I realised I haven’t shared anything about our weekend in Stockholm yet apart from the stunning gardens of Rosendals Trädgård. Our first afternoon, we dumped our bags off at the hotel and headed for Gamla Stan, the city’s Old Town, and indeed the oldest area of Stockholm. If you’re looking at a map, it’s smack in the middle – “the town between the bridges”.
It has a medieval feel to it, and it’s a place steeped in history, but its also become a proper tourist attraction. We crisscrossed the pedestrianised narrow cobbled alleyways, occasionally dodging a guided walking tour group, navigating our way through a maze of back streets with sand coloured buildings, hundred of years old, that lean ever so slightly one way or another.
Across the main square (Stortorget) from the Nobel Museum, we grabbed a table on a patio and stopped to re-fuel after our flight with a first taste of real Swedish food and to sit back and take in our surroundings. A busker played nearby which added to the atmosphere as we watched tourists take selfies by the fountain in the center of the square. Birds scavanged for crumbs under the benches surrounding the fountain.
Jorge ordered a local beer and I went for a sweet cocktail with gooseberries speared on top. It was wrapped in colourful paper held together with a rubber band. The straw was also made of paper which was not so smart as it basically disintegrated which left me asking for a second. We also ordered two small dishes which we shared like tapas: herring with sourdough and venison with cherries.
Later we walked by the Stockholm Cathedral and the Royal Palace where I amused myself taking photos of the guards. They were not nearly as serious as the guards in London. One of them was even chatting on his walkie talkie and they didn’t stand completely still either. I would imagine that if you really wanted to, you could eventually make one laugh. The palace itself is quite impressive and apparently is one of the biggest palaces in the world that’s still used for its original purpose.
If we would have gone on one of the tours we saw wandering around, we probably would have learned a lot more about the area. Without knowing where we were, we stumbled upon Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, which I found out when we got home is the narrowest alleyway in the city, and less than a meter wide at its narrowest point.
We noticed a number of other things. There were lone bikes, well-used, propped against the sides of buildings, many unlocked. Nobody touched them. Along some of the steeper pathways were railings which I would imagine are necessary in the deep months of a Scandinavian Winter. There was a small square, shaded by trees where people sat quietly reading newspapers or taking a break from the sun. Everywhere, lanterns stick out from the walls. There were tons of cozy little independent shops, but most of them were closed.
And then we reached Västerlånggatan where all of the the souvenir shops are cluttered. Tons of them. And families buying gelato and children crying. There were Heidi dolls and Moomin toys, cheese slicers in the shape of mooseheads, shotglasses galore and, of course, the famous red Dala Horses (Dalahäst). At this point, we decided to make a run for it, but not before Jorge had the opportunity to model a plastic viking hat.
Next stop, tourist destination number 2: Skansen. But more on that in another post…