29 August 2009

Swedish Honeymoon, Day 6: Exploring Gothenburg

Events of Friday, July 17, 2009

In the morning at our hotel in Gothenburg, we ate a huge delicious breakfast, then we met Birgitta, Melissa's aunt who lives in Gothenburg.  She has lived in Gothenburg for a long time, so knew all the best places to take us in the city.

Birgitta, Melissa, and I about to enter the Haga neighborhood of Gothenburg:

First, we went to one of the areas in the city that is best preserved from the 19th century, called Haga. Here is a view down one of the market streets, early in the morning before all the tourist traffic arrives:

Haga is filled with cobble-stoned streets and little cafes:

Next, we climbed a hill to visit on of the most recognizable sights in Gothenburg, the Masthugg Church.  It was built in the early 1910s in a very traditional style, and is very beautiful.  Melissa walks up to the church, with its ornate tower:

The inside of the church was very peaceful and beautiful, also:

From the top of the hill where the church sits, there are excellent views of the whole city:

Looking towards downtown:

Looking towards downtown, you can also see what the locals call the Lipstick Building, which has got to be one of the strangest skyscrapers I've ever seen:

Birgitta and Melissa ponder something as they look over the valley:

After visiting the church, we took a ferry up the river to do some sightseeing along the trip. Birgitta is also a vegetarian like Melissa and I, so she took us to a great vegetarian restaurant in downtown Gothenburg for a delicious meal.

Next, we all went to a beautiful park in Gothenburg called the Trädgårdsföreningens park.  In the park, we visited a 19th-century style greenhouse called Palmhuset, which is very similar to another greenhouse in San Francisco, the Conservatory of Flowers:

Inside Palmhuset, we saw some huge water lilies:

On the way out of the park, we visited a rose garden:

In the park, we walked by a family of ducks, where a mother duck was keeping her little ducklings safe.  Melissa thought they looked so cute that we all watched them for ten minutes while she got her fill:

After Birgitta went home for the night, we visited the Maritime Museum in Gothenburg, where we walked through an old Swedish destroyer, a submarine, and other retired ships.  Melissa presents the submarine we toured:

The finish up the night, we caught a showing of the new movie "Brüno," with Swedish subtitles.  Brüno was laugh out loud hilarious and incredibly disturbing, so basically, if you liked Borat, you'll love Brüno.  Afterward, we headed back to the hotel to eat dinner at the restaurant at the top of our hotel.

Previous: Day 5: Hello, Gothenburg!
Next: Day 7: Rainy Day in Gothenburg

23 August 2009

Swedish Honeymoon, Day 5: Hello, Gothenburg!

Events of Thursday, July 16, 2009

Early in the morning we got up and rode to Stockholm's central station again. From there we hopped on a bullet train headed for Gothenburg, known as Göteborg in Swedish. The trains in Sweden are fast, efficient, and clean. People say we can't afford transit in America, but that's because we spend everything on roads. Sweden, like most of Europe, is easily 10 years or more ahead of the US in transit.

Melissa on the train as we prepare to depart Stockholm:

Me taking a nap during our scenic ride across Sweden:

Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden after Stockholm. Two of Melissa's relatives live there: Pär (her first cousin) and Birgitta (her aunt), so we were looking forward to meeting with both of them.

The trains in Gothenburg remind me of those in San Francisco:

They even have streetcars like we have in San Francisco:

A bustling square in Gothenburg:

When we got to Gothenburg, we had planned to eventually meet up with Pär's fiancée, Loulou. But at the train station in Gothenburg, we happened to run into her by chance! Along with Loulou, we met Loulou and Pär's daughter Ellie. Loulou helped us find a tourist help desk, where we booked a hotel for the night. After booking the hotel, we headed to a little cafe where we ate a delicious lunch of pea soup (pea soup is traditionally eaten on Thursdays in Sweden) and cakes.

Loulou and Ellie:

After checking into our hotel, which we were informed was one of the best in Gothenburg, we headed over to Pär and Loulou's apartment for a dinner of Indian food and wine. Loulou is originally from Scotland, so she is also learning to speak Swedish. She recommended that I try reading adult easy reading books in Swedish. I had read children's books in Swedish before, but they always ended up boring me with their simplistic stories. Easy reading books, however, are written with adult learners in mind, so are much more interesting.

The view from Pär and Loulou's window out towards Gothenburg:

Melissa with her backpack as we head to our hotel, with the Gothenburg water front in the background:

After saying goodbye to Pär, Loulou, and Ellie, we went back to our hotel and caught up with world events on CNN. Gothenburg is further south than Stockholm, so it thankfully got a little darker at night, plus our hotel room had black-out shutters!

A view of the Gothenburg waterfront on the walk back to our hotel:

Previous: Day 4: Applying for the Passport
Next: Day 6: Exploring Gothenburg

18 August 2009

Swedish Honeymoon, Day 4: Applying for Passport

Events of July 15, 2009

Early in the morning, we headed out to Stockholm again. We were in a rush to get to the US Embassy, so at the train station, we picked up rolls and orange juice at a Pressbyrån, a Swedish convenience store similar to 7-11.

When we got to the embassy, we got in pretty quickly and explained our situation to the woman working at the desk. Giving us a stern look, she told us that Melissa technically broke the law by leaving the US without her passport. The woman shuffled some papers and then walked away from her desk. As minutes passed, Melissa anxiously fretted the impending arrival of military police to haul her away to a long prison sentence. Thankfully, her fears were unfounded and the clerk came back and asked us to come back in a week and pick up a new passport.

The US Embassy in Stockholm from a distance. Notice the concrete slabs keeping cars away from the entrance to the embassy:

A view across a bridge as we crossed:

With the passport fiasco behind us, we headed to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a huge Swedish warship that sunk in Stockholm harbor on it's maiden voyage in 1628. The ship laid on the bottom of the harbor for nearly 350 years before being raised in the 1960s. The ship was partially restored and moved into its own museum which is where it is today.

The exterior of the Vasa Museum, with three simulated masts poking out of the exterior of the building:

A model inside the museum showing what the Vasa looked like the day it sailed:

The Vasa as it currently appears inside the museum:

After touring the amazing museum, we took a short nap on the grass and overlooked Stockholm harbor. The weather was warm and sunny making for a perfect nap in the sun.

A typical view across Stockholm harbor:

After the nap, we got some ice cream from one of the many vendors on the streets of Stockholm. Here is a stand looking a little lonely all by itself during a brief pause in the tourist crowd:

A view across one of the many bridges of Stockholm (here Melissa makes her famous pirate face):

Another view across the same bridge:

We walked back to Gamla Stan where we ate at Hermitage Vegetarian, a lovely vegetarian restaurant. Tired after our day of trekking around Stockholm, we headed back early to Tumba to get some sleep, in preparation for our trip to Gothenburg the next day.

Previous: Day 3: First Day in Stockholm
Next: Day 5: Hello, Gothenburg!

14 August 2009

Swedish Honeymoon, Day 3: First Day in Stockholm

Events of July 14, 2009

The sun rose at 2:30 am, waking me up for a while. Eventually, I was able to get back to sleep, and when we woke up for good around 9 am, we headed off to Stockholm via the commuter rail.

Our first picture in Stockholm, just outside of the Opera house:

We walked through downtown Stockholm and eventually ended up on Drottningsgatan, a street with lots of shops and cafes. There we found one of our favorite places in Stockholm, "The Coffee Place", a little coffee shop with free wi-fi, which proved to be invaluable for making phone calls using Skype on Melissa's iPod Touch. This trip really taught us how versatile and powerful that little device is. Besides making phone calls around the world, we could play games, check email, send tweets to Twitter and Facebook, and surf the internet.

Because Melissa traveled to Sweden with only a Swedish passport, we realized that to get back to America without getting a visa, she would need to get an American passport. So we tracked down the US embassy and asked how to get a replacement passport. They told us to come back tomorrow at 9 am.

We tried going to the Vasa Museum, but it was packed, so we went to the Nordic Museum instead. The Nordic Museum is a huge museum in an amazing building that is all about Swedish culture, with displays about music, art, furniture design, and many other things.

The exterior of the Nordic Museum:

A wooden sculpture in the Nordic Museum of King Gustav I Vasa:

The interior of the Nordic Museum:

After the Nordic Museum, we went on a boat tour around the island of Djurgården. Stockholm is built on a series of islands and is frequently called the Venice of the North, so hanging out near the water seems to be one of the best ways to see the city.

As we were waiting for the boat to leave on the tour, we saw the "Håbo Buss," which sounds like "hobo bus":

Me on the tour boat:

A house on Djurgården:

Another house on Djurgården:

The tallest structure in Stockholm (which we never visited):

After the boat tour, we headed to Gamla Stan (the Old City). Gamla Stan is full of ancient buildings and tiny alleys:

Another small street in Gamla Stan:

And an alley with little shops:

In one of the big squares in Gamla Stan, right across from the Black Sheep restaurant where we ate a delicious meal. All communication with the servers was in Swedish until they saw my American credit card, then they wouldn't stop speaking English :)

Another beautiful square in Gamla Stan:

Melissa posing in Gamla Stan next to the famous statue of Evert Taube (he wrote the song that Melissa and her father danced to at the wedding):

A tiny, winding staircase down an alley in Gamla Stan:

The houses of Gamla Stan:

A tourist street buzzing with shops in Gamla Stan:

After leaving Gamla Stan, we headed back to the house we were staying at in Tumba and settled down for the night.

Previous: Day 2: Arrival
Next: Day 4: Applying for Passport