Sweden: May 23 – 30, 2019
Hello from Sweden! We learned first hand that Sweden is known as the most cashless society on the planet. Most of the country’s bank branches have stopped handling cash. The majority of the shops, attractions and restaurants now only accept credit cards or mobile payments. It just seems odd that they would want to incur those credit card charges. Norway was much the same. So we are racking up our VISA points.
Göteborg or Gothenburg
Gothenburg is Sweden’s second-largest city and at around 400 years old, is relatively young. The Haga district is the oldest suburb with cobbled streets and vintage buildings, cafes and boutiques. We had to search for this old district of the city, and it seemed quiet and deserted. The newer areas were vibrant and busy with the streets bursting with activity.
We spent some time at a Banksy Museum and a canal cruise gave us a better perspective of Gothenburg. Volvo was founded in Gothenburg in 1927 and is the cities largest employer.
Several years ago it was decided Gothenburg needed a building that would ‘put it on the map in architecture’. ‘The Lipstick’ was built in the late 80’s and has since been identified as the ugliest structure in the country several times. Probably not what they were aiming for.
Gothenburg is hometown to bands ‘The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ and ‘Ace of Base’. The Nordstad is Scandinavia’s leading shopping center and where I got my ‘on the road’ haircut. The stylist was one of two people in the city that didn’t speak fluent English and Joe’s barber was the second. However we both made out ok and felt like new people once we were spruced up.
We loved our hotel in Gothenburg. Not only did they have an amazing (free) breakfast spread but they also provided a ‘light dinner’. Always a good soup, 4 types of salads and a main meat casserole with white carb. It was perfect and free and we looked forward to it every evening. Available as well was a laundry room that you could make an appointment to use for a couple of hours; you only had to provide your own soap. We are pretty sure we bought and used liquid fabric softener in error – product shopping is tough, even when it has pictures!
Gothenburg has it all, it’s a small, walkable space, but we really had to dig to find things to keep us busy that interested us.
Many of these eyesores littered the shoreline. After the oil crisis, there was no longer a need to build ships, so they were abandoned and put up for sale.
Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden was founded in 1252. The city centre is situated on water and the locals refer to it as ‘Beauty on Water’. It is ranked as one of the most breathtaking capitals of the world. The city stretches across 14 islands connected by 57 bridges to where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways with another 30% being parks and green spaces. Along the east coast outside the city is the island chain of the Stockholm Archipelago; settled since the Stone Age.
Old Town – so charming! We loved the Palace and the army was always marching around.
World class museums, culture, history, natural beauty, shopping and modern city life, Stockholm has it going on. The city proudly boasts an ‘Abba’ museum, the local hereos.
Stockholm lies on a high northerly latitude, giving it long days in summer (more than 18 hours!) and very short days in winter (only 6 hours). The nights from late May until mid July are bright even when cloudy. I took this photo at 3:30am– already daylight!
H & M has its’ headquarters in Stockholm. And of course there’s IKEA. Oddly enough, IKEA is headquartered in The Netherlands, but was founded in Sweden in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad. Kamprad made The Forbes 2015 list of top ten richest people in the world at $40 billion +. Interestingly, the European Parliament believes The IKEA groups complex corporate structure was designed to avoid over €1 billion in tax payments over the 2009–2014 period.
We arrived in Stockholm not realizing it was their Mother’s Day and left early in the morning of a national holiday. Another big party was a brewing. We loved Stockholm, explored for 3 days with a bus pass and on foot.
This morning we departed by ‘cruise ferry’ to Turku, Finland. I was a little apprehensive about how this 11 hour trip would turn out but it was a fantastic, fun day. The cruise price of €30 for two included a ‘cabin’ – so cheap! I recall when booking it, that it seemed unnecessary to have a cabin since it was a day trip but it came in very handy. We dumped all our luggage in there and retreated from the craziness above several times for some quiet time. Two bunks and a bathroom with shower – for such a low price! Take note BC Ferries!
The ship was beautiful and like an actual cruise ship, with fewer cabins. Multiple restaurants, casinos, play centres, bars, were at our disposal. The duty free shop was filled with people from Sweden and/or Finland that were able to buy at reduced prices as we stopped in the city of ‘Mariehamn’, and it is outside of the EU Customs Zone. Their shopping carts were filled with liquor, clothes, and goodies. What a fun shopping excursion!
Our biggest expense was the buffet; all you can eat and drink. We were starving by the 1:30pm reservation after leaving the hotel with a breakfast bag at 5:45am. I had booked a table with a view and we were thrilled to be right at the front of the ship where we were able to watch the ship being maneuvered between tiny markers, small islands and rocky formations, effortlessly. The view was marvellous, the water filled with more ferry cruise ships than we could count and the islands, endless. Thanks for the welcome Finland!
PS. We met a wonderful woman at the ferry terminal that saw our Canada baggage tags and she said we were in for some teasing during our stay as the Finlanders are still riding the wave on the hockey win. So this could be interesting!