Five Favorite Things: Sweden

Five Favorites, Travel

I’m coming up on five years since I flew to Sweden.

For those who don’t know, I spent six months in 2016 studying abroad just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. My time there allowed me to travel extensively through Europe and enjoy Stockholm from darkness to never-ending light. When I arrived in January, the sun began to set at 3 p.m. and it would be pitch black outside by 4. While this didn’t stop me from taking trips to IKEA or adventuring around European cities like Brussels and Prague, it did put a hamper on my ability to enjoy Stockholm. It wasn’t until later months, when the sun never really set, that I found myself learning to love Sweden and all Stockholm had to offer. I thought I would reflect on my five favorite things about Sweden five years later.

Number one: the mixture of the new and the old. Stockholm, in particular, is a great example of how Sweden mixes the new and the old. Gamla Stan (the old town) is filled with rich history and is right across a bridge from modern style buildings. You could spend hours wandering the narrow streets and feel like you’ve been transported back in time, before stepping across a bridge and eating a hamburger (at Max Burgers) in the modern day. Not far away is The Vasa Museum – a museum dedicated to a failed war ship pulled mostly intact from the bottom of the harbor – located right next to the Abba Museum.

Number two: the smaller cities. I’m not a huge fan of big cities – there’s too many people and too much going on. But the smaller cities that I was able to visit in Sweden were wonderful. Sigtuna, Sweden’s first city, is a small town that is a day trip away from Stockholm. You can spend a day wandering the town, hanging out by the lake, and eating along the pedestrian street. Stockholm is nice, but I really loved my time wondering roads in Malmö and Gothenburg; though not as small as Sigtuna, they offered a reprieve from the big city.

Number three: the public transportation. The biggest thing I miss about Sweden (but also Europe in general) is the public transportation. You can get just about anywhere on a train or bus. Relatively easily (and for relatively cheap) you can go from the suburbs where I lived in Flemingsberg (near Södertörn University) to the Royal Palace in central Stockholm, to Drottningholm Palace to the coolest cemetery, Skogskyrkogården, to the airport. Even when there’s a disruption to the service, you have multiple options that will get you where you need to go.

Number four: the adaptability. Though I might complain about how cold it was in Sweden when I first arrived or about how dark it got at 3 p.m. for the first month I spent there, I loved that the country adapted as needed. Sure you didn’t stay out as late in the winter months, but you still bundled up and powered through – a blanket and a space heater to eat outside and some proper shoes will keep you going. And then just six months later, when the sun never fully sets, you spend as much time outside as possible. I try to keep this adaptability in mind when I’m freezing on D.C.’s one cold day a year.

Number five: the Swedes. So much of my enjoyment of my time in Sweden was based on the very basics of life in Sweden. Things were efficient. People were polite, welcoming, and orderly. Everything was clean. There was an emphasis on living with nature, rather than fighting against it. And everything just felt balanced.

Sweden is definitely on my list of places to return to and explore so more, but I might just do that when it’s summer. I’ve had enough cold, dark days for now.

Living in Excess

london, Travel

Perhaps because I’ve spent too many hours watching The Crown, or perhaps because I’ve just finished reading Rebecca (or more realistically it is probably due to my current existence in a tiny studio apartment), but I’ve found myself reflecting recently on the grand homes and palaces that I have visited over the years. As a kid, the large estates were home to magical boarding schools and princesses, and as an adult they are home to the question “how many clocks is too many clocks?”.

Home to thousands of years of aristocracy and royalty, Europe is filled to the brim with old historic homes. Of course, the Brits are prominently featured in my current entertainment choices, but my appreciate of palaces in England has been mostly via Instagram accounts. I’ve visited a surprisingly small amount of grand estates in the U.K. Without counting the times I stood outside Buckingham Palace‘s gates wondering if the Queen was home or when I walked past the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh, the only visit to a home worthy of a period drama that comes to mind was in Brighton. I visited Brighton when I was living in London and my morning was spent in the Royal Pavilion, a strange former palace that brought weird mixes of Asian influences inside its walls.

Another visit included a tour of the Queen’s House in Greenwich with its beautiful spiral staircase. (Many of these grand homes are maintained as museums, allowing you to wander about under the guise of a history lesson, while you’re really trying to decide whether that weird looking panel is a secret door or not.) Unlike visits to cathedrals throughout the U.K., I’ve somehow managed to miss the grand estates so prominently featured in my media consumption.

Scandinavia has provided quite a few palaces over my travels (partially because I spent a decent amount of time there, both alone and entertaining my parents). The question about clocks comes from a tour of a room at the Swedish Royal Palace in Stockholm – apparently royals run out of gift ideas just like the rest of us! I think its particularly interesting to visit the Swedish Royal Palace because you’re in this grand old building, while daily life is happening just outside the window. There’s no distance between the old and the new – unlike Drottningholm, a Swedish castle on the UNESCO World Heritage list, that’s located further out of the city of Stockholm and still maintains a large grounds and garden around the building.

Copenhagen is home to a pretty good Royal Palace or two, but I really enjoyed venturing a little further out for Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød. The castle is now a museum and is genuinely in the middle of a lake. As if that wasn’t cool enough, it also features a really gorgeous (borderline over the top) chapel. [If you’re bored, please feel free to look up the history of royalty in Scandinavia and enjoy the chaos that is the region’s history. Whether they borrowed a prince after winning their freedom or named every single king some variation of Charles Gustav, Scandinavian royal history is fascinating.]

If you’re looking for over the top, the most extravagant palace I’ve ever visited was outside Paris: Le Château de Versailles. Each room is incredibly stunning and filled with an abundance of history. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Versailles and if you’re a fan of ogling at excesses of wealth or the strange French royals, you will be too. The gardens are so ridiculously over the top and the entire place is a good day trip from the city of Paris. I really enjoyed the Hall of Mirrors (an addition to the earlier question about clocks, “how many mirrors is too many?”).

A friend recently posting on Instagram asking if anyone had been to Asheville and paid to visit the Biltmore. A response she received was that it was a “poor man’s Versailles“. They weren’t wrong. The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina is an American’s attempt at the grandiosity of European estates. If you can’t hop across the pond and want to see the excess of a grand palace in person, this is one of your best bets in the U.S. The tickets are a little pricey, but the tour is interesting just to pretend you could one day be rich enough to own an estate like royalty. Another option in the U.S. that isn’t quite the same is the White House. Visiting the White House on a public tour is less of a “princess running down the hall” experience and more of a “history happened here” experience. When you consider how young the United States as a country is in comparison to most of Europe, our half-hearted attempts can be forgiven, right?

Either way, if you’re going to hoard wealth, you might as well build a grand estate with perfect gardens and an interesting story for me to learn about through an audioguide. Until my bank account catches up, I’ll have to live vicariously through Keira Knightley period dramas and the new Netflix adaptation of Rebecca.

Cities Worth A Wander

london, Travel, Uncategorized

The United States is not particularly conducive to walking about. Yes, you could point out that I have made posts about wandering Georgetown and Old Town, and you could try to convince me that New York city is walkable, but the perferred mode of transportation here is not by foot – we prefer our cars. And don’t get me wrong – there’s something to be said about driving hours at a time with constantly changing scenery and your favorite music playing on the radio. But it doesn’t have quite the same experience as wandering down streets and stumbling upon little spots of sunshine and history.

Unlike the U.S., where our cities were built with straight lines and strategic planning, Europe is a great place for wandering. European cities contain thousands of years of adapting and expanding with the practicalities of day-to-day life with no straight lines in sight. (For instance, when someone in Europe asked how far a store is, telling them it is four blocks away means nothing.) Through my travels, my feet have carried me through many a strange alley and up plenty of subtle hills, fulfilling my monthly step count in just a few hours. And I truly enjoy the experience of getting just a little bit lost and having to work your way back to a landmark or pulling out a good ole fashioned map to check street signs.

The city I think of the most when I speak about walking is Venice. Because of the canals and the narrow streets, there’s next to no chance for a car to get you from point A to point B. Your feet are your best option (and we won’t speak about the super expensive gondola rides every tourist seems to want to take). I loved my time in Venice, because I felt like a little kid again, walking down streets, into courtyards, and generally getting lost. The best part: once you hit the water, you know you only have two options to get back home – left or right.

Sweden in general is not particularly compact, but the historic section of Stockholm is really wonderful. Gamla Stan is a small island connected to the rest Stockholm but a series of bridges, but it feels like a completely different place. Whereas most of modern Stockholm is, well, modern, Gamla Stan (literally Old Town) is not; instead, Gamla Stan is a series of smaller streets, which all kind of look alike, but each have their own personality. In the center of the island is the Nobel Museum, from which you can head any direction and find cute streets that will lead you back to the edges of the island (similar in many ways to Venice, but without the overly expensive gondolas). Bonus shoutout to Malmö and Gothenburg for also being really wonderful to wander.

If you’re a big fan of canals, let you tell you about Amsterdam. Like Venice, Amsterdam is a city of canals, but unlike Venice, they’re a little larger. One of my favorite parts about my time in Amsterdam was wandering from my hostel towards the more central parts of the city. Every time I’d cross a bridge, I had to stop myself from taking thousands of those perfect Instagram shots. And once you get past the bridge, you’re faced with a cute line of buildings with someone biking by with a basket full of groceries. The entire city is a dang postcard.

London is a wonderful city for a thousand reasons, one of which is its walkability. I loved exploring its various neighborhoods, hunting for Wisteria in Kensington or exploring the classic look of Notting Hill. Now don’t get me wrong, London also has great public transportation. But just like with all of these places, when you’re walking through London, you get to spot the little things you might have missed, like a historic plaque about who lived in a home or a little pocket garden tucked away behind a fence. These kind of little sparks of personality are hard to catch when you’re in a car or on the second level of a bus.

Now, maybe you’re not in Europe or not able to get there quite as easily. Well, I have a spot for you: Melbourne, Australia. I loved my time in Australia, but if you have to ask my mom about the best part, there is a strong chance she’d say Melbourne. Despite being on the other side of the planet, Melbourne has a lot of the personality of a smaller European city. There’s the compactness of its central city, its alleyways filled with graffiti art, and its general walkability.

Basically, what I’m saying is I miss wandering through European cities. Did I miss a lot of good ones? Yes, yes I did. Will I be heading back as soon as possible to get lost a few more times? Yes, yes I will. Maybe, we’ll run into each other…

A Broad Abroad

london, Travel

I’ve studied abroad more times than the average human. I travelled to Paris and Nice the summer before high school, encouraging me to better utilize the French skills I thought I had. (Let’s just say the 13-ish years of French classes have made me nowhere near fluent.)

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The summer after my first year of college I went on a short-term study abroad trip with my university’s College of Education. The two weeks were a joke academically, but were a wonderful introduction to being in a foreign country, and I can’t complain about being able to travel from Paris to the South of France to Barcelona, Madrid, and Toledo. The next summer, I did another short-term trip through the CoE, this time to Italy and Greece. I had a blast.

 

 

I learned a few lessons on these trips though: 1. I was too independent to be forced into a group of 20 people who couldn’t figure out the French metro system to save their lives. 2. I wanted to interact with locals, not with Americans. 3. I was so freaking fortunate and privileged to be able to go on these trips.

My junior year was spent abroad: first in Sydney, Australia then in Stockholm, Sweden. My time in Sydney was spent attending Macquarie University, meeting Americans and Australians alike, taking Sociology classes, learning to order drinks at bars, pushing my introvert to its limits, and growing a heck of a lot. (Please send Tim Tams.)13606726_10208327169590741_2939824590994043790_n

Stockholm was a very different experience. I met next to no Swedes, ventured around Stockholm and Europe a heck of a lot, learned to pack a carryon for varying trip lengths, studied very rarely at Södertörns högsköla (in English, let’s be real), discovered the horrors of seasonal depression and the beauty of 22 hours of daylight in the summer. (My love affair with IKEA and Max Burgers continues to this day.)42593388_10217577769095213_5706831081802563584_o

When I was finishing my undergrad, it was only logical that I seize the opportunity to go abroad one last time, so I applied to do a Master’s degree abroad. The financial benefits were there, it was one year compared to two in the US, and it would be a new opportunity to travel and meet new people. In retrospect, it would have been nice to better research my program before I went and I probably could have better selected my courses. But overall, I can’t say I regret going to London.

Would I study abroad again? In a heart beat. Is studying abroad the same as traveling abroad? Absolutely not. Did I meet the best people everywhere I went? 100 percent. Am I so freaking fortunate to have this many once in a lifetime experiences? Heck yes.

 

P.S. If you have ANY questions about studying abroad, please let me know – I’m more than happy to chat about any of my experiences for months.

P.P.S. I did some “research” on the term “broad”, which seems to have originated in the 1930s to refer to women by their “wideness”, which is icky (also it mostly referred to prostitutes which like makes me frustrated by the historical objectification of women in a patriarchal society, but…). I’m going off the Urban Dictionary definitions here to justify my “clever title”: less respectable than a lady, but more respectable than a bitch. I’m not mad at it.

Nom Nom Noms

Five Favorites, london

Food is something that brings people together, tests your comfort zone, and can instantly remind you of times when you were safe and happy and loved.

In honor of the copious amounts of food I’m sure all of my American friends are about to consume this Thursday, I thought I would reminisce on the foods that remind me of home. And when I say home, I mean Stockholm, Indianapolis, London, Sydney, and DC. (Yes, this accidentally turned into a five favorites list, as well as a “travel the world through my favorite meals” kinda post.)

Stockholm

When I studied abroad in Stockholm, I remember being so flipping nervous about having to eat herring or some strange Swedish food for my six months there. But fortunately, Swedish grocery stores provided all the foods I could dream of. It was actually the first place where I had to cook for myself (and yes, I did have to google some very basic skills.)

46492677_177417226545719_7472823128842829824_nMy list of Swedish foods is six-months-worth-of-freezing-cold-and-dark-weather long. To start, I could rave about fika, the Swedish tradition of a daily (or thrice daily) coffee and pastry break. Or alternatively, I could chat your ear off about their kanelbullar, the yummiest treats equivalent to a cinnamon roll. Or hell, IKEA meatballs.

But instead I’ll talk about what I genuinely miss on a weekly basis: Max. Max is a Swedish fast food burger chain, like McDonald’s, etc. but better (and it’s more popular in Sweden than McDonalds and Burger King). Their food is fresh, their restaurants are clean, their staff is efficient. I’ve considered making a trip to Sweden just for their burgers and constantly think back fondly on my visits to the Max off of Kungsträdgården.

Fun fact: the first food my parents ate in Sweden was Max, which I fed them in the Arlanda Airport arrivals area.

Indianapolis

No one has ever said that the Midwest has the most delectable diet, what with the corn and the casseroles. But Indianapolis has plenty of really good spots for food, many of which I made trips to over my three years in the city.

Breadsticks fans should head to Hotbox Pizza (yes, that’s really its name…) or to Kilroy’s for their stuffed breadsticks. They’re the best drunk food, tried and tested. Fans of mediterranean food should head to Canal Bistro in Broad Ripple, while fans of Mexican food should head to La Piedad or grab a marg at Luciana’s.

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One place has a special spot in my heart: Patachou. It’s a little bit of a hipster’s dream and it’s a huge brunch spot for Butler students, but it’s so dang good. I have many a fond memory of breakfasts are Patachou with friends after a late night out or as a reunion after a service trip. With fresh, local ingredients and a mission to give back to the Indy community, it’s worth a trip.

P.S. everyone hypes up their coffee, but I’d also recommend you get the hot chocolate.

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London

I think I tried every (cheap) place on the must eat London list. I scarfed down waffles on the 40th floor of a skyscraper at Duck and Waffle. I pretended I was posh before splashing berry syrup all over myself, at Balthazar. I devoured a Crosstown Donut in Camden Markets. I explored a chain I saw all over London at Bill’s. I discovered disco fries at the Breakfast Club.

And a lot of it is delicious, but nothing gets close to my one true love: Dishoom. It’s Indian food with a twist. The bottomless chai helped me survive a dissertation and the naan rolls are making my mouth water at the thought. The restaurants have the best vibe and are filled with tiny touches that make it a memorable experience. It’s a really nice environment for working meals or catching up with friends.46508793_312174566047896_6370496265968418816_n

Pro tip: go for breakfast. It’s much cheaper and much less crowded than the lunch rush (plus, I’ve heard it’s much yummier).

Sydney

I’ll admit I didn’t go out to eat much in Sydney. My dorm had catering and when we did go out to eat, it was usually McDonald’s or Domino’s. The one food that still holds a special spot in my memory were the milkshakes.

Around the time I went to Sydney, decadent milkshakes were on the rise. One of my first Instagrams from my time abroad in Australia was of one of these sugar overloads at the Vogue Cafe. The Vogue Cafe and its counterpart, the Missing Piece, were both located in a shopping mall just next door to Macquarie University and my residence hall. So while I pushed past my introvert ways to befriend new people, we were able to bond over the sugar highs.

Later, we ended up making a pilgrimage to Erskineville for TellaBall Shakes at Foodcraft. We learned quickly that there is no clean way to drink a milkshake and then eat a Nutella donut.

The extravagant milkshake phase seems to have moved on, but those milkshakes left an impact.

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Washington, D.C.

Last, but not least, we’re heading home to DC.

If I was a good daughter, I’d say my favorite food in DC was my mother’s cooking. Nothing against her cooking, but I think it’d be rude of me to applaud her ability to perfectly cook Bagel Bites, keeping me from publicly praising her culinary skills.

The DC area has plenty of restaurants. In Old Town, there’s the classic chili of Hard Times Cafe, where my parents have been visiting for 20 something years, or for the hockey fans, there’s the Chicago-style pizza of Bugsy’s. If you’re in Woodley Park, you can hit up my Wisconsin Avenue high school haunts of 2Amys for pizza or Cactus Cantina for Mexican.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can stop by the White House on your way to Old Ebbitt Grill. For those pretending to adult, they can head to Ted’s Bulletin for homemade PopTarts. You can join the fight between Baked & Wired and Georgetown Cupcake (although everyone in DC knows that Baked & Wired wins every time.) I’m currently working near Dupont Circle, where I’m munching on Happy Hours at Front Page, and enjoying lunches at Zorba’s Cafe, and experiencing all that is the Big Hunt.

If we’re honest, I don’t know if I have a favorite in DC. Maybe, I’ll just have to continue my searchAll recommendations are much appreciated. Though they are subject to ignorance in favor of Chipotle or Moby Dick’s.