While travelling in and around Stockholm, the kronor spent in a several-days ticket for the insanely efficient mass transport system is a wise investment. You can get pretty much anywhere by train, bus, subway or tram if your feet are getting to you, not worrying about fares. And everything comes obsessively on time – can’t speak for the wintertime though.
There are around 80 museums to visit in the Swedish capital city. Fotografiska, now featuring a huge exhibition by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, is highly recommendable. Vasa Museet is a must. But my prize has to go to Etnografiska Museet. It owns an extraordinary collection of objects from all over the world and it had to be three of the most interesting and fun hours we spent in the city. Featured were an overview of the native North American cultures, then and now, and a review of the devastating effects of the Carlisle School (the documentary Schooling the World – the White Man’s Last Burden provides a sound outlook on this subject) and an exhibition about Swedish missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa, through whom many objects came to be at the museum today. Outside the museum sat this small, beautiful Japanese Tea House, surrounded by a proper Japanese garden. It only opens for booked groups and special occasions, but the garden is there to be enjoyed by all visitors.
When night-time came, and as recommended by a friend, we went in search for Stampen (the Pawn Shop), a jazz club right in the middle of central Gamla Stan. We sat at the bar, drinking Swedish beer and munching chips, as a band got ready for their act. The Dixieland tunes that they played were a pleasant surprise. As the night went on, the band had a small break, and some of the members caught a glimpse of the sketch. For a few hours, all of us were the bestest of friends!
Every city that has waterfronts should treasure them like Stockholm does. It was one of my favourite things to sit by the waterfront, watching the boats pass by while drinking coffee. Water bodies like these are indeed gigantic unwalkable public squares. Inside a city, your eyes rarely focus beyond a certain close distance, except in large squares, canals or the sea. In such places you feel less compressed, less constrained, and you have the opportunity to appreciate the city at a distance, grasping the general picture or browsing for details you don’t notice while walking the streets. The waterfront by Fotografiska offers a swell view of the eastern side of Gamla Stan and the narrow streets that lead from the harbour to its core.
Södermalm is the hip part of town. The park at Nytorget gave us the chance of observing the transition from working hours to dining hours in Stockholm. People start to swarm the area late in the afternoon. Youngsters picnic in the park, complete with plates, forks and knives and glasses filled often with the popular rosé wine. Woollen caps, long beards and vintage strollers reign supreme here! In the streets around the park, restaurant terraces are legion, occupied mostly by older or more well-off people. The key concept here is to hang out. To take advantage of the summer long evenings.
It took us two years living in Sweden to visit its capital city. A few stolen days from the travels around the Iberian Peninsula finally gave us the chance to do that! It is a gorgeous city, with a lot of different areas, depending on what are you up to. It’s widespread and controlled in height, although easily navigable, sensibly planned, and has a stupidly efficient transportation system – as you would expect from a Scandinavian capital. The first day usually absorbs the shock of us wanting to visit a little bit of every part of the town. That let us to a walk around in tourist-riddled Gamla Stan (Old Town), the hip Södermalm district and the western area of the Djurgården (the King’s Game Park) island, where quite a few museums are based.
One such museum is the Vasa – a 17th century ship placed within a building. This ship was built at the peak of the Stormakstiden (the Era of Great Power – or the peak of the Swedish Empire) to serve as a royal flagship. The project was a fiasco, however. The ship had to high a gravity center and foundered right after setting sail from the harbour. Centuries later, in the 50s, it was recovered and turned into the most profitable tourist attraction in the country. Talk about a late break-even!