Technically it is Friday for me and I am no longer in Stockholm. I’m now in Florence, Italy. The pictures featured in this post are some of those I took yesterday (Wednesday) during a solo foot tour around old downtown Stockholm and the surrounding area. I don’t know the significance of the structures or statues pictured, but as a photographer all I really care about is a good subject cast in good light and getting good framing anyway.
I would usually do some research and provide more background but I wanted to get these pictures up quickly now that I have left Stockholm.
After doing the keynote and attending the breakout sessions for the duration of Day 1 of the conference that brought me to Stockholm, I decided to head back to the hotel. Once I stepped outside at around 6PM, I saw just how beautiful a day it was. It was a perfect day to tour Stockholm.
I returned to the hotel, interrogated the women working the reception desk for the best places I could walk around and take pictures, and, with map in hand, headed to my room to gear up. I took my Nikon D200 and two lenses, 12-24mm & 18-200mm, for this assignment. I also brought along my tripod. As it turned out, the 12-24mm lens and tripod went unused during this particular outing but it’s better to have the proper equipment and not need it than need it and not have it.
For the record, I packed lenses, tripod, camera, 2 laptops and clothes for 2 weeks for my trip all in 2 carry-on bags: a duffle and a backpack. I also packed 3 pair of shoes and my house shoes. I never leave home without my house shoes. For my big feet bringing so many shoes was no small feat. While my packing technique has become extremely efficiently over the years, it definitely cannot be considered light. This time I was smart and brought along one of those luggage wheelies to save my back. It’s a throwback but it works.
I decided to take my Bus Chick & Bus Nerd education international. On my way out I stopped by reception and asked about taking the bus. Annika, the nicest and most intrigued of the women, told me what bus to take, where to catch it and what stop to get off to begin my journey. I had her give me some smaller bills for bus fare and headed out.
I arrived at the bus shelter looking goofy, I’m sure. Another guy was there looking as though he was in a sour mood. A few minutes passed and another guy came, looked at the map/schedule hanging in the shelter then went over to a machine I had completely overlooked and started pushing buttons. A moment later, a woman arrived and she looked at the map/schedule as well.
Being the good, goofy tourist I went over to look at the map/schedule too. It was all in Swedish. I stared at it a bit longer as if I were really fooling anyone. Next, I went over to the machine and saw the universal credit card symbols so figured it was for tickets. I started pushing buttons trying to match zones and names with what was on the map and Annika’s instructions. After several moments with nothing happening I realized the gig was up. I wasn’t fooling anyone. The sour guy didn’t budge. The other guy looked at me with pity. Where was Bus Chick when I needed her?
The woman, a pretty, young (college?) damsel noticed my distress and walked toward me smiling. “Do you need help?” she asked. “Hell yeah!” was what I was thinking but I settled for a crisp “Yes” and nod. She explained the machines are for purchasing tickets and I had to buy a ticket to ride the bus as drivers no longer accept payment. Apparently, the drivers had been routinely getting stuck for their cream so the city installed the machines.
She navigated and translated the screens on my behalf and got me to the point that it prompted me for payment. I swiped. It beeped. No dice. I swiped again. It beeped again. No dice again. I decided to go for my bankroll of krons (that’s what Swedes call kronors but it sounds like “crowns” when they say it). I had 10s, 20s and 50s (all bills). The machine took 1s, 5s and 10s (all coins). “You have to be kidding me,” I thought.
At that point, Swedish Bus Chick and the other guy were both looking at me with pity. I’m pretty sure the sour guy cracked a smile, but by the time I got ready to go oops upside his head, Swedish Bus Chick had an idea. “I’ll pay your fare. Don’t worry about it.” I was like, “What?!! Am I on Candid Camera? Stop playin’. Where’s Allen?”
She said she had a few extra tickets. One-way tickets cost 26kr and I had 10s and 20s so I told her I would give her 30kr for a ticket and we would be square. She insisted it was no big deal and refused to accept the cash. The bus came, she got on first and said something to the driver in Swedish, handing him 2 tickets. He looked at me, then back at her, and said something in Swedish. (I think it was, “Are you sure? He looks kinda goofy.” or maybe it was “Ma’am are you under duress?” but my comprehension is still a little off.)
She waited for me to find a seat then sat across from me. The bus had rows of seats facing each other so imagine a 2×2 setup with your knees touching the person across from you like on the commuter rail. Once seated she started asking about my trip. Surely, looking at how the trip had started it was destined for failure unless she intervened.
She spent the rest of the ~10 minute ride (from Sickla to Slussen on the 401) helping plan my walking tour. Once we arrived at Slussen station she helped me navigate back up to street level. Slussen is one of the main hubs in Stockholm where both buses and the subway converge underground. Once we got to street level, she pointed me north so I could get my bearings and told me where and how to catch the bus back to Quality (Not!) Hotel Nacka. I thanked her again and she went on her way.
I have a challenge for you: The next time you are in a major city, try to get a complete stranger to pay $4.33 for your bus fare when they know you have a credit card and more than enough cash in your wallet to pay the fare yourself. Next see if they stick around during the bus ride to make sure you make the rest of your journey safe & sound. Let me know how it goes. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Swedish Bus Chick made me a believer. People like her do exist. Maybe today I will see a unicorn or a Leprechaun.