Sometime during August 2013 (it was so long ago now I can’t even remember the exact date) a friend and I flew out to Stokholm – the capital of Scandinavia. Having seen on numerous infographics how awesome Sweden was when it came to things like social and economic equality, I was keen to see this haven for myself. We booked cheap(ish) flights on Norwegian Airlines and 3 nights in a city hostel, exchanged our pounds for krona and left open minded about our Swedish adventure. Surprisingly perhaps, we ended up being not very surprised at all…

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Having arrived in the early afternoon, we donned our tourist hats and headed out to explore the city. Our first stop was the old town, Gamla Stan. The streets were littered with independent artsy shops, tattoo parlours, and cafes with open window ice-cream stands. Something I wasn’t prepared for was the scorching heat; I had imagined sweden to be sunny but cool, not 30 odd degrees. We sat and ate ice-cream on one of the narrow, autumnal side-streets before heading to the hostel for some dinner. Right from the beginning we were struck by the cleanliness of the roads, and the general feeling of calm across the city centre. Over the course of my trip I was also surprised to find a severe lack of Starbucks and McDonalds. The biggest brand dominating the shopping areas was H&M (understandably, it is Swedish…). I thought to myself it may be that Sweden is not a tax-haven and so these capitalist kings avoid the place, but as I am not an economist I really have no idea. Either way, it was really nice, and Wayne’s Coffee tasted far better.

We spent the rest of out trip visiting all the tourist hotspots. The Stokholm Card was quite expensive so we made sure we made the most out of it, visiting galleries,  the aquarium, and museums galore, all on-board a city bike. Stokholm has incredible bike lanes, making cycling in a foreign capital city safer for everyone, making it the easiest way to get around.  My favourite place had to be  Djurgården; the city’s garden housed Skansen and the Vasa Museum, amongst several other bizarre and wonderful places to visit. On our third day we took advantage of the free bike tour; on our stop outside parliament our tour guide informed us of the recent political history of Sweden (i.e. shift from Socialism to Conservatism), and explained why he believed Sweden “worked” (he put it down to the fact roughly 49% of government being made up of women). Something I wasn’t expecting was the presence of an existing monarchy in a country with a socialist history, but their central palace had nothing on Buckingham, and felt far less intimidating. We even unwittingly walked past the royal prince and princess leaving the palace in a private car; of course they were accompanied by security, but if it wasn’t for a hoard of tourists running to take pictures I would never have noticed.

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Apart from Djurgården, the highlight of my trip had to be the Nobel Museum. Although it mostly consisted of short video clips and canvases about award winners, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by stories behind each prize. It  was simple, but powerful. I left feeling inspired, which is something I can’t say I’ve ever felt leaving a museum before. That night we drank fruit cider on the riverside, and on our final day we visited the Stokholm city hall, and Fotografiska before jumping on a bus to the airport.

A con about Stokholm is the price. It was not a cheap getaway, even though we avoided public transport, cooked for ourselves, and stayed in the cheapest hostel, I believe it ended up costing me around £400. My favourite souvenir had to be my copy of Pippi Långstrump, the story of a quirky and rebellious red-head and her adventures with her two neighbours Tommy and Anika. Overall, I was taken aback by niceness of Stokholm. No where did I encounter a slave-race working the unwanted jobs, and even driving out of the city to the airport I didn’t notice a dramatic difference between the wealthy city-centre to the poorer suburban areas. Of course this doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and I am very aware Sweden’s Socialist golden-age has come to an end, but evidently someone somewhere was making some good decisions. It was a pleasant city break, but I personally prefer exploring places a bit rougher around the edges…

 

– MW.

One thought on “Stokholm, August 2013

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