Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sweet(de) Stockholm

The context:
Leaving London 6pm 10/6/11: raining, 15 degrees
Weekend in Stockholm: sunny, 24 degrees
Return to London midnight 12/6/11: raining, 12 degrees

We landed and breathed in the fresh smell of pine, boarded a coach for 1.5 hour drive Stockholm to arrive at 11pm. (Still shorter than the 2h journey from my office to
Stansted Airport.)  Having not yet eaten, our hunger added to the disorientation of being in a new country, and after we had sorted that, our tiredness detracted from our decision-making processes.   The detail went along the lines of:

  1. ATM for some local currency  
  2. Pizza Hut (it was either that or MacDonalds)
  3. Find the T-ban station
  4. Try to buy tickets from the information and tickets counter (pointed toward machines)
  5. Machine doesn't take notes
  6. Go up to Maccas and buy ice-cream cones to get correct change
  7. Machine doesn't take coins
  8. Shop that sells vouchers has shut
  9. Stand in line to Information and Tickets again (while watching all the locals cheat the system)
  10. Additional clerk speaks english, pay an extra 10 Kroner each to buy from the Info desk
  11. Catch train to Slussen and walk straight to our room - on a boat!! (1am)

I was very happy to be there after leaving work almost 11 hours earlier. 

After a late start Saturday morning, we worked out how to get across and visit one of islands - far enough out on the ferry to get a look at some of the archipelago.  It took us 1.5h on the ferry to make it out to Grinda.  On the way we passed islands in a range of sizes and degrees of habitation. The largest had whole suburbs and shops, many had summer homes painted in burgundy paint with deck chairs and matching boat sheds near their personal moorings - a perfect oasis amongst the pines in the 24 degree heat. The smaller islands were rounded, rocky (granite?) protrusions that were sometimes covered in pine.

We arrived at the north end of Grinda, a 1km long island, and immediately decided on a swim. The water was clear and cold and we finished our swim 'in the nick' of time before we were joined by some
others bathers. A stroll took us past the camping area, other huts, the beach and some sheep, before we caught the last ferry home.

Having become so accustomed to the rocking of the boat overnight and on the ferry, we were still feeling it when we ate our delicious dinner at 10pm. The 'Taste of Sweden' entree included pickled and fried herring (tasted sweet), smoked reindeer (felt cruel), orange hoe (caviar) on potato pancake (reminded Lee of how good his Dad's potato fritters are) and, the best of all, shrimp in dill mayonnaise (so fresh!). I followed up with salmon and crayfish and lee with scampi pasta in a cream sauce. We realised how long it had been since we'd had a decent meal out with fresh ingredients, so truly enjoyed it.  Not only did our accommodations hold novelty value, they were also really close to the action - so only a short walk home - although we went the long way for photo opportunities.  (Lee didn't take many shots this weekend, but I still think he's being converted to an avid photographer.)

Sunday we picked up some hire bikes and explored a little of Slussen (port area built in 1930s near our boat), through Gamla Stan (old town island with colourful buildings and narrow streets) and across to Djurg√•rden (owned by the king). There we went to the Vasa Museum, as recommended by Rick. Vasa was one of the king's naval fleet in the 17th century. It sank on 10th August 1628 after travelling just short of 2km and 20 minutes of sailing. Unfortunately the king and master ship designer had underestimated how wide and how much ballast would be required for 2 levels of guns (64 in total), so it was never stable in the water and was pushed over by a stiff breeze.  It sat immersed, its location forgotten, until 1950 when Anders Franzen found it again after much searching (years) with, for all intents and purposes, a bit of lead on a piece of string. It was arranged for it to be brought to the surface and investigated/preserved.

Stockholm is spread across multiple islands connected by bridges. As a result it feels very open and fresh - the water and trees making it feel close to nature and open because despite all the housing being 6
level apartment blocks - the bridges go from high point to high point, opening up the sky.  All over, the city is on multiple levels and nothing like other cities I've been to.  Its 1000s of islands and rocky outcrops ensures boating is very much a part of everyday life and the evidence was everywhere - on the water, what people wore and in the number of nautical shops.

Most people we saw were very tanned, wearing white and there were more blond men than women.  There were quite a few men sporting haircuts that were short round the back and sides and long and boofy on the top - very unique - or perhaps I need to get out more. Multiple times I mistook men for women and vice versa (oops).  There were very few overweight people.  Of all the people we met, all except one spoke fantastic English - completely outdoing our one word, tak, which covers both please and thankyou.

I really appreciated seeing the locals sitting on the river or in the park, the fresh seafood and the beautiful summer weather (didn't need to bring that beanie after all). Based purely on our weekend in Stockholm, I think I could live in Sweden.

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