Scandinavian Summer, Day 12: Gällnö

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While planning the vacation part of the Sweden trip, multiple blogs and articles spoke of how a visit to an archipelago island was almost a non-negotiable part of a trip to Sweden.  This is true of both the East and West Coast archipelagos near Gothenburg and Stockholm, respectively but there seemed to be a greater focus on Stockholm.  I suspect this is mainly due to Stockholm being a more popular tourist destination, especially for those on shorter trips just trying to get a taste (or smaka!) of Sweden.

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I hadn’t made any plans so after returning to Stockholm, I had an inner debate on what to do on my only full day left before my return flight.  I really did want to explore an island within the Stockholm archipelago but I also thought wandering Gamla Stan more, seeing City Hall and going to the Nobel Museum also sounded really cool.  And it’s true, staying in Stockholm another day would have been awesome.  But, ultimately, I decided that there are always more museums to see and things that stay off the list so rather than do more of the same by staying in the city, I decided to venture out for a day trip to experience the Swedish Island lifestyle.

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Once I made that decision, I had to figure out which island I wanted to go to.  I was in Stockholm one week before the tourist season starts, aka Midsummer.  Once Summer arrives, there are many more ferries and seasonal routes open.  I really wanted to go to Utö but in the off-season, there was no direct ferry from Stockholm.  My second choice was Gällnö, reachable by direct ferry even in the off season. The ferry that was running was the Cinderella line (no Disney affiliation). It also went to Voxholm, Grinda, and Sandhamn.  Voxholm has the fortress and is nearby, but looks like a small town rather than a nature-focused island.  Grinda sounded a little too family-friendly but would have likely been fun.  Sandhamn was a two-hour ferry ride one-way and that just seemed like a little too much for a day trip.  Also, it has a reputation as a nice harbor for luxury yachts so I think it is a little posh.

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So, Gällnö.  I picked it because it sounded very undeveloped and a great place for biking, hiking and swimming.  There is a hostel there that is very popular in the Summer and, when passing it, I can see why.  It looks delightful and is in the most idyllic spot.

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Breakfast is served!

I had made up my mind the night before, so I timed my hotel breakfast so that I could enjoy the delicious food and then head to the pier without stressing about the time.  The breakfast was awesome.  I started in the drawing room but after I saw another guest outside, I wanted to eat outside too.  It was an amazing morning and the guy was very nice.  He was a bariatric surgeon from Chicago, traveling with his lawyer wife for what sounded like their annual big trip.  He was well-traveled and she joined us after awhile and they were fun and interesting to talk to over coffee.

I biked to the pier and boarded the ferry.  It left about 10 minutes later.  I paid onboard, a one-way passage with a small bike supplement since I took the bike from the hotel.  After 90 minutes, I was dropped off at Gällnö.  All by myself.  It was disconcerting to be the only one let off with only a few farmhouses visible as the ferry steamed merrily away.  Uh oh.

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But don’t worry!  Everything was fine.  I hopped on my bike and went towards the hostel and store.  The store was very small and had limited food, mostly geared towards group campers.  I wasn’t very hungry and only bought a snack, but a picnic would have been a good idea.

I kept biking and I’m pretty sure I biked on a hiking trail for a bit.  I found a beautiful beach and laid out in the sun for a bit.  I also scrambled around on some nearby rocks.  It was really beautiful.

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Then I hopped on my bike and went a few miles in the opposite direction and found another beautiful spot by the coast. I sat for a bit and really, didn’t think much about anything.  I just kind of sat and enjoyed how beautiful it was.  I tried to hone in on all the sensory inputs so I could have a vivid mental snapshot to go back to as a memory.

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Then, although it had only been a few hours, it was time to bike back towards the dock.  There was another timetable listed for another ship, maybe a commuter type ferry?  I flipped the dockside indicator to show that I was waiting for the boat.  I wanted to stick with what I knew so I waited for the Cinderella boat, which was the first one scheduled to arrive anyway.  They put the gangplank across and I boarded.  I bought a hearty late lunch (risotto!) that was impressively good for being cooked in a ship’s galley!

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I bought my ticket on-board again and word to the wise, if you think you can avoid the ticket lady, they do check your ticket stub as you disembark so no cheating!

I had to leave really early the next morning so I decided to take care of as much as I could the night before.  I took the tram to the rail station with my roll aboard, which I locked in an overnight locker.  The reason for this is that I was leaving so early the next morning that the tram to the station wouldn’t be open and I didn’t want to drag my suitcase for 1.5 miles.  I bought my Arlanda Express ticket as well.  On the way back to the hotel, I did some last minute sight-seeing along the way.

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Guard outside Stockholm Palace
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The stuff of nightmares.
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Kungliga Djurgarden Gate
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It’s a bird’s life, sitting on the head of a Swedish Aristocrat/Composer’s statue.

That night, I treated myself to a dinner at Oaxen Slip.  It was so good.  I had the herring dish again.  To me, it encapsulated new Swedish cuisine in one dish.  I had the rhubarb lemonade again and an awesome strawberry and merengue dessert.

 

 

Scandinavian Summer, Days 11: Stockholm Part 2

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View from the Terrace- I strongly recommend a visit!

After the conference, I headed into Stockholm.  Once I got to the city, I headed to the hotel which was on a boat!  Yes, after a less-than-stellar AirBnB earlier in the trip and seeing the boat from an amazing lunch at Oaxen, I had booked a two night stay at the Prince van Orangiën.  It is a former private yacht now turned into a unique boutique hotel.  I booked a room with a shared bath but had it to myself the two nights.

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The hotel.  There have been better pictures, I’m sure.

The boat was beautiful.  It was very luxurious with gleaming wood, marble fixtures, and gorgeous furnishings.  There were several deck areas to relax in and the central room was relaxing and opulent at the same time.  Breakfast was served in the mornings, although I could only partake the first morning since I had to leave super early on the second.  I highly recommend it, although I think when I go back in the future with SMS, I would book a room with a private bath just to ensure privacy and access (I sound like I’m talking about a private beach).

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Katrina-Sofia

So after check-in, I decided to find the cool part of Soderhalm which according to this guide, are south of Folkungagatan. So, really, it seems to be the area of Katrina-Sofia, at least on Google maps.  The hotel lent out complimentary bikes so I biked across several bridges to explore.

I went to Grandpa and tried on some clothes, leaving with two dresses that will hopefully evoke Swedish cool whenever I wear them.  Then I headed over to Urban Deli to peruse their grocery items (does anyone else like wandering through high-end grocery stores, especially on vacation?).  The store was awesome, although very Dean & Deluca and slightly impractical for a day-to-day shopping list but for a special treat?  An excellent choice.

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Park Nytorget
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Mural outside Urban Deli
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Going up the hill towards Sofia Church

After eating my snacks across the street in the Park Nytorget, I wandered up the hill towards Sofia Church.  The area’s historic name is Bergsprängargränd.  Based on the occasional information signs (SE/EN), it used to be the Stockholm slums where shipyard workers, rock-blasters and other day laborers lived.  The small red homes are still there but based on appearances, it looks like the real estate prices have climbed quite a bit since then.

Next, I wandered down the hill to Såzargatan.  This was also a poor shipbuilder neighborhood now almost completely rebuilt apart from a few protected houses.  There are three that are high above the street due to rock blasting that occurred after they were built.  #11 has a door that will open to a fairly significant drop so I wouldn’t recommend taking that exit.  There was also a box with an angled mirror called a “gossip mirror” so you could see who was on the street without having to actually stick your head out to look.  This sounds slightly creeper and antisocial but also kind of awesome.

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On the terrace, Fotografsika in the immediate background

THEN.  I found the highlight of my wanderings and a place that is very high on my list of recommended things to do in Stockholm.  Reg Anders Fogelströms Terrass has a fantastic view of the city.  Really, you have to go here…and it is not like me to tell any traveller that they have to do anything.  The views are exceptional and it just feels like it completely captures a quintessential Stockholm experience.

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Terrace View towards Gamla Stan
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Terrace View towards Tivoli Gorma Land
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The staircase from the cruise dock entrance/transportation hub.  For reference, the fotogarfiska is at the bottom.

There are a few ways to get there.  In addition to wandering through Katrina-Sofia, there is also a staircase near the Fotografiska which is great for my family taking cruises there later this year because the staircase is right across from the cruise ship docks.  Caution, there is a lot of construction there currently (Summer 2018) so it may be hard to cross the busy street.  There is also a way through the Slussen subway station and Katarina Elevator but again with the construction, it is still confusing and a longer walk than the staircase.  But no matter how you get there (take an Uber if you hate to walk!), I promise you, it will be worth it.  Well, at least on a day that you can enjoy the views, aka, maybe not during a storm.

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Screenshot of the Terrass.  I put an open circle around the ferry dock icon.  The filled in circle (blob) indicates the approximate location of the staircase.  I know it’s all smushed at the bottom but I wanted to show the islands you can see from the terrace.
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One of the protected old houses, covered in flowering vines.

Nearby, there is a small cafe with ice cream in the Summer and warm drinks in the Winter.  I wasn’t hungry but it looks like Fjällgatans Kaffestuga would be a great place for a fika!

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I am a sucker for peonies, like almost every other person.

Then I walked through a small neighborhood garden and another formerly poor neighborhood called Stigbergsgatan.  Then I went back to my bike and cycled to the hotel.  The evening was beautiful and I took several pictures of the boat.  Then, it was time to go to sleep.  The bed was very comfortable and I drifted off immediately.

Scandinavian Summer, Days 8-11: Uppsala

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Uppsala Cathedral

Uppsala is a beautiful university town about an hour north of Stockholm.  The whole reason that the Scandinavian Summer trip occurred is that I had a poster accepted to an international medical conference.  Since I was traveling, I thought I’d add some vacation time.  I didn’t think SMS would come because of his lack of vacation time but when he heard Sweden, he was in!

Since Uppsala is relatively close to Stockholm, I thought it would be a somewhat non-descript Stockholm suburb.  I was very wrong!  It is a super cute, historic university town. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked into my AirBnB.  Then I went to a case report presentation at the hospital.  As I walked to the hospital after missing the bus due to a detour, I realized that there was a triathlon in full swing (and the reason for the bus diversion).

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The hospital.  Amazing.

The hospital was amazingly beautiful, the case reports mostly lackluster.  I was worried that the conference would be a dud but never fear, the main sessions were (mostly) excellent.

That evening, I felt sorry for myself and, therefore, treated myself to a nice dinner at Akanten.  I had a delicious trout dish and a sorbet dessert.   I had a beautiful riverside seat on a perfect, almost-midSummer evening.

The next day marked the start of the official program.   On my way to the conference, I found my breakfast spot for the next three days.  Forsa Hembageri featured the most delicious kardemummabullar with excellent coffee to accompany it.  I had one every day and, ok, two on the last day I was there.  The cardamon taste was amazing and the doughy texture with slightly toasted outside bun was excellent!  Yum, yum, yum!

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Along the river in Uppsala.  It is a gorgeous place.

The conference opened with a lot of Swedish pride!  A physician-pianist played four jazz pieces from a famous Swedish jazz composer.  We heard a lot about Professor Barany and then listened to a few invited lecturers.

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Sculpture near the entrance of the botanical garden

That evening, I went to a welcome reception in the botanical garden.  It was on the smaller side, but very beautiful.  I also made a note to check out the other garden in Uppsala, which was more directly linked to Carl Linnaeus, the famous botanist who is the father of plant taxonomy.  I spoke with a few people and had a very nice time.

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The conference center
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We are excited to display our poster!

The next day, lectures were in full swing.  It was also time for our poster session.  Our poster seemed to be well-received. Displaying it definitely means we need to get our rears in gear regarding publishing our pilot study data and finishing up the larger trial!

I walked through Dr. Linnaeus’ garden that afternoon.  It was small but interesting to see a little bit of Uppsala history.  The museum was closed but that did save me the admission fee!

That evening, there was a reception in the castle where Queen Christina abdicated in 1654.  The entertainment program featured a Grand-Prix winning Swedish acappella group followed by…an ABBA cover band.  People were initially sitting but, led by our corner with Brazilians (mostly responsible), Dutch, and American attendees, everyone was dancing by the end!  It was so much fun and so, so ridiculous.  I’m sure there are many patients who would be shocked at the dance moves of their ear surgeons!   It wasn’t pretty but it was a lot of fun.

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One more for the road

The next day,  the conference wound down and I headed back to Stockholm for a final day and a half of vacation in Sweden.

The conference was excellent.  There’s a different level of energy at an international conference and I plan on going again.  My goal is to have my larger study complete and published by the next meeting in Madrid, 2020!

 

Scandinavian Summer Days 8: Stockholm morning

After walking with SMS to the train station to take the Arlanda Express out to the airport, I went for a run Stockholm until it was time to head to the afternoon conference session in Uppsala.

I set out to for Tantolunden, an allotment park of small red cabins and gardens.  Nearby, there is a lake path along Årstaviken, an inlet off of Lake Mälaren.  It was a hilly run through Gamla Stan and the beginning of Soderhalm.  I took a few breaks for photos and, all in all, ran about seven miles.  I had just enough time to shower before it was time to check out of Downtown Camper and head to Uppsala.

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Nice picture and good place to take a break at the top of the hill!
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One of the allotment gardens
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Looking up from the lake path to the cabins
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Artsy?
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Near the cool part of Soderhalm.  I will visit again!

 

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Approximate route

Scandinavian Summer, Day 7: Stockholm

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Embrace the ridiculous!

It was our last full day together so what better way to have couple-bonding time than borrowing a tandem bike from the hotel?  Well, actually, there are probably lots of better ideas since it can be a stressful experience but SMS and I did pretty well!  There were a few initial wobbles but then we were set.  SMS took the lead seat since he is a much more avid cyclist than I am and I just peddled along in the back.

We headed over to the Vasa museum, which was listed as a “must-do” by many sources.  The Vasa is a Swedish warship that sank very, very quickly in 1628 on its inaugural voyage.  It only made it ~1300 m before it heeled and water came rushing in.  Apparently, the center of gravity was much too high and it was very unstable.  This was actually known before the launch but there were time pressures (from the King!) to get the ship battle-ready.  There was an investigation which sort of fizzled out once the council realized the king would partially be at fault for approving the original plans so Henrik Hybertsson, the main ship designer died in 1627, seems to have been blamed and any other culpability assignments were avoided.

The Vasa is very impressive.  We took an English tour and then wandered around.  The museum has a lot of supporting exhibits.  The most interesting one to me was the movie about the ship and the excavation, complete with footage from 1961.  All in all, it was a very cool museum but if you have a really short time in Stockholm and you can’t get to it, I would say it’s ok.  There are so many amazing sights in the city so see what strikes your fancy, rather than being bossed into seeing something because everyone says you should! 🙂

After the Vasa, SMS was hungry.  When this occurs, it can be a quickly escalating emergency.  I talked him into checking out a restaurant a mile away, which we biked in tandem towards, a happy couple!  Forget the suspicious glare from SMS who has, unfortunately, been caught in a situation where I assure him that there will only be a small wait and the opposite occurs.

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A wonderful find!

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But in this case, it was an excellent idea!  I had used Yelp and found excellent reviews for Oaxen Slip , a self-described Nordic bistro.  We were seated on the covered patio and ordered several small plates.  It was all so good.  We also ordered a cocktail made from their housemade rhubarb lemonade and aqua de cedro.  It was amazing.  Our dishes included Norrøna herring with brown butter, warm potato salad, chopped egg, beetroots & hazelnuts and other dishes no longer on the menu but included a mozzarella dish with scattered bread crumbs, a reuben-like sandwich (good but not my favorite), and a delicious salad.

We also saw the Prince van Orangiën, a luxury yacht converted to a small hotel.  It looked very cute and got me thinking for my time in Stockholm after the conference…

After lunch, we cycled back to the hotel to turn in our tandem bike.  Then we walked over to the Fotografiska, the photography museum that had also received rave reviews.  It may have been better to take public transport since, by the end of the day, we had done  a lot of walking but it was still cool to see the city.  The museum itself was ok.  The exhibits were all modern photography and only highlighted the photos, with no technical details or camera equipment displayed.  There is a good snack bar with a great view but overall, I found it to be overhyped for my particular level of interest in modern photos.

After the museum, we walked towards Sodermalm, which I heard was a very cool part of the city.  We didn’t find the cool part on this walk.  I did find it when I returned to Stockholm but this walk was a bit of a bust.  Plus, we were walked out.  So, we hopped on the subway and headed to the Central train station.  We walked to the Smaka for some more food.  We finally got our Swedish meatballs (yay!) and then we sat down to listen to some live music.  I took a few classy crowd pictures (see below).

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Looks like the guy in the glasses caught me taking the photo!

We headed back to the hotel and up to the 9th floor.  This time, it was late enough that the rooftop, which is reserved for spa users during the day, was open!  We relaxed in hammock-like chairs and just chilled out for about 40 minutes.  It was delightful and the views were amazing.  I felt very lucky.  It was a nice way to mellow out after a busy day and enjoy each other’s company on our last day in Sweden together.

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So happy!

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