08.09.2013 - 11.09.2013 23 °C
When we boarded the train from Gothenburg to Stockholm we understood why it was so much cheaper than the "high-speed" train (which was only actually 45 minutes faster) yet nearly double the price. You could describe our train as vintage as it would not have looked out of place in the 1960s, it was wicked, although Nick thought it was a little uncomfortable. Four hours later we arrived in sunny Stockholm!! Our hostel was only a short 10 minute walk from the central station and was pretty funky, with lots of common area's with mis matched furnishings and funky vintage items. We checked into City Backpackers; Urban Hostel http://www.citybackpackers.org, but unfortunately for Nick it was mostly underground which he didn't enjoy as he had just coped with our windowless room in Gothenburg, so did not seem keen on another 3 days without windows. I thought it was cosy, but slightly annoying that you didn't know what the weather was doing.
Bags dumped and Nick feeling slightly happier (more than likely due to the sunshine and 23 degree heat!), we grabbed a free map from reception and set off - first stop a much needed coffee! The hostel had suggested one around the corner which was really nice (and a reasonable price at £3.80 for a Latte) so nice we ended up visiting it again the next day. Feeling suitably perked up from our caffeine injection we began to wander along the large pedestrianised street Drottninggatan, or Queens Road which is basically the main shopping street with one corner that has no less than FOUR H&Ms - they are Swedish after all! The road eventually led over a bridge giving great views of some of the other islands of Stockholm as well as providing access to Gamla Stan (Old Town) with the Royal Palace at it's centre. This island is lovely with cobbled streets and old leaning buildings and at nice was a beautiful walk down all the winding lanes.
Our first full day and the sun was shining again, so we headed to the main square to meet our free tour guide (as has become the norm - they are such a great way to get to know your way around the city, see the major sights, but more importantly get some great tips on what else there is to see and do!). The tour focused on the "new" town of Stockholm taking in the sky blue coloured Konserthuset (Concert House) where the Nobel Prizes are awarded each year as well as various other sights with funny and factual tales along the way, including seeing the sight where Stockholm Syndrome was coined, when a 6 day bank heist had the hostages siding with the robbers and pleading with the police to let them go, one hostage nearly married on of the robbers!
After the two hour tour finished we went for a picnic (and nap/sun-bathing) in a close by park (again becoming the norm!), before embarking on our second Free walking tour of the day - this time of the Old Town; Gamla Stan (which we had already seen some of the previous evening). This tour focused on the more historical side of Stockholm exploring the Royal Palaces, numerous winding cobbled alleyways, courtyards and hidden statues (including the smallest one in Stockholm a 6 inch statue of a seated boy), again with interesting facts and funny stories along the way.
Our second day started slow as we had decided to hire bikes but had to wait until 10:00 to see if any were free. While waiting we started chatting to a lovely woman and her mom who were from Colchester and were trying to encourage us to join them that evening for Swedish meatball making. We were tempted but it was £12 each so a little expensive and I make meatballs all the time. Discovering that all the bikes had gone for the day we decided to walk our route instead and take in the Vasa Museum http://www.vasamuseet.se/en/. It's a little more then we normally spend on a museum at £13 each but was worth it, there is even a free 25min English tour and 20 min movie (with English subtitles) about the salvage. This museum was built around the full sized 17th century ship that sank on her virgin voyage in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later in one piece. Over 98% of the ship is original and in good condition due to the brackish water surrounding Stockholm. It took nearly 13 years to preserve it in a wax solution to protect it and the thing is colossal. The museum is over 4 floors and at the top you are still not level with the crows nests. They are still studying it and analysing paint fragments to discover how it looked in it's hay day, there are some parts that still have gold on them after being water for so long.
After the museum we decided to walk round the huge park that covered most of the island of Djurgården where the Ship is, stop for lunch and then take the bridge back over to Östermalm. Once over the over side the river (which is actually the sea) it started to look like a lake, very strange and beautiful. You could very easily forget you were in a huge capital city. We ended up walking 10km that day but it I think we do that on average most days.
Back at the hostel we bumped back into the British ladies and they were still trying to get us to do the cooking, but we were tired and had to be up at 04:30 the next morning to get our flight to St Petersburg so declined and instead went out to have a coffee and cake. We did however end up going to a fast food place (as our tummies rumbled) called Max which is the Swedish version of McDonalds. It reminded me why I hate those places so much, I Nick enjoyed his burger though. It was then back to the hostel for much needed sleep and an early start.