After so long in less populated areas, it was quite a change to be in a big city. Driving in on the motorway alone was a shock after hardly seeing a divided road through Norway and northern Sweden. But we made it to the campground to the southwest of the centre of Stockholm without incident and spent a night there before leaving the van and Twiggy and heading into Stockholm by metro. As Anna was meeting us for her long weekend, I had rented an apartment in the centre of town for 4 nights. It was a great location with a bus stop outside the door and within walking distance of most parts of central Stockholm. We were very lucky with the weather the first 2 days – very warm and sunny.
Stockholm is a very beautiful city with much of the older part spread over several islands with narrow waterways inbetween. We were struck by the sense of style of the people – much more so than any other city we have visited. Lots of very well dressed men and women. It also seemed to be a very lively city but on a personal scale – lots of pedestrianised streets and it was pleasant to walk around as it was easy to avoid the main streets although the traffic didn’t seem too bad.
On Saturday we explored the old city Gamla Stan and managed to see the changing of the guard outside the Royal Palace. Lots of narrow streets and colourful old buildings – but lots of tourists. We particularly liked the cafe in a dungeon dating back to the 1400’s – the oldest part of a building remaining in the area.
We took the ferry over to the island of Djurgarden a park like island which is home to several top museums as well as spacious gardens. Being suckers for open air museums we visited Skansen which was the world’s first open air museum founded in 1891 and was established to provide an insight into how Swedes lived in centuries gone past. They even had people undertaking traditional work like the ice delivery guy – the ice dripped off his hook into a special container on his back – traditional bread baking and the making of brown cheese from whey.
Thanks to a good friend of our friend Lena we were booked into the special smorgasbord dinner at The Grand Hotel for Saturday evening- supposed to be the best one in Sweden focussing on traditional Swedish foods. We also learnt the correct way to eat a smorgasbord which actually originated in Sweden. You don’t pile your plate high but go back several times eating foods in a particular order. They recommend schnapps with a beer chaser with the herring and salmon courses so naturally Richard had to sample a few of those. Not to mention the wines that followed!
On Sunday, Lena’s friend had organised for us to visit the famous Stockholm archipelago (made up of around 24,000 islands give or take a few 1000!) using the ferries (very pleased she was able to sort out when and where we had to go- much better than going on a tour ). It was Sandhamn for lunch – very cute village with pedestrian paths leading to the houses as there are no cars.
On our last morning after farewelling Anna we visited the Vasamuseet – the Vasa is a 69 m ship,launched in 1628 whose maiden voyage lasted all of 40 minutes before she capsized and sunk with some loss of life. The King of the time had apparently demanded that more and more be added to the ship while it was being built and the naval architects dared not say no. So she was incredibly top heavy. She was found in the harbour in 1961 and carefully raised out of the mud. Apparently it is 96 % original. So incredible to see an actual ship from that era and not a replica.