I heart Sverige!

I had to wake up at 0430 to shower and be ready for a two hour drive at 0530. I was so nervous that I would oversleep that I made myself undersleep, brilliantly. Katie brought to go cups and I had strong coffee ready. We left on-time and traveled for two dark and treacherous hours in the rain while listening to Chuck Klosterman IV on audiobook.

I felt completely drained when we boarded the plane, white knuckled it through a bumpy flight, and then arrived 2 hours later at an airport that looked a lot like one we'd just left from. We still had to take a bus over 60 miles to get into Stockholm. 

When we finally arrived at the main station, my exhaustion turned to giddiness as I looked around. Everywhere I looked I saw cool things! A group of young blonde boys in tight jeans were playing pop songs on fake instrumnets for some kind of giant video game. Cafes looked modern and inviting. We asked a woman about buying subway tickets and she was very friendly and spoke perfect English! I had a feeling I was going to love it there…

This feeling did not change as we exited the subway at our stop. Despite the cold and rainy weather, I could clearly see that there was a large indoor mall directly across the steet! With a vagabond store (excellent shoes, hard to locate and purchase)! Our hostel was easy to find and I was amazed when we went inside. It was cleaner and nicer than most hotels. The staff was friendly and our room was SO nice! Plus it had a computer /TV with FREE internet inside of it.

Stoked, Katie and I headed out in search of food. This was slightly challenging since everything in Sweden costs approximately 1 million dollars once you do the conversion. We found an Italian place with lunch specials (pizza) and went inside. After attempting to seat ourselves, we learned that food is ordered and paid for at the bar and then you sit down. Hm! Then the waiter showed us where we could help ourselves to a cabbage salad and some water. Very interesting! We split a huge pizza and pasta, then just got up and left since we had already paid. Kinda nifty!

We started finding interesting stores immediately and that took  up a good portion of our afternoon. I did not buy anything, but I sure wanted to! We napped back at the hotel, then set out in the evening for some adventure.

First we went to the old town "Gamla Stan" to wander around a bit. We found lots of restaurants, but most of them were insanely expensive and we weren't that hungry after our giant lunch, so we eventually ended up munching on burritos from a fast food Mexican restaurant. After that we went to a cafe and had some wonderful chocolate cake and coffee.

I knew about a club called "Debaser" from checking online and seeing that is where the bands I like always play. I knew there was nothing on that night, but thought it might be a cool place to check out nonetheless. As Katie and I stood trying to figure out which way was south in order to travel toward the club, I realized we were staring directly at it! There was a small cover charge, but the place was just perfect. It wasn't too crowded or expensive, and practically every person in there was wearing tight pants, converse, and a sweater. They were all thin with tousled hair and they looked fantastic in my opinion.

A Swedish band called "The LKs" started playing shorty after we arrived and they were great! The music was just the perfect volume, and their sound and style were dead on. After that another Swedish band called "Dreamboy" played and they were a lot of fun. There were six fashionable males in that band and they sounded not unlike the Get-Up Kids. Drinking beer (German, not Swedish :() and listening to poppy Swedish indie rock made me incredibly happy. I slept great that night and woke up ready for more Stockholm!

I found out that there was a Christmas market in Sodermalm, which was described as the "hip" part of town in my travel book, so we set off to find it. It was not what I would expect from a traditional Christmas market, but it was awesome! It was more like a place where local artists sell their creations and cool people come to hang out and buy them. There was lots of food and lots of interesting things to buy.

Plus, there was even a live piano player and a drag queen in a vintage dress singing show tunes! I am sure that Katie was getting really sick of my proclaiming how much I LOVE STOCKHOLM every few minutes, but it just kept getting better and better.

We left the market and decided to eat lunch. We popped into a Thai restaurant and were thrilled to find cushions on the floor instead of chairs! This may not seem special to most of you, but I've never actually sat on the ground while eating in a restaurant, so I was pschyed. Moreoever, the atmosphere was awesome and the food was tasty, plentiful and affordable. Well-played, random Thai restaurant!

We then headed back to the old city for the traditional Christmas market which was small, but adorable. In fact, every where we looked it was like a feast for the eyes. The moon was full and reflecting off the water (Stockholm is actually 14 islands), and all the lights made everything look magical. Just when I thought I might freeze to death while soaking in all the beauty, we discovered Glogg!!! I thought it would taste like Gluhwein (hot mulled wine popular in Germany at Christmas), but it was a LOT better! It tasted like apple cider with  delicious spices. Plus, they served it with yummy heart-shaped gingerbread cookies.

Due to the cold, we ended up stopping in a lot of shops on the way back to our hotel. Yes, it was rough, but we managed! We decided to go to the movies that night since all movies are shown in their original language. We saw "The Heartbreak Kid" which was very funny. Overall, a perfect day!

The next morning I was a little sad since I knew my time in Sweden was coming to an end. We went for a long run around the city, then ate toasted sandwiches in an adorable cafe in the city center. Plus, they had wonderful American style coffee that was 'serve yourself'. For those of you accustomed to drink refills, you may not understand why this is such an exciting concept. In Germany, you get a tiny cup coffee for 3 Euros and are then forced to purchase each additional cup. Most places only serve espresso drinks and do not really have a black cup of coffee like Americans are used to. Did I tell you I love Sweden?

We shopped and walked around taking pictures until 3 when we boarded the bus back to the airport. Our trip home was uneventful other than the fact that I finished the book I was reading and the audiobook, making it an extremely successful trip!

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Happy Turkey Day!

Hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving! I miss my family and husband tons today, but am handling things ok. I went to a friend's house and had a nice dinner, and afterwards we played poker. I WON!

I am leaving at 0530 tomorrow morning for Stockholm. I'm prepared for cold, dark, and christmas-y! I'm very excited and have no idea what to expect. You'll receive a report when I return!

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Das ist gut!

Yoga at lunch lead to revelations in the afternoon at work, and I somehow successfully shuffled all my employees around in Kuwait. After that I ran a speed workout, then showered and met up with the crew at Thanaphon for a Scorpion Bowl. Despite all the wonderful beer and schnitzel that Germany had to offer, I think this is my favorite restaurant. Super spicy thai food combined with a deliciously huge cocktail for four people (with giant straws) always leads to laughter and joy. On top of that, I came home to find that I am featured today on VOX. Woot!

If you are reading this blog for the first time, hello!, and keep going back for more exciting travel posts and pics of Djibouti!

A bit blurryScorpion Bowl

Despite my insane jealousy, I suppose it's worth mentioning that Beau is having lunch with Bill Clinton today. Not nearly as exciting as a giant bowl of alcohol, but I guess it'll have to do. Can't wait to share more details!

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Viener Experience

Kati and I got back last night very late from our trip to Vienna. We flew RyanAir, a cheap European airline, which is never dull. On our flight out, they announced that we would be stopping so that an engineer could fix a plane somewhere, then waiting, and continuing on to Bratislava. RyanAir advertises Bratislava as "Vienna," but I have now learned that it is the capital of Slovakia, about 40 miles from Vienna. They are allegedly the two closest capital cities in the world.

After a long delay waiting for our engineer, we arrived in Bratislava about midnight and still had to travel to Vienna. After looking at street signs, we deduced that we had been stopped in Granz, Austria, or some place with a name sounding similar to that. We caught a bus and made it to Vienna by 0130, having no earthy idea where we were. Some nice Germans called a taxi for us and we found our hotel easily and safely.

The next day, we went sightseeing and did and whole lot of stuff. At the Belvedeere, we saw Klimt's "The Kiss," which was spectacular. Later we ate dinner in the cellar of an ancient pretzel factory and that Haydn's head was apparently found in (still need to research that story). The next morning we awoke to rain and were brave enough to go running in it. Our hotel was right near the "Prader," which we learned is a long park with nice flat running surfaces. We did almost 4 miles in the rain, and were justified to reward ourselves with lots of "Sacher Torte" and coffee.

That day we also went to the "Schloss Schoenbrunn," where the Hapsburg dynasty lived, and to the Freud museum. There was a crazy blizzard lasting all afternoon, as you can see from my picture of the castle. It was my first time to see snow all year, and it accumulated fast! Everything looked beautiful, and I was really quite happy to see it, aside from the cold.

That night we had an excellent dinner and tried some traditional Viennese food, including Tafelspitz and pumpkin rice. Katie and I shared our feast and listened to an accordion player play and then explain "Edelweiss" to some Japanese tourists.

Monday the sun was shining and we did about 6 miles in the park (thanks Kati!). After that we packed up and headed to Slovakia for the rest of the day. It got cold and started raining horribly and we got very, very lost on the streetcars for a longtime. Let this be a lesson to you: if you are ever in Slovakia and you think you can trust the maps of where the streetcars go, you are wrong. They are approximations at best. Plus no one speaks English and you can't read anything. So good luck!

The good news is that our plane left early and we arrived in Germany almost an hours earlier than scheduled. I still didn't get home until almost 0200, but do not feel that bad. I love traveling, even if it leaves me feeling a little behind on other things. Speaking of which, I have some online courses to attend to…

Ciao! -s

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Man it's been a crazy day. I had a really rough day at work, full of horrible surprises, and then I went to Matt's house after work to play poker. He made tomales for dinner and we had a great time playing poker. I think about 9 people came, and I got second place! Plus, the walk to Matt's (he lives across the river from the castle) is always a reminder of how much I freaking love this town.

For those of you that haven't been here, here's a pic of HD in winter.

Your time is running out to visit the most beautiful place on earth!

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