Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stockholm Sweden

Our SUST group’s last class trip involved a 5-day visit to Stockholm. The trip began very early Wednesday morning, 5 AM for most of us including myself, and involved a scary descent from the hills of Sogn. Tuesday night, the region experienced a massive blizzard (see previous post) that had blanketed Oslo in snow, however, as the temperatures got colder the snow froze and the pavements became ice rinks. There were some parts that were so bad that you had to walk on the dirt that hadn’t froze to avoid falling to your death. Suffice to say no one wiped out that morning but there was some close calls.

While Mark and Andrea were waiting for the T-Bane, the operator overshot Ulleval Station coming into fast and skidded on the icy rails. He then had to walk all the way thru the train and back up. Mark and Andrea were kind of freaking out but managed to get to Oslo S in plenty of time. I was the first to arrive, followed shortly after by Heather, then Mark and Andrea, then Jennifer and Marea, Halvard, and then lastly Tim. He scared all of us by showing up a few minutes before we went to board our NSB train to Gothenburg that was scheduled to leave at 7 AM.

The train made it to Gothenburg in plenty of time for our connection to Stockholm, however, Swedish rail had other plans. As soon as we arrived, trains from Gothenburg to Stockholm and other locations began to be canceled left and right and one right after the other. Turns out that Sweden had been hit particularly hard by the blizzard and many of the lines that the trains used to pick up power and run had frozen in the night. Unable to take a high-speed train to Stockholm, we had to force ourselves onto a local train heading to Malmo and then transfer to another train into Central Stockholm. We made it eventually, however, by the time we had arrived we had all been traveling for over 12 hours and were very tired.

Thursday involved an entire day at the Swedish Parliament where we had the opportunity to talk with Björn von Sydow, the former speaker of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) and a major political figure of the Social Democratic Party. Afterwards we met with the Political advisor of the Moderate Party who recently made government as of the September 2006 elections. The advisor also gave us a tour of parliament and a description of some of the historical figures and prominent speakers.

Friday we made a trip to the US Embassy of Stockholm, where some of us were appalled by the way US citizens (such as ourselves) attempting to visit the embassy for a meeting, were treated by security personal. We met with a Political and Economic Officer who told us about the continued relationship with Sweden. It was very different than our discussion with the officer from the Oslo US Embassy, because this time we were in the actual embassy vs. the political officer coming and meeting with us on the UIO campus. That evening we had an interesting meeting with the Youth Chapter of the Swedish Red Cross and had a discussion regarding immigration, integration, and issues of asylum and tolerance of the Swedish populace. I like to think that I was potentially helpful or beneficial to our meeting with the organization. The woman that spoke with us told us about a series of stories that were written by immigrant children and specifically those who had come via asylum. The organization was hoping to publish these stories and distribute them with the ad campaign for a documentary that dealt with these issues made by another organization. I suggested that they try to negotiate a deal with the Stockholm Underground, famous for its public art, to put up some of their stories in high traffic areas up until the premiere of the documentary to increase awareness of the issue, potentially increase recruitment, etc. After our meeting, we all did our assignment of studying the Stockholm underground at two or more stations and finding the public art featured there. We later gave presentations on our finding on Tuesday of last week.
Fun with blurry images
And speaking of the Underground, here's a great vid I recently found on YouTube featuring one of the C20 Subway car, same as the one pictured above, uploaded by godisp:

Saturday we all made a trip to the Modern Museet and were given a tour by one of our classmates Marea who has worked for the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) and is now working for an art museum here in Norway. From there we were given free reign to explore the city. I took the opportunity to find the Stockholm museum of public transport. After a long walk from the T-Banneren I finally found the museum with about a half hour before it closed. Thankfully I didn’t have to pay admission because I had a valid transport pass even though for students it wasn’t that steep. Overall my reaction to the Museum was about the same as my reaction to the Transport museum in Oslo: great collection of historic pieces and photographs, however, a lack of information in English and other languages for international guests. However, the last comment could be argued that there aren’t many people who visit these museums with other languages and that I am a special case. Both museums are more geared towards children, although the Stockholm museum did have some good exhibits on the future of transport in areas of Europe as well as a great exhibit on the public art of the Stockholm underground. As a souvenir, I bought a poster that I told Mark I will place in my office. His response was “Since when do you have an office and where?” my reply was “Well I’ll have an office someday” :-D.

Saturday night we attempted to hit the town hard. We ended up going to a Reggae part that was a bust and then down to the Sentrum where we couldn’t get into any of the clubs. This was much to the frustration of Andrea. There were a couple of bars we were able to get into and get some decent beer (Guinness!!) but in regards to nightclubs there were too many bleached blond Swedes and men slipping Kroner to the guards that there was no chance we could get in. A later found out from a friend of mine, that there were some good places in Sodermalm (Southern Stockholm) that were nice and much easier to get into. Oh well, chalk that up as a thing to do for the next time.

Sunday we all headed for home on a direct train from Stockholm to Oslo. After seeing some of the passenger trains around the station I knew we weren’t going to be put on a high speed line, but I could describe the train that we took as the Battletrain Galactica or at least that’s what it felt like. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to snap a picture of this battleship of a train before we left, and I shouldn’t be so harsh. The train got us home comfortably and in one piece. Monday we were all given the day off to recover from the Journey and make preparations for the week ahead. I meant to write this on that day but, things come up and priority must be given to other activities.
Thus ends the post for Stockholm, a great Scandinavian city and one that I will have to visit again.

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