After a fairly uneventful plane ride (the highlight for me was listening to the new Hooray For Earth album on repeat for four hours and the lowlight was when I accepted a dare to gulp down a big, nasty piece of chicken skin smothered in chocolate frosting), Team Out arrived in beautiful Stockholm. On the drive from the airport to the Hilton Stockholm Slussen, I was struck by how much the landscape reminds me of my home state of Wisconsin: evergreen trees and fields and that sticky, golden sunlight that you usually see in the fall.
After we all showered and power napped at the Hilton (in our beautiful rooms are filled with blonde and caramel wood paneling), we met our adorable tourguide for the day, Anders, the PR Director for SAS, the airlines that so kindly provided our airfare and who was also representing Stockholm Gay & Lesbian Network. He took us to the island of Skansen for Midsummer's Eve -- a significant holiday in Sweden which honors the summer solstice. Filled with homes and structures (most centuries old) from all over Sweden that were moved to the island in order to preserve Swedish history, Skansen is a little bit of an amusement park (there actually is an amusement park with some crazy looking rides that we're hoping to get to ride later during our trip), a little bit of a museum (it's actually called an "open-air museum") and a whole lot of picturesque.
To celebrate Midsummer's Eve, Swedes raise maypoles, wear traditional folk costumes, sing traditional folk songs, and eat traditional foods. So what did we do? Well -- we watched a bunch of natives dance around a maypole (Anders told us they were singing and dancing along to some very old song about doing chores and Editor-in-Chief Aaron Hicklin -- an incredibly good sport if nothing else -- even joined in the dancing until they got to the part where everyone got on the ground and pretended to be scrubbing the floors. Then "it got too weird," for him and we dashed off). For lunch we ate a smorgasboard of traditional Swedish foods including herring, smoked salmon, meat balls, snaps (a liquor kind of like vodka spiced with botanicals), new potatoes, and hot cheesecake.
After stuffing ourselves (and glugging down at least four different kinds of alcohol -- whoo hoo!), we continued to tour Skansen and headed to a section of the island that featured native Swedish animals like brown bears (real ones -- not the kind you find at the Eagle), reindeer, wolves, wolverines (again -- we're not talking about Hugh Jackman) and owls. We're gay, so we're suckers for cute, furry things, but since we were running on fumes (due to the little sleep we got last night and the heavy-duty meal we downed at lunch), we headed back to the Hilton for another quick power nap before we venture out into the Swedish night for more Midsummer's celebrating.