Day 1: Parades and parks
Last Saturday we drove to the airport while normal people were still tucked up in their beds; and by mid-morning we had arrived in Stockholm. After stowing our luggage in the lockers at City Terminal we set off to explore.
In Gamla Stan the sound of military band music drifted through the narrow streets – they were changing the guard at the Palace.
Stockholm is built on a cluster of islands linked by bridges, which makes getting your bearings a bit tricky! We found ourselves in a bustling street with lively cafés, where we had a delicious lunch in relaxed and cosy Mocco.
Our hotel was near to a the beautiful Humlegården Park where there is this majestic statue of the great namer of the natural world Carl Linnaeus.
The restaurants were busy with Saturday evening crowds, what to choose? Mongolian Barbecue? Italian? We plumped for a traditional looking establishment, Restaurang Prinsen. I just had to try the meatballs with dill pickled cucumber, lingonberries and spicy mashed potatoes served in a glass jar. Cliff tucked into fish soup.
Day 2: Söder and Årsta
We'd obtained a small guide book of city walks, so after a satisfying breakfast we set off across the bridges to the large island south of Gamla Stan, to take a tour of Södermalm and the Årsta Forest. We headed towards Tantolunden Park, I wanted to see the colony of allotments, Tanto Norra Koloniträdgårdsförening. What an amazing place just a short walk from the city centre – all the plots were so lovingly tended and colourful. This is an allotment wonderland :-)
Our route continued past the new waterside developments at Liljeholmen where the residents can enjoy the sun on the waterfront . . .
and the builders obviously have a sense of humour . . .
It was a glorious sunny Sunday and it seemed as if everyone was walking / jogging / cycling along the Årsta Forest waterside path to Hammarbyhamnen. Where we bought a picnic at a corner shop and enjoyed people watching along the quayside.
We were determined to pack in as much as possible, so after eating delicious pasta at bright and lively Vapiano, we headed back through the narrow streets of Gamla Stan to Tyska Kyrkan to a concert of music played on the 400 year old golden organ.
Day 3: The Vasa
Monday was forecast to be rainy so we had decided this should be a 'museum day' (in fact the weather was pretty good!). We walked down to the beautiful island of Djurgarten and strolled around the waterside and then headed south across the centre via the delightful gardens of Rosendals Trädgård. The clouds threatened rain, so we hurried on to Vasamuseet, sure to be one of the highlights of the trip.
On Sunday 10 August 1626, the mighty warship Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage in front of cheering crowds. After a few minutes she keeled over and to the horror of everyone watching sank into the depths. In 1956 she was located and after 5 years of meticulous planning, a salvage team brought her to the surface. It took another 25 years to preserve and rebuild the huge warship; now the Vasa is the centrepiece in this amazing museum.
There has been incredibly detailed forensic research about the crew members and family who perished on board. The facial reconstructions of some of them are unsettlingly realistic and the preserved clothing and personal possessions are fascinating to see.
The best way to see Stockholm is from the water, so after a lovely lunch at Café Blå Porten we walked to the quayside to find a boat trip. We selected a commuter ferry which was taking a round trip of the islands to the east of the city centre – to Nacka Strand and Lidingö in the inner Stockholm archipelago. We'd had a long day and took advantage of the tokens for a light meal in the hotel restaurant.
Day 4: Drottningholm and Waldemarsudde
It was about time we tested the efficiency of the public transport – we bought our 24 hour passes and headed down into the underground. In no time we were whisked through leafy suburbs to Alvik where we stepped across the platform and boarded a tram which smoothly glided to Nockeby. Here it was a short walk to a bus stop and a minutes wait for the bus to Drottningholm, the grand official royal residence.
The magnificent gardens stretch back behind the palace, a mix of formal parterres and fountains, and informal woodland where we came across this amazing tent built for King Gustav's dragoons in 1781 . . .
And the Chinese Pavilions built in 1753 for Queen Lovisa Ulrika as a surprise birthday present from King Adolf Fredrik!
The steps of the main pavilion had a stunning rainbow display of pansies . . .
It was early afternoon, we grabbed a sandwich from the kiosk at the palace gates and sheltered from the rain as we waited for the steamboat to arrive.
It's an hour's trip back to the city centre meandering between the islands and past boatyards.
I'd spotted a poster on the lamp posts on the city advertising an exhibition which was not to be missed, so waving our bus passes we hopped onto the No 47 which took us to the south of Djurgarten and Waldemarsudde . . .
In the gallery this month is an exhibition of work by Carl Larsson, the setting was a perfect place to see the idyllic family scenes bathed in clear nordic light. The waterside mansion which was owned by Prins Eugen is also open to the public, with further exhibition spaces on the upper floors. I particularly liked the displays of flowering plants on the window sills – lots of inspiration here!
So where did we go to celebrate our last night in Stockholm? We returned to Restaurang Prinsen which was packed with business people enjoying a Tuesday evening in style; for a dinner of traditional Swedish flavours – five different marinated herring dishes served with chopped onions, new potatoes and sour cream, following that Cliff ordered the slow-cooked ox and I decided I had to try the reindeer fillet. Both, like Stockholm, were outstandingly good!
There are unexpected sights round every corner . . .
We'd go back again – Stockholm's a great city :-)