The World’s Longest Art Gallery: Stockholm

My newest, and probably most spontaneous, trip recently has been a 2 day jaunt through Stockholm, Sweden. When Blair showed how cheap the tickets were and how picturesque the skyline was, it was hard to say no and we booked it right away. A couple days later we were on a Ryanair plane and awaiting arrival at the tiny Skavsta Airport (which we realized post-landing was 2 hours away from Stockholm).

After a bit of an adventure and directions from a very kind couple, I made it safe and sound to my hostel and quickly fell under the spell of Sweden.

Stockholm is often referred to as “the world’s longest art gallery,” and I found that to be a lovely and accurate description. This city supremely respects the practice of finding beauty in everyday things. Whether that simply be a funky straw put into a mason jar for my bottle of Coke or the many artistic and colorful storefronts that decorate the alleys of Sofo , Stockholm knows what it means to take a step back and search for ways to make life just a little bit more elegant.

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Look at how much pizzazz that straw adds to my adorable Coke.

The most clear and breathtaking example of this was the metro.

Do not get me wrong, the London tube is one of my best friends and holds a very special place in my heart, but it can be a bit dirty. And loud. And I begrudgingly had to share one of the platforms with two literal rats this week.

Entering the metro of Stockholm is like entering the inside of an artist’s mind. Over 90 of the 100 stops were redesigned and transformed by many Swedish artists, not just to enhance a businessman’s daily commute to work, but to challenge some of the political and environmental movements of the time.

Blair and I dedicated two hours underground to finding all of the most eccentric and unique stops scattered about Stockholm. If you ever find yourself in Stockholm, set aside a large amount of time to participate in this impromptu scavenger hunt of sorts, in which the prize is one $500!!! Just kidding. The prize is the chance to change your view of public transportation, which is obviously much better.

To prevent future riders the time commitment of combing through several lines of the metro and to show off my mediocre photography skills, I will share the absolute best stops along each line of the Metro:

Kungsträdgården

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Blue Line

Disclaimer: this is not a photo of a Roman art museum, it is just a casual Metro stop

Solna Centrum

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Blue Line

Tensta

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Blue Line

Tekniska Högskolan

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Red Line

Stadion

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Red Line

And my personal favorite…

T-Centralen

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Blue Line

Seeing as I did not spend my entire time in the Stockholm underground like some sort of mole person, I found lots to do in this pretty city.

The food, often a highlight of any trip, was incredible. If you are looking for traditional Swedish meatballs, head on over to Meatballs for the People. I mostly chose this restaurant because the name sounded really straightforward (which seemed the case for many people considering we ended up waiting in line for about 45 minutes), but my laziness ended up being a blessing in disguise.

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My single complaint is that they only gave me 6 meatballs rather than unlimited.

Hands-down, the best meatballs I have ever had the pleasure of eating. This means a lot coming from me considering that half of my diet during high school volleyball seasons consisted of meatballs. They offered meatballs made of all different types of meat including reindeer, which was simply too disturbing to me, and included a side of lingonberry to satisfy all my Swedish needs.

The Swedish population also does this really interesting thing called “Fika” about twice a day which consists of a cup of coffee, a pastry, and a small break from stress. I am not the biggest fan of coffee, so I substituted this with Coke, but the pastries were still dynamite (try Kanel if you like cinnamon rolls). Fika breaks are just another way that the Swedish lifestyle forces you to slow down and appreciate life and, more specifically, a really good cinnamon roll.

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My greatest accomplishment was the fact that I only ate two of these over the trip, rather than 80.

For other activities, we checked out the Fotografiska photography museum and went on a peaceful mini-hike through the Bergianska trädgården.

Sometimes a little spontaneity can pay off. Thank you to Sweden for reminding me how gorgeous the world can be.

Surviving and Thriving: Oktoberfest

Munich, Germany is known for many things. It is one of the gay bar capitals of the world, has really famous and delicious Weisswurst, and is the third largest city in Germany.

Okay let’s be honest, though, the only thing Munich is actually supremely famous for is being home to the largest beer festival in the world known as “Oktoberfest.”

Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest is one of the most celebrated Bavarian traditions that offers steins filled with 2 pints worth of authentic German beers, pretzels as big as your head, and a Bratwurst around every corner.

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For size reference, please compare my head and these very larger beers.

Each year over 6 million people attend Oktoberfest, and approximately 220 of those people are Wake Forest University students. I have had this trip planned for months because it is somewhat of an unspoken tradition for people from Wake to meet up from their respective countries.

Arriving at the Munich airport, I quickly met up with a friend and we encountered the tricky task of figuring out the German underground. Deciphering the underground in a foreign country is difficult, but when every single station name is something like “Wettersteinplatz” or “Garching-Forschungszentrum,” it adds a fun new layer to reaching your destination.

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Simple, right?

After getting on two of the wrong trains, we realized that the trick to getting anywhere near Oktoberfest, and subsequently our Airbnb, was to get to Halpenhoff Station. Halpenhoff is one of the most important stations in Munich, so if you ask anyone where it is they will most likely know.

My pal and I decided that the best course of action for our Thursday in Munich would be to scope out the festival before all of our friends arrived so that we would have a good grasp of what was to come that weekend.

My first sight of Oktoberfest brought me back to my childhood; 10 years old again, on my way to an amusement park in New Jersey with my dad. This was not exactly the case considering that the entirety of this festival centers around getting drunk off of beer and almost everyone is smoking cigarettes, but you get the gist of my comparison.

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Just some casual beers with a couple of friends, nothing too crazy.

There were massive carnival rides, a countless number of aromatic food stands selling candied nuts and foot long sausages, and everyone was decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls.

The Hofbräu tent is typically frequented the most by students from Wake Forest, so we took a peek inside and were not disappointed. The ‘tent,’ which is more of a moderately sized building, contains hundreds of long picnic tables where people can drink their steins and have good times all day long.

With excitement for the next day mounting, but exhaustion from a day of travel setting in, we went in search for a late night dinner and were pleased to find a magnificent Burger King. After chowing down on our healthy and authentic German meals (I am entirely kidding, we both got double cheeseburgers and fries), we settled in for a short night of rest before a 5:30 am wake up.

Oktoberfest Tip: Do the 5:30 am wake up.

It will be miserable peeling yourself out of a warm bed and rising before the sun has had a chance to even peek up through the sky, but just grit your teeth, put on your dirndl, take a shot, and get your ass in line.

By the time we got into line at 7:30 am, there were already about 200 people in front of us. We waited patiently until all of a sudden, an official-looking man blew a whistle and started beckoning for us to enter.

You would’ve thought there were free bags full of money and puppies and everything good in the world inside by the speed at which every young adult around me was running. Fueled by pure adrenaline, I managed to keep up with my peers and be one of the first to reach the Hofbräu tent, pushed and elbowed by other people claiming that their friends were lost and alone at the front. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book and should not fool you for one second so stand your ground.

At 10 AM, the doors opened and all hell broke lose. College students were hurdling tables and using their bodies as human placeholders to save spots for their cohorts. Beer began sloshing and it only took about 2 minutes for someone to stand on a table and chug their entire stein.

Overwhelmed, but exhilarated, I ordered my first stein and went to work saying hi to every one of my peers that had been jet-setting the world for the past month. It was wonderful to see everyone, but it also felt as if I were at a more upscale, more expensive fraternity. At the end of the two days, I can honestly say that Oktoberfest was one of the best times of my life.

After this draining and unique experience, there are several tips that I feel obligated to tell any future festers:

1. Only bring a little bit of money.

If you are like me and get caught up in the hype of any kind of exciting event, Oktoberfest can be dangerous territory for your wallet. I would recommend only bringing about 30 euros each day because a stein is 11 euros and most of the food is 5-6 euros, so this leaves you with the opportunity to get two steins, a hearty lunch, and maybe even a water bottle.

2. Wear the authentic German clothing.

You may think that dirndls and lederhosen are weird, but in this case YOU will be the weird one if you are not wearing one. Plus, it is very fun and oddly flattering.

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See? Look how happy these two random people are as they run through a meadow in their dirndl and lederhosen!

3. Ride at least one ride

All of the rides at Oktoberfest are ridiculously expensive and typically I would say to avoid them altogether, but I went on the swings and, I won’t deny it, they were incredible. Going up on the swings gave me the opportunity to see all of Munich, which I had not gotten the chance to do considering most of my 3 days there were spent inside the tent or napping at my Airbnb.

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If you look realllllllly closely and squint really hard, you might be able to see me screaming in joy.

4. Keep your phone on airplane mode as much as possible

Unless you are expecting a very important text or trying to meet up with someone, the best move is to keep your phone on airplane mode. When your phone is not on airplane mode and you have Wifi turned on, your phone will constantly be searching for Wifi to connect to and that drains its battery. With so many people in one place, your phone will be working so hard to connect that it will dead by 1 pm.

5. Wear really comfortable shoes (that you are okay with getting dirty)

The most outrageous thing that I saw at Oktoberfest was not the man passed out on the ground with a half-eaten bratwurst or the entirely legal cocaine looking powder being sold everywhere (called Wiesn koks). The most outrageous thing was a girl wearing 5-inch heels proudly walking into the slippery tent, who would inevitably be standing for the next four hours. Please, do yourself a favor and wear a pair of sneakers or converse so that you can enjoy the festival without thinking about how bad your feet hurt.

How to Not Have a Panic Attack When Your Flight is Cancelled

Last night, as I was eating my delicious Five Guys burger at the Raleigh Durham Airport I received the message that no traveler wants to receive.

“Your flight has been cancelled.”

Thinking this was some kind of sick joke considering my adventure had just started, I ran to my gate to straighten things out, but instead encountered a mass of people with panicked faces and a massive line to the kiosk of gate 23.

After my brief bout with denial, I hopped into action using a very scientific, step-by-step approach.

Step 1- Call someone who will make you feel better

In order to calm down, the first step is to call your anchor, someone who will listen when you tell them how unfair your life is and will take your dramatic complaints in stride. My first call was to my mom and dad. Then, I called in the experts AKA just my sister. She has been the most frequent flyer in our family and quickly told me that it would be alright and that she had already looked up a flight out of Raleigh the next day.

Step 2- Don’t just wait in the line.

You should immediately get in the line that grows around the information desk of the gate, but waiting should not be the only thing that you do in line. Call the airline. I cannot stress this enough, because inevitably there will only be about 3-5 airline workers dealing with about 30-50 different people with only a limited amount of space on flights. Be a little selfish and get ahead of the game by giving the airline a call and being aggressive. Tell them you need the earliest flight out and when they try to suggest a later one, tell them you saw one online already that was earlier. They will get you all squared away with just a couple of clicks.

Step 3- Finish waiting in the kiosk line but be vigilant.

This is the hard part. The waiting. After already being frustrated with your plans being wrecked, everything starts to feel personal. That guy who just got called to the front of the line at another station? Biggest jerk of all time. The girl who got out of line to go to the bathroom and then assumed she could just get right back in her spot? A cheater and a fraud. Whenever a spot opens up in line, you need to be aggressive and hop in because anyone else is going to do the same.

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Alone and thriving in my hotel room in Raleigh, about to get a wonderful 2 hours of sleep before the next flight

Step 4- Be nice to literally everyone.

Do not let your frustration get the better of you. Rather than taking your anger out on the innocents, be kind. In my wait, I met an au pair that was on her way back to Germany and it was really interesting to hear about her life and made the time go just a little bit faster. What I mostly mean for this step is be nice to the employees. Not only are they working their butts off to get you to where you need to go, they are stuck in the airport just like the rest of you. The other side to being nice to employees is that they will help you. I don’t just mean help you get your flight, they will help you have the nicest experience possible in the situation. In my case, showing a little kindness helped me get a window seat on my new flight to London, one of the better hotels on the list, and then an upgrade as soon as I got to the hotel. In almost all situations, kindness goes a looooooong way.

Step 5- Just get it done

You can throw a pity party and a tantrum and cry some tears and complain a lot, but only after you have figured everything out. A breakdown will not help anybody, especially not you. These trying times of travel will show your truest colors and teach you how to be a self-functioning adult (a wild and ridiculous concept, I know). It will also prove that you can do just about anything with the right amount of motivation, such as getting to London in time to reunite with one of your best friends.

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Good luck with your trip and let me know if you have any questions when you are in a pickle!