In November 2018 I took 12 days and flew to Stockholm, Sweden over the Thanksgiving break. This included several trips to some other towns across Sweden. Plus, an unscheduled and dramatic bonus stay in London (very long story, as you soon find out, stick with it). Getting to Stockholm was a very long day travelling, with a long layover in the London Heathrow airport. When I arrived in Stockholm, I was able to still find the energy to walk a little bit in the old town, but having been awake for over 30 hours, I didn't have much time to see too much before getting to bed.

After getting 12 hours sleep after my journey, I was able to keep going that next day in Stockholm. I walked up and down Drottninggatan (Queen Street) in the pedestrian area in the city. In the newer part of town, Stockholm actually has many underground tunnels and connected buildings, keeping you out of the cold. As I was walking, I accidentally ran into a free city tour that was just starting, so I jumped on that opportunity (quite a few European cities have these). Even though it was a tour of the newer part of town, there was still some history there. They also had an old part of town tour later that day, but I'll probably check on that later when I return to Stockholm at the end of my trip. After the new town tour, I went to the old part of the city on my own, Gamla Stan, where the Kungliga slottet (Royal Palace) is located. I bought a package tour of the Palace, which included the palace apartments, the treasury (which is actually the Crown Jewels of Sweden), and the Tre Kroner Museum. You can pretty much guess the first two, which toured a number of rooms in the Palace and then down to the lowest and secure level of the Palace to see the crown jewels. I had no idea what the museum was. But, was happily surprised to find out it was sort of a sub-basement tour of the Palace, where you got to see the original parts of the Palace from 1697 which are now all underground, pretty cool. Very near the Palace is the Swedish Riksdagshuset (Parliament House), and I happened on the sign for a free tour of Parliament. It only happens on Saturday and Sunday, and they only allow 28 people. So, I was actually pretty lucky to be able to do this. I got there about 40 minutes ahead of the tour and waited in line (first come, first served), there were already about 20 people. The Parliament tour walked through a number of rooms in the old Parliament and the new Parliament, but all of the current action and voting takes place in the new Parliament. You can do a lot with 12 hours of sleep.

I planned on seeing several other places besides Stockholm, but was going to use just public transport. So, I caught the 10:22 a.m. express train for the 90-minute ride north of Stockholm to the town of Gävle. Gävle was as far north as I was going to go on this trip. When I arrived, I found out my hotel reception didn't get in until 03:00 p.m., fortunately there was a locker at the train station across the street where I put my bag. I was able to walk around for about 3 hours, and had a late lunch, before checking in. The city is a bit modern, with a few old buildings in the old town. It was a little crazy, the tourist information center was about a half a mile away from the train station and city centre, in the opposite direction. I had to walk through quite a bit of residential area, lots of apartment buildings, to get there. Gävle is most recognized by Swedes as the home of the Gävlebocken (Gävle Goat). It is about a 13-metre (43 foot) goat made out of straw. Then as part of the Christmas celebration it gets burned down. Unfortunately, I'm about two weeks too early for it. However, around the town at various locations they have little painted, decorative fiberglass goats.

A few thoughts on my dining methods in Sweden and Europe. For the most part, they have pretty normal menus. The hotels all have a good traditional Scandinavian breakfast with meats, cheese, bread, and yogurt. I mention this since the hotel I'm at had a full, hot American breakfast selection with eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes, along with the traditional Scandinavian selection. I normally don't eat fancy, I usually get sandwiches, kabob type food, or go to a grocery store. It cost a lot less and is a lot quicker. For Europeans, eating is a social ordeal and they usually are in no rush to eat. But when you're traveling, spending an hour or 2 having dinner is that much less time that you can go out and see things. The hotel I stayed at has a kitchenette area for the guests. So, I took advantage and bought a frozen dinner of Swedish meatballs, potatoes, and peas and heated it up in the microwave for a quick lunch. For dinner, I went to the grocery store and bought a salad and lasagna in the deli, and heated up the lasagna at the hotel. I usually only eat two full meals a day when I'm traveling. I'll either have breakfast at the hotel, or if it's not available I'll have a breakfast out somewhere. Then I usually have a lunch around mid-afternoon. For dinner I might just try to find a snack of some kind to eat, but if I am hungry in the evening, I might try to find a pizza place. They normally serve individual size pizza in Europe as a meal. In Sweden, like several other Western European countries, there's usually not a problem for me to find something to eat. Going to the Eastern European countries, on the other hand, I did find sometimes it was a little harder for me to find something to eat. The Swedish meatballs sure tasted fresh here in Sweden!

Another day in Gävle finally brought out the sun for the first time since I arrived in Sweden. Averaging about 5°C (41°F), but it's a dry cold. Since I wandered around Gävle aimlessly my first day, the next day I took the Gävle 8 kilometre (5 mile) self-guided city walking tour. It goes all over the city, past many historical and cultural landmarks (so that's what I saw yesterday). Gävle was founded in 1446, and is considered Northern Sweden's first city. Unfortunately, in 1869 there was a fire that devastated the city, so not much remains before that. Still, there are a lot of buildings built shortly after the fire from around 1900, including the Gävle's City Hall, built in 1871. Oh, and the sun came out!

The Gävle train station was right across from my hotel. Continuing on my public transport journey, I took the 10:38 a.m. local train from Gävle south to Uppsala. Even though Uppsala is about half way back to Stockholm, because it was a local train instead of express train, it took about 70-minutes. Uppsala is a big university town, but only has about 150,000 people. Uppsala has a basic grid pattern of streets, and the pedestrian area is concentrated just off the Central Station so I spent the day walking and seeing the sites.

Uppsala is known in Sweden as the City of Kings, the Uppsala domkyrka (Cathedral) has many of the Swedish Kings and other royalty buried here. The Cathedral was built in 1435, with the 119 metre (390 foot) tall spires added about 50 years later making it the tallest Cathedral in all of Scandinavia. The Thornan Bell in one of the towers was actually looted in the Great Northern War around 1700, and brought here from Toruń, Poland. Hey, I was just there in April! The Uppsala slott (Castle) was originally built in 1567, but because of a fire in 1702, the current Castle was built (how does a giant stone building burn down?). The reddish color it is today has been the same since about 1742. The castle sits high above the city and provides for nice views of the city.

Happy Thanksgiving! Well, in America anyway. I ended up spending this holiday in Uppsala. A traditional American Thanksgiving meal includes turkey, and the hotel breakfast did have sliced turkey meat on the breakfast buffet. Felt like I was almost home. The holiday yielded yet another day with sun and beautiful blue skies, I was thankful for that! Thanksgiving evening, I improvised a Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of turkey though, I bought a roasted chicken, au gratin potatoes, a bottle of Swedish still water, some sort of Swedish holiday soft drink (Julmust). For dessert, I figured I wouldn't be able to find traditional pumpkin pie, so I brought Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts all the way from home. Happy Thanksgiving!

After a couple days in Uppsala, I caught the 11:12 a.m. train to Märsta and then a short 15-minute #570 bus to the small town of Sigtuna. It is Sweden's first official town, from about 970 AD. Consequently, it's Sweden's oldest town. The old main street, Stora gatan, is pretty much the same way it was over a thousand years ago. That said, now the reality. The layout is the same, but it's not the original buildings from 970. What Sigtuna has today are buildings from around 1700 (oh, only from 1700?). As you walk the street, they have plaques giving the history of what has been on this location for the last 1000 years. Very cool...

Sweden has a very elaborate bus and train system throughout the whole country. So, it was pretty straightforward using it to get around to the towns that I went to see. It did take a little bit of pre-planning to make sure it was possible to go where I wanted to. Also, once I got to a destination, I checked to make sure the departure from that location was what I planned. Just double checking. For the amount of time I was here, I didn't want to rent a car. Especially since I would just end up driving to a town and park for 2 days.

Before I left Sigtuna, I ran around and took a whole bunch of pictures again. Today was another beautiful sunny day, and I wanted to get some nice photographs of this old town. I caught an afternoon bus and train back to Stockholm. Consequently, when I got back into Stockholm I did the same thing. I ran around Stockholm and got some nice pictures with the sun shining. In Scandinavia in the winter, you take it when you can get it. I went to the Stockholm Old Town, Stortorget (The Grand Square) to be exact, in the middle of their Julmarknad (Christmas Market). Stockholm is known as the city on the water, with good reason, it's composed of 14 islands and 57 bridges. Besides buses, they also have ferries that cross the water to get around the city. Makes for a fun commute...

Even though I have been to Stockholm several times, I never went to the Nobelmuseet (Nobel Prize Museum). Now I know why, it wasn’t award winning, in my opinion. They have some artifacts from former Nobel Prize winners and there's a theater where they show videos of past winners and their speeches. It was something to do, but not that much in there and probably wouldn't recommend it. Another tour I never did before now was the iconic Stockholm’s stadshus (City Hall). City Hall was not far from my hotel, so I signed up for the first 45-minute tour of the day. The City Hall is where they hold the Nobel Prize ceremony, and this year it was going to take place on December 10th, in 2 weeks. Besides seeing the Blå hallen (Blue Hall) where it takes place, part of the tour also goes through the Rådssalen (Council Chambers) and to the Borgmästare (Mayor's) office. This tour is worth the money.

Another site worth seeing is the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum). This museum houses a warship, the Vasa, from 1628 that capsized after sailing 1,300 metres (4.265 feet) on its maiden voyage. It was recovered around 1960, and because of the cold and the mud in the Stockholm archipelago, it is extremely well preserved. They said about 98% of it is original. Nearby is ABBA The Museum - or as I called it, Swedish Mecca. Since it opened in 2013, this was the first time I had seen it. The audio tour guides are the four members talking about themselves and the history of the group. Lots of information and personal items from each of them, along with a lot of their costumes, awards, albums, and other stuff. They have some interactive exhibits where you can sing along with the music and hear it in playback (believe me, you don’t want to hear me doing that). They also have a hologram version of them that you can perform with them on stage. The ABBA museum was really amazing, Thank You for the Music!

I got up early the last full day in Stockholm. Or was it? Shortly thereafter, I got some sort of text message from the airline. I thought for sure it said my flight was leaving today, not tomorrow. I started looking into how to get to the airport on time. But then I looked at my paperwork and it showed tomorrow. I also logged into my airline account and it showed tomorrow. Wait, what day is today? Is today tomorrow? Incredibly, to add to this confusion, originally when I bought my ticket several months back, I inadvertently put the wrong return date and it just happened to be today (a day early). I went ahead and officially purchased it, only after I got the confirmation did I realize I meant to put tomorrow's date. So, then I cancelled it and booked it with the correct date, tomorrow. So, I started to slightly panic thinking something did happen, my cancellation didn't occur, and I did have to return today. Talk about coincidence. On top of that, the airline home page is showing travel alerts and cancellations for tons of Midwestern cities, because of snow. I have another full day in Stockholm. One disaster averted, another to come, and tomorrow turns into another tomorrow.

Since I definitely determined it was my last full day, I turned on my data plan and turned on Google Maps tracking. I then sent an email to everyone with a link to be able to track me on Google Maps. I got some responses back from family and friends, cool. Today is my last full day in Sweden (I have to keep reminding myself). I hope you had a nice trip! I bought a 24-hour public transport pass yesterday and it expires about 02:00 p.m. this afternoon. In Stockholm they have buses, trains, ferries, and trams. I used all of them. With all the water and islands, it almost is a bit crazy to figure everything out. Good thing I had an app for that.

My last day, I went to a couple different areas of Stockholm I had not seen before. Södermalm is a part of old Stockholm with Fjällgatan street filled with homes from the 1700s. It also has the panoramic Fjällgatan scenic view point overlooking most of Stockholm across the archipelago. Not too far from there is the Globen (Globe), an Indoor Sports Arena with a capacity of 16,000. Shaped like a large white ball, it has a diameter of 110 metres (361 feet) and a height of 85 metres (279 feet). The other area is out of the central district where the Stockholms Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) was built for the 1912 Summer Olympics. I've seen a number of Olympic stadiums, none this old and none this small. The U.S. won 25 gold medals that year, more than any other country. Side note, 1912 was the last of the solid gold medals ever made. Jim Thorpe was the winner of the decathlon and pentathlon events.

You know when there is a disaster, they provide the transcripts? The following is my real text, sent real time as it happened. Here you go:

  • 09:43 I caught the bus to the Stockholm Arlanda Airport, my flight was supposed to leave at 11:40, they are now already saying the flight will leave at 11:55. Still not an issue, I have several hours to connect in London. I'll let you know if anything else changes...

  • 11:28 The plane arrived at the gate and the people are departing, I can't see us boarding and leaving in 30 minutes (11:55). But it will be soon... Doesn't look like a lot of people waiting to board, but it is a smallish plane... Probably next email will be from London...

  • 11:43 Just been told the plane is not expected to arrive in London until 15:15. My connecting flight is supposed to leave at 15:45. Apparently bad weather in London which caused the delay of this flight to arrive. It is expected to get better later today the desk agent said. He said as far as connecting information I probably won't know anything until I get there... I'm pretty sure there are a couple other flights out of London to Chicago, but I don't know if they would be able to get me on any of those. More later...

  • 11:50 they just started to call for boarding. However, the guy did confirm I will not make the 15:45 plane, they will have to book me on a later, different flight. I'll have the info in Heathrow...

  • 12:19 Captain said we are sitting here for another hour, if all goes well… Apparently, there are awful storms in London. Leaving Stockholm at 13:20... I will miss my 15:45 connection in London, the next one is 17:15, but if I miss that the next one is 11:15 tomorrow, at the earliest. Unless there is something I don't know...

  • 13:00 Captain just announced we have a window. We should be leaving in about 10 minutes. Seat belt sign on, turning phone off now. Next stop London. Captain said the weather in London has improved dramatically, so 17:15 flight? We'll see...

  • 14:50, just landed in London, taxiing now.

  • 15:30 Nope to 15:45 flight... In a massively long line to rebook. I doubt the 17:15 flight. Will update after I talk to the booking agent, or Christmas, whichever comes first.

  • 17:15 Still in line.

  • 18:15 I'm still waiting in line.

  • 18:45 Spending the night in London... Catching the same flight tomorrow, 15:15, that I was supposed to catch today. Going to get some food and then the hotel. The airline is putting me up for the night.

Well, the day started off right enough. I woke up this morning in Stockholm and saw that it was going to be a beautiful sunny day again. Unfortunately I had to leave for the airport just as the sun was rising, which in Stockholm this time of year is about 09:00 a.m. in the morning. Right from the start when I got to the airport, it showed my flight delayed. Long story short with that (oh, but it gets longer), London, where I was connecting, had massive storms and everything in and out of London was delayed, or worse yet cancelled. So the plane I was waiting on was 90 minutes delayed arriving, which then caused my delay in departing Stockholm. In fact, once they loaded the airplane, the Captain told us we would have to wait almost an hour before breaking out from the gate. Good news, we backed away from the gate after only 50 minutes, yippee! In my mind, it still gave me some chance of catching my 03:45 p.m. flight home. It looks like I was arriving in Heathrow Terminal 5, and departing in Terminal 5, and I still have about 30 minutes to get to the connecting gate. So anyway, they determined it takes 58 minutes to connect, and when I got there they wouldn't let me get to the departure gate. I could almost see the departure gate from where I was standing trying to get through the turnstile. So, it's important to note at this point I was there 30 minutes before the departure and couldn't get the connecting flight. And now this is where it gets long, at least for me. I stood in line for over 3 hours to get rebooked. Rebooked? More like delayed. For you see, they're booking me on the same flight, except tomorrow instead of today (remember, tomorrow became tomorrow?). Note: I was 30 minutes from my flight, and ended up 24 hours from my flight. I did get a free night stay in London, and a handy dandy British Airways overnight pouch ('essentials' - Brian Regan). The hotel is also providing me breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For dinner I'm having a sirloin steak. The worst part for me anyway, I'm in London for 24 hours and the weather is going to be awful all day tomorrow. So it's not even worth going into the city for the 5 or 6 hours that I could spend there.


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Stockholm, Sweden - Västerlånggatan (Western Long Road) is the main tourist street in the heart of the Gamla stan (old town). It stretches between the Mynttorget and Järntorget squares.


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Stockholm, Sweden - The 608 room Kungliga slottet (Royal Palace) has a lot to see inside.


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Stockholm, Sweden - The very ornate Konseljsalen (Council Chamber) in the Palace is where the King and Cabinet members meet.


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Stockholm, Sweden - As if the Swedes don't already spend enough time outside in the winter, one of the several ice skating rinks in the city.


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Stockholm, Sweden - Sergels Torg (Square) is the center of a more modern Stockholm. The full name of the sculture is 'Kristall - vertikal accent i glas och stål' ('Crystal - vertical accent in glass and steel'), it just goes by the nickname 'Crystal'.


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Gävle, Sweden - The Rådhus (Town hall) in Gävle, founded in 1446, is on the banks of the Gavleån (Gävle River). I'm too early to see the goat.


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Gävle, Sweden - A mix of old and new, Stortorget i Gävle (Stortorget central square).


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Gävle, Sweden - In the City Park you can find the Musicerande änglar (Musical Angels) by the famous sculpture Carl Milles (well, he's famous now, he's on my website).


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Gävle, Sweden - Gävle slott (castle) is on the edge of their scenic and colorful Gamla Gefle (old town).


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Uppsala, Sweden - Stora Torget (town square), complete with Rådhus (Town hall), is a hub of activity during the day.


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Uppsala, Sweden - The same photo I took at Uppsala Slott (Castle) on my trip here in 2011. Go ahead, take a look, I'll wait...


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Uppsala, Sweden - A closer up view of the castle with some of the defenses that defended it after the 1702 fire restoration work.


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Uppsala, Sweden - The 13th century Uppsala domkyrka (Cathedral), at a height of 119 metres (390 feet), is the tallest church in the Nordic countries.


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Uppsala, Sweden - My American Thanksgiving in Sweden. My dinner was composed of:

Swedish - rostad kyckling, au gratin potatis, stilla vatten, 'Julmust', och till efterrätt pumpa paj pop-tårta

English - roasted chicken, au gratin potatoes, still water, 'Christmas juice', and for dessert pumpkin pie pop-tarts


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Sigtuna, Sweden - Sigtuna Rådhus (Town Hall) from 1740, has most of the original furnishings and is now a museum.


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Sigtuna, Sweden - Stora gatan (Old Main Street) decked out for the Holidays.


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Sigtuna, Sweden - Being the oldest town in Sweden founded in 970, most of the buildings in the old town remain original from the 1700s.


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Sigtuna, Sweden - Sankt Olofs kyrka (St. Olofs Church) was built in the 12th century.


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Sigtuna, Sweden - They have a nice walking trail along the scenic shores of Lake Mälaren.


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Stockholm, Sweden - Located on Kungsholmen island is the iconic Stockholm City Hall.


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Stockholm, Sweden - The Blå hallen (Blue Hall) in the city hall is where the Nobel banquets are held. Funny story, they never got around to painting it blue. No, really.


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Stockholm, Sweden - Recovered from the water in 1961, the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum) displays the incredibly well preserved 17th century Vasa that sank on its maiden voyage.


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Stockholm, Sweden - I have reached the Mecca of Swedish music, ABBA The Museum.


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Stockholm, Sweden - Stockholm is situated on 14 islands in the Stockholm Archipelago where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea.


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Stockholm, Sweden - The Nobelmuseet (Nobel Museum) is located in the Stortorget (Grand Square) in the Gamla Stan (Old Town).


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Stockholm, Sweden - More exciting things to see and do in the Stortorget (Grand Square), skip the Nobelmuseet (Nobel Museum).


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Stockholm, Sweden - The Stallbron (Stable Bridge) connects the Helgeandsholmen and Stadsholmen islands. Remember? Quiz: Stockholm is made up of how many islands?


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Stockholm, Sweden - The classic Dala horse. He was spooked when I got too close, too bad I didn't have a sugar cube.


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London, England - My free steak dinner in London.


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London, England - What I had to endure to get my free steak dinner in London.