When I had gotten in the night before, there was someone new in my room. Now, when staying at a hostel, this isn’t an unusual thing. In fact, it’s part of the fun of hostelling, meeting the new people. There was a couple in the room as well, they had been there the day before as well and I had spent a few minutes chatting with them, Very nice, from Australia, having trouble reconciling that each of them wanted to do different things with their days on holiday. I mention this only because it might come up later.
Anyway, I get up the next morning and I see a guy in my room, the new guy I mentioned, except as I watch, he’s hoisting my bag on to his bed and going through it. As you can imagine, I’m slightly alarmed. But then I realize it’s not my bag. It doesn’t have my green locks on it, which are fairly distinctive. It’s also slightly smaller than my bag. But of course, in these situations, you take any opportunity to strike up a conversation so I say to this stranger “I thought you had my bag.” He laughs and says “I know, isn’t weird.” In perfect English. Ah…I think to myself. He might be an American! And I was right. His name was Emmanuel and he was indeed from San Francisco. We start chatting and hit it off great (it also turns out we have a LOT of the same gear, thank you REI). We have breakfast together and it turns out he’s got to be at the train station for a 21:00 train to Copenhagen and wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his day. I had some ideas of what I wanted to do with mine, but I went with him to the station, helped him get his bag sorted away in a locker and then we agreed to meet up for dinner later that night.
I took this opportunity to do what you MUST do when in Stockholm… I went to the Nobel Museum. Nobel, as you’ll recall,
invented dynamite. He also invented a whole lot of other stuff and factories to produce it all. He was a true manufacturing giant. When he died, though, he thought he’d give back, so he create a trust to fund an award given to the best and the brightest in several different fields every year. And, just to piss off his countrymen, he told them the winner didn’t have to be a Swede! And so we now have the Nobel Prize and, like so many other museums in Stockholm, it’s nice and small and free with my card! They have a permanent display of the various winners (Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Typewriter is there!) and a revolving display of different things.
When I was there it was a display of marketing centered around atoms. It was odd, trying to figure out a way to sell science to the mass market. I think they did a pretty good job. Now, the downside of these museums is that most of them don’t allow photographs so we’re gonna light on the graphics this time.
So afterwards, I was starving so I grabbed a hot dog and coke light from a street vendor and sat on a bench to rest my feet and eat before going to the next museum. Before too long, a couple sat down next to me, joking this was the diet coke bench since we were all drinking Light (which is one of the European Diet brands of Coke. The other is Coke Zero). Naturally, we struck up a conversation and guess what? Jews from back east America! Marty and his wife (I wish I could remember her name, I’m sorry). We ended up sitting there for an hour, talking Jewish heritage, talking parents and children, talking theatre (they were both directors in New York). Really one of the great, random encounters on which good travel is based.
So I walked them to the main shopping street, said goodbye and I headed to the palace. I wanted to see the inside of one of the last remaining active monarchies in Europe. Granted, this one is only a figurehead and the palace is only used for administrative functions, but still… So there were four things to see in the palace and since my card covered all of them, I was sure I was gonna see them all. At first I headed for the royal apartments, but it was recommended I wait for the guided tour so instead, I went to the
underground parts. This was the site of the original castle, with the original walls, which had burned down in the 1600s. Once I finished up there, it was upstairs to the apartments where I did go on the guided tour. I saw where the heads of state eat and learned all about the regimented balls (the timing is very precise as to when the members of royalty enter and exit – I’d say it was Swiss precision, but that’s a whole other country). After the apartments I took a stroll through several hundred years of monarchy portraiture. Some of these people were very handsome and some…
well… some I’m sure were the product of inbreeding and could probably play either part of dueling banjoes with no sense of irony whatsoever.
Then came the rooms I wish I could have brought Riley Addison to… the crown jewels. For different functions and at different ages there were crowns made for the members of the royal family. There were also swords used for coronations and cloaks used for ceremonies, but the crowns were the big draw. They were really beautiful and covered in jewels and gemstones and gold. Just amazing.
Leaving there, I walked across the cobblestones to the Mint Museum but by that time, it was already closed so I ran around to the fourth section of the palace, the antiquary, and had a quick look see through the statues the previous kings had collected. The most impressing pieces, I thought, were a collection of muses. All nine of them. I’m fascinated by the idea of muse and so I was drawn to these pieces. If I’d had more time I would have stayed and studied them longer. I think when I get back I might do a bit of research in that area.
I had about an hour to go before I was to meet Emmanuel for dinner so I hopped a tram back to the hostel (free with card!) dropped off some stuff, then hightailed back to the opera where he was waiting for me. Turns out he didn’t do nearly anything he’d planned, but he did go shopping and found a fabulous outfit! So we wandered around, looking for a place to eat. Eventually we passed a TGI Fridays and he thought it’d be ironic if we stopped in there for a drink, so we did. One drink turned into two,
which turned into nachos and we just had an amazing conversation, We talked about the Australian couple in our room (he didn’t think they were going to last long as a couple, either – very odd dynamic they had) and he asked me some rather thought provoking questions about travel and attitude. See, he was just starting a month of traveling by himself and was nervous. I helped put him at ease. Eventually, we got hungry and found a place for dinner, where the waiter
was a riot and who actually yelled at Emmanuel for leaving a bad tip (but did it in a nice way since it was an honest mistake – we rectified the situation and gave him a decent tip).
We made our way to the train station where he got on towards Copenhagen and I grabbed a metro and headed for home. I still had a number of places to see and my card didn’t expire for 36 hours.