Time for Tacos and T-Bana and then off to Berlin

I really enjoyed my lodgings at the Jumbo Stay hostel.  It's not often that something as out of the ordinary as a jumbo jet hotel is executed so cleverly and well.  Quirky places are often great fun to visit, but in my experience they're rarely bastions of sophistication or luxury.  The Jumbo Stay manages to hit that exceedingly small target by resisting the temptation to Disneyfy its product and instead creating an air of tongue-in-cheek mirth while being well appointed and comfortable.

After enjoying some breakfast in the sleek flight deck lounge, I checked out and returned to the Stockholm airport to stow my luggage while I ducked back into the city for a few last stops before flying off to Berlin around 5:30 p.m.  When I got back to town, I made a connection to what's referred to locally as the T-bana, Stockholm's lavish underground rail system.  The T-bana is remarkable for much more than its cleanliness and efficiency - more than 90 of the 100+ stations are themselves large public installations of art.  The first station to include art was opened in the early 50s and the number has rapidly expanded throughout the 5 decades which followed and there are now even special exhibition areas in various stations across the city.  It was really nice to have such a typically dreary space thrumming with the energy of art and I have to say, the beautiful natural rock walls make for a lovely canvas. 

I took the T-bana back to the Gamla Stan to indulge in my international margarita custom at a place called the Taco Bar which advertised itself as "A Small Piece of Mexico".  What I found when I arrived was an elegant little pub with a garish but extensive menu.  I ordered a classic margarita (4 ounces, $15) and a taco plate.  Even ordering the tacos was an exercise in delicious irony: I selected a pair of "Pink" (duh!)  tacos which featured shredded meat, feta cheese and pink pickled onions, and the "BBQ Texas" (again, duh!) taco with shredded beef, red onions, cheese and fresh cilantro.

I took a seat in a booth tucked cozily into a sweeping corner of curved glass and enjoyed watching the constant foot traffic of frenzied shoppers passing by outside the window.  The margarita was decent, rimmed in table salt and thankfully shaken by hand instead of frozen.  The waiter brought me a basket of chips and announced, "A warm starter for you."  A gelid lump of guacamole puree and a dish of salsa fresca that boasted the flavor of bland marinara.  Fortunately there was a bottle of Tabasco on the table so I was able to tweak the taste of it a bit.

By Texas standards, the tacos were competently prepared and flavorful if not quite authentic, but I feel compelled to upgrade my review substantially when comparing my meal to other foods I've eaten in Sweden.  Not my favorite cuisine, by any means.  I was actually just grateful there weren't any lumps of fish flesh swimming in a mysterious sauce when I bit into the flour tortilla.  On my way out, I spied a lonely looking bowl of jalapeno slices on the bar, perched there like some sort of exotic snack.  It made me wonder if it was in fact decorative and if not, how long that little bowl would last.

After a bit more strolling about through the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets of Old Town, it was time to return to the airport and take an uneventful flight to Berlin.  After arriving in Berlin, I hauled my bags on to the bus and into town, where I took my first ride on the S-Bahn (the commuter rail line) to an area of the city called Friedrichshain where I'd be staying for the next week.  My friendly hostess Susanna showed me around the lovely apartment and after a ritual unpacking of my things, I took one of those nice hot baths that feels like getting 5 new lives in a video game.  Time to tackle Berlin!

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