Trevor Leeden (aka “Don L”) and his children tag along with Dulcinea to a medical conference in Sweden and discover the land of Abba, and Swedish meatballs…..In the first of a three part series, he describes a hilarious family journey through Sweden, dragging children through museums (haven’t we all done that before…) and finding out that after a while, they learn to appreciate history, culture…even if the music is not from their generation. Oh Mamma Mia , Mamma Mia …here we go again !!
Skool holidays, Dulcinea in Sweden on business, what a perfect opportunity to experience a little bit of Scandinavia. And so Don L and los chicos boarded an SAS flight bound for Stockholm. we arrived at 10:00pm and before we knew it were in the heart of the city and our hotel (for lack of a better word) by 11:00pm. (Travel Tip: Stockholm airport (Arlanda) is quite small but very efficient. Best of all is the Arlanda Express train link which travels at 207kph and drops you at Stockholm Central Station in EXACTLY 20 minutes – and kids travel for free). Our accommodation is a 7 minute walk from the station. Dulcinea is attending the annual European Urology Convention along with 14,000 other delegates and the city is booked out. We find theOmena Hotel easily enough and use our PIN code to gain access. Que? Yes caballeros, this is a first for us, we are staying in an UNMANNED hotel! There is no front desk, no staff, no nothing(they SMS your room number and PIN on the day of check-in!!), and when we enter our room there are NO WINDOWS. It’s about the size of my home office but does have its own bathroom, which none of the other available hotels could offer – Don L can suffer most things but not a shared bathroom!
We sleep in a bit, meet Dulcinea and the adventure begins. Sustenance is called for and we try our luck at Mean Coffee (Vasagatan 38). I’ve heard that Swedes love their java so I kick off my eternal quest and go for the jugular – strong latte por favor, in a small glass. Putting aside the fact that Swedes (and Danes as we discover) seem to think that small equals 1/2 litre, I am served THE BEST COFFEE I HAVE HAD IN EUROPE, and the barista and Don L have a fine old time debunking the coffee credentials of Italians, French and Spaniards (pointless even mentioning English coffee).
We wander along the waterfront and some things are apparent very quickly – the city is very flat and there are no tall structures to be seen. Stockholm is built on 14 islands amid an archipelago of 30,000 islands/islets, so we decide to do the Royal Canal Tour. It’s a pleasant hour long trip that travels along the Djurgarden canal, and provides an insight into the Swedish mindset – they areeco-warriors, one of the ‘greenest’ cities on the planet. Along the route we pass the Grande Hotel (Sweden’s oldest which flies all the national flags of its guests – sadly there’s no Oz flag fluttering!), Nobelparken – where EVERY species of tree that grows in Sweden can be found with the exception of the birch tree, renovated C19th steamships, Diplomatstaden – where magnificent foreign embassies line the canal, the Maritime Museum, past the Kaknastornet (155 metres high) which amazingly was the tallest structure in Sweden until 2005, too many small boats to count (there are 700,000 registered leisure boats in Sweden meaning more than 7% of the population own a boat), past Agnetha Faltskog’s house (you know her – the blonde one in ABBA!), and then returning to a vista of Gamla Stan the original Old Town that dates back to 1252 and has remained relatively untouched ever since.
We walk through the narrow alleys and lanes of Gamla Stan; it’s great. The Royal Palace including The Treasury, Armoury and Royal Apartments is here, completed in 1754 and one of Europe’s largest. We even manage to se the tail end of the changing of the guard ceremony. We walk past Stockholm Cathedral and the Alfred Nobel Museum is here too; we discuss the irony of the foremost prize for peace being named in honour of the man who invented dynamite (and yes, we did discuss all the good elements to his invention). Apart from the cathedral, Riddarholmen Church dominates the skyline; built in 1300 it’s the only abbey in the city and is the burial place of Swedish royalty.
A quick metro ride and we’re at the Ericsson Globe, the world’s largest spherical building and we ride up to the top in the SkyView pods for sweeping views over the city. (Here’s a travel warning: Beware the call of nature in Stockholm – you will be charged to use facilities, even in bistros etc! Pulling out the largest denomination note in your wallet doesn’t help either – they’re obviously used to this ploy!).
It’s back to Gamla Stan for dinner and los ninos choose a restaurant called Rio de la Plata. The food is FABULOUS, thick tomato soup and Swedish meatballs go down a treat. The only red meat I eat is venison, so when the menu includes REINDEER, then Don L can’t resist, even though nobody else finds my quip about eating Rudolph to be funny! And it was delicious, tasted just like venison (well, what would you expect!).
With full stomachs we slowly walk back to the shoebox for a good night’s rest…there’s some serious action on the horizon……..
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