Hump Day.

Happy International Women’s Day! I wish we lived in a world where a “women’s day” wasn’t needed. Maybe some day. 

I need this backpack ASAP. Look at how much stuff you can pack in it! 

I’m getting a standing desk at work. I’m so excited.

Our CTO is gluten-free, so we’re going GF in the office this week in solidarity. And probably because we all (about half of the office) wanted to see if we could do it. Turns out: the only things I can’t eat that I usually eat at pretzels and graham crackers. At least this is what I’ve found thus far. I think I was suffering from the Gluten Flu (effects of gluten withdrawal) this morning but I drank a lot of green tea and water and powered through.

The dorm that I lived in for three years during college is being sold. I had one of the rooms that was basically a one bedroom apartment with a kitchen and bathroom. Compared to your traditional college dorm, it was pretty nice. But it was also like living in a jail with all of the rules (restrictions on how many nights a guest could stay, having our IDs inspected every time we entered, they closed during the winter break, etc). 

I’m obsessed with this workout DVD. It’s the Barre Method and I’m only currently practicing the arms segment but it’s an ass-kicking. 

Lastly, I saw these shelves in a photo of an apartment on Curbed. Does anyone know where they’re from? 

I need these in my life, or more specifically, my living room. 

Den little Havrue (aka The Little Mermaid): Copenhagen, Denmark

On my second day in Copenhagen, I took the metro up north to see The Little Mermaid, supposedly the most photographed sight in the world. It’s amazing to think that a story by Hans Christian Andersen and a movie by Disney could lead to such a thing.  I only took a few pictures because how many photos can you really take of a statue? But I’m really happy I saw it. To be honest, it was one of my Must Sees on my list of things to do in Copenhagen because The Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie.

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Pro-tip for mermaid fans: There is another statue of The Little Mermaid outside of The Black Diamond (aka The Royal Library) that I was excited to find:

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Needless to say, this Little Mermaid fan was happy. 

The Vasa Museum: Stockholm, Sweden

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The Vasa Museum, in Stockholm, Sweden, was recently put on a list as one of the top 10 or 15 museums that you Must Visit in your lifetime and I’m so glad I didn’t skip it (because I almost did). The Vasa was built in 1626 and it never made it out of the harbor on it’s maiden voyage. It sunk to the bottom of the sea right there in the harbor and remained there until it was successfully raised in 1961. It remained so intact for 333 years underwater because the water in the harbor was so polluted. 

The museet was built around the ship and it’s pretty cool (although the ticket is pricey but it’s totally worth it).

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Stockholm has since cleaned up their harbor and now people fish in it! Kind of cool. The Vasa is a MUST SEE in Stockholm. 

Suomenlinna: Helsinki, Finland

So, Helsinki is a really small city with not a lot to do, to be quite honest. But it was actually the perfect place to end my trip because it was less running around and more relaxing. Smaller cities will do that to you, I guess. But my favorite thing about Helsinki was taking a ferry out off the coast to visit Suomenlinna, a giant sea fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site, that was built by Sweden in 1748 when Helsinki was still Swedish. It’s Swedish name was Sveaborg (pronounced seh-vay-eh-bore-ay). It was just a quick ferry ride from Helsinki early in the morning through a handful of other tiny islands to get there. 

It’s ownership was then passed onto Russia and then back to Finland finally when they declared their independence from Russia in 1917. Sweden put a mass amount of resources into it and it was incredibly fortified. It wasn’t until the Crimean War in 1856 that Suomenlinna really sustained any damage from an attack (they were attacked in that war for 46 hours straight, that’s understandable). 

It was decided in the 1960′s that they’d make Suomenlinna a live-able place and today around 900 people live on the island. It’s hard to believe people actually live there. They opened a school, a medical center, and a few other things to make it inhabitable. 

I visited the museum first, which included a very informational video and a lot of artifacts from Suomenlinna’s past lives and then I walked around the island for around two hours. It was very, very cool. Probably the coolest thing in Helsinki.

The building where the museum is. 

Inside some of the fortresses.

Parks where built for inhabitants. 

The glass blowing plant that is on the island.

Vesikko Submarine: Built for Germany in 1933. 

The dry shipyard where ships were built for wars when the island was still in use and I believe ships are still built and repaired there today.

One of the handful of apartment buildings on the island.

This was worth the early wake-up and ferry ride over. If you’re ever in Helsinki, make sure you make it over to Suomenlinna

Something Sparkly from Stockholm

I walked into an antique shop near the main palace in Stockholm and fell in love with this ring. My jaw dropped when the man working there said it was 850 sek (which is really about $100) and then he quickly dropped the price to 650 sek. I shook my head, thinking I shouldn’t spend $80 on a ring when I have a ton of rings already.

As I was walking around, I couldn’t stop thinking about the ring (which is sterling silver, at least 50 years old, and from England or France). Then I realized I had no idea where the store was and the Old Town in Stockholm is a MAZE. 

Luckily though I found it quite easily and offered him 550 sek for it and we came to an agreement at 600 sek (about $71). It’s a little too big for my ring finger so I’m wearing it on my middle finger. 

It was my one big splurge in Scandinavia. Worth it.

This was all of the make up that I brought to Scandinavia with me. And I never touched that eye liner (too much work and who was I trying to impress?). It doesn’t dry fast enough and gets everywhere if I’m not taking my time. (That’s what I get for purchasing $3 eyeliner, whatever.)

That make up bag is from the Flying Tiger near Madison Square Park. They’re actually Danish so I saw them all around Scandinavia. They’re just called “Tiger” abroad though. 

Though truth be told, this is how much make up I usually wear every day anyways – with Burts Bees lip cream. 

How To: Sleep in a Hostel

You know what I perfected while I was abroad and sleeping hostels? Just exactly how to do that. 

Now you may be a heavy sleeper and have no trouble falling asleep after you’ve been awake since 8am and have walked 11 miles that day sightseeing, but I’m not. I’m a light sleeper and it blows. 

So, I had to adapt.

Sometimes you get roommates who snore. Sometimes you get roommates who check in really late at night (like the German guy who came into CBP at around 2am and I gave him my best sleepy “bitch please” face before rolling over and attempting to go back to sleep). And if you have a room with more than 2 people in it, people are usually coming in and out, so there’s light.

Whatever. You’re paying like $50/night for these rooms, so you have to suck it up. Here’s how I coped:

Eye mask: I wear an mask on a nightly basis anyway and I think I was about to not bring it abroad but I’m so, so glad I did. I needed that thing. People used nightshift eye masks like bandanas and stuff, but I was glad I basically had a blackout eye mask.

Melatonin gummies: These things are the best. Who doesn’t love gummy bears? Have 2 or 3 of these (or 4) and pass out. 

Ear plugs: Yeah, get these. You might have roommates who snore.

Ear buds + iPod with white noise: After my ear buds proved to be pretty ineffective, I went straight for my earbuds with an on-repeat rain track playing. It was sort of annoying to keep having to maneuver the iPod when I turned over but if it was between that or listening to my roommates snore, I’d choose the former. 

I think these things are pretty key when you’re sleeping in a room with strangers. Some wine might be pretty effective too, but I’d definitely recommend at least an eye mask to start with. Happy hosteling! 

Semi-normality.

I went to bed at 8pm on Monday night – I was exhausted – and woke up at 6am on Tuesday. That was awesome. I didn’t have any coffee all day either (and it was National Coffee Day – so bad). I wasn’t tired at all in the afternoon or at night. I had beaten jet lag! I went to bed on Tuesday night just before 10pm. This time I woke up around 5:45am. I wasn’t tired anymore, so I decided not to try to fight it and I got up and went down to the gym in my building. I ran 1.5 miles and then walked another .3 miles (+ 80 sit-ups). I was exhausted and called it quits.

With all of my extra time, I planned out my food for the day (1 cup greek yogurt with 2 tbsp of granola and 1/2c frozen cherries for breakfast, kale salad with chicken, cabbage, 1/3 of an avocado, and peppers for lunch, and two snacks: banana with two tbsp peanut butter and a cup of grapes) and then did some other food prep. I was a tad more tired than I’d been the previous day, but, duh, I’d run and gotten up earlier.

I broke down and had coffee today, but it’s decaf so it’s not as super caffeinated. I’m still trying to get back to my normal routine after traveling for almost two weeks. Slowly but surely.

(The above photo is apropos of nothing. It’s from my first night in Oslo. Norway has the best sunsets ever.)

Scandinavian Hostels

I’d been a fan girl of hosteling since I went to Amsterdam for the first time in 2007 with my friend Emily while we were studying abroad. We stayed at the Flying Pig hostel in the Red Light District and although Amsterdam is amazing on it’s own, the hostel added that much more to the experience. I was able to convince my cousin back in 2011 to stay in a hostel when we went to Seattle for the weekend too. Again, it was great.

So when I was aiming to do things as cheaply as possible in Scandinavia, I headed straight to the hostels section of my Scandinavia Lonely Planet book and started to look. I made two bad decisions two good decisions. Here’s what they were so can make them and avoid them:

Woodah Hostel and Yoga (Copenhagen): Located in the hip and trendy Vesterbro district, I thought the concept of this hostel sounded awesome. Yoga classes at a hostel?! But it turned out to just be one yoga class at 8am if at least 3 people signed up, which they never did, because it was at 8am, probably. The breakfast served everyone morning was fresh and delicious (fresh baked muffins, yogurt with granola and preserves, meats and cheeses). The downside to this hostel was that it was small. There were two toilets, three showers (though they did provide hair dryers, which was nice), and very limited security. You had to enter a code on the door to get into the sleeping quarters but that was pretty much it. And reception went home at 10pm so you needed to get a key if you were getting in after that. The beds were also really uncomfortable. I’d give this hostel 2 out of 5 stars.

Anker Hostel (Oslo): This was located about a five minute walk up a main-ish rode from the Centralstation. The walk was crowded for the most part. The rooms were pretty basic – though every room had it’s own bathroom, which was a big plus – though the showers were super odd, at least to me, but I got used to them. I was happy that reception was always there – probably because this hostel was way bigger – and the room doors actually closed and had locks – score! The breakfast wasn’t included, so I didn’t eat it and therefore can’t give my opinion on it. The people at reception were friendly and awesome. The only downside was that there were no lockers in the rooms. There were lockers in a locked room in the lobby but you had to pay extra for them. So I kept all of my valuables with me and always made sure to put the bag with my laundry on top of all my clean shit. I’d give this hotel 3 out of 5 stars.

City Backpackers Hostel (Stockholm): After coming from two let down hostels, this was a pretty big relief. It had an awesome lobby, lots of computers, security codes on the doors that changed daily, lots of common areas to congregate, a big kitchen, private showers and bathrooms (though not located inside the rooms), and they gave free pasta to whoever wanted it to cook in aforementioned kitchen (after walking 12+ miles for two days straight, I decided making pasta and not having to walk again sounded great). The rooms were small and basic, but they had lockers and security codes and beds so it was great. Breakfast was extra so I didn’t partake but coffee and tea was always free. I met lots of cool people here and I had a great time. 4.5 or 5 out of 5 stars.

Rivoli Hotel Jardin (Helsinki): During my first night at the Anker Hostel, I’d decided I’d had it with hostels, so I switched what seemed to be a superrrrr basic hostel in Helsinki to a hotel that I found a great price on through the Ireland Hotel.com. It was located a block from the Esplanade (basically a long green grassy area with super fancy shops and restaurants along it) and about 5 blocks from the Centralstation. The breakfast was included and it was great. They offered free tea and coffee and cookies all the time. I was so happy I booked this as my last stop. The soaps in the bathroom were lingonberry – I took many. 5 out of 5 stars.

I think I may have outgrown hostels unless I book a private room – but for that price, usually, you can get a hotel room, so it doesn’t make that much of a difference. So big thumbs up to City Backpackers Hostel in Stockholm. Leave the rest behind. 

(Photos, clockwise: Woodah, City Backpackers, Rivoli Hotel Jardin, and CPB)

I went a little crazy with trip prep shopping today. I went to Homegoods, Origins, and the Flying Tiger (the Danish version of Muji). Is that not the best journal for travel musings (on the right) ever? I also bought a bag from eBags which came on Friday and I’m making packing lists like a crazy person.

I booked all of my hostels tonight, so all that’s left is booking my travel from Copenhagen to Oslo, Oslo to Stockholm, and Stockholm to Helsinki. I was told I should take a train whenever possible because it’s so beautiful and I’m sure it is but a 9 hour train from Copenhagen to Oslo for $254 as opposed to an hour flight for $54 is just no comparison. I know going through airport security is a pain in the ass, but hey, at least I’ll get more stamps in my passport, right?

The train from Oslo to Stockholm is only four hours and $30 or something, so that’s fine. Then there’s the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki which is about $150 and takes like, 9 hours as well. Or a half hour flight for $50. 

So, as beautiful as the countryside might be, I might fly between two of the four cities. I’ve been collecting lots of links for things to do and packing lists for when you don’t want to pack on the light side. I’ll leave those here incase any of you are going to wander soon.

If you have any packing tips or must-do’s for Copenhagen, Olso, Stockholm, Helsinki, or Tallinn. Let me know!