Kimchi in Sweden and Traveling Queens

Stockholm, Sweden
It’s a multi-cultural world we live in, and I just can’t seem to get enough of it. What do I love most about traveling? I could probably spend an eternity trying to answer that single question. There are so many benefits that it’s difficult to sum them all up. Amazing encounters with locals and with other travelers, learning languages, communicating with your hands and feet and smiles, seeing remarkable sights first-hand, tasting exotic foods, realizing our shared humanity, and broadening your perspective are all wonderful reasons to travel, but they don’t even begin to scratch the surface. Experiencing things that you wouldn’t normally experience in your everyday nine-to-five existence is definitely right up there on the list. I like to think of travel as living life exponentially—as opposed to just torpidly going through the motions. You just never know what experiences may await you on your next trip. You might have a philosophical discussion with a Rastafarian on a beach in the Caribbean, munch on a late-night snack of deep-fried locusts in Thailand (they taste like potato chips), learn about didgeridoo playing and the circular breathing technique it requires, or climb the tallest peak in the Carpathian Mountains—while simultaneously admiring the natural beauty and conversing with your local Slovak guide who just happens to have amazing stories of summiting peaks from Grand Teton in Wyoming to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Speaking of unforgettable travel experiences, I vividly remember my first trip to Stockholm, Sweden. I didn’t know much about the city before going, and so I didn’t pack my bags with any pre-conceived notions of what to expect (I find that often helps with traveling light). It was all new to me and I literally walked for miles and miles absorbing the sights, smells, and sounds, attempting to cover as much of the 14-island Stockholm archipelago as I possibly could during my limited stay. I loved how the light reflecting off the water gave the pastel buildings a soft, ephemeral luminosity. Many bridges connect the various islands, so I could clearly see why Stockholm is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”. I watched street musicians perform in traditional Swedish garb, admired the beautiful architecture and sparkling cleanliness of the city, and stopped to rest my feet in several of Stockholm’s many well-groomed parks. I was smitten with the cobblestone streets and quaint medieval alleyways of the Gamla stan—the old town, which dates all the way back to the 13th century.

After a long yet fun day of exploring, I met up with some friends in the evening. We decided to check out a lively music festival that we could hear from a distance. Once there, we meandered past the many aromatic food stands that were set up around the perimeter, which offered quite a variety of international cuisines. On stage, a remarkably genuine-sounding ABBA tribute band was belting out “Dancing Queen.” Could we feel the beat of the tambourine? Ooh yeah. At that point my belly was rumbling along with the music, and I just happened to spot a stand featuring Korean food nearby. I had lived in South Korea for five years growing up, so my mouth began watering at the thought of kimchi and rice. I placed my order with an appreciative kamsahamnida (thank you in Korean). My friends and I contentedly stood there enjoying the food, company, and music. That’s when the uniqueness of it all dawned on me—that we were a group of Americans eating Korean food in Stockholm, Sweden thriving on another memorable, multi-cultural travel experience. I can definitely recommend another plate of that!

Stefanie

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