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The tide goes always out,
The Vikings go forth to trade,
And mead is on tap.

As Mathieu and I stepped off the plane in Skavsta airport, one of the first things we noticed was that, dammit, we were in Sverige (Sweden in Swedish) and it was 10 degrees warmer than in Deutschland. Fricking Deutschland.

We met up with Alex, and the first place that we decided to check out was Nyköping (pronounced "ni-SHEP-ing"), a small town just 7 minutes from the airport by bus. It was, um, basically adorable, and it afforded us the opportunity to bring Mathieu to his first ocean (sort of..) and to eat some delicious and reasonably-priced lunch (that was... the last time that happened). Then we hopped on a train, which was thankfully faster than the trains in Poland, and headed to Stockholm.

So Stockholm is basically awesome. It looks like Wien, but it is located on an archipelago, and 14 islands comprise the city. When the glaciers carved that area out, they just sort of hung out on top of it for a while, crushing everything down, and now the islands are slowly rising out of the water, about 50cm every 100 years (hey, Mr. Geologist, are you going to elaborate on this?). So Stockholm is no longer filled with seawater, but instead is really in a massive lake that drains into the Baltic Sea. When we first arrived, it looked like the tide was going out really strongly, and then... 8 hours later it was still going out really strongly. But our Viking tour guide enlightened us as to what was up.

Oh, Saturday night we went out for dinner at one of the oldest restaurants in Stockholm. We had Swedish meatballs, which we were informed include reindeer meat. Then we went home to make party on our boat hostel. :D 21st birthday, part ii!

Might I now mention that we were all highly annoyed by the law in Sweden that you aren't allowed to drink in the streets. It's going to be hard to come back to the states... But that meant that we had to do all of our drinking in bars, where a pint of beer cost around 65 kronor, which is about 6.50 euro or $8. Ugh. Expensive. We were informed by a random Swedish guy that a low-end salary in Stockholm is around 50,000 kronor per month, which is $7,000. Damn.

The following morning, we had some delicious breakfast at our hostel and hopped on a ship to Birka, aka Swedish Viking Central. It was the site of the first city in Sweden, and also a UNESCO world heritage site. We got the lowdown on lots of Viking stuff; apparently the Swedish Vikings were the tamest of the bunch, and they mainly traded with Russians and the rest. The rape-and-pillage-style Vikings were more from Norway and Denmark. Also, Vikings didn't actually wear the horned helmets that they have become renowned for; that was an aesthetic detail added by some archaeologist who found a helmet (not designed for battle, just for a statue) that had ornamentations on it that were a bit broken and resembled horns who happened to decide that Vikings should be a little more badass if they wanted to be set apart from all the other pirate types in Europe in that era.

We heard some awesome stories about the village that used to be in Birka, including how it became Christian (our tour guide's comment was that "they already had Odin, Thor, Freyr, Frigg, so, Jesus? A bonus god? Great!") and then burned down the church when they discoverd that Christianity wanted them to keep just one god. And I was amused when he started telling legends about Valkyries.

After another 90-minute boat ride, we found ourselves once more in Stockholm, this time starving. We found a medieval restaurant in the old town that had exactly the ambiance we were looking for after poking around Viking shit all day. They had mead on tap, and our silverware was a steak knife and a huge spoon each. The napkin for the three of us was one really long piece of cloth, and we shared a "Viking feast" that included salmon, sausage, pork, sauerkraut, peas puree, apple pie, delicious soup, bread, and weird bread-topping that was some kind of sour cream-based stuff. Mmmmmmm... dead stuff. Good heavens, I am a terrible vegetarian.

With roughly 5 hours until the first bus left for the airport and no hostel to stay in, we wandered the town and met some crazy Swedish people and enjoyed the ambiance of the archipelago. My fuzzy vest was sometimes more- and sometimes less well-received, but I still thought it was basically awesome, and it attracted some amusing attention at times. Mathieu and Alex both acquired Viking drinking horns (and by that I mean cow horns that were hollowed out with the intent of filling them with mead), and all was good.



Joe Blaylock said...

Worst Vegetarian Ever.

But don't feel bad. It's pretty normal to actually, you know, enjoy the local culture when traveling. Sounds like you're getting to enjoy a lot. Way to go.

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