Dec 5, 2021

5 min read

Couchsurfing Diaries #9.1 Stockholm, Sweden

10.31–11.04 Stockholm, Sweden

After so many memorable surfs, I had become more and more selective with the requests I sent out, as I hoped that all my experiences on couchsurfing could live up to the amazing standards that I had unintentionally achieved. But when I didn’t manage to find a suitable host in Stockholm, I wasn’t too concerned, since my Aunt Nicky actually lives in the city, and I knew that she’d be happy to have me. Though I was sure I’d miss couchsurfing, I was also certain that it would be nice to spend time with familiar faces, too.

Aunt Nicky is mom’s eldest sister, and she had moved to Stockholm roughly four years ago at the time. She and Uncle Jonas, who was Swedish, had met in Australia when they were in their twenties, and three decades later, fate brought them together again, which prompted them to tie the knot and get married. Aunt Nicky moved to Stockholm soon after, and though I’ve seen her on a few occasions since, I was still curious about what her new life looked like, in a country far away from her previous home. From my perspective, Aunt Nicky was someone with strong opinions, and often times would not hold back from telling you what was on her mind, even if the comments would sting. Uncle Jonas, on the other hand, was quiet by nature. He talked in a soft tone, and always seemed to be observing, rather than participating. You could probably describe him as shy and timid, but could also easily tell that, in essence, he was just a rather introverted yet pleasant guy; you needed someone like Aunt Nicky to bring out the talkativeness in him.

Anyhow, I arrived in Stockholm and Aunt Nicky came to fetch me at the airport. Stockholm, as the capital of Sweden, was also the most populous area in Scandinavia. The city is situated on fourteen islands and connected by over seventy bridges; Lake Mälaren, a large freshwater lake, flows through the city and into the Baltic Sea. Aside from its natural resources and landscapes, Stockholm is also the cultural and economic center of Sweden, offering amazing galleries and museums. It seemed like a promising city for adventures.

However, since I landed on a Sunday, most things were closed and our options were rather limited, as there was not much to see or do. Hence, we ended up spending a lazy day together, just catching up on our lives, as I familiarized myself with their neighborhood and this newer version of Aunt Nicky’s life.

The next day, after having breakfast together, we then made an inevitable trip to IKEA. They say that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so I guess that “when in Sweden, we go to IKEA”. However, I have to gravely report back that, it seems as if each IKEA store is basically exact replicas of each other, and I couldn’t spot anything drastically different or unique to the most “authentic” versions of the IKEA stores. In other words, all those local IKEA stores that we are familiar with are all rather authentic on its own, which is actually quite impressive come to think of it. The store maps or each location are definitely different, but the vibes are precisely the same. The biggest difference I recognized is probably that the IKEA was exceptionally large, but that’s not really saying much, considering I was in Scandinavia, and Scandinavians are already the tallest people worldwide.

We had lunch at the food court in IKEA, which was already packed with people. Apparently, even Swedes frequent IKEA, evident in the fact that this trip was more of a “we want to go to IKEA so we’re bringing you there” errand run instead of a “hey, let’s bring you to IKEA so you can sightsee” trip. It was essentially a day of running errands with the family, but I didn’t really mind too much. The fun of this trip is not only doing the superficial sightseeing, but also just experiencing what life is like as a Swede on a daily basis, and the experience itself was quite unique. Besides, spending quality time with family is never a bad thing.

Getting the “authentic” experience.

After arriving home and putting away all the stuff we’d bought, we went out to explore our nearby surroundings on foot. The Karlberg Palace was located not far from their residence, and hence the Karlberg Canal is also nearby. We walked along the canal for a leisurely afternoon stroll and enjoyed the scenery. I figure this is what I adore most about my trip in Europe so far: the fact that although the world-renown sites are indeed stunning, the little charms and scenery scattered along ordinary neighborhoods are equally rewarding in their own way. To have the time and leisure to explore these hidden gems with the locals is a drastically different yet equally fulfilling experience.

Along the Canal.
Fall colors.

The walk took much longer than I expected, but I was captivated by the scenery along the way, so I was actually sad when it came to an end. Afterwards, we made our way to the city center, where the city hall and the train station were situated. The Stockholm city hall, which happens to be the venue for the yearly Nobel Prize banquet, sits at the edge of Kungsholmen, outlooking the water. It was early evening, but the sun was setting already. We stood along the shore and gazed at the Riddarholmen island (Knights’ Islet) across the water. I was excited at the prospect of some proper exploration come the following day.

Stockholm city hall on the right.
Gazing at the Riddarholmen island.

Uncle Jonas showed me around the area, relaying useful tips about bus stops and train stations for my future explorations, and before long, night fell, signaling it was time to retrieve back to our cozy place. We thus made out way home and prepared dinner together, spent some time hanging out with a carton of ice cream before we called it a night.

Homemade dinner by Aunt Nicky.