I arrived in Sweden on Tuesday on a Lufthanza plane filled with a Canadian hockey team coming to play a tournament here. Good luck Canada!
Getting to my hotel was a little tricky. Fortunately there is a great tourist information counter at Stockholm/Arlanda airport which pointed me in the right direction, starting with the fact that Kista is pronounced Shista. That is the area where I am staying – about thirty minutes by subway outside of Stockholm Centre. The train from Arlanda to Stockholm was reminiscent of the train from Hong Kong International into that city – very fast, clean, and quiet. From there the subway got me to Kista… where my troubles started. Fast-forward past the troubles.
The Microsoft office in Kista is very nice, and looks like most of the offices I have been to… of course everything is in Swedish, but aside from that… I walked in and saw what seems like the requisite wall mural from the Ready for a New Day tour from last year. The local people were as helpful as could be, and after a little small-talk they showed me the MPR room, then gave me directions back to the hotel. I had already discovered what getting into a taxi costs here, and for the kilometre I decided to walk.
Originally I was supposed to present in four cities over two weeks. Either fortunately or unfortunately two of them were cancelled, so rather than having to spend a day in transit every couple of days I have several days off here, followed by several days off in Oslo… effectively a ten day European vacation.
Following my presentation (which went rather well) I took the rest of Wednesday to recover from the jet lag (or at least as well as I could) I ventured out into Stockholm on Thursday. I did a lot of walking (primarily because everyone kept giving me wrong directions to where I wanted to go) until I finally arrived at the Swedish Tourism Bureau and bought my Stockholm Card.
I began my slightly more organized tour at the Tre Kronar Museum, one of three museums in the Royal Palace. I have to admit I have always been ignorant about Sweden. I should have realized that the three crowns work on the jersey of the Swedish hockey team was not just their team logo, but has indeed been the coat of arms of the country since King Gustaf III in the 16th century. The museum showed a lot of the ruins of parts of the palace, including fortifications (the walls were 7m high on the inside, 11m high on the outside), tools and utensils, weapons, and even clothes.
From the Tre Kronar Museum there is a door into the Royal Apartments, another of the museums. Unlike the TKM the apartments are actually part of the castle of today, and the royal family graciously allows the public access when they are not in use. Unfortunately many parts of the museum were off-limits (they say due to renovations… I suspect the king went off for a bit of a kip in the middle of the day) but that did not diminish what I was able to see.
This was my first visit to a royal castle, and it was spectacular. The artwork is outstanding – and much of it is shall we say not too Victorian. Looking around is one thing, but the most magnificent achievements have to be the ceilings which in every room was more incredible to behold than the last.
Every year a dinner is held for the new Nobel Laureates in a grand dining room here, and I got to walk through it. I am not impressed by 'who was here'… I have seen, met, and spoken with too many for that. However the room, the artwork, the grandeur, and the detail were fabulous. I recommend winning the prize just for that ;) (Hey, Al Gore proved that it doesn't take much!)
Following the Royal Apartments I headed for the Nobel Museum. I was hoping to gain some insight into Alfred Nobel and the origins of the prize more than into the most recent winners… and I did, though I was surprised by something. The 2007 Nobel Prize for physics was shared by Albert Fert (Université Paris-Sud) and Peter Grunberg (Forschungszentrum Jülich) for their discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance.
If Giant Magnetoresistance doesn't mean anything to you then let me give you the very simple rundown: Like many people I work on a laptop which has a very large and fast (capacity) tiny (size) hard drive, at least compared to what was available only a couple of years ago.
Thinking back to my first hard drive, which was 10 Megabytes, 8" by 6" by 3", this is much smaller with a much higher capacity. To dwarf that my friend Lawrence Young once told me about a hard drive that was either one or two megabytes, and required a forklift to move. Giant Magnetoresistance is the technology that allows us to have tiny hard drives with huge capacities… in other words something that really does affect each and every one of us on a daily basis.
It was a very interesting day, and today should prove equally so. I'm off to Stockholm… don't wait up!