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Category Archives: Sweden

Stockholm

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Stockholm

Great day to walk in Stockholm. Sunny and a little too warm but it is in the North and is bearable. Walked from the hotel Alexandra to Gamla Stan in 15 minutes and right away bought some hop-on hop-off boat tickets to be used all day ($15) that shorten the distances. Stockholm’s center is not large but we did not have too much time so any help was great. The boats, all run the same route, go around the harbor and stop to the major attractions in the city. The tickets, like many other items, but not everything, can be paid in US$, this being valid all over Scandinavia. However almost everywhere credit cards are accepted.

The first stop was at the Royal Palace, that I gave a miss for an inside visit and I just took a quick peek at the portrait of the princess and her new gym trainer hubby. She is the oldest and will inherit the crown and their disco wedding happened just a month ago in the castle. The boat takes you to the National Theater and to the Royal Sightings before stopping at Vasa Museum, where is located the boat that sank just after she left the harbor in 1627. The king himself designed the boat and supervised the project. He decided to load the ship with large number of cannons a show off of his power. When the investigation was supposed to be started the king did not show up in court so nobody was found guilty for the failure of the project. The boat stayed underwater for 300 years and was taken out in 1961, being originally kept under water sprays till this new museum was opened. The museum is really impressive because the boat was rescued with all the objects that were just loaded on it for a sail that never happened. Just another hop away from the museum is Skeepholmen island where it used to be stationed the Swedish Navy. Now a quite place, the island has a small castle on it and the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Museum of Architecture. You can continue to the Open Air Folk Museum and the amusement park if you have time but I preferred the boat ride all the way to the Royal Sightings where the beautiful residential buildings from the 19th centuries command great views over the harbor with apartments that run way over 1 million US$.

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Stockholm

We returned to the Dramatic Theater and further towards the Royal Palace and in Gamla Stan for a last pictures of the narrow streets and we had to rush to the hotel to pick up the luggage and the car and start driving towards Copenhagen, a 6.5 hours on more than 600 km highway. We would have gotten very close to Denmark  but it was the night of the World Cup final so we stop on the way to a Rasta Restaurant a little out of Linkoping and watched the first triumph of Spain in the World Cup in a extra time in a match where they outplayed the very dangerous and powerful team of the Netherlands. The extra time delayed our schedule and we slept in a Scandic hotel in Jonkoping.

The hotels in Sweden, like over the entire Scandinavia are very neat. Clean, looking like new and designed very nicely are a pleasure to stay in them and enjoy the plentiful morning buffet breakfast. Except in Norway, the hotel prices are reasonable being relatively more expensive than their American versions but offering way more and of a considerable higher quality. In general everything what you buy/rent in Scandinavia and Northern Europe is of a remarkable quality and implicitly at a slightly higher price.  As far as I could see it does not exist the notion of a dingy place. The places are always good and the budget ones give you the option to strip items alike the sheets, linen, towels or breakfast for a lower price.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2010 in Blog, Scandinavia, Sweden

 

Lillehammer to Stockholm

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Lillehammer, Norway

Lillehammer was more or less developed around the 1994 Olympics. Its main street was empty at the early hours of the morning but anyway we could not spend too much time because we had such a long way to go so we left around 9:30 am for a 600 km/8 hours ride to Stockholm.

After a quick stop at the border that is represented by a road in the woods where the locals are walking their dogs where we got the shopping taxes refunded we crossed in Sweden where we found the roads being larger and in a way better than the small and narrow Norwegian roads. The road from the border to Karlstadt is more or a less a highway, with parts that are interrupted but even then the lane is very large with shoulder and good pavement. Around Karlstadt we stopped for lunch at a beach place. The sun starved Swedes were swarming to the beach that was on the shore of the sea, or a fjord going to it. Played with pigeons, took some pictures and left for Stockholm. The highway continued and you could drive with over 120 km/h an improvement after the 60km/h we had to drive in Norway. The pattern of the highway was new to me, 2 lanes on one way combined with one lane of the other that changed at every several km. It was actually a 3 lanes highway!!!! The drawback is that at one point it was an accident on the one lane section and police had to detour the traffic on the incoming lanes. But the best thing of the drive, otherwise a boring one through a not so great landscape, was admiring a parade of old cars drove with enjoyment by the Swedes. On the entire drive, hours after hours, you could see 2-3 old cars every 5 minutes. There were hundreds of Buick, Chrysler, Volvo, Opel and Oldsmobiles sometimes painted in pink, red, white or green caring behind them an antique camper. Most of them were convertible drove in a glorious sunny day. Sometimes the drivers, women or men, were dressed in matching dresses and suits including the hair do of the 1950, 60s and 70s. Without that parade the 8, that was actually 10, hour drive would have been boring.

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Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

We arrived in Stockholm around 7:30 pm and we started to look for the hotel address and after many investigations we were able to find Alexandra Hotel. A working GPS would have been great….. Unfortunately we found out that the Internet was down at the hotel but the good news was that we could park the car on the street over the weekend. Parking in Stockholm’s secondary areas is about SK15/hour, about $2. Not too bad like all the prices in Sweden that are way lower than in Norway. We took the car and parked close to Gamla Stan, the island that has on it the old town, and we walked and took pictures in the sunset light, watching occasionally glimpses of the small final game in the World Cup between Germany and Uruguay. After we got a pretty good idea of the city layout we were able to have dinner. We were billed SK30 for water, plain tap water with ice and asking about this the Polish waiter told us that nothing is free anymore in Sweden and started to complain about the very low level of life here with working people having to pay for African immigrants that bring their entire families and do not want to work and live on welfare… Food in school is mediocre; medicine is expensive; hospitals are not good, etc. Nobody is happy…..

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2010 in Blog, Norway, Scandinavia, Sweden

 

Goteborg to Oslo

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Goteborg Opera House

In Scandinavia the hotel’s breakfast is extremely good. Generous, diversified and delicious is something to look forward for. Beside everything that was offered I was able for the first time to have a really great machine made cappuccino. I did not believe that something like this exits, at least not in the US.

We considered taking a tram to go in the city center but because we did not have any Swedish money we decided to drive into the city to Heden Parking recommended by the hotel’s receptionist. The parking  can paid by credit card and no matter that the parking machines in Heden were supposed to take American Express they somehow could not read any credit card so I was stuck on keep trying. Meanwhile my hopeless tries were noticed by some Swedes around and a lady decided that she wants to pay for my 4 hours of parking, about $3-4, and all my thanks and prays of giving her in exchange US$ were refused.  She said: “You are a tourist and we like tourists”. I was wondering when something like that happened last time in France, for example….. Goteborg’s center is not large and can be managed in several hours. The old part of the city is around a square located right on the shore of the canals and the harbor that is spectacular especially on a sunny day like the one we had. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit any museum, the Haselblat one being my number ONE priority. After a tour in the old town, a stop at a women beach volleyball match on a court in front of the opera  and a walk in  the harbor we were able to get on top of the harbor’s red building to get a view of the entire city and after a short stop at the mall to eat we headed back to the car and to a 3 hour drive to Oslo. But after we drove for about one hour we got on a single lane road and we realized that the three Scandinavian capitals are not connected by finished highways.

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Oslo Opera House

Luckily the highway hiatus was not so long and we crossed at one point the border with NORWAY that has also a toll, not being clear that is for the bridge we crossed or for the border, 24SK. But all the highways are free….. In Oslo we reached easily the hotel, that we reserved several days before by sort of accident. Because I could not cancel it I was stuck with it and it was not a great choice. At the time I thought that the price being high I should be safe but I missed a big point: This reservation was done in Norway, the most expensive country in Europe. A budget hotel in Norway that has three bed is close or slightly over $200…..And this was just the beginning of experiencing the high cost of living in this country.We parked ourselves at the Budget Inn 2 blocks away from the Central Station and we parked the car on the street, after 18:00 pm being free. However during the day any public parking is about $10/hour if you don’t take the deal of NK240 for the day. Trying to change some money I ended in the railway station where all the offices were closed but they had ATM. I got to one of these and expecting to work in the regular way I entered all the requested info and I asked to get $1000 in local currency. The menu was very confusing having all sorts of currencies except NK so I chose US$ and ….this is what I got, 20 crisp $50 bills. What the heck I would do now because no machine was offering NK? Cursing I got out of the train station looking for a bank but nothing was open. The exchange rate was about $1=NOR 6.62 but, as we were able to find out the following day, if you exchange money at the Forex with the low rate they offer plus their commission it may come close to $1=NK5!!!!!! Aker Drygge is the heart of the nightlife in Oslo. Built on a shipyard area in the 1980 is a modern stretch of apartments buildings on the shore aligned also with a beautiful promenade, bars and restaurants. The music is pumped from the lava bar where youngsters lay down on pillows sipping over priced drinks, Norwegian style. All over you can enjoy the fantastic sense of Scandinavian design and architecture, with ergonomic benches and small water canals and fountains that wind through the passage. Small pedestrian bridges over larger canals lit in the night and a statue of Sri Chimnoy with a flame mirroring the flames of the disco bars. We walked the promenade and enjoyed its scent of summer; you can tell that these people enjoy being out in the summer after so many hours of darkness and cold. They enjoy it so much that even in drizzle they drive their convertibles with the top off. All people from Scandinavia exult this enjoyment like no others. We watched the end of the World  Cup game between Uruguay and Ghana that put in the semifinals after so many years the Diego Forlan’s team. The atmosphere was very pleasant and the late light made us stay till around 12pm when finally it looked darker. On my way back to the hotel looking for parking rates for the next day I have to fend off an African prostitute that abound in the downtown. At the hotel I noticed to my utmost surprise that the European AC adapter was missing and I did not have a spare to charge my batteries. After we spent some time investigating it turned out that it was left in Goteborg. It was no big deal except that we could not use any other adapter except that one, the outlets in hotel being grounded and needing a special adapter .After all sorts of tries I found a solution to a unique outlet in the reception area that could take an adapter I had and I left the camera over night there hoping to find it, and I did.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Blog, Norway, Scandinavia, Sweden

 

Copenhagen to Goteborg

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Malmo Bridge connects Denmark with Sweden

It is a surprise the fast processing of the car rental in Denmark. I had the reservation already and the girl was able to find it on the Copenhagen Airport and after several clicks in the computer I got a slip with the building, floor and place where my car was. No sales pitches of why I should get extra insurance, no signing in 3-5 places on a contract that you never read and no warning that the tank is full. You have to figure out yourself how to get your car but it was very fast, all being done with a Danish smile. It took us a while to locate the parking garage but finally we got to the little VW Polo. Right away we smelled trouble figuring out that the luggage would not fit in the trunk and, worse, the GPS that I brought for the trip was missing the pin for the contact, so after several, “I cannot believe” searches we had to return to the old fashion way of looking things on the map. The extra luggage was shoved on the back bench in spite of the kids’ protests complaining of lack of space. From the Copenhagen Airport is a very short drive to the new tunnel-bridge that connects, since 2005, Denmark to Sweden. It is a long tunnel followed by a modern arched bridge that has a steep toll of about $40-45 that is paid on the Swedish side where surprisingly exists also a manned border control that just waved us through. We drove about 3 hours to Goteborg on a very nice and quite empty highway that looks occasionally very American in construction. Without the GPS we fumble for directions using the maps on the phones and after we arrived to a different location of the hotel, we finally reached the hotel where we had the reservation and we got a free slot in the garage, a bonus in Scandinavian cities. The hotels are very well kept but the prices are higher than what is expected in Europe not to mention USA. What I found different is that when you make reservations on the Internet, all the hotels list the price for the room for a double occupancy even if you select 3 or more people, kids, etc. but in the end you will see charges that are quite different from where you started.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2010 in Blog, Denmark, Scandinavia, Sweden