Enjoy this post in Tiếng Việt 😉

Arrival in Stockholm

On a chilly early autumn day, we flew from Prague, Czech Republic, to Stockholm, Sweden’s capital. Despite being part of the Eurozone, Sweden still uses its own currency, the Swedish Krona (SEK), just as the Czechs stick with their Czech Koruna.

From Arlanda Airport, we took the Arlanda Express train for nearly 40 km to our friend Julia’s place in central Stockholm. Sweden, part of the highly developed and socially secure Nordic countries, has a cost of living twice or thrice as high as other European cities we had visited. Shocked by the expensive train fare to the city center, I received a message from Julia informing us that Sweden offers a 50% discount on public transportation fares for those under 26. At the ticket machine, we found a much cheaper fare option for those under 26. Holding our half-priced tickets, we were thrilled with this small stroke of luck, grateful to be 25 and still eligible for discounted fares in pricey Stockholm.

Meeting Julia and Tim

Julia’s apartment was conveniently located near a main train station, making it easy to find. We arrived around midday on a weekday, so Julia was still at work. We had first met Julia in Hanoi and later reconnected in Bangkok, where she was representing the EU in Thailand. Just as I was traveling to Europe, Julia returned to Sweden to work for the Green Party in Stockholm.

Welcoming us into the cozy apartment, with its white wooden furniture and warm lighting, was Tim, Julia’s Swedish-Polish boyfriend with tousled brown hair and bright brown eyes. He brewed hot herbal tea for us and, upon learning we were famished after our flight, quickly made us crisp crepe sandwiches, a popular Swedish breakfast or snack. Tim took a photo of us devouring the sandwiches with boiled eggs to “report” to Julia at work that we had arrived and were well-fed.

Dinner with Friends

That evening, Julia invited her friend Alex, whom we had met in Bangkok and later hosted in Hanoi, over for dinner. The meal was quickly prepared and delicious: stew, mashed potatoes, soy-dressed salad with grains and peas. The five of us drank wine, enjoyed the simple meal in the fragrant, warmly lit kitchen, and reminisced about our previous meetings in Hanoi and Bangkok, now reunited in Stockholm. It felt like a serendipitous journey, reconnecting with Julia and Alex across three different countries.

Exploring Stockholm

On weekday mornings, Julia went to work, and Tim, who often worked late, slept in. This left us with the charming apartment to ourselves in a quiet Stockholm neighborhood, which would have been quite costly for most tourists.

I cherished the peaceful mornings in Julia’s home, with its creamy white walls, warm yellow lights, and sunlight streaming through wide white-framed windows. We lounged on the sofa or sipped hot tea at the kitchen table, listening to mellow music from a Harman Kardon speaker.

In the afternoons, besides having philosophical chats over coffee and cigarettes with Tim, we wandered around the serene yet vibrant neighborhood: a park with laughing blonde children on swings, an elderly couple sitting on a brown wooden bench smiling at us, young people chatting loudly on a balcony amidst green trees, and a cool, late-afternoon lawn where we meditated and breathed in the crisp autumn air.

Gamla Stan and Nobel Museum

On a rainy, cold Friday evening, Julia took us to explore the old town, Gamla Stan. We walked along the misty riverbank, past countless golden lights atop towers, churches, and buildings; across wide bridges connecting major thoroughfares where the royal palace and parliament building (where Julia worked) stood; through narrow, cobblestone streets of the old town.

We reached the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan’s main square, just in time for a Nobel Literature concert with free admission. Julia explained to us every work of writers and poets displayed in the museum’s elegant hall. We also ran into many of Julia’s friends, including a museum manager who asked us about “The Vietnamese guy who declined the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.” This was a story we were curious about too, having not found the name of revolutionary Le Duc Tho, the only Vietnamese awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, who declined it due to the lack of actual peace in Vietnam despite the Paris Agreement’s success. Our conversation continued until I was famished, and we ventured out into the rainy old town.

A Mini Burger

Hungry, we stopped at a small bar where I ordered a mini lamb burger. The waitress, a curious Stockholm native, repeatedly asked about my unusual order. My Instagram post summed it up like this:

“It was such a rainy and gloomy day in Stockholm. We three hopped in a restaurant cause only me was freakin hungry. Everything is expensive here in Stockholm and also we’re coming to an end of our Europe journey so not much money left lol so I ordered a Mini hamburger after ‘sweeping’ the menu up and down back and forth right to left. My friend told me its gonna be sorta small burger. I was like yah I know that’s why it’s called Mini burger rite=)) and she was like yeah it should be okay for a Vietnamese girl like you cause Vietnamese size is always small for everything. And the cute waitress kept asking me like only mini burger? You mean just one? For you or for three of you? Anything else?… And I was like yah just one mini for me why=))”

After a while we all knew why…

Here was the so-called Mini hamburger in Stockholm or at least in that cute restaurant =))) We were like Hahahaha and I was like hahahaha Im so happy that finally I can eat something even way way much smaller than Vietnamese size here in Europe hahaha hahahaha

But seriously it was yammy yammy despite its crazily tiny size =))) #stockholm #miniburger”

After that amusingly tiny dinner, Julia led us through winding shortcuts and across a dark garden park, heading towards the river. For a moment, I found myself walking on a small wooden bridge, leading to an open space with steps, backed by park trees, and in front of us, was a mystical view of the shimmering, dreamy night river.

A Secret View of Stockholm

From this hidden vantage point, the entire charming and glistening Stockholm seemed to unfold fully before our eyes in the secret night. The three of us sat on the steps facing the vast river: the twinkling lights on the buildings and Stockholm’s distinctive towers. From this hidden city view, we could admire the entire cityscape in a new, mysterious dimension. It felt like we had captured a deeply emotional corner of Stockholm in our own way, from a riverside step that only locals frequented to relax with a beer, a spot hardly discovered by outsiders.

And now, it was just the three of us standing in the light drizzle, on those deserted steps, gazing out over the vast river, where Stockholm’s towers and distant castles reigned.

Late at night, Julia took us to her favorite bar to meet her friend Steve. Well-traveled and well-read, Steve was both knowledgeable and curious, embodying the traits we found in Stockholm friends: intelligent, humble, and eager to learn. We had an enthusiastic evening discussing culture, history, politics, and people, parting ways with rosy cheeks from the beer and hoarse voices from too much talking.

A Day on Djurgården Island

On Saturday morning, both Julia and Alex had the day off. Our friends took us to explore the famous Djurgården Island (Kungliga Djurgården) in Stockholm. We wandered through the Djurgården National Park, strolling around golden-leaved forests, along tranquil riverside paths, and through serene woods, all bathed in the crisp, clear Nordic autumn air.

Stockholm, the city of islands and bridges, spreads across fourteen different islands connected by fifty-seven bridges. We meandered through patches of temperate forest, tinged with hues of orange, amber and green, past famous monuments on lush green lawns, and through the Stockholm Apple Festival. We also walked by admiring the noble houses on the island and joking about being invited into one of those elegant homes for tea one day 😀

A Farewell Swedish Dinner

On the evening before we were set to leave Stockholm and return to Germany, Alex took us to a traditional Stockholm restaurant that he loved and often brought his out-of-town friends to. Although the cost for a main course was quite high, around 25 Euros per person (a typical price for dining out in Stockholm), Alex introduced us to the distinct flavors of traditional Swedish dishes, which were indeed worth every penny.

Despite enjoying the delicious food, we couldn’t help but feel a bit of a sting from the high prices. Our visit to Stockholm was near the end of our three-month European journey, and we had to admit that we were nearly out of both money and energy.

Alex ordered a savory vegetarian rice cake, which he said reminded him of the Bánh Chưng I had him try when he visited Hanoi. I chose the traditional Swedish Västerbottenost cheese, rich and salty with a crispy, biscuit-like crust. Tung went for the classic Swedish meatballs, a dish famous worldwide.

The three of us had a cozy dinner, sharing simple, lighthearted conversations. At the end of the evening, Alex saw us off on a shared subway ride, promising to meet again in a new place someday.

A Goodbye to Stockholm

Early the next morning, we bid farewell to Julia and Tim at 2 AM, catching the bus to the airport in time for our super early flight. We left behind an elegant, classic, and unforgettable Stockholm. However, the gentle, memory-filled stories, the bright faces of our Stockholm friends, Julia’s warm cream-colored sofa room, the fairytale-like forests on the autumn-leafed islands, and the cold sunsets lingering over the rivers and bridges of Stockholm, will undoubtedly stay with us forever…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here