I’m sure many blogs on Stockholm trips have had that title! I did not, however, go to IKEA while in Sweden, I had an ABBA experience, but more on that later.
I went to Stockholm for work, we had a Force Health Protection meeting there for most of the week, and the agenda was pretty packed so there was limited time for sight-seeing. My travel day started with a wake-up at around 0500 to finish up my packing and lock up the house for the week…then a bus to the train station…then a train to the airport. When I showed up at the Brussels airport, I saw that my flight was cancelled…wonderful. I love direct flights and hate layovers, and now I was flying through Denmark…no harm in the end, as everything was on-time and there were no hassles.
I was expecting high prices being in Scandinavia, but the trip from the airport to the hotel was ridiculous…ticket for airport train to central train station = 25 euro…cab ride from the train station to the hotel = 30 euro. The hotel was a bit out of the way, but still only a 20 minute walk to the main area of Stockholm, by the river.
I checked out this area in the few free hours I had before the ‘icebreaker social’ we had scheduled for the meeting. The icebreaker was a bit mundane, as not many people showed up and it was a very dark, subdued setting. The first day of the meeting was intense, especially halfway through the day when I had some stomach problems, likely due to the preponderance of airport food the previous day. I recovered just in time to give two of my three presentations for the meeting…everything went great.
We had a hosted dinner at the Swedish officer’s club in the evening…it was a really beautiful building. I got some video of a toast we had for our retiring Swedish colleague, and took another video (not posted by request) of a very risque song done by the French officers. The main course for everyone but me was reindeer…never seen that before! We wrapped up the night back at the hotel over a few beers…I felt sorry for the Dutch officer that missed the last metro and had to walk an hour back to his hotel…lesson learned, the metro in Sweden stops at midnight on weeknights!
The next day we spent the morning at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control…basically Europe’s version of the CDC in Atlanta. The nerd in me loved this, as we got updates on diseases like Ebola and Lassa fever….two diseases I remember reading about that got me into my current profession. I admit I was surprised that most of their updates on the current Ebola outbreak came from Twitter of all things…I wonder if CDC in Atlanta does this. I left the tour still not really knowing what their role was…it seemed as if they duplicated a lot of work other organizations were already doing.
I had an incredible veggie burger for lunch, did my last presentation, finished up at around 5:00 and I prepared for an evening out with a couple guys from the meeting. We ended up having some great Japanese food for dinner, then closing out the night at a place called ‘Soap Bar’, which kept getting progressively more crowded until I finally left at around midnight.
The last day was only a half-day at the meeting, then me getting the afternoon off for some sightseeing. I raced over the bridge to the island where all the museums were, and was immediately struck by the beauty of the Nordic museum…which I didn’t go into due to limited time. My first stop was the Vasa Museum, which houses the best preserved shipwreck in the world. It wasn’t a very heroic crash. The ship sank nearly immediately after leaving port in the year 1628. The cause of the sinking was never determined, but the science of shipbuilding wasn’t as progressed back then, so the prevailing theory is that the center of gravity was off and the ship became unstable. The ship is on display, in all of its glory! It was a good time…very well done museum.
The other museum I hit was, of course, the ABBA museum. Now I was never a fan, but as an overall music snob I had to see the museum of Sweden’s greatest band. I ended up doing a recording of ‘Dancing Queen’, which no one will probably ever hear as it came out well below my expectations. I dug it here, even though their music sounds like classic AM radio (i.e. elevator music), you have to appreciate the passion their home country has for them. I think the only other bands to make it from Sweden were Roxette and Europe…so ABBA wins a rather soft competition for best band in Sweden. I was accosted by an angry, militant museum employee who first yelled at me for recording a video inside, then screamed at me for using my flash…this idiot needs to be reminded he works at the ABBA museum, not the Louvre.
I wrapped up my Swedish experience and got set to fly out the next day. The meeting was fun, I really like the group we have, and we meet twice a year so I have two meetings left. I thought Sweden was okay, but I don’t think the people are that curious about outsiders…not that they are rude, just very indifferent to everything non-Sweden…this could be why they’ve been neutral in so many wars. Bottom line, this will likely be my only experience in Sweden, and overall it was ‘not bad’.