Wednesday, June 2, 2010

101 Hits The Road Part One: Stockholm

In true Tom and Teriann fashion, we took a trip at the beginning of last month that we had neither the time nor the money for. In our defense, we planned it (and paid for it) last year, when we didn't think finding jobs would be an issue. And it wasn't even our idea: all our flatmates decided to do a trip for the bank holiday weekend. How could we resist?

First impression: what a beautiful city.

We enjoy the simple pleasures in traveling. Like climbing on lions (just like Trafalgar Square — only smaller),

and rummaging through copper-filled antique shops.

Sweden (and Scandinavia in general) is consistently ranked as having the world's top quality of life, so I suppose I had myself primed to see it through rose-colored glasses. And true, once we spent more time walking around more of the city I found that like any other city it has less-beautiful areas. But still, look at this church:

It's St. Jacob's, on the main square, now primarily used as a concert venue. They take their crests very seriously — check out the size and detail.

The main event of our first day was a visit to the Vasa, an old ship with an incredible story. Sunk an hour into its maiden voyage in 1628, the Vasa was raised from the bed of Stockholm harbor in 1961.

Because the water in the harbor is brackish (a mix of salt and fresh), it was impossibly well-preserved. The detail still on the ship after three centuries underwater beggars belief.

Strangely, it is an amazing sight both because of its age (incredible to think that people built such magnificent ships so long ago) and because of the very modern engineering feat it represents. There was a model of this incredible process that happened nearly 50 years ago.

The museum was filled with models, actually, including an enormous model of the Vasa as it would have appeared fully rigged for its maiden voyage that was an impressive work of art in its own right. Another of my favorites was this model of life aboard the ship (the sailors fighting in the upper right corner are chuckle-worthy at minimum).

They could have just raised an old ship out of the ocean and I would have been impressed, but the supplementing exhibits were really well done. There was stuff about life on the sea in 1628, stuff about the various items (and, unfortunately, people) found on board in 1961, and stuff about the mind-boggling process of displaying and looking after such a cumbersome and unprecedented piece of history. A one-of-a-kind experience, to be sure; I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

Also planned for the weekend was an overnight cruise. On this:

I had never been on a cruise before, so I was stoked! I felt like a little kid on board. The buffet dinner was hands-down the best buffet I've ever had (which I suppose isn't that much of an accomplishment, but still: there was caviar and ostrich) and we spent the night having a good old singalong with the guitar player in the on-board pub.

The best thing about the boat, though, was the view. As it took us out of the city (and practically halfway to Finland), the homes on the banks became fewer and further in between.

And after dinner, there was only wilderness.

What is most important (and most difficult) to convey here is that what really made the weekend come alive was our flatmates. Our big group made even the mundane parts of the trip fun. Pictures are far more effective than my writing can be to that end: have a look at the facebook album.

All in all, a magical weekend.

Wrapping Up

Graduate school is essentially finished. The graduation ceremony isn't until July, but I turned in the last of my work last Thursday night and am already enjoying writing music without disdainful academia looking over my shoulder.

But the future is far from clear: I always thought that coming home would be a dose of certainty and stability, but at the moment, the job issue is making it almost as daunting as London was two years ago. When will I be able to start teaching? Will I be able to get a job at the Bang right away? Will I make time to do all the things I want to and be able to avoid an artistic rut?

I'm full of heavy questions at the moment. Perhaps the one I should most be concerned with is: when am I coming home?