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Saturday, October 15, 2011


The Kingdom of Sweden, a constitutional monarchy, with King Carl XVI Gustaf and his family:

is a parliamentary democracy and third largest country in the European Union with a population of 9.4 million.  The country formed during the Middle Ages, lost Finland to Russia in 1809 and took over Norway in 1814, which peacefully seceded in 1905.

Sweden is the second most competitive in the World Economic Forum ranking, #4 in the Democracy Index and #9 in the UN Human Development Index.  Much of the electricity comes from nuclear and hydropower, but there is a general sense that the country wants to phase-out oil, decrease nuclear power and maximize the utilization of renewable energy.  Depending on which poll, somewhere from 46% to 85% of Swedes are atheists and don't believe in God.  

The country is best known for Alfred Nobel, a chemist who invented dynamite.  The Nobel Prizes were just announced.  It's a little confusing where these ceremonies are held because Norway was once part of Sweden, but Nobel is from Sweden. Then, too, there are ABBA, Ingmar Bergman, Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Johansson, Greta Garbo, Anita Ekberg, Bjorn Borg and Stig Larsson, whose posthumous novels were made into a series of "Girl" movies.  Columbia Pictures will also film all three books, and here is the new Lisbeth Salander:

Stockholm, the capitol, is more than 750 years old, and today has a city population of 850,000, with two million in the general municipality.  Mercer ranks this city as #20 in quality of life, versus #31 for Honolulu and #32 for San Francisco.  Vienna is #1.  Also:

In a 2008 survey published by the Reader's Digest magazine, Stockholm was ranked fourth in the world and first in Europe on its list of the "world's top ten honest cities"

If you get to Stockholm only with one large suitcase, catch the Arlanda Express (a new and fast train) into town.  Leaves every 15 minues, takes 20 minutes and is non-stop.   It does cost around $40 each way, but taxis would charge double that.  

On the map, it looked like the Sheraton was a short walk away, but the Arlanda terminal is on the wrong end of the train station, so it was a quarter mile away.  The worst part is that there are sites under construction and not frequented by too many people.  This was 3PM so it was lighted, but I got scammed on one of those catsup/pick-pocket incidents:

Some pickpockets utilize ketchup or mustard or any other unwanted substance. Typically, a child or teenager squirts ketchup on you as you pass by. Next a "helpful" stranger, often an older lady, appears with a damp cloth ready to help clean you up. The damp cloth provides cover for prying hands and the ketchup is a great excuse to pat down obvious places on your body for money. If you are sprayed with anything while walking down a street, don't stop; keep right on going and refuse any offers of assistance.

But I did just as recommended above and managed to safely get to my hotel.  Good thing this happened only a couple of minutes away from the hotel entrance.  

The hotel staff was surprised about this encounter, for this is one of the safest cities in the world.  Because of this, you almost never see a policeman.  I think there are teams from Latin America or Spain just beginning to get settled here, as the general attitude was of shock.

It has been reasonably sunny, with highs of 50 F which almost surely will be the best weather this city will get for the next six months because the average high in April is less than 50F.

Stockholm University has 52,000 students.  There are a 100 museums and 1000 restaurants.  I could not get reservations at Mathias Dahlgren (at #52, the highest rated Swedish restaurant in Pelligrino's Best 100--my next stop is London, but I also could not get into Fat Duck, at #5, but will have lunch at St. John at #41--Noma of Copenhagen is still #1 and Chef Rene is looking a lot more sophisticated above compared to below with me) at the Grand Hotel, so went across the street to F12, as recommended by the concierge, which I'll report on tomorrow.


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