Saturday 3/21 – Sunday 3/22:
Our trip began with one (or two?) days of alternating tedium and confusion, roaming around airports, puzzling over important-sounding but unintelligible announcements and trying to sleep in planes. I read about Sweden. I got my seat-back computer stuck in a Sudoku game and gave up on it. I played a lot of Aqueduct on my iPad.
For some reason, FinnAir treats us way better than American Airlines. FinnAir; chicken in cream sauce, dumplings, beans, salad, cheese and crackers, a brownie, water and a can of beer, all free. And for breakfast, a ham and cheese sandwich and orange juice, all free. A blanket, pillow and earphones were waiting on my seat.
American only offered free soda. Snacks, other drinks and Wifi were available a la carte or included in a $50 premium.
We had a four-hour layover at Helsinki’s spartan little airport. It seemed to consist mostly of a duty-free liquor store. Dining options were limited to packaged and refrigerated items. We found several sleeping pods in the hall. I tried one; the cushion was hard, bright light leaked thru ventilation holes, and the area was too noisy for sleep.
As we approached the Arlanda airport, I saw thin snow on the ground and a partially-frozen lake. We reclaimed our bags and caught the yellow Beta bus to Hertz. It was cold waiting outside while Lance rented a van; my zipper-pull thermometer said 34 F. and tiny snowflakes drifted down.
(map) When we got to the Hotel Riddargatan, I layered up for our walking tour of Stockholm’s Old City. Much of it is on an island; the tidal current roared under the bridge like a river. We followed steep, narrow cobblestone streets between medieval buildings, some vacant but most of them handsomely restored. We looked into the royal palace, a homely slab-sided building with two sets of beautiful curving stairs inside. We saw several statues, including one of Saint George killing a dragon and a tiny one entitled Iron Boy surrounded with coins. Some streets were like slot canyons; I could touch both walls at once.
We had dinner at Grodan, Swedish for “Frog,” which is slang for a French person, a multilingual pun I couldn’t appreciate. I had char, a pale pink fish garnished with roe and fresh fennel; it was rare and delicate, almost like sashimi. The warmth and food after jet-lag and a cold walk knocked me out.
Our hotel was a beautifully remodeled but awkward old building. Stairs at the entrance and surrounding the one tiny elevator made towing suitcases difficult. My room was nice and quite interesting, with sloping ceilings due to the peaked roof. The bathroom had a heated towel rack, and a hinged glass panel on the shower end of the deep tub. A long shoehorn, an umbrella, and a walking-tour map on a lanyard hung by the door. A wall-rack held, of all things, exercise-weights.
After dark I walked back to the waterfront with my tripod, hoping to take some night shots. I found an intriguing spherical sculpture in Berzelii Park. I never found out what it was about. (If you know, please tell me!)