A weekend in Stockholm

February 22, 2016

Lately, the only places I go to is either Stockholm or Vaasa, and this time it was Stockholm. It’s been in the pipelines for quite some time, I booked the trip back in December. The primary reason for the trip was that Bazooka was hosting a Caribbean Night party, and I was invited, so naturally, I wanted to go.

I booked the flight with Norwegian Air, which is my go-to airline, mostly because they’re cheap, but also because they’ve always treated me well, as in very few delays, always flying my routes, and their general no bullshit approach, you get loaded up, you take off, and you reach your destination, nothing more, nothing less. When I place my bookings I always pay extra to choose my seats, which used to be 31F, but is now 31C or 31D, because isle seats give more legroom, and you get off the plane quicker.

helsinki_airport

So I was quite surprised when Paulina and I was checking in at the digital counter at the airport, my booking said 31C and 31D, but for some reason, Norwegian had changed our booking, without notifying us, Paulina’s seat was now 31B. I tried changing it back to 31D, but they had already sold that seat. That sucked, and the fact that the plane was fully booked (which sucks for me, but I guess is a win for Norwegian Air).

I’ve talked about my seating life-hack, as in generally speaking, I’ve noticed that people want to either be in the middle or up-front of the plane. Which means that the seats in the back are usually empty (you get more room) and you’re really close to the back exit, which means you get off quicker. This strategy has worked almost two in three times, but this time, it didn’t.

helsinki_airport_jet_bridge

I left work a bit early on Friday to catch my flight, which was completely unnecessary, since the flight got delayed because of fog. The fog wasn’t really that thick, but I guess some planes had trouble getting down, which meant there was a queue up in the sky.

And we, we were just standing around at the gate looking like idiots. When the plane finally arrived, we boarded and, just as the pilot was taxing out from the gate, he announced: “There’s some snow on the wings, so we’re going to have to de-ice the plane before departure, it’s only going to take a couple of minutes”. It took maybe 10 to 15 minutes before we actually departed.

We ended up being 1 and a half hour late, which meant I really had to hustle once I was in Stockholm. We took Arlanda Express in to the city, filled up our SL traveler cards and went to the hotel.

Last time I was in Stockholm I wanted to get a room at Scandic Malmen, because of its location (in the heart of Södermalm), but it was completely booked, and I had to book our stay at another Scandic which was located more in the city center. But since we booked so early, we were able to snag a room at Malmen.

scandic_malmen_sodermalm

Once we had checked in to the hotel, which went surprisingly fast, like in five minutes we had our keycards, I just ran up, dumped my bag, and got out again.

The Bazooka party had already started, and I was way late. I grabbed a couple of cheeseburgers from the McDonald’s located just beside the hotel and walked as fast as I could northbound on Götgatan, got myself some Snus, and then headed up the hill that I’ve walked so many times before, Mosebacke.

beer_oclock

Most of the night is quite hazy, but I was greeted and there were lots of hugs, lots of beer, and just an awesome night. I left my camera back at the hotel, on purpose, I still don’t know the Sony that well, and I’m scared that I’ll break it, so I made the decision just to leave it behind. It takes some time before you know the limits of your gear, my Canon 5D can take a beating, and I know I could bring it anywhere without being afraid of breaking it.

Anyway, I remember a lot of smoke and a lot of lasers, I think this picture pretty much sums it up, shot by Calle Stenfelt. I left the party sometime around one thirty in the morning, there were still a lot of people in the office, but for me, living in GMT+2, and after the flight, I was completely exhausted. Yes, I get jet lagged even if it’s just an hour, deal with it.

scandic_malmen_taxi

Fast forward to the next morning, I woke up at like 8 AM, with the most terrible headache. I went out for a walk, to get some fresh air, and hopefully get a bit better. At this time in the morning, on a Saturday, there’s only a couple of people out: Joggers, Taxis, and Homeless people, and this particular morning, there was also a hung-over Benjamin roaming the streets, with a camera.

After getting a couple of painkillers, and a cup of coffee, I walked back to the hotel and took a long shower, this fixed my head pretty well, but it was really warm where ever I went. So I had to go out again for a second walk, this time without a jacket, just a sweater and t-shirt (it was about +1°C).

A lot of people looked at me in a funny way.

The wonderful thing with Stockholm is that even on a Saturday morning, you can get almost what ever you need (or in my case, want), and I wanted an extra battery for my camera. A couple of blocks from the hotel, 299 Swedish Kronors later, I had a new battery in my pocket. The same battery goes for over 50€ back in Helsinki, and you wouldn’t be able to get it early morning on a weekend.

morning
I had somehow managed to unspin the lock for the aperture on the Canon FD to NEX adapter, which means this was shot full open on the 50mm f/1.8, and in turn rendered it pretty soft (and I missed the focus a bit), love the picture, hate that the focus is completely off (I wanted to shoot it at f/8 IIRC)

When I got back Paulina had gotten up and was ready for breakfast, me on the other hand, wasn’t, but I joined anyway. I sat at the breakfast table for all of 5 minutes before it felt like I was overheating, and had to get out. So no breakfast for me.

I went up to the room and just relaxed ’til around noon, and that’s when I got in contact with Johan and Calle, they were going to meet me at the lobby, so off I went. When I got out of the hotel, a relatively new BMW stood outside, with a punctured window, which looked a lot like what I’d imagine a bullet would do.

bmw_broken_window

As I stood there I tried to overhear the conversation. I’m not completely sure what had happened, but I think it was something about a ski sticking out and the door being slammed shut. I don’t really understand why they’d called the police there, but nonetheless, they did, which gave me something to look at.

Anyway, Johan showed up, and we went up along Götgatan to get some coffee, just as we got our order, Calle called me, and met up with us. We spent some time just walking around near Medborgarplatsen, but then hunger struck, and we started to look for somewhere to eat.

Even though there’s lots of options on Södermalm, we had a real hard time coming up with even one alternative, but in the end, we went for some simple Döner kebab in Söderhallarna.

stockholm_black_and_white

We then kept walking, and Calle came up with the brilliant idea about visiting Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury). I’ve never visited that museum before, and it was quite nice, though the first room was easily the best, the rest was basically just repetition from the first. It’s really wonderful with museums in Sweden now since they’ve made all of the publicly financed ones free.

I remember taking a ton of pictures in the museum, but now looking at them, none of them are interesting, so you’ll just have to believe me.

We kept on strolling around town for an hour or two until we met up with Anders. We had agreed earlier that we wanted to go out for dinner, but just as earlier in the day, we had again a lot of trouble deciding on what we wanted.

Seeing as it was Saturday evening, every minute counts if you want to book a table.

At the end we decided to just go to Soldaten Svejk, which is a restaurant located quite near my hotel. It’s really easy to sum up what kind of food they make, schnitzels, and that’s about it. And one of the best, or worst parts of that particular restaurant is that you can’t book a table there, you just need to show up, and hope that the waiting list isn’t too long.

anders_calle

And we were pretty lucky, we got a table in like 10 minutes.

The food was awesome. But why wouldn’t it have been, I mean, you’d have to work quite hard to mess up a schnitzel (I’m relatively certain that I possess that kind of power though). And the portions are awesome. If you’re ever in town, visit Svejk, you won’t regret it. Unless of course you end up without a table.

We spent the rest of the evening at the hotel lobby, I think it was largely due to the party on Friday, nobody was really energetic about going out for drinks two days in a row.

lobby

I’m actually quite happy about having a calm Saturday night, we sat around for a couple of hours, just talking about different things. I really did prefer it to getting hammered twice in a single weekend.

And I think hotel bars are largely underrated, I mean, they are the perfect place to just casually hang out, and the music is usually on a decent volume, i.e. you can talk with each other without having to scream.

And yes, this sentence is mostly here to give some space between the images.

calle

I woke up Sunday morning wishing I could say I felt refreshed. Malmen offers a great location, but their beds are just horrible, and likewise the temperature in the room, it was hot then cold, and then back to hot, so I woke up every other hour.

But at least I wasn’t hung over, so I could have a proper breakfast. Minea was going to meet up with Paulina and me for breakfast, and we spent a couple of hours catching up, so it was a fairly long breakfast.

Actually, come to think of it, I’m quite surprised, I usually dislike sitting around hours on end, but I didn’t feel like I was in a rush at all.

medborgarplatsen

I had originally planned on hooking up with Calle and Elias for a Palmyra lunch, but since we had such a long breakfast, I wasn’t hungry at all, and Palmyra is not the best place to go if you’re only peckish. Instead, I spent the last couple of hours in Stockholm just walking around, taking pictures.

One of the places I really enjoy is Fotografiska, which I’ve talked about countless of times before. There was a queue going out through the front entrance, so I decided to just check out the gift shop, they have a really large collection of photography books there, and I spent 15 minutes or so just browsing. Found lots of books I wanted, but I didn’t want to carry a ton of books around, so I didn’t buy anything.

saltsjobaden

When I decided on what camera gear to bring, I settled for only the Sony A7 and the Canon FD 50mm f/1.8 with the Sony 28-70mm kit lens as backup. The kit lens wasn’t used a single time. The Canon FD lens, like all FD lenses, is completely manual, no auto focus and no auto aperture, which was actually surprisingly nice.

Not having a background from the early film days, I usually shoot a lot without thinking too much. Having to manually focus, and setting the aperture through the lens, really slows med down and makes me think more about what I’m shooting — none of the images are perfect, but I’m quite happy with them.

The one thing that kept happening was that the aperture lock kept unlocking, which means the the lens goes back to fully open no matter what the aperture is set to on the lens. The 50mm is really soft when used wide open, so this led to a lot of my images being either a bit out of focus, or then really soft, which was a shame.

sodermalm_skrapan

In retrospect, do I wish I had brought another lens instead, like my more modern Canon EF 50mm? No, not really, I wanted to try out vintage lenses, to see if it was something I could use on a regular basis, and what I learnt was that it was really fun.

Though I really need to check the aperture lock a lot more often than I did. I do think the A7 works really well when paired with older lenses, the focus peaking is just awesome, and the size of the camera, and the general size of older lenses, comes really handy when walking around.

I’m definitely going to buy more vintage lenses, that’s for sure.

bananas

We left for the airport at around 4 PM, even though the plane wasn’t going to leave until half past six, but you know, better safe than sorry. Plus, we’d have some time to eat something and walk through the duty free shops (though they aren’t duty free since we were flying within the EU).

At around five I got a text message from Norwegian: “We regret to inform that your flight is delayed”. Not this again, was my initial response. But then, seeing as we were catching an earlier flight, not the last one like the last time we went to Stockholm, and since we weren’t in a hurry, I didn’t really mind.

The fligh was delayed for about an hour, we weren’t told why, but the plane had been delayed in Amsterdam, and that’s all I know.

As we were waiting for the plane to arrive, I asked the personnel at the gate if they could check if the plane was fully booked. Again, we had booked the seats 31C and 31D, and this time we hadn’t been moved around. The clerk looked like he had a million other things he’d rather do than to look up my seats, but he did it anyway.

stockholm_arlanda

I can’t describe how happy I was when he told me that most of the back rows, except our seats had been blocked from booking, because of balancing reasons. This made my day. I didn’t have to stress at all when boarding, seeing as I had three seats for myself, so no need to stress about luggage room.

The flight back was really uneventful, it was completely dark outside. When we landed, we immediately noticed how much it had snowed. When we left Helsinki, the cab driver talked about 30 cm of snow, but we disregarded the comment, it had been raining for multiple weeks, not a chance that we’d get 30 cm. I don’t think it was 30 cm, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was around 15, apparently it came down during Saturday, and since then it’s been pretty warm. So as I’m writing this, most of it has melted already.

Super nice trip, 5 out of 5 toasters, definitely. Some minor hiccups, but it was well worth it!

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