In between the visits to Copenhagen and the adventures on ferries in Norway, I also went to Stockholm and visited the Stockholm archipelago which extends from the city far into the Baltic.
Stockholm is, as we are told by the cool people in the cool magazines, the coolest city in Europe (and not as a description of the weather). The people are all young and absurdly good looking, the coffee is perfect*, the fashion is hip**, and the food is a delicious, usually esoteric take, on local under appreciated home cooking. And though I take what all the magazines say with a grain of salt, Stockholm is actually a very cool city.
I was naively surprised by the scale of the city. Its location on the water, spread out over several hilly islands of the Stockholm Archipelago, lends it an air of sophistication and majesty. Take the imperial buildings of Paris, the water of Amsterdam, and a touch of the east European aesthetic of Berlin, shake them up and you've got Stockholm. After Copenhagen which is really a rather small, flat, and contained city, without a lot of flashy architecture (from any period), Stockholm felt like an exciting urban jolt.
My friend and I stayed in Sodermalm, which is the Brooklyn of Stockholm. For the first time in my trip, I felt very underdressed (I'm traveling with a small suitcase so I can be forgiven the constant wearing of jeans all the time). Stockholm is a city where people make an effort to look their best and it only helps that most of them are tall and slim. It all made for some rather amazing people watching.
The food was delicious. Like in Copenhagen where there is a focus on updating and improving the basic tenets of local cuisine, I found it very much to my liking though if you struggle with seafood, cream, mustard, or new potatoes you might run out of things to eat. I certainly didn't. That said, like all cosmopolitan European cities there is a good variety of other foods. I just prefer to eat local.
My first visit was spent enjoying a music festival located right in the middle of the city, on the centrally located island of Skeppsholmen. The music festival felt like our own private concert smack in the center of town. We could walk around and look at the city and the boats bobbing in their moorings all the while listening to Prince jam for 3 hours. Pretty nice.
The rest of the week, upon a friend's recommendation, we escaped the city to enjoy the late summer sun on an island in the archipelago. We took a ferry out of town (and you all know how much I love ferries) and landed a couple of hours later at the jetty of Grinda Island. We rented a tiny cabin, bought a lot of wine, and spent 3 days discovering the tiny island and swimming in the bracing waters of the archipelago. We were treated to three gorgeous scandinavian orange and pink summer sunsets reflecting in the waters of the baltic. It was all rather magical. Just a pity that when the summer is over, a very long, and very cold winter settles in.
I went onwards from this first stop to Norway and the fjords, but came back for an afternoon of sailing with some friends. Another glorious day (the weather really cooperated) and a beautiful afternoon on the water, and I think I may have fallen in love with Sweden in the summer. There is a lot more to see and do, which means more trips for the future.
My trip in the north ended with a very long 24 hour train from Stockholm to Den Haag (The Hague). I will write about that in the next post.
* Have you noticed that no city can be deemed "cool" without having a corresponding great coffee scene? I suspect its because the journalists who are sent out to find the "cool" spend a lot of time in coffee shops and wont approve of a city until it has a sufficiently dynamic and esoteric coffee scene for them to enjoy while writing their articles. Just a thought.
** Mostly unwearable (because I'm not tall or slim) or unaffordable (even if you adjust for Scandinavian purchasing power). But I think thats how one defines "hip".