During this trip, I have enjoyed getting to know cities and playing the, "let's wander around for a few hours, then find my way back with the map" game. My newest hobby seems to be flying to a new city and finding my way to a specific address without a map. You can probably imagine how that game goes.
I decided to try my hand at Couchsurfing-a website that connects you with locals who you can stay with for free. I was staying with a girl named Alex and had an address and the metro stop where she lived, but nothing more. I had to ask about five people in order to actually find the metro station, but luckily virtually all Swedes speak perfect English.
After an exhausting two hours of wandering Stockholm and stopping strangers to ask for directions I managed to make it from the airport to Alex's apartment! Alex is an engineering student at the local university. We had a great conversation about Sweden, and I think this is one of the few countries that does things "right." Education is free (the system is competitive, but many students get paid to go to school), everyone learns English, the city is clean and loaded with parks and has some of the best air quality for a city in the whole world!
I spent my first day wandering the streets admiring the red, orange and yellow buildings and browsing in Sweden's famous design shops (all like mini IKEAs). I must admit, I went a little crazy with the Swedish design stores. The colorful pop-art prints captivated me, and I decided right then that when I return to the States, my kitchen will be done in Swedish Design style (that started me thinking about doing each room in a different country style...I'll leave that for another blog post, though). With that being said, I had to purchase a few inspirational elements for my new kitchen!
For such a small country (only 8M) they are famous for quite a bit: Volvo (they're everywhere...yippee!), Swedish massage, Swedish healthcare, IKEA, Swedish fish, H & M and Swedish design.
The only downside? If you are looking to go bankrupt, this is the place you can make your dream a reality. Prices are out of control. A bottle of catsup runs $7, I bought a plain coffee and muffin today for $10, and any meal under $15 is a steal. Needless to say, I will not be eating out anytime soon. The ironic thing is that Stockholm is famous for it's shopping. Really? What planet do you come from to be able to afford this place?
Never again will I complain about American prices. Go out and buy a $1.79 bottle of catsup and $.99 hamburger for me!