Eyes Wide Open in Sweden

I never really had an interest to travel to northern Europe simply because the history did not interest me that much besides the Vikings and I have always been more interested in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern history since I was young for some reason. In 2017 I was on a 5-country trip that began early in May starting in Kiev, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Italy, and ending in Sweden. One of my good friends I met in Israel several years ago is from Gothenburg and invited me to come and visit for a few days. I felt I could not pass this opportunity, not only to see a close friend but also to get a taste of another part of the world. One common phrase I always hear is “the people in northern Europe are as cold as the weather.” After spending one week in Sweden I realized like many other things you cannot believe everything that you hear from others and you need to experience something for yourself and then make up your decision and opinion afterwards.

I took a flight from Rome to Gothenburg, Sweden which felt like an eternity because I had an 8 hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey for the 6th time in the past 2 years. After having my passport stamped I was surprised to be stopped by two airport security officials asking politely if they could search my bags and it would only be a short time, I said to myself sure it’s no problem I have nothing to hide, let them do their job. I was brought into a room where several other security guards were who all looked friendly and not intimidating, as they were going through my bags we got into a long conversation about politics in the United States and Europe which turned into 30-minute discussion. At the end of the conversation we all became good friends and I realized Swedes really do know their politics! This was a good first impression of the country before I arrived in Gothenburg.

It was a mostly cloudy afternoon with some patches of blue sky and sun that would intermediately pass through creating beautiful light, this must be typical Swedish summer weather that I have heard about. It was similar to Seattle, Washington weather during this time of the year. I arrived by bus in Gothenburg center where I was greeted by my friend, and the first things that caught my eye was the interesting architecture, (something out of a children’s novel), and how clean and organized everything was. I spent the next 3 days in the small town of Frillesås in Kungsbacka Municipality, Halland County. The air was crisp and fresh there and it was my first taste of what normal Swedish life is like outside of the major cities that most people only visit like Stockholm. The people there were nothing like what I expected because they were warm, friendly, and helpful. I had an amazing opportunity to travel by car thanks to my friends’ mom for letting me borrow her car while she was out of town. There’s something special about having wheels to get around in a foreign country and not have to rely on public transportation even if it is good like Sweden’s.

The next part of my journey was to Stockholm, a place I was curious to explore. I took the train from Gothenburg which took approximately 4 hours. During my journey I made a furry friend named Maya, a calm yellow lab which was accompanying her owner who was sitting next to me, (this was the first time I had ever seen a dog on a train). After some good conversations about our travels and home towns I arrived in Stockholm where I needed to take the underground to Slussen stop, just outside the historical center Gamla Stan. I was simply amazed at how organized it was, something I had never experienced before in all of my travels. The last 4 days of my trip in Sweden were some of the most easy-going days I had during my entire 1 ½ month trip. Compared to the chaos in Italy with tourists fighting in lines for gelato or museums, Sweden was the best place to finish my trip in peace.

Some highlights and things I loved about Stockholm were the Vasa Museum, one of the most interesting and well thought out museum I have ever visited, the ease to get around by public transportation, and the real sense of freedom. One thing that I was most surprised by and never expected was that during the summer months the sun does not begin to set until after 10 p.m. which makes sense considering how far north the country is located. This made for some interesting photo opportunities I have never experienced before. My visit to Sweden made a good enough impact that I plan to visit again in the near future and my moral to this story is don’t always believe what everyone else tells you about a place, always feel the need to ask questions, put stereotypes to the side (even if there is some truth to them), and be willing to open your eyes and learn because this always allows for the best experience possible when traveling somewhere new.