My Little Northern Trip

10.05.2015

Alexandra Goryaeva

M.Sc. Information Systems

What were you up to on this Spring Labour day? In Russia, we celebrate this holiday with more free time than other countries in Europe. This time a friend of mine had 4 free days, including the weekend, to get away, and we decided to catch up during a trip to two great Northern capitals: Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Stockholm

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Stockholm from Observatorielunden

Our first destination was the capital of Sweden, where we had great time staying at our friend’s apartment.

What was for me one hour of flying from Dusseldorf to Stockholm plus maybe an hour and a half more of checking a luggage and waiting for boarding at the airport, was for my friend at least thrice as time a journey. Whereas I didn’t even need to draw my passport anywhere during the flight, he had queues and several verifications in Russia and then in Stockholm again. It was particularly difficult to explain to the customs officer in Denmark the absence of return tickets and hotel reservations (we were gonna stay at a friend’s house and leave for Copenhagen afterwards). He got lucky — two more people from the queue were not given permission to pass the border and actually had to go back to Russia, even though they had all the reservations needed. Just a hint: when Russian travel agencies offer you to ‘spend a weekend in another city’ they actually mean that you need one day more for getting there and another one for going back, with all the waiting and checking and explaining yourself on every border. 

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Stockholm Stadtsbibliotek

The best way to explore a new city is spending time with somebody who lives there. This is an ultimate formula, trust me! Our Sweden friend took us to the secret places any city has and allowed us to feel its vibe like we would never be able to ourselves. Who would have thought that Stockholm public library is so cool I actually felt the urge to study more? Maybe that is why Sweden has so many highly qualified specialists: they do not consider anyone with less than a Master’s degree as having received a proper higher education.

Stockholm is the city of tiny things. The tinies street and the tiniest statue are actually among the cutest attractions I’ve ever seen. The overall population of Sweden is around 9,5 million people. A whole country has less people than there are in Moscow!

There’s also a museum with the smallest number of showpieces, meaning exactly one, if you can call a huge 17th century sail ship a showpiece. The story is tragicomic: the Vasa ship — huge, mighty, with dozens of horribly expensive bronze cannons — was supposed to be a pride of Sweden’s fleet. Unfortunately, the king wanted the ship to be perfect. So he supervised designing and engineering himself, having neither an engineering degree, nor, it seems, common sense. The ship wasn’t able to sail far from the harbor and sank during its first journey. When you see it in the museum, with its low waterline and narrow body, you can only ask one question: how is that possible they didn’t think something exactly like this would happen…

There are plenty of bikes on the streets (not that I was awed by that, in Muenster it’s much more popular than any public transport or cars), many of them with wooden wagons for children in front. You can also rent a bike, though we discovered the city by foot or used the underground. The underground stations are also among the city’s famous attractions — the tunnels are drilled in cliffs, with the stations painted in different colors, as a some kind of cheerful dwarfs residences.

    Copenhagen

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Streets of Copenhagen

Although on these Spring Labour holidays I visited two cities during one trip, I think of it more as of two separate journeys, with Stockholm as the first trip, and Copenhagen as the second and a very different one.

Denmark is even smaller than Sweden, with less than 6 million of total population. There is one perk in that for such small countries: most of their inhabitants are really good in English. One of the reasons: when the population is so small, there is not so much profit in translating books and movies. So it’s not so much of a skill, more of a necessity to know English. Easier for internationals to study/work/live here, too!

Stockholm is energetic and fun, Copenhagen is cozy and relaxing. This does not mean you cannot party here — just that it’s more ‘long beer in the harbor while admiring the view’ than ‘get drunk on the roof’ kind of city. Although we had our wild moments here, especially when we wanted to find some shisha bar and were directed to a gay-bar instead, where we nevertheless tried hard to find shisha on the menu. In Moscow, this turkish habit is long adopted and we have such bars everywhere, but in Europe it’s a Turkey thing and not everybody even understands what you mean by that.

Copenhagen is as beautiful as it gets. You just walk the streets with its colored old-fashioned houses, adore the sea with numerous sailing ships and genuinely enjoy yourself.

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Stockholm Roof View

If you want some adrenaline, go visit Church of Our Saviour, a high tower near Christiania District. A spiral staircase around its conical roof goes up to its peak. There, where the only thing between you and very, very thin air is a low wooden fence, you feel every blast of wind. It’s not easy to take pictures though, since there is a choice between holding hard for your life and holding your smartphone tight… but chances are worth taking.

All in one, both cities are beautiful and definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re a student in Europe and have a free weekend. Don’t be a stranger to opportunities like this — I’m trying not to be!

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