic. The owners, natives of Monterrey, Mexico, came to Sweden to study and missed food from home most of all. Definitely worth the walk if you are craving some good Mexican food that is reasonably priced. I even found an interesting story about the creators of La Neta…The Absolute Truth about Tacos in Stockholm.
Scott and Ashley went to a climbing gym via Uber, which like I had mentioned in the Copenhagen for Christmas blog, has made Scott a little bit public transportation lazy. We used Uber a couple of times while in Stockholm and I thought it interesting that one of the drivers was from Somalia and one from Iraq but both spoke Swedish and English.
Our other adventure in Stockholm was “Dinner at Carina’s House.” Carina is a relative of our very sweet neighbors in California and hence, we are essentially related. We ticked the public transportation box and took the train for a short ride and Carina (head of the table) met us at the train station and drove us (because it was snowing) to her beautiful home where we enjoyed traditional Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and rye crispbread with the family.
And what is a family dinner is complete without perusing the family photo album where to our delight we found a picture of our neighbors from about thirty-ish years ago.
So two things that I found interesting and relatively essential whilst in Stockholm and not really that busy because we were “recuperating.” First of all, buying a bottle of wine is neither easy nor inexpensive and definitely fodder for a future blog because I have come to the conclusion that the alcohol culture in different countries is interesting (and easier to understand and research than Aurora Borealis) and Sweden is no exception. In Sweden one must purchase anything other than beer (that contains no more than 3.5% alcohol) at the state-owned, alcohol monopoly supermarket called Systembolaget or “systemet” by the locals.
Scott and I took a cold hike one evening for some expensive (plastic) bottles of wine and a perusal of alcohol from around the world, sorted first by price and then country of origin. Systembolaget was exactly like our version of BevMo with the exception of it’s the only place to buy alcohol for consumption at home. You can of course purchase alcohol in restaurants, bars or clubs to enjoy at said establishment. Because of the high price of spirits, alcohol tourism to Germany and Denmark is a real and popular phenomena in Sweden. Drinking seems to be all or nothing with most Swedes choosing not to imbibe on a work night and save the debauchery for the weekend. The government believes that the state owned alcohol monopoly is a way of controlling alcoholism and without it, there could be up to a 30% increase in consumption of alcohol.
Case in point here…I texted Scott on one of my cold walks and invited him to meet me for a drink in a local pub on our last night in Stockholm. Glögg was born in Sweden and spread through Scandinavia, but we were introduced to it in Denmark where the Danes seem to believe that glögg is good but put some hard liquor in it and it’s even better. So, we ordered glögg and asked for rum to be added like we had been taught in Denmark. The waitress looked at us like we were crazy and questioned, “Rum? That would be very strong.” Yes, that is okay, we want rum in our glögg on our last night in Stockholm and besides, how much rum is going to fit into those tiny cups already full of glögg ? More information please and maybe a recipe you’re thinking? Check out this blog on the Huffington Post website… Glögg
The other more important thing that I learned while in Stockhom was that you can’t buy cold medicine in Sweden. I usually travel with an arsenal of vitamins and other “meds” like antibiotics, cold medicine, ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea pills and benadryl, plus anti-itch cream, neosporin and of course band aids, hand sanitizer and kleenex. In all of our year of travels, I rarely used any of it. We finished the year with four rounds of antibiotics and most everything else. This traveling drug store takes up space and while on safari and away from the convenience of popping into the pharmacy it made sense, but Scandinavia seemed like an easy place to get anything we might need. Consequently, I packed a skeleton crew of my normal mothering kit and ironically, this was the only trip that I needed it all and used up every scrap of cold medicine and vitamins that I had with me.
I made a few trips to the pharmacy and market asking about cold medicine and I swear every time I asked a question about cold medicine I was purposefully misunderstood until one young checker told me very simply that cold medicine is not allowed in Sweden. I’m not a big cold medicine fan, but there are times (like flying for 11 hours) that it can make things less miserable. I asked that same young checker what do you do then when you get a cold…”drink a lot of tea and take ibuprofen.” It made me think about our culture in the US, we just don’t stop for much, there’s a pill for everything. I did some googling on the whole subject and it’s true, you can buy ibuprofen and nasal spray and that’s about it. Most Swedes take a few days off and go to bed to recuperate and drink a lot of tea. And the rest of them stock up on NyQuil and its equivalent when traveling abroad.
So what else happened you’re wondering? Not a lot. Grant recovered mostly and good thing since there was no more cold medicine for the long flight home. He spent his time resting and studying and watching some really good films like the documentary, Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, which I highly recommend. Ashley got sick again, this time with some type of stomach bug or food poisoning and I remember thinking two things while I mopped and washed with the four small towels in our apartment, “I hope this is food poisoning and not the flu” and “if she doesn’t stop throwing up, we’ll never get home.”
Happily, Ashley and Grant recovered enough to get on the plane and we made it home on schedule. What can I tell you about Stockholm? It’s a short list: Galma Stan is quaint and picturesque, don’t miss out on fika and if you have need for or interest in alcohol or cold medicine, plan accordingly. Oh and I wish I would have read this article before going to Stockholm…Stockholm’s Enduring Style. I realized in our cozy apartment that as amazing as the Northern Lights were in real life, the thing I was truly searching for was my sweet little family away from the hustle and bustle of our every day routines and responsibilities. My reality is that the feeling of being together is bigger when we are adventuring together and not at home and I don’t know why because home is where they are the happiest. Finding some balance or at least understanding is my current adventure. We’ll see how it goes.
For now…Scott’s Tuna Casserole
- 8 ounces egg noodles
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
- ¼ cup Mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Dijon Mustard
- ½ cup Evaporated Milk
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 1 small white or yellow onion chopped
- 1 cup canned mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cans of tuna (5 oz drained)
- 1-2 cups broken Ruffle’s style potato chips.
- Preheat oven to 325 F and get water boiling
- Cook egg noodles to al dente in boiling water and quickly drain when done.
- While noodles are cooking, chop the veggies and combine all ingredients in a large bowl setting aside half of the cheddar cheese and all of the potato chips for later (you can eat a few).
- Stir noodles into bowl with other ingredients and transfer to a casserole dish.
- Sprinkle saved cheese and potato chips on top and cover with foil.
- Cook for 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for 10 more.
- Let sit for 5 or 10. Done.