Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia

Chapter II Part I

Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia

City: Stockholm
Country: Swed
Currency: Swedish Krona (1€ = 9.4 SEK)
Travel dates: 27 Dec 2007 – 30 Dec 2007
Accommodation: Archipelago Hostel
Travel buddies: Egon, Clare, Rahma, Siddharth, Stella, Meghan

Caption: Stockholm in the morning

It was in the afternoon of Dec 27, when the six of us took our first international train crossing the border of Norway-Sweden, to our second destination of the grand trip, Sweden. Taking trains in Scandinavia could be really pricey if you fail to get the minipris ticket. Our initial ticket price could go up to 900SEK.

Fortunately, the train ticket which we booked months before our trip only costed 96SEK, which is dirt cheap in the eyes of Scandinavians. Of course, we were not excluded in the possession of such opinion. In fact, this is the beauty of travelling by trains in Europe. Tip: Book your train ticket as early as possible.

It was a long journey. We reached Sweden only at night, after 7 hours of keeping our butts glued to the luxurious train seats. However, the fresh air which welcomed us from the moment we stepped out from the train station was totally refreshing. Despite the fact that we were dragging monstrous luggages containing food leftover from Oslo, we eagerly scrutinised the every facet of this capital of Scandinavia in the dark by paying close attention to every buildings.

Of course, the only things we saw were merely shades of buildings and scattered neon lights. However, Sweden remained very impressive in our eyes. Indeed, the first impression might mislead us since the comparison was only made relatively to Oslo, the only capital we have seen in Europe. But it actually also means that our curiosity to explore the city was escalating.

Caption: Gamla Stan in the morning. Notice how narrow is the street.

Our hostel, Archipelago Hostel, is situated in the middle of Gamla Stan, the old town of Sweden which is an island itself, and is only about 10 minutes of walking from the train station. The walk along the main street of Gamla Stan was fascinating. The coluourful lights from the building and the few bunches of celebrating crowd on the street clearly told us, Christmas had ended and it was time to get back to parties.

Getting into our hostel, we were only welcomed by an envelope with key inside. Slowly opening the door of our room, we were filled with immense anticipation. Would it be as decent as Anker Hostel in Oslo? The door was fully opened, and without hesitation, our hearts plunged into the deepest valley of our body, our jaws dropped as if the hinges of the jaw muscles were experiencing malfunction.

It was a nightmare, a complete disaster!

Three double-deckers, for six people, in an area of less than ten metres square?


Soon after the shock, our sense of condolence started to work its magic wand, we appreciated the fact that we were kept in the same room with no strangers. But still, the immaculate impression of Sweden was scarred with this imperfection and burst in the middle of air. Our expectation to Stockholm gradually decreased with the time. Convincing ourselves Stockholm would be exciting, we went to bed with again, anticipations.

Caption: No exaggeration in the description of the hostel, right?

Waked up late in the morning, we were welcomed by a beam of sunlight penetrating through the huge glass windows in our room. Wasn’t this supposed to be in the winter? We had no complain as sun is always welcome. We spent our day wandering around Gamla Stan, Skeppsholmen, Skansen and Ostermalm. All these are islands of which Stockholm is formed. If you haven’t known about Stockholm, it is actually a city consists of 14 islands where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. Therefore, islands-hopping is the top tourist attraction in Stockholm.

Unfortunately, we were visiting Stockholm at the wrong season. Boats for islands hopping were all out of service in the winter even though the sea surface was not frozen. Slightly disappointed after considering the cost of a boat trip, we resumed our endless walk on different islands.

There weren’t a lot of things going on in Stockholm during the winter season. However, our anticipation a night before was met. Stockholm truly deserves to be named the capital of Scandinavia. With all the mega-sized building dated centuries back in the history, one couldn’t resist himself in taking loads of pictures of them. The buildings in the city clearly revealed the age of this fairly young ancient city.

A walk in the Gamla Stan was especially attractive. The uniqueness of the slender buildings of no more than four floors high, attached to each other with very narrow pedestrians’ paths in between was surely sufficient to drown one with cultures. Tiny shops with tonnes of souvenirs targeting the wallet of tourists were simply more than enough that a tourist can digest. And most importantly, Swedish doesn’t like to confine themselves to their homes as much as Norwegian. Walking side by side with Stockholm-ians brought our enjoyment to the highest and melted our barrier as foreigners. For one second, we had totally forgotten the role of tourists.

Caption: At Gamla Stan where Clare was with her monstrous candy (left) and Meghan was getting a kiss

After spending much time impressing ourselves with extraordinary souvenirs in Gamla Stan, we reached Djurgården by foot after stopping by at a boat selling marzipan. I am not a fan of museum, but in Stockholm, you have to visit Vasamuseet in Djurgården. It is a museum presenting the fully intact Vasa ship which sank on her maiden voyage. After a long day walking around different islands, we came to the museum approaching its closing time, which means we were sadly having to give a pass to this famous museum.

Continued with our walk under the rain (the nasty Scandinavian weather was obviously having no exception in Stockholm), we reached Kaknästower – tv tower in Stockholm. It is a bit costly to ascend to the cosy café located at the top of the tower. However, if getting a 360 degree view of the massive archipelago capital is your cup of tea, it is definitely worth the money.

Again, unluckiness didn’t willing to separate itself from us, we only managed to catch a blur glimpse of Stockholm’s night view under the rain. However, getting a shelter after drenching ourselves soaking wet in nearly zero degree coldness, with rain, for more than six hours, the café seemed to be heaven.

Shortly before the café was closing, we headed back to Stockholm new town, Norrmalm. This time, we decided to take bus as the rain was started to pour mercilessly.

Norrmalm is a totally different face of Stockholm. You will never find the richness of history in this new town area. However, what you could get is the lively shopping district for your retail therapy. For one moment, I was questioning myself whether was I staying in Tokyo from the resemblance of the surroundings in Norrmalm to Tokyo.

Caption: Shopping at old town, Gamla Stan (left) and new town, Norrmalm

Not intending to burn our pockets despite the fact that winter sale which had just started two days ago was absolutely alluring, we headed back to hostel along Drottninggatan, the main street of Norrmalm which connects to the main street in Gamla Stan for our dinner.

However, we paused and we decided to stop in the middle of the street, in front of a restaurant. Clare insisted that we should have at least a proper meal during the trip. We agreed, without realising that this proper meal suggestion would turn to a proper-meal-per-city policy during the entire winter trip.

The restaurant was named D6, which simply means Drottninggatan 6. Ordered four different cuisines at a surprisingly reasonable price with approximately 100SEK per person, it was definitely the best expense on this far of the journey. One of the most interesting dish, which is also a must try for tourists was the Swedish meatballs.

Served together with cranberry sauce, the saltiness of the meatball and the sourness and sweetness from the cranberry distinctly distinguished the specialty of Swedish meatballs with ordinary meatballs. Savouring the taste of Swedish meatballs in Sweden was undoubtedly different from having it in Ikea. And for this reason, I stopped questioning myself about the ingredient of the meatball but to fully immerse myself in the tantalising meatballs’ world.

Caption: Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce in Restaurant D6

Stockholm, after our first day of visit, was totally impressive. Our expectation to this capital was never running this high before we went to bed. What would be in stock for us in the coming day? We were curiously waiting…

(to be continued)