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 the gorgeous 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.
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 was 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. Basically, every side was overwhelming.
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 learned that the taps, right from the houses to the public fountains, all poured drinking water. So, I filled my bottle and took the first sip. I must say that the water was clean and fresh.
The Royal Palace in Stockholm looked quite ordinary 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. 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 many journeys 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 (you can book your Archipelago Cruises here) 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 in a distance. A man, from the approaching ferry, instructed us to get our tickets through the kiosks. We then went to the little island that was covered by the castle alone. Later, we waited quite a bit to be taken back by another ferry. Even on the island, everything was written in Swedish. I felt that perhaps they were not too keen on taking tourists, who do not read Swedish, to the castle.
In the early days, the Vaxholm Castle was the fort from which they could protect Stockholm – the city where all the important 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, including Vaxholm, needed a day to be explored, except the small one that 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 my favourite McRoyale from McDonald’s 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 to satiate my food cravings.
I have to tell you about the potato chips you have to think about before ordering from Orangeriet Bar & Café (Read my review here).
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 friend’s fate (read below), everything went well and we were on our way to Oslo.
By Rohini Christopher
After bidding adieu to the husband at Helsinki airport,who was jet setting back to the motherland, it was a relatively and deceptively uneventful flight into Stockholm. If you don’t factor in the screaming squirming two year old who kept me awake and alert all through the flight, that is. On arrival, I went up to a cafe to get a hot chocolate for my nine year old daughter who was cold, while the gentlemen figured out our mode of transport into the city. Now, Stockholm’s international airport is in a little town called Arlanda. Oh Arlanda, Arlanda, how unforgettable you were to become. But more on that in a second.
I pull out my first Swedish Kroner note to hand over to the cafe cashier and she gives me an odd look. “Sorry ma’am that’s old currency”! I take the next one and the next one out and oops, all old currency. She continued, “The guy who changed it for you in India has taken you for a ride!” Those notes were apparently discontinued years ago. Sign number 1.
Well, that quickly paid for with a card, we undertook the hour long cab ride into the city with all our luggage. At the hotel check in counter, the concierge looks up concerned and says “Ma’am, I hope this isn’t the reservation you’re planning on using today, because this is for our airport hotel”. Sign number 2! Big one this time.
I think life has taught me enough times that if I want something done right, I must do it myself. Haw haw! But yet, this was one reservation made by the better half and somehow I didn’t double check it and ta da!! Guess what? It also happened to be on the day when Stockholm was having some mega convention and absolutely NO rooms were available anywhere in the city!
So while my two days of Stockholm consisted of shuttling back and forth from my sweet Arlanda, inconveniencing my dear friends by crashing their hotel room one night and generally just meandering around the streets trying to reach each other during the day, there were a few saving graces like meeting good old family friends after twenty years, catching up with a young cousin who has beaten the odds to get to where he is today and makes me proud, my truly wonderful, concerned and protective group of friends, a fabulous ambiance and dinner at an upscale restaurant called Orangerie in the posh suburb of Sodermalm, some breathtaking views from an Archipelago cruise to Vaxholm, a peek into the Royal Palace and soaking up a lot of scenic beauty of the canals and waterways and perfectly preserved medieval architecture of Gamla Stan, the old town.
Funnily enough, I ended up with some pretty cool souvenirs while trying to connect to various store’s wireless networks to reach my friends.
All in all, an adventure, which culminated with some technical goof up with my bag check-in while we were leaving for Oslo, which delayed us and made us wait over and over in the same line. Finally, we made a run for security, only to be stopped for a random check. Right when the flight was boarding. Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the guard swiped his magic detection wand down a stack of diapers!
When we got on the plane, I held my breath till we were mid air to say, “Adieu Stockholm, I hope we get reacquainted on better terms next time! Until then!”
Have you been to Stockholm?