Towards the end of August, Sweden had lovely weather. The clouds were gloomy but that did not dull our spirits. We still enjoyed walking all around town. Stockholm city was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. You could sit on a bench and bask in the 360 degrees view of the beauty of nature, while slurping on an ice-cream, which I did all the while I was there. While in front of me was the old city, against the city’s waterfront, on my right was the Royal Palace and on my left was the National Museum. Behind me were the Grand Hotel and other erections. The exteriors of most of the buildings had an antique look with steeples towering over them. The canals made the scenery picture perfect. Every side overwhelmed me.
During a walk in the old town, we saw an age old water fountain perfectly carved on all sides. People were drinking water straight from its tap. I was appalled at the sight and was curious to check the water. It was not green or dirty as I had expected it to be. Then, I found out that, apparently, the taps, from the houses to the public fountains, all poured water that we could drink, so, I filled my bottle, hesitantly, and said my prayers before I took the first sip. Not sure about you, but I know that from where I came, doing such things do not exist, but, trust me, here the water was fresh and clean. So, is it just us, Indians, who kept our country dirty and polluted?
The Royal Palace looked quite plain from the outside but it was a different world on the inside. It had burnt down at the end of the 17th century and had been rebuilt without the tower but the articulate work done on the interiors could be seen in every single room in the apartment wing. Every chamber had a different theme. The banquet hall had the richest look I had ever seen. The Museum of Antiquities had more than 200 sculptures purchased by King Gustav III during his journey to Italy. His exquisite collection is supposed to have been exhibited exactly how it was originally placed back in 1794. Endymion and the larger sculptures enjoyed their space in the Large Stone Gallery.
We visited Vaxholm, in the archipelago, which was another attractive town, an hour away from Stockholm by boat. We sat opposite the port and had some delicious Swedish food and then headed to explore the Vaxholm Castle. The port had no one standing there but three kiosks. I looked around for some life but in vain. Every rule and instruction was written in Swedish, so, assuming the closing time was mentioned as 1800 hours, as the number was the only thing I understood, and it was 1830 then, we decided to leave when we saw a ferry approaching us. A man, from the ferry, instructed us to get our tickets through the kiosks before we got on the ferry which took us to the little island that was covered by the castle alone. Talk about the heights of automation. Probably, they are not too keen on taking tourists, who do not read Swedish, to the castle.
Clearly, the Vaxholm Castle was the fortress from which they could protect Stockholm– the city where all the trade took place. A part of the interiors was now a Bed and Breakfast Hotel called Kastellet. As it was closed when we were there, I wondered what they prepared in the huge cannon ball looking cauldrons with heavy lids. I could smell some yummy food being cooked in it. Oh! I was hungry again by then. We munched on some potato chips and biscuits and went up to the terrace. The castle was not a very big one but the 360 degrees view was breath-taking. The water stood calm against the many islands it touched. I assumed that each island needed a day to be explored, including Vaxholm, except the one island I noticed that was so small that it had only a couple of houses on it. I was curious to know how they managed their groceries because it did not look like they had much growing on it either.
Back in Stockholm, I devoured a McDonald’s hamburger and relished it. I knew I was going to miss that too, once I returned to India. I had found a Pizza Hut joint that had a salad bar but it did not have the salad I was looking for- the most wanted macaroni and cheese salad (we go way back). So, I was happy to visit McDonald’s after PH disappointed me. Also, I have to tell you about the potato chips you have to think about before ordering. Orangerie was a fantastic looking restaurant with gorgeous interiors and polite staff. Their food was pretty good except for the potato chips that we had ordered. We awaited some hot potato fries against the cold wind we just escaped outside. Instead, we got a packet of potato chips, the one we could have probably bought on the way here. We were extremely disappointed to be receiving such an item in such a fancy restaurant. Anyway, I just had to warn you.
Sadly, the 150 year old modern art museum was under renovation, so, we could not have a look at it. Therefore, I would have to visit Stockholm again, in order to revel in its magnificence, along with the rest of the islands of the archipelago. It was a beautiful city and worth a thousand revisits. While heading to the airport, dark clouds covered the sky from one horizon to the other. It began to pour when the airport was in view. We debated about a possible delay due to turbulence, so, we unloaded our luggage from the cab and ran into the building. Unlike my travel buddy’s fate (read about it here), everything went well and we were on our way to Oslo.