Inside Sweden: Stockholm In The Rain
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm was the first leg of our tour of Scandinavia. It led to many surprises. To start, I didn’t know it’s situated on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Then I thought it to be the land of the blondes. Wrong. It might have used to be, but it isn’t anymore. Bolstered by immigration, mostly from the Middle East, its demographic makeup is changing. According to statistics, 15% of the population of Sweden are now foreign-born. Whether it’s for the good or bad, it’s not my place to say. Lastly, I didn’t realize how expensive it is live here. The cost of basic necessities, for instance, could be at par or higher than in the U.S.
Our tour group had an authentic Swedish dinner at Kvarnen Restaurant and Bar, one of the city’s oldest. If you’re a fan of Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), it was here where she hung out with the rock band group, Evil Fingers, on Tuesday nights.
I had herring to start and meatballs for the main dish. As I was eating the herring, somebody at the nearby table made a comment in Swedish and his companion looked at me and smiled.
“It was meant as a joke,” he said without saying what was actually said.
“I think you’d enjoy your herring more if you eat it together with all the trimmings and let the combined flavors explode in your mouth.”
I’d say he was right. He must know. He intimated that he eats it every day.
While in Stockholm, a local guide led us on a walking tour of Gamla Stan (Old Town), the city’s original centre. It was a wash and I mean it literally because it was raining. For tourists, however, there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad outfit, to paraphrase an old Scandinavian saying.
He warned us to watch out for incoming bikes especially when crossing the street and stay away from bike lanes. You could see folks from all walks of life pedaling their way all around. In this environmentally conscious country, they seemed to have right of way.
As we wandered through the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, it was hard to imagine that the place was once a slum with many of its medieval buildings in bad disrepair. After a major facelift, it has become Stockholm’s major attraction.
Because of the rain, I found it hard to take pictures during the guided tour. I had to revisit it the following day to have something to share back home.
A statue located outside the Royal Dramatic Theater attracted my attention. It was that of Margaretha Krook, one of Swedish most beloved stage and film actresses, who died in 2001 at age 75. It was placed at the exact spot where she used to smoke in between rehearsals. It appeared cold, but I got an eerie feeling when I touched it. It was warm like a living person.
Another interesting find was a fragment of an ancient runestone built into a wall bearing the inscription that when translated to English said, “Torsten and Frögunn had the stone erected after their son.” It was one the three found in Gamla Stan and dated as far back as the 11th century.
We took a ferry to the island of Djurgården to visit the Vasa Museum where a 17th century warship that sank in her maiden voyage is now displayed after being salvaged from the bottom of the sea. Sorry, I have no photos to share. I was so caught up in the moment that my camera stayed in my pocket.
On our last day in Stockholm, we had a private tour of the City Hall. The guide talked about its history and led us through its various halls including the Blue Hall and the Golden Hall where the Nobel Prize Award Banquet and Ball are held every year.
We left for the ancient city of Kalmar the following morning after breakfast with the gentle rain bidding us adieu.