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The night train
November 11, 2016
Week 44 of the Swedish year is Hostlöv. It is the mid-Autumn break for schools, and most people with children choose to take a few days off around this time. Not ones to be excluded from old traditions, we took the general lull in workplace activity as an excuse to sneak in a long weekend get-away. More importantly though, ever since my first visit to Sweden (back in 2014) I had longed to take the night train, which turns the usual four and a half hour journey from Lund to Stockholm into a seven hour overnight affair. And boy, it did not disappoint!
We embarked at around 10:30pm on Thursday night, and quickly made ourselves comfortable in our 6 sleeper cabin (joined only by an eastern European gentleman, who snored a bit, but was generally pleasant company). Sleeping on the train was bliss; the gentle purr of the engine was like a lullaby, and there is something comforting about knowing that you can't plummet out of the sky at at any moment (did I mention that I hate flying?). We arrived at Stockholm central at 6:15 the next morning and after a quick cup of coffee at the station (the first of many I should add, after quickly learning the addictive powers of Starbucks) we made our way to our hotel. I had arranged for an early check-in so we were able to drop of our things and get freshened up. We naughtily snuck in a free hotel breakfast (Ash's idea) before heading out to explore the city.
The subway was our travel mode of choice. And Stockholm's subway system is hands down one of the most impressive I've come across in all my travels, not for its sophistication, but for its artistic splendor. It's said to be the world's largest art exhibit with many of the stations magnificently decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings and installations. The Kungsträdgården subway station looks like an archaeological excavation, and with its platform located approximately 10 stories below ground, it feels pretty authentic. My photographs don't really do it justice so I've included a link to a guide of the subway in pictures to give you the full experience.
While nothing beats getting to know somewhere new by having a good ol' walk around town, the -1 degree weather made extended periods outdoors rather unpleasant. We did however, manage a full lap in and around Gamla Stan, including the hike up to the Katharina Elevator (worth it for the views, even though we only stayed for about 5 minutes). By the time we got back to Kungsträdgården our resolve was fading, but once again Starbucks came to our rescue providing some much needed refueling and respite from the icy chill.
The next day, determined to do a bit less walking and a bit more sitting, we took a ferry cruise around the Stockholm archipelago. The largest archipelago in Sweden and the second largest in the Baltic, it is made up of around 30 000 islands, islets, and large rocks (we didn't see them all). Instead we chose to de-ferry on one of the larger inhabited islands of Vaxholm. Miraculously just as we did so, it began to snow (our first experience of snow in Sweden but most definitely not our last given the state of the weather over the last week or so!). Another cup of coffee, this time at a hipster boulangerie, and we were off again, arriving back in Stockholm for an early dinner of all-you-can-eat-asian-buffet, at Restaurant Tang on Klarabergsgatan (highly recommend!)
Sunday morning we said our goodbyes to the city and made our way to the airport. For some reason, flights between Stockholm and Copenhagen are far cheaper than the train (on Sundays) and all things considered, take roughly the same amount of time. Happy to be back home, but already itching for our next adventure!