This is the first post in a multi-part series about our trip to Stockholm in fall 2023. All entries here.
Our trip to Stockholm starts, I'd say, on the jetway down to the plane that will take us to Sweden. There are two people ahead of me in the queue, chatting to each other. One is wearing a vivid blue tailored suit and carrying a briefcase; he has a mullet. The other is wearing a black dress and a puffer jacket and appears to have curled her hair specifically for the occasion. I'm eavesdropping on their conversation, but it's totally unintelligible to me. This is because these two are Swedish.
The sun has set by the time we land. The air on the tarmac is cool and dry and composed and just what the doctor ordered after breathing recycled farts for two and a half hours. Swedish customs forces people to pick a queueing lane early, and businessmen-looking types shuffle impatiently between them as the people in each of those lanes are processed at different rates. By some quirk of fortune, our lane doesn't seem to be shortening at all. At the front, the man behind the glass is holding up some sort of identification card and is peering at it dubiously, flipping it over and over in his fingers. The woman on our side of the glass, to whom the card doubtlessly belongs, looks a little inconvenienced but mostly bored. We follow a pair of old guys in outdoor wear to another queue.
There are a few main links from the airport into the city, but the most popular one—or at least, the most heavily advertised—is for a high-speed rail link that launches you at two hundred kilometres per hour directly into Stockholm's Centralstation. The branding is all electric yellow and light grey, and the train, when we board, is outfitted in wool and respectably patina-ed wood. The overhead lighting is warm and not too bright. Legroom is generous. The Avicii Arena speeds by on the other side of the window.
We check into the hotel and grab a quick dinner: sourdough pizzas and a couple of Italian beers. The beers go down almost as well as the pizzas do. We trudge upstairs and turn on the TV: twelve channels or so of ads for Swiffer in Swedish, and one channel of The Naked Gun 33 1/3, during the climax of which we promptly conk out.