20 October 2017

Stockholm - A place full of surprises

I must admit that I didn’t really know much about Sweden up until visiting the country. Famous for its beautiful people, well-designed furniture and tasty meatballs, I found that Sweden has a lot more to offer other than ABBA and flat-pack furniture! I don’t quite know what I expected; I just know it was better than I’d hoped!

For me, Sweden was full of surprises… starting with the airport. Knowing we were going to land in one of Stockholm’s airports, I was expecting to see the grey concrete cosmopolitan I am so used to seeing upon landing in a capital. As the plane began to descend and I looked out the window, there was none of that! Instead, we were landing in what seemed to be the middle of a forest! Green for miles, as far as the eye could see.

LANDING

Not quite what I expected

Another pleasant surprise was the mild and beautiful weather. Considering how much further north Sweden is, I was expecting a cool climate. That seemed to be completely wrong, as it proved soon enough. In fact, it was much warmer in Stockholm than it was in England when we left! Not only that, but the days were very long too! The days were long and the nights were… well, pretty much none existent. It got a little bit dusky around 11is but it never really got dark.

ISLAND HOPPING

The thing to do in Stockholm is explore the archipelago and the many beautiful islands scattered around. While island hopping between the old and new parts of the city is fairly easy (the place is so well connected!) I’d recommend you loosen up the purse strings and spend a couple of kronas on a boat trip! I had pre-booked a boat trip to Vaxholm which cost 560 SEK or around £52 for two of us, there and back. The boat trip to the island was as fascinating as the final destination itself. I was blown away by the many beautiful islands, the houses dotted on them and the general sense of tranquillity amongst the people who lived there.

It was like something out of a Scandinavian Country Living magazine!

HEAVEN

A house we spotted on the way to the island

The island itself was gorgeous as well. We were left to our own devices to explore at our own pace which was nice. We had a lovely stroll around the island, followed by an awesome burger and a cold cider. Not very Swedish, but we didn’t really fancy the local delicacy of pickled herring and the weather was too hot not to enjoy a cold drink.

CULTURE

Stockholm is brimming with culture – from the galleries and museums to the multicultural restaurants and live performances.

Something to enjoy all year around is the Vasa museum, containing the oldest and most preserved wooden ship. The Vasa ship is an impressive 69 metres long 17th-century wooden ship. It has 64 cannons, 10 sails and at the time it was built, it was very much the war machine you could imagine, unfortunately, the ship didn’t make it out the harbour and sank within an hour of it setting off for its maiden voyage. The ship is impressive and the stories behind who built it, why it sank and how it was brought to the museum are all fascinating! Given the chance, you must absolutely go!

Want to have a bit of a laugh? We did too which is why we decided to go and see Russell Howard at the Rival Hotel. Yes, the irony of the fact that I live in Bristol and Russell is from Bristol, yet I travelled to Sweden to see him perform doesn’t escape me. Nevertheless, it was an amazing performance and an even more amazing excuse to go to Stockholm in the first place! *

* I feel like I have to explain. We wanted to see Russell in the UK, but the only available dates didn’t suit us and by the time we paid train fare, hotels etc it would have been cheaper to go and see him abroad! This is how the whole Stockholm trip was planned, around the comedian’s performance.

But out cultural exploration didn’t end there! As it turned out, one of the days we were there happened to be Sweden’s National Day. We were lucky enough to see the royal procession from the palace down the main high street. We saw the king and queen, the prices and princess etc. It was a lot more scaled down and less pompous than a UK royal procession, but it was amazing nevertheless! If anything, it felt like the royals (dressed in beautiful traditional robes) were actually closer to the public.

THE MONEYZ ISSUE

Even though everybody warned us about how expensive Scandinavian countries are, I wouldn’t really say we spent a fortune. I think we were so conscious about the cost of things, that we really tried to not spend a lot. One of the best meals we had was something we cooked together! We went to a local shop, picked up some ingredients and made our own dinner (the perks of having a whole Airbnb flat to ourselves!)

What I’m trying to say is, don’t be put off by how expensive people make out Scandinavian countries to be. You can easily have an awesome time on a shoestring budget!

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