Friday, August 17, 2007


Sorry for the delay in posts… I’d like to hide behind a nonstop travel schedule but the ulterior motive was probably the embarrassment from having to confess to wasting a half day of travel due to a malicious hangover. But it seemed like most of the Swedes were also feeling the effects from the previous night as the city was eerily quiet on what should’ve been a cheery Saturday morning. The Södermalm plaza (aka Söder), normally abuzz with activity, was like a ghost town with just a couple people sweeping up the remnants of the previous night. This would turn into our main haunt for the subsequent evenings as this happens to be one of the hippest spots around Stockholm. It’s kinda funny that we would refuse at all costs to double back on our hikes… gotta make a loop! but, we can hit the same watering hole multiple nights.

Cono arrived on Saturday night… now we’re a troika of trekkers. Gosh, I’ve wanted to use the word “troika” for such a longtime… it’s right up there with “penultimate”—brings back such fond memories of our “Wordly Wise” vocab books from high school.

The nitty-gritty on Stockholm is that it is built on 14 islands where a lake flows out into the Baltic Sea. Supposedly the canal water is super clean and just slightly salty … but we didn’t see a single person swimming and I wasn’t going to be the first. But we did take a high speed boat tour weaving through some of the 28 thousand islands comprising their archipelago. The clusters of islands with speckles of red and yellow houses interspersed within the lush green environs is quite a sight… fortunately, ricky and cono captured these (and almost every other) image! Here’s how most of Stockholm and Scandinavia must have viewed our travels.

One memorable anecdote is that a bit more than 100 years ago, Lars smith, a young entrepreneur, developed an ingenious marketing strategy to pump his product. Stockholm had a permit system for distilled spirits creating a de facto monopoly within the city. Spurning the permits, Lars opted to offer free shuttle boat ride to the islands outside the city limits… and then took advantage of the reciprocity principle as most of the passengers opted to purchase vodka from him on the islands and outside the confines of the Stockholm ordinance. A funny sidebar is that 100 years later when V&S decided to relaunch the distillation technique, they were brainstorming names for the Vodka. Although they ultimately settled for Absolut (great decision), they almost named it “Swedish Blonde Vodka.” Speaking of, like most things today, our consensus is that “Swedish blondes” are overhyped.

On the other hand, the Vasa museum was underhyped and definitely exceeded to moderate billing in our lonely planet guide. The Vasa is an epic ship built back in the early 1600’s… which turned into one of the most colossal engineering blunders in history as the Vasa capsized on its maiden voyage—this phenomenon is now referred to as being “top heavy.” Three hundred and thirty three years later, a dude discovered the ship entombed in the canal waters in Stockholm. The country went to great lengths to retrieve and preserve the ship. (kind of like me trying to preserve my trip by finding an internet connection to write a blog.)

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