The adventures of my trip to Stockholm started before I’d even got to the airport here in Berlin. The day of my flight I checked my schedule and made sure I had time to pack after work then catch a regional train (larger than the S-bahn, not quite the big inter-city rail) to the airport. I wanted to be at the airport about 90 minutes before my flight so I could kick back and do some reading before my flight. Unfortunately the BVG had other plans for me.
I’d checked my route with Google Maps and double checked with Öffi, but somehow the regional train to the airport was completely canceled. Not late, and not a wrong route; all the scheduled routes were displayed on the screen at the station with a nice big strikethrough. I had to make a panicked backtrack to the slower S-bahn that would take me out to Schönefeld, and fortunately my flight was delayed by 20 minutes – were it not for the delay I could have been spending my long weekend in Berlin!
I landed in Stockholm just before midnight and went to buy my Stockholm Card (for transit, museums, and other attractions) but the airport shop closed minutes before I arrived. “No problem, I can get it in town”, I thought. Then I got in line for a kiosk to buy a ticket for an airport shuttle bus. Literally as I was approaching the machine the screen went a bit dimmer and a nice message came up telling me that the kiosk was now closed. Seriously?! I managed to get a bus ticket online on my phone and had an uneventful check-in into a quiet hostel room. In the morning was another quest to closed shops to try and get a tourist card; apparently tourist offices are closed on public holidays but eventually I got my card and headed for the Vasa museum.
The Vasa museum is a museum about a big boat that sank. Sounds thrilling right? It’s actually one of the best museums I’ve been to. Because the Baltic sea has very low salinity, the boat was well preserved for over 300 years at the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor before being raised in the 70s; the restored boat is over 95% original. The museum goes through not only the construction of the boat and the reasons behind the shipwreck but also talks about life for sailors around that time, displays of skeletons that came up with the ship, and some European maritime history. I also indulged in some Swedish meatballs at the museum cafeteria and made my way off to Gamla Stan, where I went on a walking tour that meandered through the narrow (and car-free!) streets of Stockholm’s old city. It was interesting to see the German influence in the buildings and hear about the history of a city that’s been around for over 750 years.
For dinner I made my way to a pub for some delicious reindeer stew and was pleasantly surprised by a choir singing spontaneously in the pub. Every now and then they would start singing what I assume were traditional Swedish songs, followed by some applause from the pub. It was a nice warm up before heading from the pub to a bar called Debaser in nearby Medborgarplatsen to hear Solen, a Swedish rock band, and spend my hard earned money on way-too-expensive beer until late in the night. There is also an island with the Modern Art and Architecture museums which were very cool – the architecture museum went through Swedish architecture all the way from early Viking longhouse to modern Swedish buildings. I also spent quite a bit of time just meandering around the city, enjoying the fresh sea air.
I decided to spoil myself with a train ride out to the airport from the central station. I checked departure times and figured I would leave myself a lot of time to get out; I needed to purchase a ticket at the train station, unfortunately online was not an option for a late ticket. When I got to the train station, I got about 30 paces from the ticket office when a buzzer started going in the building. An announcement came on in Swedish and most people started moving to the exits. As I was following people out, an announcement came on in English stating that the fire alarm had gone off and everyone needed to evacuate the building. Sweet. I went into a bit of a panic – if I can’t get the train out, the bus takes at least twice as long, and I’d still need to get over to the bus station. I considered taking a cab right away, but it would be crazy expensive due to the length of the trip so I started asking a few people if they were going to the airport and wanted to split a cab. It seemed like most people were just taking a normal train to go elsewhere in Sweden, so eventually I decided to buck up and grab a cab. As I approached the taxi stand, people started going back into the train station so I jostled my way back inside the station and caught the train and my flight home without any further incident.