Day Twenty Two: Stockholm

We had a little sleep in today (9am), my back had seized up again, and had a leisurely breakfast of fresh bread rolls with Swedish cheese and smoked ham (cheese count: 17).

With our new SL public transport cards, we hopped on our local tram into Gullmarsplan Station to get our connecting train to Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan is the old town of Stockholm that is filled with history, orange and mustard coloured buildings and windy cobblestone streets. Stockholm dates back to 1250 and the first Royal Castle, Tre Kronor was built in 1252 for Birger Jarl, Stockholm's founder. Tre Kronor burnt down in 1697 after a fire watch was flirting with a kitchen maid (allegedly). The new castle, Kungliga Slottet took 57 years to build and stands in the same place as Tre Kronor. It has 608 rooms and is the worlds largest royal castle still used for its original purpose. At 12.15pm, there is the changing of the guards within the back courtyard. It was great to see the marching band play traditional Swedish folk songs as well as modern hits including the Swedish House Mafia song ‘Don’t you worry child’. It was a pity that it is a tourist attraction, and I don’t mean to sound racist, but there were so many Asian tourists that were pushing in front with their selfie sticks and phones that it really got in the way. I actually swatted a selfie stick off my head after one lady kept hitting me with it.

Our next stop on the small island of Gamla Stan was Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest street in Stockholm. Was well worth the 30 second visit for a photo!

After, we roamed the streets and just admired the beauty of the historic district. One thing on my ultimate to-do list was to eat at the ‘Den Gyldene Freden’ that has been in operation since 1722 and is run by the Swedish Academy. It has been said that the members of the academy meet at this particular restaurant to decide on the Nobel Prize winners. The interior is quaint. Dark stained wooden floors, low white ceilings and small dark green wooden tables with a single candlestick and beige table cloth. Jip had the salmon with spinach, cream sauce and small potatoes and I had the traditional meatballs with mashed potato, gravy and Lingon berries. It was very enjoyable and definitely an experience I’ll never forget.

We walked across two of the 14 islands that make up Stockholm to get to the City Hall, Stadshuset. It was built in the 1920’s as a multipurpose building for public servants, private functions and more notably, the Nobel Prize banquet. It consists of a large hall known as the blue room even though it isn’t blue. The original architect wanted to build a brick room without a ceiling so the public could have an enclosed courtyard but still be in touch with fresh air and natural light. The problem was that Sweden had a lot of snow and rain and the government said it was impractical. After further discusssion, the architect then wanted a glass roof and blue walls but it fessably wasn’t able to happen. Once the room was built, everyone was impressed by the beautiful 1 million red bricks so it was left red… but it still has the name the Blue Room. In the next hall, Gyllene Salen, it is the Golden Room filled with tiny mosaic glass squares with gold leaf and in total has 10kg of gold. It has notable Swedish people represented on one side (including Carl von Linné, the developer of the template for classifying animals and plants and Frederica Stenhammer, opera singer) and notable events in Swedish history including WW1. Up the end wall is a personification of Stockholm. She is sitting the middle between Eastern civilisations (represented on the bottom right) and Western civilisations (represented on the bottom left) and represents the middle of the world. On her lap she has Stockholm wrapped in cloth so it appears ‘safe’. We enjoyed our tour and we were hoping to climb the tower but it closed at 4pm and it was 4.15pm. We opted to walk to a cafe overlooking the city hall instead.

(The Blue Room)

We had a quick drink and then walked through the central island of Stockholm past the Opera centre and Kungsträdgården, originally the kitchen garden for the Royal Palace before heading to one of the liquor stores that is government run and owned. In Sweden you can only purchase liquor from one store brand between strict hours. Many years ago, suicide was at an alarmingly high rate and majority of the time it included the use of alcohol. The government cracked down and banned the sale and consumption of liquor within the country. Since then, they have loosened the rules and made it so you can purchase liquor but only from their store (so all the prices around the country are the same) and restaurants can have liquor on the menu but they too have strict legislation in place. We bought a couple of different beers and ciders and I noticed the several security guards roaming the store when we were exiting. When we got back to our room, we put them all straight into the fridge.

We freshened up and went to a local burger place and had some delicious, fresh burgers. I had a halloumi, cheese and avocado burger and Jip had a lentil burger (cheese count: 18). We were in bed with a cider each before sleeping. Hopefully no intruders tonight!