Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bye Vienna!


Off to Lake Como! Please G-d just let it be a normal boring train ride.

May 30th

This morning I was hanging around in the sitting area downstairs when my new friend Jayne happened upon me and couldn´t decide what she wanted to do today. I myself had no idea what I was going to do, but I suggested she go to Schonbrunn. She didn´t want to walk alone, so I walked her there, and then decided to do the whole palace again. Only this time I took pictures of all the 18th century portraits. I was a total ninja, sneaking about and taking a quick photo before hiding my camera again. The pictures are just for my own personal use, one because they´re pretty and two to help me learn about 18th century Viennese fashion seeing as SOME PLACES have decided stupid hippy art is more important than me learning about fashion history.

Jayne was vastly amused by my ninja photography skills, and I also served as her tour guide for the palace. Who needs an audioguide when you have a Katy? And I was happy she was there because then I had some one to take pictures of me! In particular I really wanted a jumping shot at the top of the hill where you can see the whole city. I really enjoyed going through Schonbrunn a second time, I got to look closer at details and talking with some one caused me to have discoveries of my own.

May 29th

Viennese public transportation system: conquered! I wanted to go to the Hermesvilla which is in the middle of Lainzer Tiergarten, this enormous park on the edge of town. To get there I had to take two subways, a tram, and a bus, and I didn´t get anything wrong!!

The Hermesvilla, in addition to being pretty, is also where Viennaƛ historic clothing collection is displayed. They have like 20,000 pieces, I think it´s stupid that there´s never any exhibits. We preserve these things so they can be enjoyed by future generations, not sit in a storage space for all eternity. Anyways, the website said they would be on display. The website lied. What was actually on display was the art of world´s first hippy Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, who believed in free love and vegetarianism and nudism and painted trippy stoner art that should be on sale at Spencers Gifts. I was not amused. Stupid hippy, get a job!!

After I got back to my hostel I decided that it was time for some traditional Viennese cuisine, so I had wiener schnitzel. It was good, although the portion was ENORMOUS. I don´t know how anyone could possibly eat all that meat. Then when I got back to the hostel I hung around the bar downstairs (there´s a bar in my hostel) and made some new friends. We closed the hostel bar and then decided to go out to another bar, where I met a creeper from York who has some sort of vendetta against North Carolina and played a game involving hammering a nail with the wrong end of the hammer. I would like to clarify that I was not drinking during any of this, but everyone else was. I had a glass of bad wine and the best sex on the beach ever (that´s what she said) at the bar and that was it.

May 28th

A word of advice if you´re going to Vienna: Beware of men in frock coats. At every major cultural site there are men in 18th century costumes (with surprisingly nice wigs) who want you to come see a Mozart concert and they will NOT LEAVE YOU ALONE. Stop giving the 18th century a bad name!

After picking up my opera ticket and getting harassed by men in frock coats, I went inside my first Gothic cathedral. They had some sort of colored light display up which was really cool- all the bright modern colors projected onto the gothic architecture. After that I went to the Sisi Museum and imperial apartments at the HOfburg Palace. I liked the way the Sisi museum was set up, but there was barely any text, so the only way to know what was going on was to rent an audioguide, which I hate. All I got was that she was an Empress, seemed to have bad depression, tried to escape from court life, and was assassinated.

The only problem with the cathedral and the museums was that they were total zoos and the walking lanes were so narrow you couldn´t move through and people were just standing in the middle, listening to their audio guides and you couldn´t get through. It made me claustrophobic and grumpy and made it difficult to enjoy the museums. This does not bode well for Versailles which will be ten times worse. I´m really nervous because I don´t do well in squished crowded places and I´ve been looking forward to Versailles for like a million years and it´s the top thing I wanted to do on this trip and what if I can´t enjoy it?

Then I was going to treat myself to a nice dinner before the opera but I was running behind schedule so I ended up at McDonalds. European McDonalds' are so fancy. And they ahve little electronic kiosks where you can place your order.

Then I rushed over to Staatsoper to see Manon. I had a great view and the opera was amazing. The singer playing Des Grieux in particular was AMAZING, and I really liked what they did with the set. I do wish it had been set in it´s original setting, the 18th century, as much as I enjoyed the costumes and the sets, 18th century stuff is always better. It was just so cool, there I was in Vienna at the big opera house listening to opera. So amazing!! Sometimes I really can´t believe my life.

Last night I went to a concert at the orangerie at Schonbrunn, which is where Mozart gave his first concert. There was an orchestra and opera singers and (mediocre) ballet. They played Mozart and Strauss, and I really loved the Strauss half. I have yet to meet a Strauss piece I don´t like. After all this music I´m so ready to start singing again.

May 26th

If people from New York are New Yorkers, are people from Hamburg Hamburgers? Food for thought. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?!

Can I just say how awesome it is to be in a warmer climate? I don´t have to schlep my jacket around and today I wore a skirt!! Scandinavia was nice and all, but it doesn´t hold a candle to proper Western Europe. Now I´m in the middle of the old world and it feels so amazing. This is where I belong.

Today, after buying some food that wasn´t junk because I can afford to eat healthy now (hooray!), I went to Schonbrunn Palace. It was the most beautiful place in the world. My first European rococo palace!! I don´t think the one in Stockholm, although beautiful, really counts. It was incredible, I almost cried. I particularly loved the golden wall/ceiling decorations, which were shaped like roses on creeping vines. So lovely.

Photography wasn´t allowed which broke my heart because there were 18th century portraits out the wazoo. They were all so beautiful. And there were a bunch of Marie Antoinette! And all the floors had these elaborate wood patterns and the curtains with elaborate whitework and the golden roses and the chandeliers and everything!!! There was also a ton of incredible orientalist stuff, rooms with all different pictures on the walls. One had all drawings, another blue pictures, another was covered in black panels with gold and silver designs. I love orientalist 18th century interior design.

After the palace I wandered around the gorgeous gardens, then climbed this monster hill to get to this beautiful classical pavilion. What I didn´t know is that from the top of the hill you could see the entire city. It literally took my breath away, it was so amazing.

To know that today I walked the same halls that Marie Antoinette did as a little girl. It´s amazing. I love the 18th century, there´s just no feeling like when you walk into a room with golden roses all over the walls and ceiling and grand portraits of people covered in the most beautiful jewels and chandeliers and mirrors and everything.

May 25th

The original plan was to take a sleeper car to Fulda, change trains and go to Warzburg, then change trains and go to Vienna. That is not what happened.

Everything was fine up to Fulda. Sleeper cars are the only way to travel. It was so cool! First of all because you get your own little compartment so you can stretch out, and they give you a fluffy blanket and comfy pillow so you´re comfortable (dear trains, lumbar support. that is all). So I settled in and watched the Danish countryside while listening to my movie soundtracks playlist, which provided an excellent soundtrack for the journey.

Then I went to bed. I had the middle bunk and it was so cool! It was all so tiny and snug. Not the most comfortable bed ever, I didn´t actually sleep much. But it was a really fun experience.

We crossed the border into Germany at exactly 22:23, which I know because Germany texted me to welcome me to the country and wish me a pleasant stay. I had to change trains at 5:30 am, so I was up and about bright and early. And we all know how cheery I am in the mornings. I had a cinnabun and some apple juice at the little cafe, and then got on my new train at 7. I was supposed to change trains at Warzburg, but due to something I had to switch trains in Nurnburg instead. And that was supposed to go to Vienna. Remember how in Sweden they lost their train tracks and I had to take a bus? Not to be outdone by Sweden, Germany decided to take it one step further with a train accident. A cargo train had overturned so we were going to have to get off in Pasau and take a bus to the next stop. We made it to Straubing at which point we were informed that a bomb from WWII had been discovered under the tracks. I can´t make this up.

I should mention that none of this was explained in English, so I was entirely dependent ont he kindness of strangers. By the time we got to the bus I had a whole team working for me. On the Nurnburg train there was an extremely good looking steward who very kindly sat next to me and explained each announcement as it came. He also helped old ladies with their luggage. I think a winter wedding in Vienna would be lovely. Our love is pure.

I don´t know how long the bus portion took at least a few hours. I was sleeping on and off for most of it. And wondering about the bomb. At first they told us that they were clearing it up, but then like 20 minutes later we got onto the buses. Would the bomb have exploded? And if it was right by the tracks why hasn´t it exploded already? I mean I´m happy to be no dead, but I am curious about the details.

After taking the bus to Somewhere in Austria, I finally got on my train to Vienna. I have to say that it was a beautiful ride from Copenhagen. There are worse things than watching the sun rise over the German countryside. The German and Austrian countryside is GORGEOUS. Rolling green hills dotted with trees, the mountains off in the distance, and all these picture perfect little villages with white washed houses with red stucco roofs. It was so perfect the whole way, it´s kind of hard to believe it was real. I happily stared out the window whenever I wasn´t napping.

After 24 hours of travel I finally made it into Vienna. My hostel is really nice and I made friends and had dinner with two of the girls in my room. Now that I´m fed (for the first time since my cinnabun), I plan on going straight to sleep.

I´m wondering what will happen on the way to Italy. Alien attack? The apocalypse? If the apocalypse could wait until after Bath that´d be great.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Copenhagen to Vienna: A story in numbers

Itinerary changes: 3
trains taken: 3
buses taken: 1
hours slept: 3 maybe???
Meals eaten: 1 small salad yesterday at 7 pm, 1 cinnabun today at 5:30 am (it's currently 6 pm)
overturned cargo trains: 1
bombs from WWII: 1
total hours traveled: 24

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 23rd

I was going to go back to the National Musuem today, but then I remembered it was Monday and it was closed. So I decided to take my book and walk tot he Kings Gardens and relax in the sun while waiting to meet with Caroline, my best friend growing up who I haven't spoken to in years and crazily enough we both happened to be in Copenhagen. On the way I stopped at my frist Fancy European Chocolate Shop and got this egg shaped chocolate that had marzipan and passion fruit filling. AKA amazing.

When I got to the park I remembered Sarai saying there was a museum in Rosenborn Palace, and I knew the crown jewels were there, so I casually strolled over, thinkign I'd take an hour tops to browse around. Little did I know what lay in store for me.

You had to pay 20 dkk extra to take pictures and I was like psh, no. A half hour before the museum closed I raced to get my camera and pay, then ran around like a mad woman trying to get pictures of everything before it closed.

Baroque spelndor is an understatement. I have never been anywhere like that, it was like pregaming for Versailles. Rosenborg was worth my entire trip to Copenhagen. Rosenborg was built int he early 17th century and the royal family lived there until 1710, and then in the late 1830s it was turned into a museum, and they added rooms to represent each king until the 1860s. So walking through is kind of like travelling through time.

The first room I went into had wood panelling in square shapes and in each square there was a beautiful painting. It must have taken forever to get together. And they had these tables and cabinets that had all these intricate patterns made from different colored stone and marble. And other stuff was covered in glitter. No really! I coulnd't believe it myself but it looked like gold and copper glitter covered with clear lacquer stuff. I asked one of the guys that worked there what it was, and we think its called brilliant lacquor but he wasn't sure. He said no one ever asked about it before which I thought was odd. Surely more people were curious about the glitter!

They also had the msot gorgeous silver filligree stuff. I first discovered it in Stockholm and I've never seen it before. It's little threads of silver in swirlies that then make up larger designs. It looks like metal lace. At Rosenborg they had whole tables and mirrors decorated with it, as well as these beautiful jars shaped with 3D flowers on the sides.

Every room was more gorgeous. And all the ceilings were painted and covered in plaster shapes. And there were portraits everywhere! There was a small room with all the royal glassware and it was all displayed on these gilded shelves in layers and it was so amang. I also saw all the royal sparklies which was fun. The Danish royal sparklies > Swedish royal sparklies.

After that I met up with Caroline!! I don't think we've seen each other in like six years. We've been trying to get in touch since I got to Copenhagen but we finally made it. It was so amazing to see her again, I wish we had more time to hang out. But we're both going to be in Paris for Bastille Day so hopefully we can see each other again there.

After hanging with Caroline and walking around the beautiful botanical gardens, Sarai and I went to Tivoli. I'm so glad we went in the evening, everything was all lit up and beautiful. It was like a worlds fair, only without all the racist stuff. And they had a pantomime with commdia charaters and ballet dancers and 18th century costumes and a live orchestra. I only got to see about ten seconds of it which broke my heart. Sarai went on all the rides while I walked around and explored. And ate a stick of cotton candy that was bigger than my head. It was like an 18th century wig.

Tomorrow evening I get to travel in a sleeper car to Vienna!!

May 22nd

Today we split up and I headed to the National Gallery while Sarai attempted to do every museum in Copenhagen (she did two). The Copenhagen marathon was going on, and I followed the runners some of the way. My favorite part was the drum band playing this awesome beat.

The National Gallery is in a really pretty building and has amazing chocolate cake in its cafe and has some lovely paintings, which I think are organized by theme instead of time period which I really liked. Except in the portrait room they threw in this super realistic modern statue of a dead guy in a chair and he was all gray and disgusting and it was the creepiest thing ever and kept distracting me from the old stuff.

Anyways, I liked the museum but I didn't think it was great until I got to the end. I'm glad I took the path I did, because I ended on a super high note. I turned the corner and there was this enormous gallery with a bazillion paintings hung salon style, which is my favorite, floor to very high ceiling. It was MARVELOUS. I've never experienced anything like it. You were just engulfed in art. It was all arranged by type. I particularly liked the marine and perspective paintings. I had left my camera in my locker, but I ran down to get it because the room was so amazing. There was also a room where you could watch a conservator work which I thought was cool, although the conservator wasn't in. And then they had a whole room with the most amazing 17th century trompe l'oieles.

As I had been walking into the museum there were some people futzing with this big thing that looked like a bunch of shopping bags taped together. Since it was close to the modern gallery I thought they were installing a newpiece. As I was getting my camera they were inflating it with air. As I was leaving I realized you could GO INSIDE. I practically flew down the stairs, kicked off my shoes and jumped right in. IT WAS SO COOL. Absoltuely enormous and so colorful from all the different bags. I was just in awe, it was such a cool experience. I'm so glad I timed my visit when I did and that I had my camera!

As I was going back to the hsotel ti started pouring. I had my umbrella but it was so windy and coming down so hard that I didn't want to try walking in it, so I ducked into an alcove to wait out the worst of the storm. When I finally got back it was so cold and wet and gross Sarai and I decided to just go to this close by pizza place that we ate at my first night, and Sarai had the most enormous calzone on the planet. I still can't believe she ate all of it. The before and after pictures were hilarious, because of course it gave her a stomache ache. I said she should title them 'Sarai did battle with a calzone, and lost'.

May 21st

Today was a lot of walking and I am ridiculously sore. We went shopping first and I got some souveniers in a touristy shop and a pretty brooch for my Regency dress at a flea market. Then we went to a Titanic exhibit which was OK. The audio guide was really long winded and I thought the part where you could touch an "iceberg" to experience the excruciating pain of dying of hypothermia for yourself was a little insensitive. And the audio guide kept telling me how to feel. What the hell, you don't know me narrator guy, I'll feel whatever the hell I want! After that we began the very long trek to see the Little Mermaid statue. We stopped by the palace on our way there which was gorgeous. And there were guards in tall fuzzy hats. You know how they stand perfectly still and never react to anything? Yeah, one of them scoleded us for standing too near the palace. I'm kind of proud to have interacted with a palace guard, sort of. We're such trouble makers.

Everyone says the little mermaid is overrated and disses her. I don't know, maybe they're expecting something huge and elaborate and are disappointed? I knew exactly what to expect and I thought sehw as very lovely. Very elegant and beautiful in her simplicity. And she looked so sad, it was very moving. I thought she was beautiful. We got a bunch of pictures, and my only sadness is that my hair didn't look nice enough to wear down.

May 20th

Sarai and I started the day with some French toast at a cute place called Stella (or as we called it Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!), then wandered around trying to find where we could go on a boat tour. Copenhagen has a completely different feel than Stockholm, although I can't sayhow. We got to the canal and realized that we had inadvertently stumbled upont he place with the old boats and colorful buildings thats on all the postcards!! I had completely forgotten about that place and it was kind of a magical moment. We both flipped out and started taking a million pictures. It's so nice to have some one to take my picture!!! We tried to get a shot of me jumping up and clicking my heels but were unsuccessful, and I'm sure everyone around thgouth I was a total lunatic. After picture time we went on a boat tour which was a really great way to see and learn about the city. Did you know that Hans Christian Andersen originally came to Copenhagen to be a ballet dancer, but he was too tall and awkward so no one would take him. After the boat tour we went to the National Museum, which was only open for another hour but we wanted to check it out. And poor Sarai didn't know what she was getting into with a Katy Museum Expereince. We only got through half of prehistory, and the wrong half to boot, but what was there was so cool. They had remnants of a Viking boat and giant stones with runes carved in and bog bodies with their clothes preserved!! It was so amazing to be face to face with some one that lived thousands of years ago. And the clothes were so well preserved, at first I thought they were recreations. To think that I could still see the weave pattern and different fibers of something worn thousands of years ago. Some bodies were from like 1350 BC. It was so magical.

May 19th

Getting to Copenhagen was an adventure. Everything was fine until we got to a town with a name I can't spell but kind of sounded like Shepping which sounds very British in my opinion. That was when we all had to get off the train and get onto buses. They didn't explain why in English, but the Swedish lady I talked to told me that some of the railroad track had gone missing. She also said something along the lines of "Trust Sweden to loose its own railroad." How do you loose railroad tracks?!?!?!? I choose to believe that the metal parts were stolen by four boys from a small town with big dreams whose story will eventually get made into a movie that will make me cry every time I watch it. So we all got on buses that drove to the next railway stop in North Shepping. At least the crew had a sense of humor about the situation. A guy came over the intercom on the bus and said "We hope you enjoy this high speed X2000... bus. And the bistro is in the center of the bus." Then we got onto another train to Malmo, Sweden. At this point the trainw as two hours behind schedule, and a guy came ovr the intercom to say that because we were so delayed we wouldn't be able to cross the border into Denmark. It was almost 6 PM, I hadn't eaten since the small caesar salad I had at 11, I had been travelling all day, schlepping around my 30 lb backpack plus my 9000000000000 lb daybag and if I as going to be stranded in Malmo I was going to cut a bitch. I had a very eloquent speech prepared but then they said that if your final destination was Copenhagen then you could get on another train in Malmo. So three trains and a bus later I was in Copenhagen. That was when my left leg decided that every time I took a step I'd feel excruciating pain. I had been planning on walking to my hostel but since I was in so much pain (and still carrying like 40 lbs worth of stuff) I decided to take the bus. Except the one I needed doesn't exist. After walking all over, in pain, trying to find it, I said fuck it and started limping to the hostel. Do you know how hard it is to limp with a 30 lb backpack? Then I couldn't find the hostel, then I couldn't find where the entrance was, and then I heard some one shout "KATY!!!!" and I was engulfed in a hug by Sarai, who also got the Phillips and was meeting me here. You can only check in until 6, and it was like 8, but fortunately Sarai had not only arranged for us to room together but also for me to check in late.

Then I ate an entire pizza and passed out in bed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stockholm in Pictures


Sweden out the window of the plane.

Pretty roofs.

The national theater founded by Gustav III in the late 18th century.

Inside the Royal Apartments.

This room was based on the hall of mirrors in Versailles.

The Vasa.

Some of the intricate carvings. They were painted bright colors originally.

Me and a canon at the recreation of part of the interior of the Vasa.

A piece of construction equipment made to look like a giraffe!!

The Nordiska Museet aka Thornfield Hall.

Royal sparklies at the Royal Treasury. The hilt of that sword is all pearls.

At the Royal Armory, stuff that was in that Versailles exhibit!

Pretty dress on display at the Nordiska Museet.

Stylish Sopranos.

Singing a duet with Jenny.



Sven the snail.


Me about halfway through my nature walk, when I reached the ocean.

I'm sure this statue wasn't intended to be hilarious, however...

The back of an amazing uniform at the Army Museum. Why don't soldiers still wear stuff like that?

17th century cabinet at the National Museum with a little theater in the center.

Me and Marie.

Well, that's it for Sweden. You know for a city made up of islands, Stockholm has a surprising lack of seafood restaurants. And where are the meatballs!!! I am most disappointed.

May 18th

I forgot to mention that while I was eating my delicious burger after my nature walk I listened to classy jazz covers of 1980s pop hits (Don't you want me baby! Don't you want me oooohhhhhhhh!). No really.

Yesterday I went to the Nordiska Museet finally. It wasn't really worth the 80 sek it cost to get in which was kind of disappointing. I really enjoyed the fashion exhibit they had going on, which conveniently taught me about 18th century Swedish fashion, and I really liked the exhibit on table settings, but other than that it was kind of meh. They did have a little section of Strindberg's Stuff, including the original manuscript of Miss Julie and some of his paintings. I saw some more of his paintings at the National Museum today and I quite like them.

Anyways, after the Nordiska Museet I went to the Army Museum to see an exhibit about uniforms, but I ended up going through the whole thing. I actually really enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. They had some actual Viking swords! I just wish I had had somebody to go through it with me, because there were all of these dioramas and interactive stuff and it would have been fun to take silly pictures with them. The uniform exhibit was really cool, and at the end they had all these (adult sized- take note Royal Armory!) uniforms you could try on. Once again, not nearly as fun when you don't have a friend with you.

That evening I got started decorating my dress for the regency ball in Bath in July. It's going a lot quicker than I thought it would, all the roses are now attached and all that's left is Sequinpalooza 2011 Part 2: The Revenge of the Sequins.

Today I went to the National Museum which I really liked. On the first floor, among other things, there was an exhibit about Swedish design from 1500 to the mid 18th century, and they had the most amazing display of 17th century cabinets! This past semester I took directing, and the play we worked on was On the Verge (which you should read/see if you at all possibly can). For my directors notebook, which contained notes for my own personal production, I used cabinets of curiosities as a sort of visual metaphor. I even designed a set based on a cabinet of curiosity (that, according to my set designer friend Joncie, could never exist in real life but oh well). The point of all that is that I've always liked 17th century cabinets, but recently they've been on my mind. There was one that had a little theater in the center, with columns and a balcony and everything. Absolutely gorgeous.

On the second floor they had paintings and sculptures, and a special exhibit called Lust and Vice which I really enjoyed. It was basically about sex in art from the Renaissance to today, and they had a whole variety of things from little dirty doodles these two 18th century writers sent back and forth to each other (loved them) to great masterpieces featuring nude figures from classical antiquity to modern art. I especially enjoyed the 18th century dirty doodles, which were usually satirizing something or other. For example there was a whole series called The Priest and the Girl. The 18th Century France gallery was closed for refurbishment (woe and misery) but fortunately a lot of the pieces were on display in the Lust and Vice exhibit, like this gorgeous painting of Venus by Boucher. They also had the whole series of The Rake's Progress by Hogarth in prints, and a chastity belt.

After that exhibit I went to the 18th Century Sweden/Europe gallery, where I ran into Marie Antoinette and her two children! I didn't realize that particular portrait was in Stockholm. There was also a Gainsborough and a gorgeous painting by Roslin, among other beautiful works. I was quite happy until some one came over the intercom to say that the museum was closing in half an hour. Everything closes at 5 here which I think is lame. I need far longer than a half hour to look at 18th century portraits! So I quickly finished up and headed to the gift shop.

The gift shop had a great amount of 18th century portraits available to buy on a postcard. But the most exciting thing was that you could also get an 18th century portrait poster. Museums NEVER have 18th century art on posters, and especially never portraits. It's always the same ten Monets and Van Goughs and Picassos. But the National Museum had like three portraits and a couple group images! It's like finding bigfoot. THEY EXIST!!!!! I didn't buy one because I don't think I have room in my backpack and if I'm going to squeeze a poster in I'd rather wait to see what Versailles has to offer, but maybe I'll order a poster off of their website when I get back home. Sooooo exciting, you don't even know.

Tomorrow I leave for Copenhagen!

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16th

I was going to go to the Nordic Museum today, on account of it being the only thing open on Mondays, but I decided to give myself a little rest from sight seeing and instead took a ridiculously long walk. I walked past Gamla Stan and down the waterfront where I walked past the exclusive shopping district, the national Swedish theater founded by Gustav III in the 18th century, past the Nordic Museum and around the inlet labeled Djurgardsbrunnskiven on my map (pretend there's a little circle over the a). Today was the perfect day for a nature walk, the sky was blue and there were big fluffy white clouds and all the birds were singing and the trees were so green. It was so lovely and peaceful, all the sounds of the city were gone and I could just relax and meditate. I felt like Lizzie Bennet. Rural Stockholm is so beautiful and tucked away amidst the trees are these pretty pastel colored houses of Victorian or neoclassic design. It was so nice to take some time to be alone with my thoughts. The last two weeks have been so insane, I never really got a chance to breathe.

While starting on my nature walk I stumbled upon fellow fashionable opera singer Jenny Lind. Her statue is by the Nordic Museum. I tried to get some decent pictures of her but she was so backlit I'm not sure any came out. But I want to go back anyways and see if I can find some one to take a picture of me with her. I will title it "Stylish Sopranos".

About halfway through my nature walk I wandered off on a little side path through a nature reserve area, where I saw some gray birds (I'd tell you what kind of birds but the plaque was in Swedish) and at least 11 enormous Swedish snails. I've never seen snails that big before. There was also some sort of yak-looking animal that supposedly lived there but I didn't see any.

In total my nature walk was at least 7 km, that number not including the walk to and from the hostel and my short side trip. On the way back to the hostel I stopped by a restaurant floating on the water and had a really good burger.

May 15th

I went to the Vasa Museum today which was the COOLEST THING EVER. The Vasa is the only surviving 17th century man-of-war. It was this huge enormous ship, and then as it was sailing across the harbor to get supplies it capsized and sunk. Then in the 1960s they raised it back up and fortunately the brackish Baltic waters preserved it. And it's seriously the coolest thing ever. There was a long line to get in, but it moved pretty quickly. And then you walk inside and there's this massive 17th century man-of-war right in front of you. And there were like seven floors so you could get a view of the ship from a whole bunch of different angles. And there were all these cool exhibits to go along with it. There was one with all the skeletons of the people that died when the ship sunk, and then osteologists went in and wrote up all sorts of stuff about who the person was and what sort of life they must have lived, all based on the bones. I want to be an osteologist now. Using my own extensive medical knowledge, I diagnosed one skeleton with scoliosis. They also had fragments of the sailors' clothes. One sailors' outfit was so well preserved that they had his whole jacket and his stockings and shirt and everything. Normal people clothes rarely last, because people wore them forever, so it was so exciting to get to see not only things from the early 17th century but things that were worn by a common sailor. That's a super rare and interesting find!! And the ship was so big and amazing, I was not expecting it to be so massive. And it had all these intricate carvings all over it of people and animals and stuff. I think even people that don't love old ships would love it. Best museum ever!!

I spent so much time marvelling at the Vasa that the day ended and all the other museums closed. So I didn't make it to the Nordic Museum. I did step inside though to find out if they'd be open on Monday, and while I was there I saw a flyer for Stockholm's "best preserved 18th century house". Which of course is only open on weekends. I found out about it at 4:45 on Sunday. Typical. I'm not too heartbroken though as I'll be in Versailles in a few weeks. So I went back to the hostel, stopping at an Italian place for dinner. I like it because the names of all the dishes are in Italian so I can pronounce them. For an appetizer I had garlic bread piled with parmesan and crushed olives.

I'm having a great time hanging out with my new friends from the hostel in the evenings. Last night we watched the Eurovision contest (Azerbaijan won which is total crap because Ireland should have won), and tonight we all just chilled and talked. There's all sorts of people from all over the world and they're all really friendly and interesting. I gave my new Australian friend tips on what to eat when she goes to the American South (deep fried pickles, cookout milkshake, cracker barrel, NC BBQ), and my new Irish friends have promised to help me find a nice British/Scottish/Irish man. I love meeting people from all over the world and all different cultures.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 13th

I actually went and did some proper sightseeing today and NOW I feel like I'm in Europe. It's about a 15 minute walk to the historic area from my hostel, and it's a straight shot down a street with lots of shops and restaurants, which is very convenient for those of us that are directionally challenged.

I'm a lot more confident today. Yesterday I would either stare helplessly at the person until they spoke in English, or communicate with nodding. Today I actually would smile and say "engelska?" Most people at the shops and restaurants speak in Swedish first. I don't know if its because they expect English speakers to ask, or because I look so European they just assume I'm Swedish. I'm going with the latter. Swedish girls are very trendy. They all wear super tight skinny jeans or long leggings or tights with shorts.

The first thing I did today was stop by the antique store and get my reticule.It's so pretty, I am way too excited. Then I walked down to Gamla Stan, which is the island with the royal palace and other interesting things on it. On my way I went down the main shopping street, and stopped by a toursity shop to buy a keychain with a small stuffed moose on it. Or reindeer. Whatever it is that lives in Sweden. I also passed a store playing a work song. As most of you know, I worked at LOFT this past year. We had one CD that played the same songs over and over. And then they'd send s a new CD and we'd get all excited, only to find that it was the same music. I began to refer to this song set as work songs. And recently I've begun hearing work songs everywhere- CVS, Harris Teeter, etc. And then here I am in Stockholm Sweden and I hear a work song. Which did two things. 1. Confirm my suspicions that this is a worldwide conspiracy designed to drive every retail worker on the planet insane, and 2. Gave me a comforting reminder of home.

The historic area of Stockholm has like 50 thousand gorgeous buildings, and I didn't know what was open to tourists and what wasn't. The opera house seemed to be closed, which was a shame because I bet it was gorgeous inside. After eating lunch by a statue of Karl XII (who was pointing at something and looking important but birds kept perching on his outstretched finger and all I could think of was Disney princesses and then Karl XII started singing princess style in my head and I'm sure he was a great monarch but I can never take him seriously again), I visited the first of what I'm sure will be many old churches, then hit up the palace.

I started with the Tre Kronor Museum, which is in the basement and talks about the history of the building. It was very dark and medieval. My favorite part was the medieval shoes. Those were shoes that some one wore in the 1300s! They were alive 700 years ago and here I am looking at their shoes today. History is so cool you guys.

After that I went to the Royal Apartments which featured gilded walls and huge chandeliers and paintings on the ceilings and a hall inspired by the hall of mirrors at Versailles. Basically all my favorite stuff ever. The lighting was really dim so I'm sure my pictures aren't that great, but it was just so PRETTY. Except for the one room remodeled in 1998 for the king's something jubilee, which was just plain and boring in comparison. Rococo and baroque architecture and interior design are sooooo much better.

Then I went to the Treasury which is where all the royal sparklies are kept. I snuck as many pictures as I could before some guy came over a speaker and told everyone that there was NO PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE TREASURY. Of course no photo could show how prettily everything sparkled. There were some swords and pendant thingies, and lots of royal crowns. My favorite was this one from the 17th century which had all these interwoven tiny gold flowers all over it.

Then I went to the Royal Armory, which I should have done first because at that point I was pretty tired and I wish I was more alert because this is where the historic clothing collection is, among other things. I might go again tomorrow. They had the most beautiful stuff on display, including things from the early 17th century! There were all of these court outfits with the most amazing, intricate gold embroidery. And of course there were the silver and gold court gowns and suits from the 18th century that were featured in that Versailles exhibit a couple of years ago. It was so amazing to actually see them in person. It probably would have been even more amazing if I hadn't been so tired. Which means I'm going back! And there was this silver and gold 18th century suit with these stylized mother of pearl clouds and sunbeams made of gold sequins and it was so amazing. The only problem was that they put this blue dress worn by the current princess in 1995 right in the middle of the 18th century stuff which made absolutely no sense. And blocked all the pretty 18th century things.

Then I went upstairs where there was an exhibit about something, I think it was stuff worn by royalty. Most of the clothes were from the 1960s and70s which is BORING, but they did have a couple nice gowns from the early 1900s. The cool thing was that they incorporated scent into the exhibit. They had these jars with a hole in the top and you sniffed and then they asked what colors the scents reminded you of.

My only beef with the Royal Armory is that they had this kids area where you could dress up and sit on a throne or a carriage and have your picture taken. Why don't they have that stuff for adults?!?!?! It's not fair.

May 11th/12th

Sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight to Newark, where I will transfer to another flight to Sweden. Airport security now has an actual mascot. It's a blue dog in uniform.????? Dad held it together well but mom burst into tears the moment we had to say goodbye, which in turn made me almost cry. I had to take deep breaths and remind myself that I'm going on a grand adventure. It's hard to believe it's actually here. I'm not sure it'll hit me until I'm in Sweden panicking because I don't speak the language. This has all come up so quickly, I don't feel at all prepared. But mom is so obsessive, I'm pretty sure I couldn't be more prepared. All the hotels are booked, I have about seventy zillion important pieces of paper, the only thing I have yet to acquire is a good looking European man. I've been dreaming of this for so long, it's hard to believe it's actually happening. I actually get to walk through Versailles and dress up for a Regency ball in Bath and see the Paris Opera Ballet. I can watch a period movie (ex: Pride and Prejudice), look up the house (ex: Pemberly) and say "OK, I'll go there`'. I might just be the luckiest person to have ever lived.

Well at this point I'm just killing time until my flight leaves. I probably shouldn't write too much so I'll have lots of space for Versailles gushing and the like.

OK, it's weird. Everyone speaks Swedish and alt he signs are in Swedish but I still don't feel like I'm in Europe. I kind of feel like I'm in Philadelphia actually, except for the architecture is nicer and more colorful. I was too tired to do any sight seeing so I just wandered around today. It's funny, all the buildings are so beautiful and then on ground level there's a 7 Eleven and sketchy Chinese place on every corner. There's also lots of hair salons and antique stores. I went into one that had all sorts of treasures, including a beaded reticule (purse) for a little over $50. I desperately wanted it but I wasn't sure if I could afford it, but mom gave me the go ahead so I'll go back tomorrow morning and hope it's still there. European antique shops > American antique shops.

While wandering, enjoying the weather and architecture, I stumbled upon a gorgeous church. It definitely looked new, but the architecture was very Viking-esque. It was a really cool building and I'm sure it has a name but I couldn't figure out what it was. I also stumbled on some sort of something going on in a really long traffic island park area. There were lots of young people in colorful jumpsuits building stuff out of trash, so I'm guessing it had something to do with sustainability.