Back in 2009 I spent the summer working at a camp in the south of Sweden called Holsby Brunn. I was 19, had been away from home for 7 months, and was eagerly counting down the days until I would return to Vancouver. The beginning of the summer was rough. I became an introvert and called home constantly to complain about the fate I’d been dealt. But then a few weeks later something changed, I changed. I gave myself the pep-talk I needed and was able to put a smile on my face in order to enjoy my last 6 weeks in Sweden (before heading to Norway for one last week in Scandinavia) before heading home.
Which brings me to: Stockholm.
Just as I was deciding to lift my head out of my funk and actually enjoy living in Sweden, I went to Stockholm. I needed to leave the camp for a bit and see some more of the country I was inhabiting – and I’m so happy I did!
Stockholm sits on the 59th parallel and is right beside the sea. Weather, even during the summer, can be wet, cold and cloudy (when I was there in mid-June it was no different). Nearly 900,000 people live in the city, which was founded in the 13th century. Sweden has a monarchy too, although much like the famous royal family of England, their position is based on tradition, while the prime minister does most of the decision making.
Speaking of the monarchy brings me to my first place to visit: the royal palaces of the Swedish Royal family. Located in the centre of Stockholm’s Old Town, the changing of the guards is something you can see at noon every day (1 PM on Sundays and holidays) in front of the palace. It’s a similar event that happens in front of palaces, castles, and important buildings all around the world but since it is free it doesn’t hurt to stop by and take a look. The palace is a beautiful building that you can also tour inside although many rooms are off-limits for civilians. When I was in Stockholm I avoided touring the inside of the palace to save some money. Since Stockholm can be expensive (and the reviews on TripAdvisor weren’t too good) I decided to save my money for something else. Anyway, viewing the outside of the palace was truly beautiful and was quite enough for me.
After touring the palace grounds, it is also nice to walk along the water which the palace is situated beside. You can look out into the harbour and see the boats and just admire the beauty of Stockholm.
Surrounding the palace is Stockholm’s Old Town. The cobble-stone streets are quaint with nice buildings and shops around every turn. Try not to trip on the uneven side-walks though; I remember nearly falling flat on my face – twice! The shops are expensive, since Sweden is expensive, and finding a good but cheap place to eat in Stockholm can be difficult. One thing you must try though is kebab pizza. Yes, that’s right. The Turkish immigrants to Sweden have outdone themselves. A pizza crust piled high with barbecued meat, vegis, and topped with delicious garlic sauce – it’s something to behold. I couldn’t find a specific link to a great kebab pizza place in Stockholm but I don’t think it should be too hard to find. Just enter a local pizza place and check the menu – it should be there! Do yourself a favour and check it out. You’ll thank me.
Aside from eating some kebab pizza, tripping on cobblestones, and seeing the home of Sweden’s royalty, I didn’t see all that much as I was only in the city for 2 days. But, on my second and last day in Stockholm, I did see what proved to be my favourite part of the trip: the Vasa Museum.
What is it, you ask? The Vasa warship was a Swedish ship that was built in the early 17th century and left on it’s maiden voyage from the Stockholm harbour on August 10, 1628. The only problem was that it sank 1,300 meters into the voyage and fell to the bottom of the Swedish Baltic. The ship was forgotten about until the 1950’s and was salvaged in the 1970’s to be put in the Vasa Museum. What makes this warship interesting though is that it was salvaged in one piece, brought to the ocean surface, carted to a massive workshop, and dried out over the next 9 years using polyethylene glycol as a preservation tool. Now the ship is standing inside the museum with nearly all it’s original parts, casting great knowledge onto historians and interested tourists alike about ships and Swedish life in the early 1600’s.
Around the ship there are displays of cutlery, jewels, clothing, and so much more that were found inside the ship. Surprisingly intact due to the polluted waters of the Baltic Sea (thus disabling the growth of bacteria and parasites that would usually decompose such valuable artifacts), it paints a picture of life during that time and for a history buff like me it is incredibly fascinating!
The Vasa Museum is one of Stockholm’s most popular tourists attractions and I saw firsthand why it cannot be missed!
Stockholm is a beautiful city where history is abundant. The underground is fairly convenient (pricey but good) getting you to most of the important landmarks in the city. The weather can be temperamental and, as I learned while I was there, can change from hot sun to cool rain in the blink of an eye. The people are friendly (and beautiful, men and women), the food is delicious, and although it can be expensive, it doesn’t hurt to just save a bit of money and sit on a bench overlooking the water and people watch.
Hope you enjoy your trip to Stockholm, can’t wait to hear what you were up to!