Vad en tripp så pass var. Sverige är helt ställen!!....
...err, sorry...still in Scandinavian mode there.
Yes! I have returned from my Swedish odyssey and am writing this from back in the Great White North. I can understand now why the desire to see Europe is so strong among us culturally challenged North American types. The sense of history and culture is almost palatable as soon as the plan touches down.
I'm not sure a full account of my travels would be possible. The stories and tales I bring back are far to varied and many to be recorded. The band of artists I travelled with, typically were out every single night trying to get into the Stockholm vibe as much as possible before our 6 weeks were up. But, I'll try to re-cap a few of the more interesting ones briefly...I think the full versions can only be imparted in person.
My first few days there I was pretty much on my own (the other artists didn't arrive until the next week). Did as much walking as I possibly could, even going far as Finland.....or at least, that's what I thought at the time. Turns out I actually walked the most in-efficient walking route possible for about 8 hours, and was never actually more than 20 minutes from my hotel at any point (though from my vantage point, I was about 8 hours away!). I saw a sign that said "Finland this way!" and figured it was an impressive distance to travel. Upon having dinner a few nights later, and strangely seeing the same locations and landmarks only a few minutes from work, when before they took me several hours to walk to, was slightly jarring.
Once the other artists arrived, we hit the town every night. Checked out most of the usual tourist spots, but also tried to make it out to as many clubs as we could. We went to one that's called "The Ice Bar" where they give you a big coat when you get in, and everything is made of ice, from the furniture to the glasses. Very impressive. Also checked out the most popular club in Stockholm, The Debasser, where we happened to bump into Owen Wilson. Seems that sweden is a popular vacation spot for the movie star.
Checked out a couple of the more "risqué" clubs in Stockholm, including one called the "Hoochie Coochie Club", which featured a strange 1950's America themed dance club and band (apparently this is a fad in Sweden, even a lot of the people at the club looked like extra's out of Grease). It also featured a rather dishevelled looking man, dressed up as a large Pineapple, drink in hand and slippers on his feet, stumbling around the stage introducing the acts. Having seen this, I knew there was no way I could leave stockholm disappointed, since once you've seen a giant talking pineapple, can anything really top that?? I also managed to humiliate myself with a girl at the club. It involved dancing, voodoo and watermelon, and I think I'll leave it at that and let your imaginations run with it. Needless to say it was often brought up again by my co-workers for the remainder of the trip at great expense to myself.
Speaking of work, it was really exciting to be in the Stockholm offices of DICE. DICE is based in sweden, so their office is much much larger than ours back in canada. It was really a different experience to be working with such a large crew. The first few days proved difficult, as jumping straight into the middle of production can be. I was mostly fixing up models and textures, polishing them up to 100% quality level. After all that was done I started working on my own models and textures for the game. The people I worked with there were generally very cool and were all very interested in knowing about Canada. By the end of the trip we had taught them what a "hoser" and how to get a free case of beer by stuffing a dead mouse inside an empty bottle. When one Swede told me to "take off eh!" I felt very proud.
DICE was great to us over there as well. We had a couple free beer nights where they took the whole company out to a bar, we went go-karting (these were serious go-karts too....I couldn't move my arms for days afterwards they were too sore), and we went on a really nice boat trip around the archipelago, followed up by heading to the bar to watch the Soccer game. Being in europe for the World Cup was quite exciting. Sweden was knocked out fairly early, but it was still pretty amazing to see how worked people get over the event. I always liked soccer before, but I feel I have a much better understanding of "beauty" of the sport.
Another interesting note, I took a canoe trip while I was there. Taylor vs the Batlic sea. While the little rivers and inlets proved peaceful, I was really fighting when I hit the sea and the winds picked up. It was a real battle from island to another, and all the power boats on the water created some really wicked waves I had to deal with. I was even canoeing next to cruise ships at one point which was a pretty scary experience actually.
I do have pictures of all this, but it's taking me a while to upload them all, so I'll post an update later once they're available if anyone is interested in perusing the trip.
All in all though, I think the trip really went well. It was pretty exhausting (2 weeks had me working almost 60 hours each), and I'm happy to be back in Canada...but overall it was very rewarding. So, I'll close out here with a few fun facts about Sweden:
- The sun does not go down in the summer. At 2:00am the sun is shining and the birds are singing like it's 9 in the morning.
- You get 5 weeks of vacation if you work in Sweden. They have pretty much all of July off as a summer vacation.
- Amazing public transit. You can literally get anywhere in the city in about 20 minutes.
- They do very much enjoy putting various sauces on their food. Mayonnaise is on everything!
- I hate mayonnaise...
- You cannot buy bags of ice at convenient stores (they looked at me funny when I asked)....the only way you can get ice is to make it yourself....a problem if you don't have a freezer.
- Despite being football crazy, the news still takes precedence over everything. Guy can be on a breakaway, in a 0-0 game in 2 minutes left, and if it's time, the game will turn off and switch to the news. Can you imagine what that would be like in Canada during playoff hockey season!?
- Swedes love their ice cream. Even though there's little in the way of junk food over there, almost every corner has an ice cream store. It is really the only cheep thing in Sweden where pretty much everything else is more expensive than in Canada.