Archives for category: spending kronor

Despite the obscene amount of money I’ve dropped in Sweden (and I know you’ve all been glued to our plummeting exchange rate with the Swedish kronor, so I don’t need to tell you I’ve been makin’ it rain here just to buy groceries) – the universe still seems to think I’ve come in under budget. So tonight, following a really lovely farewell dinner with my entire BGA department at my favorite uber-spendy restaurant in Stureplan, I came home feeling on top of the world…to find an email from my dentist saying that I owe an additional $300 for some fillings I had done before the trip. Does anyone else’s dentist email them? Is this weird? Either way, I distinctly remember clutching my chest and gasping oh dear god as I handed them my credit card way back in August, so I can only guess that the fact that they’ve come back for more is just a big cosmic haha. The out-of-pocket amount I will have ultimately forked into my teeth this year just makes the idea of “dental insurance” a mean company joke. You got me, Bonnier!

But no matter. My healthy, reinforced teeth and I are off to Paris on Thursday where we will rip into a French turkey with the kind of reckless dining abandon that only comes with spending $1,100 on dental repairs. For that kind of money you’d better believe I’m going to chew on solid steel just for the hell of it. Anyway I get to leave Stocky at 4:30 am – a decision I almost certainly made because this flight was $4 cheaper than the others – and I’ll be meeting my mom there a few hours later for my first taste of family bonding in three months.

I may or may not have time to blog tomorrow before I get sucked into my important and all-consuming TV routine (and packing, but mostly the TV thing), so just in case, Happy Thanksgiving to all! This year, among your many blessings, remember to count your teeth as well…all 32 of them.

At this point it should be pretty obvious why I’ve been stalling on posting the Helsinki ugly photo collage. As I mentioned last week, we spent that entire weekend trapped on a floating mall food court just traveling to and from Finland, so we were only actually there long enough for me to take 11 pictures — and they’re all terrible. But I’m a girl of my word, and I promised you this, so here. Take it. (Yes, it’s a mini version.) Just please promise me you’ll form your opinion of Helsinki from a way better source than this hot mess.

It took me 10 weeks to realize that my apartment is not equipped with a can opener. But you know what? I can now say from experience that hunger is the true mother of invention, and when the only thing standing between you and dinner is a flimsy tin can, things can get a little savage. And to think mom said I’d never survive in the wild!

Unless you’re an exceptional swimmer, there are only two real ways to cross the Baltic from Stockholm to Helsinki: hop a short 45-minute flight, or take a 17-hour boat ride. Assuming you want to make the trip over a weekend without taking extra vacation days, this is a no-brainer, right? You would obviously choose to fly because then you’d have that much more time to actually sightsee and enjoy the city. But you would be boring! Seriously where is your sense of adventure? We took the boat.

(It’s worth mentioning that there was a bit of a price difference that factored here: Flights were around $250 not including an extra $30 for the airport bus, while the round trip boat ride was only $45 each and accessible via the tunnelbana. We’re not completely retarded, we’re just cheap.)

So just how was the boat? In college, I developed a sudden and crippling fear of flying, and was too scared to book a ticket home for spring break. By relying on my powers of passive-aggressive persuasion – such as by reciting aviation disaster statistics and leaving subliminal terrorists are going to be on our plane and we’re totally going to crash hints all over the apartment – I actually managed to convince my roommate that we should take the Greyhound bus to Miami instead. From our school. In Boston. It took 27 hours each way, including a 3 AM mandatory refueling stop in Deliverance, North Carolina both directions – and suffice it to say, this boat ride wasn’t as bad as that.

But it was something. The Silja Serenade bills itself as a cruise, so I think that’s where we went wrong. Had we gone into this expecting a blinged out ferry, well then I would be singing the praises of this method of Scandinavian travel.

Hey speaking of singing, there was a show!

What you’re seeing here is some sort of motionless, bungee-trapeze rendition of Con Te Partiro that took place, unannounced, on deck 6 to the cheers of screaming drunk Norrlanders. I think Katie’s face really tells the complete story.

Among the other fun surprises on board were spacious cabins…

A bizarre “Italian” themed scarf-as-ball-gown fashion show (good thing we booked months in advance to get seats for this)…

And all the inebriated, old Norwegian men that three girls could ever hope would badger them into dancing in front of a crowd…

There was also, of course, a selection of buffet-style restaurants that ran upwards of €30 for a plate of pasta (better not to do the conversion and just eat), and a smokey casino full of whiskey-soaked karaoke and seasickness delights. Seventeen hours x 2 = 34 hours, and guess how much of that was spent sleeping? 0.2.

You’ll notice this blog was not about Helsinki at all, and that’s because we were only there for about 14 seconds when all was said and done. But stay tuned because I just might have enough photos to scrape together an ugly photo collage Helsinki edition after all!

And just like that, it’s November. I know. I can’t believe it either, but just to prove it, my landlords back home deducted rent from my checking account this morning, so it’s for real, folks. It’s the final countdown.

I have a few topical and amusing things from this weekend that I should definitely blog about before I forget them, but I’m going to be totally honest – I’m not really feeling it tonight. So I’ll jot down some of those stories tomorrow-ish, and in the mean time I will leave you with another installment of the ugly photo collage. That’s right, they’re back! You thought I had done away with these because they’re lame and you have to squint really hard just to see what’s in each one, but the truth is I just forgot all about them. And, in the process, I lost three full weeks of my-life-in-pictures. I’ll never get those memories back, and the world will always have to wonder, but wait, what did week seven look like?? – but there’s nothing I can do about that now. We all have to just move forward from here.

Take it away, Stockholm: Week Nine-ish!

I’m afraid of tap water. There, I said it.

I’ve had to defend this on a number of occasions, and yes, I know that it’s stupid. I know that most bottled water is just tap water in a pricy plastic container. I know that regulations for purifying tap water in most states and many other countries are far more stringent than the rules for bottling. I know. But I grew up with well water, so my little toddler spongebrain learned at a young age to equate all taps with smelly, unpurified goo from my own backyard. (This is not even to mention the many teenage hair crises I faced as a result of the hard water.) As with any lifelong phobia, it just is what it is now…I’m terrified of the sink.

Now let me tell you about Sweden. These folks la-la-la-loooove their water. It’s rare to sit down in a restaurant without the waiter mentioning — in some flowery, exaggerated way — just how delicious it is. Some of them will even stand at your table to watch you take your first sip, waiting for the OMG, this really IS the best water I’ve ever had! reaction, which you do sort of feel obliged to give them. I mean they’re just standing there.

We’re a few days into Week 9 now, and I’m still grappling with an iron fortress of sick psychological barriers that keep me from truly enjoying this free OMG water. And so yes, I do still find myself in the supermarket a couple times a week, ogling (sometimes touching) the pretty 1.5 liter bottles of my old beloved companion, Evian. But I will say this — there is one surefire way to cure a phobia, and that is poverty. The smallest bottles of water here are 20 kronor, and depending on this fickle exchange rate, that can be almost $3. For the little ones!

So I drink the tap water.

Most of the time. Ok, not really, I still buy bottles a lot. But under the watchful eyes of waiters, I’ve been drinking a ton of this tap stuff. And for the record it does taste fine, and I do believe them that this water is among the most rockstar amazing liquid, anywhere, ever. But I feel like just admitting that is enough for now.

Here’s a question for anyone who lives in Stockholm, has spent an extended period of time here, or just knows things about things: Why can’t I find a loaf of bread – anywhere, of any variety – that will last longer than three days? Most of the bread I buy doesn’t even make it to the expiration date. What am I doing wrong? It’s really cutting into my grilled cheese economy of scale. On a related note, though, I have absolutely mastered the making of those gooey, cheesy, delicious sandwiches now. I challenge anyone to make a better one. Nay, I double dare you. I will dominate all of you.

The “new” has settled into more of a livable routine now. All of the cute and seasonally inappropriate dresses I brought have been neatly tucked away in a closet I never use, and a rotation of jeans and warm sweaters have taken their place. Grocery shopping is down to a science (made easier by the recent grilled cheese infatuation), and my projects at the office are real and familiar work now – not busy work, as they are wont to be at the start of a new job.

This comfy routine has also given way to a few revelations:

1. Apparently I like sour cream and onion chips, because I’m averaging a bag a week. I’m pretty sure that the last time I actually purchased a bag of potato chips in Florida Life, I was a teenager, but here, they’re a part of my day and I rely on their crunchy goodness.

2. Away from my own furniture and my “stuff,” I’m not nearly the neat freak I usually am. The same girl who scoured the kitchen every single night at home has yet to think twice when the dishes pile up for three days here. I still clean my bathroom regularly, but I’ve not picked up the vacuum once yet. Its buttons are in Swedish, though I do realize that turning one on is pretty universal, so this is a weak excuse.

3. Even with only two channels and rarely anything interesting on TV, I still haven’t touched the two ab workout DVDs I packed with good intentions. Apparently, these are a last resort no matter where you live or how many times you’ve seen that same episode of How I Met Your Mother.

4. I drink way more cappuccino than is healthy or advisable for my size – even more than my previous twice-a-day Starbucks trips at home would imply – and I eat far fewer vegetable servings because they cost four times more here. No matter my relatively healthy lifestyle in Florida Life, it’s been surprisingly easy to return to a college diet when the price is right.

5. And it turns out I really don’t miss my closet full of clothes, or any of my belongings at all, but I do miss these guys. A lot.

Here’s something they don’t tell you when you’re a bright-eyed little American who’s selected to move to Sweden for the GROW program, and you’re so friggin’ excited about all of the European travel opportunities you’ll have over there that it’s all you can do to not lose your shit: You won’t be getting any new stamps in your passport.

Ok, sure…when you first arrive at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, you’ll stand in line forever at customs, and they’ll give you a gratis little stamp for your trouble, but it’s not much to speak of. It’s kind of a boring one. Oh, but! you will think to yourself as you lug your 14 suitcases to the cab, I have so many other trips planned while I’m here! I’ll be filling up these last few passport pages in no time! I can’t wait to see what all of the other stamps will look like!

Oh, you dumb American. You’ll be wrong, as usual, and the sooner you can let go of that stamp delusion, the better. The truth is you won’t be getting any more passport love or attention while you’re here, at all, ever. You are used to traveling around the Caribbean for work, with the MIA airport gestapo tracking your every move. But in Europe, the borders are wiiiiide open, and with neutral, lovable old Stockholm as your departure point for all of your side trips, people will care about you even less. I mean, look at you…you’re clearly no threat to airline security because you’re coming from SWEDEN. You might as well be coming from Switzerland or Neverland.

When you land in Latvia, there will be no customs agent grilling you about where you plan to stay, and when when you go to the Czech Republic, no one will check your passport at all – coming or going. You will be able to print out your boarding pass at a self-service kiosk without ever having to show an ID – even when passing through security, where the only thing they’ll actually look at is the crumpled up boarding pass you just found on the floor.

While I’m spilling travel secrets that will give TSA an aneurism back home, I might as well confirm that you won’t need to take off your shoes or put your liquids in a little baggie at security, either. You won’t realize this ahead of time and you’ll be the only one to take your boots off, and people will stare at you, but who knew?

And so after months of traveling, you’ll be left with fond memories of new places explored, but a burning existential question will linger, because you are a petty person: Without the stamps to prove it, did you actually go anywhere at all?

Annnnd, without further ado…the ugly photo collage: Prague edition is here! And well worth the wait, eh? Yep. These just get better and better.