August 6, 2015
We arrived in Stockholm around 7 or 8 in the morning. It took a while before we could disembark, but soon enough we grabbed our bags and walked to the Sheraton in hopes for an early check in. As we approached, Suman noticed the American flag was upside down! That was a first for me. With Brian’s status, we were able to get one room where we dumped our luggage and headed out. Suman had a travel book, “Top 10 Stockholm”, so we figured we try checking the major sites off the list.
After an indecisive start we opted for lunch in Old Town or Gamla Stan, the site of Stockholm’s 13th Century origins. This island town was established in 1252 for trade. The buildings, including the fortress built by ruler Birger Jarl, were made of logs. Stock (meaning logs) and Holme (meaning islet) is the origin of the name. The log buildings were subject to many fires and buildings were replaced.
Now cafés and stores line the narrow, cobblestone pedestrian streets where tourists stroll. We found a cafe on a corner with outside seating and ordered pizza for lunch. I ate reindeer which was lean and slightly gamey like Venison, but it was local and better than herring in my opinion. After lunch we strolled around Old Town. First we found its narrowest street, Marten Trotzigs Grand, only 35 inches wide. With its steps, it seemed more like a sidewalk. We followed it up to a few more streets, passed some more shops and a few statues to find Stortorget, Old Town’s main square.
Stortorget is Stockholm’s oldest square and the site of the bloodbath in 1520. Toward the end of Danish Rule, 80-90 people (mostly clergy and nobilty who supported the Sture party) were executed one by one at the square. Now a water fountain with drinkable water stands in the middle. Cute, old buildings with cafés surround three sides while the Nobel Museum housed in the old stock exchange stands on the other.
While we were standing in the square, music began playing, so we followed the tune where we found the changing of the guard at the palace. We only caught the very end, but as we were debating on what to see next after the tourists cleared out, a group came marching by and entered the palace, so we got a fantastic view.
From the changing of the guard, and a short stop for Suman to check out a church, we meandered across the bridge to Kungsgatan in an area called Normmalm. Here we found an Olympic Day festival taking place in a giant esplanade. We sat in the shade and watched kids kayak in a small pond, try their hand at cricket and fencing, and play tennis and soccer.
We kind of had a slow day, and all of us but Suman were “sight-seed out.” Suman took a short detour to NK, a fancy department store and upon her return, we trekked over to Stadhuset on the other side of our hotel by the docks on Kungsholmen, one of the many islands of Stockholm. The city hall was built in 1912, but still had a very old appearance. We really wanted to see the views from its tower so we checked into tickets. Since it was a sunny day, the tower tickets were sold out. None of us were really interested in the guided tour of the city hall, so after sitting on its steps a bit and enjoying the atmosphere we returned the hotel as it was late afternoon anyway. We planned on visiting the tower first thing tomorrow as we had another nice day in the forecast.
Our travel book suggested that we visit Pelikan, a historical beer hall that serves traditional Swedish food. This took us for a very long, yet interesting walk past the more local side of town. Those who know me, know that I am always naturally cold, so when I say this place was stifling hot, it was HOT. No A/C in Stockholm! The service was just as bad. The waiter seemed to have forgotten us and placed the wrong order. By the time we got our food, we all wanted to leave. My potato dumplings with chanterelles were not good. Brian left most of his “fried steak” on his plate. Suman liked her meatballs. While my three travel companions thought the herring was good, but this is not a place I would recommend. ETB