The public transportation we used while traveling in and out of Stockholm could not have been more straightforward. Similar to the London Underground for those who have experienced it, I bought a card to preload “trips” onto, and each trip lasted for 74 minutes. What this meant was that once I scanned the card I could use any compatible travel system (train, bus, subway) within 74 minutes.
No separate tickets necessary.
Day two in Stockholm Derek and I already had our trip for the day loaded onto our cards, and we headed to the train around 0945. On day one we took the train to the east of the city, and immediately went down to the subway to spit us right into Gamla Stan – the old town. Day two we decided to get off at the train, skip the subway, and walk towards the old town to see new things.
Derek bought a 10GB cell plan for map access, but I was living the carefree life of zero service.
After wandering a bit we mapped our way towards the water where a lot of the tourist activities started. Our one tourist activity we partook in was a boat tour around the closest canal. This was a 50 minute tour for a whopping $21, and was worth the price. Headphones were provided for a very basic knowable of what we drove past, but I was more interested in seeing the city from the water.
One of the most notable thing about Sweden is all the different trees. October is one of my favorite months to travel because it’s not a popular month for tourists, and because I love seeing fall come to life in a new country. Sweden did not disappoint with their fall colors and temperatures. We had great weather the entire trip, it only rained once for about 30 minutes before the boat ride and we were able to stand under a cover.
After our boat excursion it was time to do some shopping. I am not one to buy people souvenirs, but I love buying people food items from the places I travel. My mom had her heart set on a Dala horse, a popular Swedish symbol that originated as a toy for children. I wasn’t stoked on buying a material item, but I ended up buying a medium one for her and a smaller one for me.
I also succumbed to a handmade house that resembled one of the popular buildings in the old town, plus some local made fudge and candy for my mom and Duncan.
I do enjoy finding something small when I travel, but often times I will find post cards or paintings that I can frame and put onto a wall. After shopping and walking, it was time to try the infamous kardemummabulle, or cardamom buns. Dereks mom is from Sweden, and he had visited a handful of times before this trip, so he forewarned me of the deliciousness that is the Swedish cardamom bun.
The cardamom buns were at every single bakery or coffee shop we walked by, but I wanted to find somewhere that was not a chain, and that looked extra cozy to buy my bun from. This was my splurge of the day and I wanted to make it as close to “from scratch” as possible. I found an adorable shop in the old town that I regrettably did not pay attention to the name of, but their kardemummabulle was fan-freaking-tastic.
Somehow this small, simple, bun of gluten and explosions of cardamom is one of the best things I have ever eaten. Similar to a croissant in France, sometimes less is truly more. The flavor was wonderful, and the chewy dough had my brain swimming in dopamine. Worth the splurge and then some. Day two we ended up walking just under ten miles, making our total mileage in Stockholm between the two days 18 miles.
Days one and two in Stockholm were fun, but day three was by far my favorite. Derek had plans to meet with more extended family for the day, and I had plans to go into the city alone to meet with a friend. I reached out to Cornelia, a Swedish girl I had met while traveling in Slovenia a few years ago. Slovenia is a trip I will never forget specifically because of the two girls I met.
Cornelia was free for the day and we met in the old town, because I was most comfortable navigating to a place I had already been.
She ended up taking me to Södermalm, an area of the city I had not been yet. I would have never found where she took me, I saw beautiful views, her favorite bakery, and an intercity “mountain” of rocks where people go to unwind. These tips from a local were a highlight for me. After a long walk we had dinner together at a vegan cafe (best smoothie bowl I have had in years) and chatted like old friends.
After dinner I had planned to head back to Derek and his family, but Cornelia invited me to church with her.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t panic after agreeing to go with Cornelia to church. Every part of me wanted to go, but I originally planned to stick near public transportation I was familiar with because I did not have cell service. Without easy access to data for map usage I became anxious of getting lost. I would also be navigating back in the dark, something I try to avoid as a woman alone.
Cornelia was incredibly patient with my mini panic and she helped me with the subway map which was actually very easy to navigate. When my anxiety goes into overdrive it can be hard for me to see how simple something is, because all I can see is the worst. I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the church service because of my anxiety, but I’m glad I challenged myself to go. Cornelia reminded me of all the solo travels I had done and that everything “always works out.”
I needed that moment. I have been living in a bubble of fear for the last two years, and I needed to put myself into the exact type of situation that causes me this kind of fear to remind myself I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. I have became so fearful of other people, of danger in the world, that I haven’t experienced life in the same way that I used to. I am immensely grateful for this day, allowing my independence to come back to life.
I ate a cinnamon bun from Cornelias favorite bakery on the train ride home, and relished in the small victory that was navigating my way home at night in a foreign country exclusively by relying on old school maps and verbal directions.
Stockholm is a beautiful city with the right balance of old and new. The people are friendly, the drivers are safe, and the architecture is stunning. Three days was the perfect amount of time to get a good lay of the land, and this was a great way to start the trip. I’m so thankful I was able to reconnect with Cornelia, and although this was only our second time meeting I still felt the soul connection we had when we met in Slovenia.
Day three wrapped up with 10.5 miles (including a 2 mile run before going to the city), giving me a total of 26 walked miles around Stockholm. I’d say I covered a good amount of the city for three days. Next up: Söderåsen National Park.
Q: Do you feel comfortable navigating a big city alone where you don’t speak the language? I’ve done this many times, but I usually prepare myself more by ensuring I understand my routes. The shift of plans when I chose to go to church in a new area was a challenge, but I have better navigational skills than I realize. If I had cell service it would have been a different situation, but this lack of a safety net caused me to panic. Alas, as Cornelia said – it always works out.