A Valentine’s Day Miracle

I’m pretty much a fatalist. If there’s something that could go wrong, I usually imagine it happening (though now I have the mental power to also tell myself to stop being an asshole, so there’s that). I often take my rings off and put them in my wallet at yoga and then forget to take them out until the next morning when I’m getting ready or I’m already out the door and head towards the subway. 

I’ve always known that putting rings on while waiting for the train is probably a bad idea. One could totally fall into the tracks.

And yesterday, one did. I looked around for it for a bit after but didn’t see it on the platform and didn’t see it on the tracks (I didn’t go down into them, I’m not a total asshole).

I was super bummed because I’d bought the ring in an antique shop in Stockholm in September so it was totally irreplaceable. As the day wore on, I focused on other things but then immediately found myself bummed again as I was heading home after yoga and decided to give my hunt for it one more go.

I asked the MTA agent if anyone had found a ring and given it in, he said no, and I went back to the place that I dropped it, checked that no trains were coming, and got down on my hands and knees on the edge of the platform with my iPhone flashlight to look for it. 

Shockingly, I found it. I asked the MTA employee if there was anyone they could call and there was another employee with tools to pick up stuff that New Yorkers such as myself drop into the tracks. It was really hard to find again, but we did, and we had to wait for a few trains to pass, but eventually we got it back. I gave the guy some cash as a thank you and went home to wash it because: subway grime.

I’m still in shock that I actually found it and was able to get it back. 

So, lesson learned: Don’t put jewelry on while waiting for the train. 

The Vasa Museum: Stockholm, Sweden

image

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).

image

image
image
image
image

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

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.

Apps You Must Download If You’re Traveling

Without a few apps on my iPhone, the trip definitely would’ve been a lot harder. (Thanks, Kristen, for telling me to download two of these, btw.)

Triposo: This app was awesome because it let you pick your destinations and suggested popular things to see and tours and places to stay and basically everything you could ever need to know. The maps also work offline.

Tripomatic: This did basically the same thing as Triposo except it looked a little cleaner. The reason for downloading Triposo was for the purposes of using the offline maps. It helped me plan out my journey day by day.

Currency Exchange: Any old currency exchange app will do. This helped me not freak out when something in Stockholm cost, say, 650 kroner. I would’ve died without this. 

Yelp: Duh. You know this is the best for finding all of the best places to eating and other random things too. This helped me find places to eat often.

With these four apps, you should be good to travel solo in a country where the language looks like a Scrabble board threw up and your breakfast costs 300 krone. 

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!

It’s for-real happening. I’m the worst at booking flights because I’m so non-committal and hesitant to spend hundreds of dollars at one time (WHAT IF I NEED IT LATER?!). But I know the price of these flights will only go up if I wait (I booked this for about $700) so here goes nothing!

Do you think I can wait a little while to book my trains/buses/boats around the region? (I’m going from Copenhagen -> Oslo -> Stockholm ->Helsinki.) And if you have any must-see tips for these cities, let me know!