Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fun Visitors & Stockholm

I'll be cranking out a few posts over the next week or two to make up for my absence most of July.  The calm summer turned a little crazy the past couple of weeks. 

Before I get to the happy moments, I'll reflect on some really sad ones.  Most of you have probably heard about the terrible attacks that happened in Oslo on July 22nd.  Norway is usually a very peaceful country, and thus tends to be quite open as far as security goes.  This was extremely unexpected and sad.  

A couple of pictures to remember:

Flowers outside of the Oslo Cathedral.  We left for Stockholm a couple of days after the attacks, but apparently the city was covered in flowers the next week.  We were able to see this memorial on our way to the bus station the next weekend.  Ken and I were thankful to be safe during the tragedies, but it's heartbreaking to think of those who died, and their families and friends.

Stockholm honored Norway by flying Norwegian flags at half mast along with the Swedish flags.  There was a whole plaza full of these.  It was really a beautiful gesture.

Our good friends Drew and Kristen were set to arrive in Oslo from Tulsa the day of the attacks.  They had a delayed flight in the U.S. that set things awry from the very beginning of their string of flights, so they arrived by train from Stockholm the next day instead.  We really appreciated the extra effort they made to visit Oslo, and had a lovely time getting to hang out with them.  So thanks to Drew and Kristen!  We had such a great time with you.

It rained pretty incessantly that weekend, so I didn't take my big camera out with me (and Drew documented the trip well, so I'll steal some of his photos and post them later).  We took it easy and explored the city, hitting up a couple of museums along the way.  It was lovely just to see familiar faces from home, and laugh a lot after such a sobering and strange time.  

After a couple of days in Oslo, the four of us set off by train for Stockholm.

With Andreas, Sarah, Kristen, and Drew at the Stadshuset in Stockholm.  Andreas and Sarah are friends with Drew and Kristen, and we got to meet them for the first time in Stockholm.  All four of them are loads of fun!

It was our first visit to Stockholm, and we loved it.  It's quite a bit larger than Oslo, and had tons of beautiful buildings.  It's also not as expensive as Oslo, which was really nice (never thought I'd say that Sweden seemed inexpensive, but yeah...).  So we enjoyed going out to dinner and drinks too, and not cooking!  The fact that the city is on islands connected by bridges made it very beautiful and interesting as well.

So here's Stockholm, in pics...

Pretty buildings everywhere.

The same ones, from across the water. 

The palace in Gamla Stan (the old city).

Guards marching at the palace.

Loved the narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants in Gamla Stan.

Beautiful building and flowers in the plaza where the Norwegian and Swedish flags were flying at half mast.

Bridges and water everywhere.

We also stayed in a very cool area of the city called Södermalm, where we had a fun night out with Drew, Kristen, Andreas, and Sarah.  I had a rough bout of seasickness/dizziness from a long boat ride the previous day, so I stashed my camera away and focused on sitting up straight at the table and not falling down while walking instead of documenting that day/night.  Oops!  I'd like to give a shout out to Ken for collecting seasickness pills, crackers, and Sprite, and getting me from one hotel to the other to heal up before the night out.  Thanks Ken!

Henrik, our awesome neighbor and friend in Oslo who has previously appeared on this blog, is from Stockholm.  So we planned the visit during a time he would be in Stockholm, since we wanted to see him on his home turf.  He spends a good portion of the summer at his family's home on an island in the archipelago.  If you check out a map of Stockholm, you can see that there are thousands of islands just outside of the city in the Baltic Sea.  We took a bus out of the city, and Henrik picked us up in his boat and took us to a beautiful island.   

We'd like to give Henrik and his family a huge thanks for a great time!  They were so nice and welcoming, and it was such a beautiful place.  

The American flag Henrik put up to greet us upon arrival...ha!

The dock, where we did a lot of chillin.

The jumping rock.

Ken and Henrik ready to brave the jumping rock...I elected to be the photographer instead after walking up and promptly walking back down.

Ken taking the plunge.

Sweet Duster, who might have the best dog's life ever during the summer.

The main mode of transport - a boat that can handle the shallow passages.

Ken's second time to water ski (his first was the night before).

And he's off!  He did an excellent job.

So Stockholm was lovely, and we hope to make it back there again during our time in Europe!

Moments of Zen for the week:  getting to laugh with good ol' friends from home, sitting on the dock at Henrik's place, and finally laying down on the hotel bed after almost losing my lunch on the subway train (and then subsequently losing it in the station trashcan) during the seasickness day.  Yep...I really left my mark on Stockholm.  

Italy posts are up next!