We have spent a month in Sweden with Chelsea and Raul. The first ten days we were staying out of the city, house sitting a house belonging to one of Raul's colleagues. It was right near a lake and close to many interesting biking trails. Spied a deer eating in the next door garden one evening. A good chance to relax and unwind after the busy Mongolian trip. And a chance to get to meet most of Raul's family. Even fun (almost!) to bike down to the nearby supermarket, decide what we felt like for dinner, and cook it. It took a bit longer for Raul and Chelsea to commute to work, but gave them a taste of how life would be in the "suburbs".
From there we moved to Hornstull on Sodermalm island and stayed in Raul's one bedroom apartment. Felt a bit bad that we ousted them from their bedroom so they had to sleep on the living room floor! Luckily during that time Raul had a mission with Swedish Red Cross to Greece and Serbia so he didn't have too many nights on the floor.
The apartment is on the 4th floor and has an old style elevator with double steel grille doors. There is storage on the top floor, a room for bikes, a room for rubbish disposal and washing machines on the bottom floor. We made good use of the bikes each day for shopping and sight seeing. Most city roads have separate bike lanes and Stockholm has cycling tracks along water ways, canals, lakes and the sea and many nice rides through parks, gardens and forests.
Stockholm is a very picturesque city. I didn't realise that it was built on so many islands -14 in fact, connected by 57 bridges. All through the city there are trees and greenways. Sweden has 9.8 million people and they are part of the EU but still use their own currency. A Swedish Kronor is equal to 6 NZ dollars.
Raul took us to a football (soccer, but I'm not allowed to use that word!) game at the new stadium south of Hornstull. The spectators were quite vocal which I'm sure helped the local team to win! We watched the interesting spectacle of the annual PRIDE (gay) parade, a two hour colourful and entertaining procession. It was difficult at times to ascertain the gender of some of the participants...but that was not important anyway!
Our good New Zealand friends Mike and Ann stopped in Stockholm on the way to a wedding near Jønkøbing. Sven acted as tour guide for a couple of days navigating through the narrow streets of the old city. We watched the changing of the guards at the royal palace, took a harbour cruise through locks, under bridges and through narrow water ways and visited the ABBA museum. Mike was the brave one of us who got up on stage with a hologram of the other four band members to sing and dance to Mama Mia! They looked so real!
There is a great system for renting bikes in the city during the summer. You pay a set fee for the whole season, or get a one or three day pass if you are a tourist, swipe your card at the row of bikes which unlocks one, use the bike for up to three hours, or if you want it longer, exchange it for another one a different location. Living right in the city, Raul and Chelsea do not own a car, but use a car from a car pool when they need a vehicle. They are in the process of selling the apartment and looking for a bigger place to accommodate their expected extra family member in November.
We said goodbye to Raul and Chelsea (and her expanding baby bump) at Stockholm central station and boarded a train for Copenhagen, a five hour journey.