Day 1: July 27/28

We flew out of Duluth on the 27th to Minneapolis, Amsterdam, and Stockholm. On the way from Minneapolis, we flew right over the Keweenaw, just south of Iceland, and over Ireland and Great Britain. It was too dark to see Iceland or Ireland and barely light enough to see Great Britain. Landed in heavy fog in Amsterdam. It was so heavy that we were almost delayed or redirected, and when we did land, nearly everyone on the plane was startled when we hit the runway, as only those looking out the windows saw how low we were, and only a couple seconds before we hit. The flight to Amsterdam was "overnight" but ended at 12:30 AM or so by my clock, so I never got tired enough to sleep on the plane. And the flight to Stockholm was too short for that, but I might have dozed for a few minutes during the four-hour layover in Amsterdam.

On the final flight, Mom and I were on opposite sides of the aisle, so she talked to her seatmate, a Swedish woman who had been in Portland, OR, for a few months, while I talked a little with a Dutch woman on her way to a Stockholm "city vacation" with her husband. She was interested to know where in the US I was from and talked about her son or nephew's recent trip to British Columbia. It's always fun when people from nearly anywhere other than the UP of Michigan ask about the winters here. Mentioning our average snowfall is almost a guaranteed mind-blower.

Mom's cousin Nils picked us up at the airport, which might actually be closer to Uppsala than to Stockholm. After he drove us down to the hotel, the three of us walked around seemingly forever in an attempt to find a place to buy a SIM card for a Europe-capable mobile phone I'd brought along. We then had dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in Nacka, pretty near the hotel. Their definition of "Mediterranean" includes Italian, Greek, and Turkish. I had some sort of chicken breast with brie. Very, very good food.

Nils mentioned a couple interesting things after the check came. First, establishments that charge your credit/debit card can't take it away from you. Not sure exactly what "away" constitutes, but one example is that if you're in a restaurant, the server or other staff can't take your card up to the card terminal to charge your meal. Either you go up to the register with your card or the server brings a mobile terminal to the table. In either case, you have to specify the total amount (adding in a tip if you're going to), usually by entering it yourself on the card terminal—no writing the tip and new total on a slip of paper and leaving it to the staff to re-charge the new amount to your card, since that's a good spot for others' mistakes and dishonesty to become a factor.

The other thing he said is that Swedish banks don't issue checks to their customers, nor do they accept them without special circumstances. Nobody has a checkbook, so no getting stuck in the express lane behind someone who waits till the total is announced to start writing a check (or start digging out the checkbook). That is so freaking cool.

Mom and I hadn't actually checked into the hotel earlier, as the rooms weren't quite ready, so we'd just left our stuff in a lock-up there, but everything was good to go when Nils dropped us off after dinner. It was a warm day in Stockholm, something like 27° or 28° C, and the hotel rooms don't have any air conditioning. There are also no screens on the windows, but there don't seem to be any bugs outside, and I was too hot to care when we got here, so whatever. We won't be spending a lot of time in the rooms anyway.

I monkeyed around with reading my e-mail and other Internet-based time-wasting until about 7:00 PM and then hopped into bed and slept for around 6.5 hours. The bed is different—just a box spring or something similar with a pad on top. Comfortable enough, just not what I expected. There's a flat sheet wrapped around the pad, and the only other bedding besides the pillows is two twin-width, two-layer sheets that can be stuffed to become comforters. Those also seem a little odd, since the bed is a queen-size. But it all seems to work ok.

I haven't tried to watch Swedish TV yet, but these rooms have cool A/V panels below the TVs. There are HDMI, VGA, and other video inputs plus left/right audio inputs for hooking up laptops and whatever else, not that I have a use for them. But what does impress me is the USB port that's there expressly for charging things that can be charged via USB, like my mobile phone and maybe Mom's MP3 player. So we probably won't need our power converters while we're here except to charge the GSM phone. Good thing, too, since one of them smells funny and gets really hot when I plug it into the wall.

Time to go back to bed.

Next: July 29


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Jeff Blank <jfb@mr-happy.com>