Clean, organised and easy to get around. I enjoyed being here for a short break from solo travel, meeting a friend who lives here. My flight in to the city was late in the afternoon, when it was already pitch black. I caught the Flygbussarna shuttle bus to the city, costing 110. The next morning had us going for a leisurely stroll in Haga Park, a large park within walking distance of the city centre. Walking through the park and city with my friend was the first time in a while where I haven’t just explored and left things to chance. It felt strange, but very nice to not have to think about anything except for how beautiful the buildings are. Stockholm was largely unaffected by WWII, so the old city really is old unlike some areas of Europe where war has ravaged the cities. The small allyways are a lot of fun to explore and in the centre there was a unique little Christmas market. The river nearby had me daydreaming of rowing here in summer, not helped by the many boats moored near the edge.
The indie area Södermalm was nice for a quick walk around and a chai latte. Nearby is the Fotografiska art museum which has regularly changing exhibits. At the moment it has a facial exhibit of very up close photographs of different celebrities, which was surprisingly interesting. Another exhibit was of Syrian refugee children, with accompanying stories. It was very sobering, highlighting the difficulty of rehoming these refugees so that they can live off the streets. Sweden has accepted the second largest amount of refugees per capita and while the people are extremely accommodating and always helping the refugees get on their feet, it is evident that they are worried about having such a huge amount of people to rehome. French couture photography was next, and extremely weird. The photographs were opulent and sexual, a stark contrast with the refugee exhibit. I am not sure that it was intentional, however the refugee exhibit followed by the French exhibit highlighted the excess wants of the rich and the difficulty of receiving life’s needs for the poor, a very sad distinction.
The underground station art was one of the things I decided I must to in Stockholm. Many subways are covered in art, one really nice one which I saw was the Kungsträdgarden station. It is a subway in a cave, with artwork covering much of the stone. Water trickles down the walls, which is a natural occurrence from the stone. Much of the artwork was completed in the sixties and seventies, with radioactive symbols covering part of the roof at one exit. This is a working subway station and the artwork is in the area where you catch the train, so a ticket was required to catch the train in order to access the artwork.
My inner child was released when I was able to go ice skating on an outdoor rink at Vasaparken. Every winter this park is converted to an ice skating rinks for locals (or those with their own ice skates), luckily I was able to borrow ice skates. The ice is completely different to the indoor rinks I have skated in Australia, with their perfect ice and hand rails. This rink is rough and there is nothing to hold on to. I shook a few times, my legs threatening to topple me, and one lap later I was skating confidently, albeit a few near misses with kids half my size and twice as good at skating. Luckily they were a lot better at changing direction than I was.
The food here was great. The good thing about the high prices is that pretty much all food is of great quality. The food everywhere is generally expensive and the alcohol is pretty crazy. The most I paid for a beer was SEK66, the least was SEK45. The alcohol is priced according to alcohol content, so beer was generally the cheapest option. I celebrated Christmas dinner in Stockholm, trying several Swedish delicacies. I didn’t stick to my vegetarian diet, so that I could try all of the Christmas food, though I was lucky to be offered vegetarian ‘meat’ balls which were delicious. I can’t say I loved the caviar, but enjoyed a salted fish paste – it sounds gross, but it was quite nice with egg. There was a process to eating dinner, unlike in Australia where we pile savoury on to our plate, and then pile dessert a couple of hours later. Egg, fish paste and potato came first, with meatballs, caviar, bread and potato salad coming next. After dinner we snacked on candy and chocolate. We drunk schnapps, beer and water, although I am not sure if this is traditional. I really enjoyed the experience, especially celebrating on the 24th of December and starting Christmas celebrations hours before dinner with an hour long viewing of several Disney movies. This has become a Swedish tradition, and is just as much a part of the celebrations than the dinner is.