The Leidener

A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Chilling in Northern Europe 1 – Sweden, or Sverige

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Unlike many other typical tourists who prefer to head south in their autumn breaks for sunshine and warmth, I am really into the freezingly cold countries up in the north. After planning excitedly for my own traditions of travelling alone, I spent my autumn break chilling (literally) in Stockholm, the so-called capital of Scandinavia. Despite how expensive this country can be, Sweden is a fantastic destination if you have strong interests in islands, H&M, and IKEA. (Kidding! Sweden is awesome with many other things) Real-feel temperature -2℃, here we go!

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1. Island hopping
I haven’t really done any academic research into how many islands Sweden has, but island hopping is surely an inevitable exercise if you take a tour in Stockholm. I booked a cheap but excellent hostel online, which was located on a small island called Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan is the old town of Stockholm. The buildings, the streets, the narrow lanes and passages hiding in small corners all gave me an instant feeling of time travelling into the 18th century. Living on this tranquil small island really relaxed me from all the stress and negative energy I had in exam week (or what we call reading week). Naaaaiiiice!

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2. Modern Museum
I kind of regret it now that I started my walking tour too late that day when I planned on a visit to the modern museum. Ah oops, *Moderna Museet. As I already said, island hopping is a lot of fun, and it would be necessary if you were walking to the modern museum, because it’s on a smaller island named Skeppsholmen (can anyone please teach me how to pronounce this name?). Dear readers, if you have ever read some previous posts about creative writing courses at Leiden University College, you would know how much I’ve become a big fan of every object and every artist in the wonderland of modern art. Hi Mr. Andy Warhol, long time no see how have you been?
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3. Hej hej
An invitation from a good friend on exchange in Uppsala is actually the ultimate reason why I chose Sweden as my destination, not Finland, Norway, or Iceland. On the first day of my trip, my friend took a super early train to Stockholm Centralstation. We were really good friends in junior high, but since we graduated we haven’t really hanged out. Finally we saw each other again in Stockholm. She told me, “It feels like magic that we are now walking on the street in Sweden! Unbelievable!” Thanks to my dear friend, I came to know that “hej hej” (pronunciation similar to “hey hey”) is the daily greetings of the Swedish sweethearts, not some random flirtish phrase haha. Swedish people were incredibly friendly. When I was taking a long time choosing between souvenirs, the shop owner was not impatient at all; instead, she asked me if I could make her a Chinese name. I was usually scared when strangers walked up and talked to me, but I met many people who offered really nice words on my touristy hat and said “welcome to Sweden”. I would consider the following encounter as a sign of over-trust: I told the staff of Stockholm travel card that I was 19; when I was about to show them my ID and passport, they waved and said, “nah, it’s OK, we trust you”. Everyone seemed crystal clear and warm-hearted, which deeply confirmed my hypothesis on the high level of social stability in Northern Europe.
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4. Food
[SARCASM ALERT]
Lingonberry. Elm. Cinnamon rolls. Mashed potatoes. Potatoes. And potatoes.
Nothing else.
Really, I thought the food culture in the Netherlands was the simplest, but I forgot that there are still Northern European countries. I missed Dutch food so much that I even started to think that food in the Netherlands was acceptable, cheap, and yummy. Or is it just me coming from a country whose main attention is on delicious stuff?
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To sum up (see I have been writing too many essays these days) Sweden is worth a visit if you are tired of the romantic tales in Southern Europe. Stockholm has probably 90% of the tourist attractions in Sweden, so better not miss it out! No matter what may come up, it is always fun to count how many H&M’s are located in the capital of Scandinavia right?
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—- by Xueyan Xing, coming all the way from China, studying at Leiden University College The Hague

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This entry was posted on November 28, 2014 by in Travel, Xueyan and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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