So I finally got back to Manila last night.
I couldn't have picked a worst time to arrive. Friday night. Rush hour. With a storm brewing. Surprisingly, it took me only about an hour and a half to get home, just as the roads were starting to flood. And then, of course, as soon as I got home, the rains stopped. The weather gods must really hate me.
This morning, I thought I'd finally put a number to the damage that I wreaked on myself while I was in Europe. I stepped on the scale and gasped. Nooooooooo!!! I ran to the toilet, emptied my bladder, tore off my clothes, then weighed myself again. One kilo less. Yay! (Either my bladder was really full or I wear very heavy clothes.) Now I only have to lose four kilos instead of five. (And that still wouldn't bring me down to my ideal weight, but I now think my ideal weight is only possible if I acquire a full time eating disorder. I don't even have the discipline to maintain a recreational one.)
I had beer for the first time in a long, loooooong time. My friends introduced me to their favorite American beer: Brooklyn. Apparently, it's really big in Sweden.
They also introduced me to tunnbrödsrulle. It's a wrap (or a roll?) that contains lettuce, maybe some onions, a hotdog, and a whole lot of mashed potatoes. That's the basic version. If you're a pig, like me, you can add things like this sweetish shrimp-mayo concoction. And another hotdog. Hooray!
It's available at kiosks everywhere in Stockholm. This photo was taken near one of the piers. I later went to a supermarket where the regular one was going for 30 kronor. I got the one with chorizo (45 SEK) with shrimp-mayo (+15 SEK).
FYI, the sign next to the price that looks like it should be an emoticon is the symbol for the Swedish krona (plural: kronor) or crown. Other symbols for it are "kr" or "SEK".
Apart from herring or meatballs with lingonberries (and more mashed potatoes!), when in Sweden, an absolute must try is the fish stew (fiskgryta). I know it sounds boring and I did turn up my nose to it when it was mentioned to me, but it was actually the best thing I had in Sweden. With aioli and croutons, it was, in a word, heavenly.
Making the list of best burgers around the world, Flippin' Burgers is worth a visit. They are open from 4 to 10 PM, Mondays to Fridays and, on Saturdays, from 12 to 10 PM. They are closed on Sundays. We went at some off-hour on a rainy day so we didn't have to queue when we got there. I got the burger of the day, which featured three cheeses, but my mistake was that I only got a single patty. Big mistake. Actually, I should have gone for the Flippin' Burger, which is a double cheeseburger. I'm not sure what the difference is between the regular double cheeseburger and the Flippin' Burger (- the onions?) but it's only a 5 SEK difference so get the Flippin' Burger (125 kr).
They also do milkshakes made with Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Yummmmm!!!
Having discovered the wonderful world of muffins in Brussels, I continued on my path of discovery in Stockholm. The chocolate muffin at Wayne's Coffee was okay, but the blueberry muffin on the ferry to Sandhamn (- the boat was called Cinderella, if I am not mistaken) was surprisingly good and worth a second try. (I was tempted but I only had it once.)
I also tried a few chocolate chip cookies and the one at Cappuccio, although quite hefty, was also quite yummy. It's worth mentioning, because, right beside it, you can buy some Bjorn Borg underwear which, I think, would make a good souvenir or gift from Sweden.
Another shop worth visiting is DesignTorget. The one in Kungsgatan is right next to Granit, another home and lifestyle store. Don't expect to find an Ikea in the city. They are all outside Stockholm but there are supposed to be some free shuttles that can take you there.
On the clothing front, H&M is practically on every street corner but, although I always see others with clothes from H&M that I like, whenever I go there, I can never find anything for myself. I did buy some stuff from Monki and Weekday.
It's quite easy to get around Stockholm on foot. If you like walking, that is. All you need are some good shoes and a map, which can be quite challenging to find (- there aren't many petrol stations in Stockholm). So keep an eye out for those Hop-On Hop-Off tour bus brochures (- some stores have them at the counter). They're free and they have a pretty good map. We walked around the city a lot - although, apparently in my case, not enough.
You can pretty much pay for everything in Stockholm with a credit card, which is a dangerous thing and will explain why I am now nearly broke. If your credit card doesn't have a PIN, then you should always bring some sort of identification (which I am not in the habit of doing) as they will need it to process your purchase.
Like most European cities, Stockholm can be pretty expensive compared to Manila. I hear to get in at clubs, it's 200 SEK (around P1300) at the door and then 200 kronor for every drink. Which is why it is best to drink at home before going out. (For all your alcohol needs, head for the nearest Systembolaget, where a Brooklyn Lager is 17.30 kr and a Brooklyn East is 22.90.)
The first night we went out, we went to a bar called East and, if I recall correctly, I only paid for two beers and two cocktails. Total damage was 412 SEK (P2754.75). In Manila, that would have bought me at least five cocktails and maybe one beer. My friend was stoked that he spent less than 200 kronor that night, which he said is a rare thing in Stockholm. He said the last time he went out, he spent about 1000 SEK (P6686), and that was only for drinks.
The one and only taxi I took from the ferry to the apartment cost 154 kr (P1022.03). In Manila, it would have cost less than P200. - What? I was too tired and too cold to walk!
There are bargains to be had in Stockholm too. I hear the European clothing brands are cheaper here than in Manila.
But if you're in Stockholm around June 6, the National Day of Sweden, head for Kungsträdgården for "Smaka på Stockholm" (A Taste of Stockholm). This year, it was held from June 5-9, from 11 AM to 11:30 PM. I managed to catch it on the day that I left. While there was a stage and performing artists, for me, the main attraction was the food. About 25 of Stockholm's restaurants set up shop along the park and, at the kiosk of the restaurant I queued for, tasting portions were on offer for 30 kr and the regular portions were only 60 kr! I was in heaven!
I'm not sure but I think you'll need cash for transactions here.
And, with that, I'll leave you with a music video that was directed by Marcus, one of the guys I was hanging out with whom I first met in Siargao. He ditched us early on my last night in Stockholm because he had to finish working on his third video for Natten this weekend.