A Norse Saga - Stockholm, Sweden - September 2022

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September 7th 2022
Published: September 7th 2022
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At long last, a location which is brand new for me and two days to indulge myself to the max, in this “beauty on water” (as Stockholmers call their city) - now, where to begin? Despite the well-preserved historic core (Gamla Stan), Stockholm is the last thing from a museum piece: it’s modern, dynamic, and ever evolving. When it comes to cultural assets, this city is scandalously rich. Take Gamla Stan for instance - the city’s oldest district is the stuff of storybooks. In just this one “Old Town” you receive all free visitor gifts including a Royal palace, gabled buildings, and endless cobblestone streets. And, just for good measure, throw in world-class museums and galleries which harbor everything from glittering Viking treasures; an ill-fated warship; ABBA props and subversive contemporary art pieces. It’s hands down one of Europe’s most enchanting, impeccably preserved historic centers.

Stockholm is easy to explore. Yes, it’s spread across 14 islands, but with 57 bridges connecting most and ferries and the metro covering the rest, walking - or as I like to think of it “on the ankle express”, is still the best way to get around, especially when combined with the convenience of a HOHO bus. Public transportation is safe, smooth, and efficient, covering every corner of the city and its surroundings. It’s also well adapted to wheelchair travel. Almost all signs are written in Swedish and English, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any local who doesn’t speak near-perfect English.

A Little Bit of History: after the Ice Age around 8,000 BC, there were already many people living where Stockholm sits today, but as temperatures dropped, these inhabitants moved south. Thousands of years later as the ground thawed, the climate became tolerable and the lands became fertile, people began their migration back to the North. The Old Town of Stockholm was first built by the Vikings around 1,000 AD and had a positive trade impact on the area due to the trade routes they created. The earliest written mention of Stockholm dates from 1252, by which time the mines in Bergslagen made it an important site in the iron trade. With the accession of Gustav Vasa in 1523 and the establishment of royal power, the population of Stockholm began to increase, reaching 10,000 by 1600. Throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the city’s fortunes waxed and waned however, by the second half of the 19th century it had regained its leading economic role. Population soared mainly through immigration and by the beginning of the 20th century, less than 40%!o(MISSING)f the residents were Stockholm-born. Currently the city’s metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing regions in Europe, and population is expected to number 2.5 million by 2024.

Located on Sweden’s southeast coast, Stockholm weather changes according to the four distinct seasons. Summers are warm - sometimes quite hot - and it rarely gets dark during the nighttime hours. Winters can be mild and rainy but can also have freezing temperatures and snowy. Autumn colors are spectacular in the numerous city parks, with spring welcomed by the locals wrapped in blankets and sipping hot chocolate at outdoor cafes. Stockholm has acquired the nickname “Venice of the North” and it's not hard to understand why. It seems wherever you look, your gaze is met by water. Modern Stockholm is a tolerant, inclusive society that is welcoming of everyone. The Stockholm Pride Festival (biggest of its kind in the Nordic region) is a definite calendar highlight attracting tens of thousands of LGBTQ visitors from across the globe each summer. It is also a forward-thinking, innovative city and home to a growing tech community and many startups - a density only Silicon Valley in California can compete with. Who hasn’t heard of the music-streaming company Spotify? That’s just one example of the global names hailing from here - its headquarters are still based in the city center.

Two Fun Facts: Ektorp is a popular sofa sold by IKEA, however, it’s also a beautiful place close to Stockholm. The narrowest street in Gamla Stan is Marten Trotzig’s Alley, which measures just 35”.

It’s surprising how many events are specific to the country/city:

Every year on December 10th, the Nobel banquet is held at the city hall

First Nobel Prize awarded here in 1901

Bank of Sweden is the world’s longest established bank, with its founding in 1656

Claims the world’s longest art gallery with most of its subway stations adorned by paintings, sculptures, and mosaics

One-third of the city is dedicated to parks and gardens

Has the longest life-expectancy of any country in Europe, with the average age of 80

City is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Royal Palace and the Woodland Cemetery.

The “must see’s” of Stockholm are many, but a few stand out from the rest. The National Museum showcases an impressive art collection dating back to the 16th century. This imposing building completed in 1866 and counting the Royal Palace as its neighbor, catches the eye with its exterior, but you’ll want to venture inside to view the newly restored interior, which took 5 years to complete and was unveiled in 2018.

Stockholm can rightly claim its own version of the Titanic Story - the extraordinary maritime Vasa Museum is one of Stockholm’s most popular attractions. Its crowning glory is the 226-year-old warship The Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 and was recovered in 1961, perfectly preserved from the brackish water of the Baltic Sea, along with over 12,000 artifacts – a dramatic and complex affair. It is the world’s best-preserved 17th century galleons and Scandinavia’s most visited museum.

You’re never far from nature in Stockholm. Take a ferry to one of the islands, such as the idyllic archipelago town of Vaxholm with its village-y feel, defined by wooden houses dating back to the end of the 20th century. Here, you’ll find a range of shops, restaurants. and cafés. I took my cue from the locals and relaxed by the waterfront with some homemade ice cream, complete with a chocolate flake stick - yummy.

If you fancy a spot of nature within walking distance of downtown, head for Royal Djurgarden, the world’s first national urban park. With a history stretching back to the 15th century, there’s plenty to see and do on this stunning island.

An Interesting Fact: Ice Bars are not just for James Bond movies - the world’s first permanent one, located close to the Casino Cosmopol, maintains a constant 23f temperature year-round. The interior, including those spectacular drinking glasses, are made of pure clear ice, from the Torne River in northern Sweden.

For cruise ship passengers, despite Sweden being a member of the EU it does not use the Euro, so be prepared to have some Swedish Krona on hand (current rate of exchange today is $.09 = 1 SEK). Credit cards are widely accepted however, so extensive shopping won’t be a problem! Stockholm provides a complimentary shuttle service from the pier to the waterfront, adjacent to the Royal Opera House - ride is approximately 20 minutes, depending on traffic. This is the same area as the HOHO bus stop #1. The HOHO buses are also available in the parking lot, just outside the pier security area. Of course, I used the HOHO bus to cover Stockholm. Adult 24-hour unlimited ride tickets are 350SEK and cover the 20 bus stops scattered throughout the city. Don’t forget to ask for a senior discount and/or present a previous receipt for a 10%!d(MISSING)iscount on this price. For extended stays, 72-hour tickets are 490 SEK and a combination of bus and boat is 510SEK (24 hours) or 590 SEK (72 hours). Hours are somewhat short - 10am to 4pm, only operating daily between June 4 and October 2 - otherwise its weekends only. Considering the narrow streets, massive construction projects underway and amount of weekday traffic, one complete HOHO bus cycle can easily take up to 2 hours, so plan accordingly. I didn’t enjoy this city’s HOHO bus route as much as the others, due no doubt to the fact that it only covered the downtown/Gamla Stan area, and I would have preferred seeing more of the surrounding neighborhoods.

A Fun Fact: Sweden no longer has post offices! However, post boxes are located throughout the city with stamps purchased at 7-Eleven stores.

How to sum up my visit to Stockholm? It’s historic and modern, eclectic and cool, laidback and energetic. Brimming with world-class museums, stunning architecture, fairytale castles and incredible scenery - it is so endlessly captivating.

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7th September 2022

Hello We meet you at the Embassy suites in April of this year. We are still entertaining a cruise to Egypt . We had a follow up cruise to the Baltic area but was cancelled. Enjoyed the current blog on Stockholm. If you have any of Paris send us the link. Stay safe

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