Lost in Stockholm

Firstly, I am sorry for the long silence on this blog. The sun finally came out when I left Stockholm, so I put down my computer and frolicked outside for a week in Copenhagen. That post is coming soon!

I arrived in Stockholm on just 3 hours of sleep, but with 9 hours to kill before meeting up with my hosts. So, I stored my hiking pack in a locker at the bus depot, bought a huge cup of delicious coffee (all the coffee in Stockholm was delicious), and began exploring the downtown area on foot.

The first area I came to was the main drag in downtown, central Stockholm. Bustling with shops and restaurants and tourists, and, much to my excitement…

Ha En Kul Halloween! I was pleased to see this, as I’ve hardly seen any recognition in Europe that Halloween, the best holiday ever, is RAPIDLY APPROACHING!!!!

Later, I came upon Kulturhuset, a building full of galleries, shops, restaurants, and a library, where I chilled out for a few hours in the afternoon when the caffeine wore off and I needed a rest:

Kulturhuset (House of Culture). You had to pay to use the internet or the bathroom, but the art exhibit was free. Yippee!

Inside Kulturhuset, I found an amazing exhibit by Polish artist Katarzyna Kozya. The exhibit was a series of short films on loop, all dealing with death, transience, gender, identity, feminism, and other intense and often dark themes. All of Kozya’s pieces were shocking and thought-provoking (for example, in one film, the female artist – wearing male genitalia – undergoes a bloody public castration before a crowd of young men dressed only in towels…). I spent over an hour exploring the exhibit and watched all the films.

Probably the most modest part of Kozya’s exhibit.

The work of Katarzyna Kozya would not be my last experience with nude, in-your-face, openly sexual and, at times, quite violent artwork in Sweden. In reflection, I am intrigued by the contrast between the somewhat introverted, proper, polished and opulent culture of many Swedes I encountered in Stockholm, and the bold, dark, naked, gender- and sexuality-questioning artwork displayed in exhibit after exhibit throughout the city. It was quite stirring to view a building from the outside – beautiful, decorative, royal – and then walk inside only to find the provocative and visceral work of Katarzyna Kozya or Wolfgang Tillmans:

Part of Wolfgang Tillmans’ incredible exhibit at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Anyway, back to Day 1. Here is the view from Kulturhuset at night:

View of the Kulturhuset courtyard.

The next morning, it was still raining. I indulged in a much-needed oversleep, then ventured into the city to explore and check out some of Stockholm’s museums (there are around 100 of them!). I walked and walked through the rain, getting lost several times – but always somehow regaining my bearings enough to find my destination. It’s remarkable I didn’t get more lost, actually, as I wasn’t using any public transportation and was only relying on some shoddy screenshots of maps I’d pulled up earlier (I don’t have any phone or internet capabilities when I’m out and about):

Pronouncing these street names is a beast.

Ok, it’s actually kind of easy to get lost using this method of direction. One wrong turn and you’re off the map!

These partial maps proved somewhat pointless when I (always) found myself outside of the specific screen-shot area. Further, Stockholm had no evident grid or alphabetic system for the street names, and it’s one of the more confusing city layouts I’ve experienced. Once, I even found myself in a city square where all the intersecting streets were named “Katarina”…

I should note that getting lost in every city I visit is a goal of mine. It guarantees I will always discover something that not every tourist gets to see.

Despite the rain and being lost almost constantly, I enjoyed my time in Stockholm, finding it to be a city of beautiful architecture, centuries-old communities, countless bridges, and lovely artwork:

Nicely groomed garden behind City Hall.

Rainy, rainy Stockholm. Why must you be so wet and cold? Oh, right, ‘cuz it’s Scandinavia in October…smart, Emily, real smart.

Stockholm City Hall was built in 1911 and took 8 million bricks. Fun Stockholm facts.

Ok, for real though, all my pictures are taken outside, most of them are of buildings, and they all have a faintly damp look. This is because I seriously could not afford to do anything in Stockholm, and I also didn’t know or really meet anyone there, so I spent the entire time walking around with my raincoat on, exploring all the different areas of the city, and amusing myself by taking photos of pretty things. Which was everything.

Nearly all the buildings in Stockholm are this fancy.

Built in 1290, the Riddarholmen Church is the city’s oldest structure and its only medieval monastery church. It is also a royal burial ground, with many monarchs entombed within. It’s now closed off, so naturally, I tried to sneak inside it. Sadly, I failed.

This is a view down one of the streets of Gamla Stan, or Old Town, built in the 1200s. It’s really cute, with winding alleyways and nice little storefronts. Lots of antique shops and art galleries.

Just some buildings. I’m sure they are important.

The Royal Palace, AKA where the King of Sweden lives.

Dreary but lovely.

Some sculptures outside of the Museum of Modern Art, my favorite museum there.

On my 3rd day in Stockholm I Googled, “Where are the hip, young people in Stockholm?” The answer: South of Folkungagatan on Sodermalm Island. I went there. This is the best thing I found. I didn’t see many hip or young people, but this church sure is pretty.

Another picture of the church in SoFo.

And last,

Walking around in the rain in Stockholm for 3 days called for about 9 cappuccinos. Cappuccinos in Sweden are THE BEST.

I never plan a lot before going to each foreign city, with the goal of discovering what I’m meant to discover, meeting whomever I’m meant to meet, and coming upon random things that I never would have seen had I not gotten completely lost and had absolutely no agenda. This is only a fraction of what I experienced during my 3 days in Stockholm, but it sums up the city’s feel, and I’m now keeping my Berlin CSing host awake by typing, so time to post!

Last thoughts: If you go to Stockholm, maybe don’t go in October. But if you do, the museums are awesome and the city’s still gorgeous in the rain.

Thank you to Therese and Henrik for your hospitality in letting my sleep on your couch 🙂 And thanks to Elena for hooking me up with these lovely people!

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2 thoughts on “Lost in Stockholm

  1. Nice post and your photos are phenomenal, especially that one closeup of the yellow church.

    As I was reading your post, I started to think about how absolutely exhausting it must be for you to be constantly on the move, from place to place to place, without much money, and almost always on your own. Especially in the cold rain. I’m sure it’s so rewarding and amazing, but also really hard. I give you mad props.

    • Thanks Heather! And yes, it’s pretty exhausting sometimes, but I also just LOVE traveling alone. There are times when I simply collapse in a coffee shop for a few hours, but most of the time, it’s really exciting to be lost somewhere totally foreign – and I feel so blessed every day that I am able to travel so freely!

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