So, I still never finished Oslo and completely skipped over Denmark (so far, my favorite!} but Stockholm is fresh and I took notes as we toured today, so I’m skipping to day 4/5: Sweden! Yesterday we arrived in Stockholm after a seven hour bus ride. We have an entire tour bus to ourselves so it was pretty comfortable. We stopped in Grana, a tiny town with a locally famous peppermint factory. We saw a demonstration of making peppermint. It was pretty neat to see him turn sugar into the hard candy. One of the kids asked is tasted different when it was warm and soft then cold and hard. It was a great question because then the owner got us some candy and snipped off a piece for each person with a pair of scissors. The candy seemed ridiculously expensive (like everything else in Scandinavia) but I still got a bit for Jack (and me!). We were then supposed to walk around Granna but our driver said that most of the shops were closed for Easter week and that the only two open restaurants were expensive. It was darling though and I wish that we were able to walk around it and that I could have taken photos. So, instead our driver said, “It’s okay, there’s a McDonald’s forty minutes away.” So, off we headed to McDonald’s. Thankfully, I had my travel sunflower seed butter packets and crackers and a pumpkin seed bar. We went to a t.v. tour to have dinner last night. It´s the highest restaurant in Stockholm and thankfully it was pretty clear so we had a nice view of the city and a bit of the harbor (including the overnight ferry that we will take from Stockholm to Helsinki). Today was a pretty rad day. Stockholm seems very big and it wasn´t as nice as Oslo and Copenhagen. Don´t get me wrong- it is a nice city, but it didn´t have the same charm. Maybe I´m just smitten with Copenhagen and nothing else will compare 🙂 Anyway, we woke up to SNOW! Breakfast was fun because there were big windows and we could see the weather clearly. I have been in the snow, while it was actually snowing, once in my life. That time, it was just snowing, fairly hard but it was in Mammoth and things were already covered with snow. It was the first time that I experienced snow in a place that was not already snowed on. And, it was at just about 32, so in the morning, it would alternate between snow and rain and that was totally crazy to see. It snowed just about the entire day and I loved every minute of it. I would look down and see crisp white snow falling on my black glove and I would feel exhilarated! I’m sure that all of you who have lived in the snow are laughing at me right now, but I was like a kid at Disneyland for the first time. It was magical- feeling it fall in my mouth as I walked and seeing the fresh Spring daffodils getting more and more covered. Magically magical! And, I loved photographing it because that was a new experience as well. After breakfast, we went to City Hall. It was a pretty stunning building that was designed and built in the 1920s. I am realizing more and more (why this seems new to me is beyond me) is that I love beautiful things. I love architecture and clothing and interior design and gorgeous stationary. Our local guide, Lena, was really wonderful. She was by far the best of the three that we’ve had. Anyway, she said that the architecture wanted people to be “thrilled” then they saw the building so he added many different details with natural Swedish materials to show off Sweden. There was tons of attention paid to detail. Nearly everything (pillars, ceilings, walls, molding, stairs) had a new and beautiful feature that somehow all complimented each other. The only thing lacking detail was the ceiling in the Blue Room. The one odd thing about the (Swedish) architect is that he traveled around Europe coming up with ideas for the City Hall and somehow forgot how cold and snowy it gets in Sweden. The Blue Room is named that because he wanted to keep the roof to the room open. As in open air. In Sweden. Where it is snowing in April. Anyway, the room was beautiful and then there was a flat, white ceiling. The ceiling already looked out of place with all of the rest of the understand elegance in the room and as we toured the rest of city hall, it seemed even more out of place. It was the only room without a beautiful ceiling. Anyway, the room held an organ with 10,000 pipes. It is where the Nobel dinner is held on December 10th each year for the recipients and the Swedish king and queen and whomever else is invited to such an affair. It is also used on June 6th, their National Day. They have a citizenship ceremony for new citizens. You only need to be a resident of Sweden for 3 years and make a certain amount of money, although they also accept a lot of refugees. Lena said that most of the immigrants are from Africa and the Middle East. I noticed today that most shop owners/workers were Asian or Middle Eastern. Anyway, it is free to attend university and most students attend locally and stay with their parents while they attend school. It was free for foreigners until 3 years ago for foreigners as well, but now they have to pay a small stipend. She said that men make more than women on average, but because men are more likely to be in high paying fields, not because they make more money for the same positions. The government is trying to mix up genders in different occupations, so they are doing things like selecting more women for police force and more men for studying teaching. Then we went into the room where the countries officials meet every other week. The vikings would hold their council meetings in there overturned ship on the shore. I have no idea why. Anyway, the architect decided to make the ceiling of the government meeting room to look like the inside of a viking ship, as if they were meeting in the same way as the vikings. Because, although the vikings had a violent history and have a bad reputation, apparently they are respected for keeping their own community and people strong and intact. It was a pretty rad looking ceiling. Then we went into two more stunning rooms, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures in them. One is a room where wedding ceremonies are held. She said that many people get married in City Hall in that room and that you have two choices for ceremonies. One is 40 seconds or you can choose the longer version at 1 minute 30 seconds. I am assuming that weddings are not big affairs like they typically are in the United States because I have heard quite a few times that many Swedes choose not to get married, even if they are in long term, committed relationships. Part of it is because they have the same rights, taxes, etc whether they are married or single. I can´t imagine that is the only reason, but socially it must not be a big deal. So, the last room that we saw was the “Gold Room.” It is a large room that is completely mosaiced in primarily tiny gold tiles. It has images of traditional Swedish symbols, but the artist was heavily criticised for mosaicing because the art form (mosaics) was not traditionally Swedish so he depicted himself in the mosaic, defending his art. There was a large depiction of the lady of Stockholm uniting the East to the West (complete with the Statue of Liberty and American flag in the West). Okay, that seems like plenty for now. Hopefully I can finish Oslo and Stockholm tomorrow if there is time/internet on the bus.