Here are some things I think I think about Stockholm and Copenhagen:
- Stockholm is a Big City compared to Copenhagen. The former is built around several islands so you are always close to water. It has a magnificent old city, some cool areas with interesting shops and such—Södermalm and its clientele reminds me of Queen Street / St. Laurent—and cafes abound. Stockholm reminds me a bit of San Francisco, except less hilly and with more Swedish people, while Copenhagen reminds me of a smaller, more homogenous, blonder, Montreal.
- Playing Hearts with two buddies on a sunny afternoon while sipping hot chocolate in a square that was home to the Stockholm Bloodbath is one of life’s small pleasures.
- The housing system in Stockholm is state-run, so if you want to rent an apartment, you get put on a List. Getting off the List and into an apartment can take years, so the housing black market is thriving.
- Because these cities are so much further north than the cities I’ve lived in, the summer days are much longer… as in, it’s past 11pm and the light is like it’s late dusk in Toronto. This makes for long, fun days in the summer (and, I suppose, short, depressing days in the winter.)
- I’ve seriously underestimated the benefits of living near water.
- Scandinavia design is, in a word, rad. Functional and aesthetically pleasing, I wanted to buy a bunch of stuff—one chair from the Danish Design Centre specifically—but couldn’t fit much into my backpack. Good thing an Ikea just opened up in New Haven.
- Both hostels we stayed at provided in-room Internet access for free. Well, “hostel” is a bit of a misnomer, really. The Cab Inn in Copenhagen was like a traveller’s hotel. The Danes who designed this place economized brilliantly with regard to space without a huge trade-off in comfort. And at $120 for a private triple with an in-room bathroom, (or $80 USD for a single), the price was right. The Fridhemsplan hostel in Stockholm was not downtown, but was two subway stops from the city centre, and was functional.
- Copenhagen was manageable without using the subway. Stockholm was not, but their subways were brilliantly simple to use. It’s practically impossible to get lost on the Stockholm subways—the lines are color-coded and numbered, and there are huge signs hanging over the appropriate escalators that list the terminating stations for each line. Additionally, when you hit the bottom of the escalator, there are huge signs pointing you in the right direction and to top it off, there are scrolling LED signs on each platform that list the next five or six trains AND how soon they will arrive at the station.
- One bizarre night while waiting for the train after hitting up a boom-chicka boom-chicka club in Stockholm, Andrew and I witnessed a subway busker playing sappy pop songs on a guitar to an enthusiastic crowd of 20 or 30 people who were clapping in unison, singing along, and cheering like mad when one song finished and the next began. I can’t imagine anything like that happening in NYC / Toronto / Boston / etc. Ever.
- Peter Forsberg is apparently a more popular hockey player in Sweden than Mats Sundin, so say two drunk Swedish girls that Andrew’s gay friend’s boyfriend picked up and introduced to us.
- Andrew and Ali were disappointed by the women in Stockholm, and surprised by the bevy of beautiful blondes in Copenhagen.
- It's easier than you might think to mix up what you call people from Denmark and what you call people from Holland. Except when ordering breakfast, of course.
- I met one person who could not speak English that well—an Arab guy who was running a convenience store in Stockholm. Everybody else spoke incredibly well, and sounded slightly British.
- Andrew's friend insisted that there was a focus on living well in Stockholm; that if you worked more than 40 hours a week, people felt sorry for you because they thought your priorities were out of whack. I was not able to corroborate this claim, but if judging by the number of people chillin' at cafes and bars during the day is any indication, he might just be correct.
- The Vasa Museum is one of the most interesting museums I've been to. It contains a 52-meter high old Swedish warship (the Vasa) that sank 1.3km into its maiden voyage. It's unbelievably well-preserved—95% original, they claim, although our tour guide asked us to refrain from asking him how they arrived at that figure. What was most interesting to me is that the ship almost sank during a stability test several months before it was completed, but because the Swedish King needed the ship completed to tip the scales in the war with Poland, he ordered construction finished and for the ship to set sail as soon as possible. It was fascinating to note that in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, human beings can still be unreasonably positive about the outcome of a situation... and how prevalent that attitude is after all these years. See photos of the Vasa here.
Good times. Remember: if you go to Scandinavia, bring a few extra bucks, because it’s expensive. And don't forget to hit the beach at least once.