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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Stockholm - There's SO much to see!

This time last year we were in Stockholm, Sweden. Quite why it's taken me so long to write about it I don't know, as it's among my favourite trips which we've taken to date.

The Vasa
We were there for 10 days and we crammed in a lot during that time. Flicking through the photos I'm actually pretty astounded how much we managed to do in such a short time, so I'll just cover the highlights!

As far as the tourist trail goes we did pretty well. First off we did the Vasa museum, a place which houses a 17th century warship, the Vasa, which sunk in 1628 but has gone on the become the most intact 17th century ship in existence today. It's simply beautiful, and took up a whole morning in itself wandering around the boat and museum (you can't go on it but you can go around it.) Rather than waiting for a tour we did it at our own pace, and waited for the English language showing of the video they show about the ship. It's actually pretty fascinating, the Vasa sunk on her maiden voyage, less than a nautical mile into her journey, and laid on the bottom of Stockholm's harbour until it was rediscovered in the late 1950's and salvaged in 1961. It's thought she sank because of the organisation of the ballast and weight of the guns in the hold, which made her more unstable, and also that she was sailed with the the gun ports open, which meant when the gun ports dipped below the waterline they further increased the weight and she capsized entirely.

Getting progressively more drunk and cold.
Next on our list of things to do was the Ice Bar! While they now have locations in London and Oslo, the Stockholm location was actually the original, and I've always been keen on trying this out. It's not cheap to get in, and then you have to pay for drinks on top, and boy do they hit you for the drinks, but I treated it as a once in a lifetime type of thing...and of course got promptly smashed. Once you get your ticket to go in they deck you out in a not very flattering blue poncho and mittens, you do feel a bit of a tit to start with but once your inside the ice you thank the heavens for them. You step in and are immediately blasted with cold air, and head over to the bar! The cocktail choice is actually quite varied and between the 2 of us I think we rattled through the majority of the menu, finding ones we each liked. You're given a glass made of ice to drink from, which I loved, and I suppose quite handy for them in that they dont need to wash anything, just chuck them out!

You're given 45 minutes in the Ice bar, which we thought was pretty meager for the ticket price, however there is a reason for it. I think we got mixed up with a second group of people who entered after us, and we actually got an extra 15 minutes, and after an hour in there I was beginning to get pain in my fingers and toes. Time to leave! By which point I for one was pissed as hell, we ended the night with a burger and tottered home.

Gamla Stan
Another day was spent wandering Gamla Stan, the Old Town area of Stockholm, the very centre of the city and I believe the area where today's Stockholm originated. It houses the Swedish palace, the Stockholm cathedral, the Nobel museum (I wish we'd visited this, I'll have to go back!) the Stortoget square, and it's beautiful cobbled alleys have seen much history. We spent the morning wandering here and were lucky to get there just as the palace changed their guard, so we hung around awhile and took in all the ceremonial pomp, as a marching band paraded through and played awhile, followed by some pretty intimidating guards.

Changing the guard.

We were in Sweden for Ian's birthday so we spent his day wandering the city, as just walking and exploring is by far our favourite way to get to know a city. We discovered the island of Skeppsholmen, where we also came across a hostel/boat which is permanently moored on the island and has a bar! Much fun was had just chilling here! (See right for a picture of this beautiful boat!) If your ever staying in Stockholm maybe look this place up, I haven't looked at reviews but it seems to me an awesome place to stay. We also discovered the neighbouring island Kastellholmen, where we sat and took in the views of the city, and took a look at a small (teeny in fact) castle.

Another day out we spent at Skansen, an open air museum and zoo on the island of Djurgarden. Skansen includes many buildings which have been bought and moved to the Skansen location piece by piece, in an effort to protect the rural way of life and tradition customs, and range from the 18th to the 20th century. They also include replica exhibits, where tradesmen which include tanners, bakers, engravers and shoemakers demonstrate their respective skills. Skansen also includes an animal section where we saw brown bears, wolves, foxes, elks, owls, seals and Scandinavian breeds of pigs, cows, goats and sheep. We even saw a bright red squirrel running around. All round a great excursion that took up much of the day, and was very informative about the Scandanavian culture and history, and is also surrounded by some of the prettiest gardens I have ever seen!

Outside 'Lisbeth's' apartment - Girl With the Dragon Tattoo tour.
Next we made sure we booked ourselves up to do The Millennium Tour. (That's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo tour to those less book orientated.) We had both read and enjoyed the Millennium trilogy, and seen the Hollywood version of the first book (the one with Daniel Craig in, not the ones in Swedish, but we've since watched those too!) so we were keen to see some of the sights mentioned and which acted as inspiration for the story. With the city of Stockhom being so deepseated in the book, it was amazing to see the areas in real life, such as the particular buildings where the main characters Blomqvist and Salander were supposed to live, a cafe they regularly drank in and one where Larsson apparently wrote portions of the book, (incidentally we later went back to both for coffee) a restaurant they eat at, the office Blomqvist works at, and various other locations. The tour was great, it lasted a few hours but zipped by really quickly, I loved our tour guide Mia who was very enthusiastic about the books and stories, and had lots of little inside bits of information on the films, and she seemed to relish people asking her questions, she certainly knew her stuff.

Last but not least was the food. We ate out a lot in Stockholm, as it was a holiday we wanted to make sure we tried as much as possible. One place did amazing plank steaks with sauce and the most humungous burger I've ever seen (the place was recommended to us before we went, and we loved it so much we went three times!) another stand out dish was meat balls with lingon berries. Another day I tried veal... it was pleasant but all things considered I'm not sure I'll eat it again. Alcohol is very expensive in Sweden, so barring the Ice bar we only went out for drinks on one other evening, and though it had a cool relaxed atmosphere we didn't stay till very late.

But the stand out meal for me was eating out at Eriks Gondolen restaurant close to the Slussen T-Bana station (that's Stockholm's metro system.) To get to Gondolen you take a lift up the building, the restaurant is high up and has fantastic views of the city. I can't actually remember what we ordered but I do remember being very impressed, and then following our meal walking out onto their balcony and taking in the beauty of the city as the sun went down.

My favourite shot of the trip.

Stockholm is beautiful, fun and an exciting city. The people are kind and friendly, it's easy to navigate and unintimidating. There is so so so much to do, I could go back for another 10 days quite easily and not get bored, there are still so many things we didn't do. Stockholm is most definitely on the list of places I need to revisit, as well as checking out other areas of Sweden.

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