ABBA Museum To Open In Stockholm

abbaDancing Queens, get dancing, an ABBA museum is opening in Stockholm.

ABBA The Museum will open its doors in the Swedish capital on May 7. It covers the complete history of the disco group and will display their gold records, crazy ’70s costumes, and even reproductions of their recording studio and dressing rooms.

As visitors pass through the museum they’ll be treated to different music in each room. One room is dedicated to ABBA’s song “Ring, Ring” and has a phone that ABBA band members will occasionally call to have a talk with fans.

The Museum is a part of the new Swedish Music Hall of Fame, which has exhibitions on the history of Swedish popular music, a Hall of Fame dedicated to Sweden’s stars, and temporary exhibitions.

You’ll have to be a real ABBA fan to visit this place, though. Adult tickets cost 195 krona, or $29.54. At least the tickets get you into the Swedish Music Hall of Fame too.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

An Insider’s Guide To Exploring Uppsala, Sweden

Most people that go to Sweden for their first time head to Stockholm, a beautiful city that is well worth a visit. But just outside of Stockholm you will find another Scandinavian gem: Uppsala. It’s a university town, and founded in 1477, the university is the oldest in Scandinavia. The fourth largest city in Sweden, Uppsala has managed to keep its quaint feel, the center a mixture of cobblestone streets, old architecture, and local residents on bicycles.

For me, Uppsala is a combination of cozy cafes and brightly colored houses. Although it is big in population, the city center feels small and welcoming, and because it’s a university town there’s plenty to do.

You could spend several days in Uppsala, but if you have the time for a day trip or two from Stockholm, here are a few things that I never miss when I am there. And although traveling to Sweden isn’t necessarily “budget travel” (you can blame that on the exchange rate) these things are all reasonably priced and/or free.

What to see

Domkyrkan – Uppsala Cathedral

You can’t go to Uppsala without visiting the cathedral. It dates back to the 13th century, and in the middle of town, its spires stand high above the rooftops – it’s no surprise that it’s the tallest church building in Scandinavia. It is an active cathedral, with not only the traditional mass, but also presentations and concerts. Every Saturday there is a free concert offered in the afternoon – well worth a visit. Domkyrkoplan, www.uppsaladomkyrka.se

Botaniskaträdgården – Botanical Gardens

The oldest botanical garden in Sweden, Botaniska Trädgården was founded in 1655 and was originally used for teaching students about botany and pharmacy. Today the gardens extend over 34 acres with some 11,000 species from all over the world. The original garden is today called Linneträdgården, Linnaeus’ Garden. Here you will find a museum and a cafe. Entrance to the Botanical Gardens is free (except for the tropical greenhouse which is 40 SEK) and entrance to Linnaeus’ Garden is 60 SEK. www.botan.uu.se

Gamla Uppsala – Old Uppsala

Take a bus out to Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) for a feel of ancient Viking times. Just outside of central Uppsala, Gamla Uppsala is a historical site that has. During the Iron Age, this site was home to an established society as well as a place with religious importance. Gamla Uppsala’s main draw are its great Royal Mounds, three large mounds that stick out of the ground and are covered in grass. There was much speculation as to their significance, but in 1846 an archeological dig showed that it was in fact a burial ground. The identities of the people buried inside are unknown, but they were certainly people of importance. At the local Gamla Uppsala Museum you can learn more about the history of the area and the Royal Mounds (entry fee is 60 SEK). The site is perfect if you want an outdoor getaway; there is a nice selection of trails making for a good walk or run, perfectly free of charge. After a walk, grab lunch or coffee at Cafe Odinsborg.

Godsmagasinet

In between the train station and the concert hall, Godsmagasinet is a design and craft gallery, featuring local artists. There are textiles, ceramics, jewelry and clothing, and if you are interested in Swedish design, this should be the first stop on your list. Explore the gallery and then grab a cup of coffee and an open faced sandwich in the cafe that’s located in the building. Rosalgsgatan 1, www.godsmagasinet.nu

Ulvakvarn

Just outside of Gamla Uppsala you will find Ulva Kvarn, Kvarn means “mill” in English, and sitting right on the Fyris River, Ulva Kvarn was in use as a watermill from the early 1300s all the way until 1960. Today you can visit the old mill house, built in 1759, but there is also an entire collection of local artisan studios on site, making and selling traditional Swedish goods from blacksmiths to jewelry makers. There is also a good cafe on site, so it makes for a perfect day trip from Uppsala to go and explore the countryside. Ulva Kvarn, www.ulvakvarn.com

Where to eat

There is nothing more Swedish than coffee and a baked good. Here are some of my favorite cozy cafes around the city.

Cafe Kardemumma

Located inside Uppsala’s library, Kardemumma is a quiet cafe in the middle of town. It has a quaint outdoor courtyard that’s very enjoyable in the summertime. They bake their own bread, and source much of their ingredients for sandwiches and salads locally. Try one of their chokladbollar. Svartbäcksgatan 17.

Cafe Linne Hörnan

An old fashioned styled cafe, Cafe Linne Hörnan is like stepping into a Swedish cafes from several decades ago. They serve breakfast, lunch and the traditional Swedish coffee break, fika, which means you can choose from a wide array of baked goods and classic Swedish cakes. Svartbäcksgatan 22, www.cafelinne.com

Ofvandals Hovkonditori

My mother ate here when she was a student at Uppsala University, and the decor and menu have barely changed. This bakery and cafe is an iconic Uppsala destination – it has been there since the late 1800s – and if you want a taste of traditional Swedish cakes, this is the place to go. Sysslomansgatan 5, www.ofvandahls.se

Getting there

Getting to Uppsala from Stockholm takes 55 minutes on the train, just enough time to enjoy the scenery and drink a cup of coffee. Because it’s a common commuter line, there are frequent departures and tickets can be purchased at the Stockholm central station. A one-way ticket costs between 80-100 SEK (about $12-15).

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[Photo Credit: Anna Brones]

5 Countries That Are Great Alternatives To Their Crowded Neighbors

It’s the great hypocrisy in the mind of every traveler that they want to tour a place free from other tourists. Grumbling that a place is overcrowded isn’t without grounds, though. Who hasn’t wanted to pull a Dr. Manhattan on the tour groups that take group photos with every single person’s camera? And boy, what we wouldn’t give to disappear the backpackers pretending to make out with statues of the Buddha.

We can overlook these indignities as necessary evils most of the time. In reality, tourists are going to be present at the big attractions everywhere, and the penalty of avoiding tourists would basically be staying at home permanently.

That being said, for those who just can’t take it anymore, we’ve compiled a list of some less infested options. These five countries offer up similar attractions to their neighbors, but see far fewer visitors to the nooks and crannies, which will make any tourist-weary tourist breathe a little easier.

Montenegro (Crowded Neighbor: Croatia)

Croatia’s attractive coastline is a magnet for tourists. The attendant income from droves of foreigners was one of the reasons Serbs attempted to include it in their “Greater Serbia.” The subsequent Croatian War of Independence ended in 1995, and the current crowds milling about Dubrovnik are the spoils of victory. Little Montenegro, which declared independence from Serbia only in 2006, shares the same coastline and a lot of history with its more famous neighbor. The country currently sees far fewer tourists (1.2 million vs. 9.9 million) visiting its excellent beaches, like the superb spits of sand at Sveti Stefan and Petrovac. Nor do many tourists hike and cycle around Montenegro’s untouched forests at Biogradska Gora and Skadar Lake National Parks. Montenegro’s comparative anonymity provides an experience that can’t be matched in Croatia.

Cambodia (Crowded Neighbor: Thailand)

Cambodia’s main attraction, Angkor Wat, certainly doesn’t dwell in obscurity. This single attraction saw over a million visitors last year, which accounts for more than a third of all visitors to the country. Some of Thailand‘s other neighbors, like Laos and Myanmar, can barely achieve those numbers on a national level. However, when it comes to pretenders to Thailand’s tourism throne, Cambodia is the only one in the region that can offer attractions that go tit for tat with Thailand’s best. Beaches? The empty white sands of Koh Rong and Ream National Park beckon, as does the party-centric seaside town of Sihanoukville. Ruins? Cambodia rolls deep; Angkor Wat is backed up by Koh Ker, the former capital of the Khmer Empire now overgrown in the jungle, and Sambor Prei Kuk, a pre-Angkorian temple complex. Interesting capital? Phnom Penh, the “Pearl of Asia,” boasts French colonial architecture and a park-strewn riverfront. Food? A taste of amok trey or lok lak will make you forget all about pad thai.

Estonia (Crowded Neighbor: Sweden)

Sweden is a huge Scandinavian tourism juggernaut. Estonia? Just a scrappy little Baltic state. What’s the appeal then? A lot, actually. Estonia, like Sweden, is a nature-lover’s paradise. Soomaa National Park, the “land of bogs,” is one of the best canoeing destinations in Europe and is home to wolves, bears, elk and other wildlife. Estonia’s crumpled Baltic coastline contains a mind-boggling number of shallow soft-sand beaches, especially in the summer capital of Pärnu. Estonia’s past is also worth a look. While its Soviet experience is visible in some of the less adventurous architecture, the medieval castles are well preserved and atmospheric. Tallinn, the capital, is flooded with tourists, but island life on Saaremaa is quiet and isolated. Saaremaa boasts a 13th-century castle fortress and other curios like the 100-year-old Angla windmills and a Gothic church bearing symbols of the occult.

Mozambique (Crowded Neighbor: South Africa)

South Africa is head and shoulders above its Sub-Saharan neighbors when it comes to tourist numbers. Its famous game reserves, coastline and unique heritage attract almost 10 million visitors a year. Mozambique can’t match the tourist infrastructure that its neighbor to the south has meticulously erected, but it can offer other competitive attractions. Before its large mammal population was decimated by the civil war, Gorongosa Park was considered to be Africa’s Eden. Efforts to revive the park are underway, and all of Africa’s Big 5, save the rhino, can be seen here. Maputo, the capital, is small and friendly and features Portuguese colonial architecture and an extremely laid-back vibe. Mozambique’s true attraction, though, is its coast, where surfers (of the kite and wind variety) enjoy the unspoiled beaches at Vilanculos and divers explore pristine coral without the crowds at Pemba and Tofo Beach.

Iran (Crowded Neighbor: Turkey)

Turkey sees some 27 million tourists a year and Iran, well … not nearly as many. Official mouthpieces assert some 3 million tourists visited Iran in 2011, though less than 1 percent of those were traveling for nonreligious reasons. Those few tourists had historical sites like Persepolis and Imam Square all to themselves. They experienced Iran’s outstanding natural attractions – lush forests and beaches on the Caspian Sea in the north and deadly deserts and sunny Persian Gulf coastlines in the south – without the crowds that bog down these landscapes in Turkey. Those travelers were also some of the only foreign tourists in Tehran, enjoying its multitude of parks and museums, and were alone again in Yazd, a city of compacted sand reminiscent of Tatooine. Then they joined Iranians on the empty slopes of Dizin, one of the best value-for-money ski resorts in the world, and one of the few spots where Iranians are able to pull back the veil and let loose.

[Photo Credits: Kumukulanui, ecl1ght, (flicts), VilleHoo, F H Mira, Adam Hodge]

Who Has Europe’s Dirtiest Currency?

Think about how many hands the average dollar bill passes through; all jokes about “dirty money” aside, it’s practically impossible for the money that you carry in your wallet to be clean. But some bills are dirtier than others.

Researchers at Oxford put European currencies and banknotes to the test, finding that British pounds are actually cleaner than Euros. On average European bills and coins contain 26,000 bacteria, while UK currency has around 18,200.

How dirty is that? According to Ian Thompson, Professor of Engineering Science at Oxford, 11,000 bacteria is enough to pass on an infection. Makes you want to go wash your hands after paying for your souvenirs doesn’t it?

Surprisingly enough, clean and efficient Scandinavia actually tops the list of dirty cash. The dirtiest currency was the Denmark krone, at 40,266 bacteria, with the Swedish crown at 39,600 not far behind.

Maybe it’s another reason to get behind the Euro?

[Photo Credit: Jixar]

Photo Of The Day: Uppsala Botanical Gardens, Sweden

Sun in the middle of Swedish winter is a sought after thing, and this photo by Flickr user mjlacey captures the seasonal beauty of sunlight on snow.

The oldest botanical garden in Sweden, Botaniska Trädgården (Botanical Gardens), located in the university town of Uppsala, was founded in 1655 and was originally used for teaching students about botany and pharmacy. Today the gardens extend over 34 acres with some 11,000 species from all over the world. Certainly worth a visit if you ever find yourself in this Swedish city.

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[Photo Credit: mjlacey]