Scandinavian Waterways & Capitals – Fred. Olsen: Part 4

navigate the Scandinavian waterways


“Just read a book about Stockholm Syndrome – it started off badly but by the end I really liked it”- Ken Dodd

Our second capital awaits but first a relaxing day at sea. We left Copenhagen bathed in sunshine. We arrived in Stockholm in torrential rain.

It is situated on the Baltic at the mouth of Lake Malaran. Capital of Sweden since 1634 and founded in 1252. The currency is the Swedish Kronor. It has many nicknames, mainly ‘Beauty on the water’ and ‘Venice of the North’ due to its 14 islands being interlinked by waterways and bridges.

We are in Viking territory. Home to H and M, Volvo cars, IKEA, ABBA and Pippi Longstocking – a children’s book character created by Astrid Lindgren. It is tecky heaven too with Minecraft, Skype and Spotify all having HQs in the city. Ice cool Bjorn Borg has a home here overlooking the water. I always thought Acne is due to a problem with greasy skin and hormones. Apparently not! The biology books are all wrong. Acne is from Sweden – cool yet skinny jeans , famous the world over. Though as I am not cool nor skinny I have never ever heard of them.

Stockholm Before we hit the city Captain Lars informed us that we were in for a treat. We had to sail through the famous Stockholm Archipelago – a total of 30,000 islands and rocks which with a bit of luck and skill we wouldn’t hit. Pity the poor sod who had to count them all. Imagine getting close to the end and losing many when high tide appears. Quaint red houses sit aloft rock outcrops. Pastel colours too. The zig zag journey was superb, a highlight of the cruise, with wonderful vistas everywhere.

Stockholm is a green city. One third water, one third housing and one third magnificent parkland. Leafy green spaces and fresh air tinged with a subtle hint of the sea. Do take stock of Stockholm.

Where is the best place to start exploring? The area known as Gamla Stan (old town) is heart shaped and appropriately the heart of this wonderful city. Grand buildings in shades of gold,ochre, rusty red, brown and blue. A web of beautiful alleyways radiate out from the centre. It is easy to get lost in these, often quiet, stone streets but hey go with the flow. Cafes and restaurants and waterside bars all compete and tempt the hungry and thirsty. A fairy tale setting. No wonder Stockholm is on most ‘to do’ lists.

Stockholm The narrowest street in Old Town is Marten Trotzigs alley which has 36 steep steps and is a mere 35 inches wide at its slimmest point.

Imagine living in Fartygsmagasinat? Probably the butt of many a joke.

If a Swede asks you to ‘fika’, don’t be upset, shocked or run a mile. Swedish people ‘fika’ as much as possible, it’s in their DNA. It is the respectable and very civilised way to take a coffee break. Usually a pastry is involved too. And with coffee so good in the city I would ‘fika’ all day long especially now that i have retired.

Before we disembarked we had to queue for a ticket to allow us to get onto the shuttle bus. Those passengers with all-inclusive packages got a ticket free, though they still had to line up. Others had to pay £5. So far so good. Then two hours later when the majority of  people had left the ship Fred Olsen announced that the bus was now free to use for everyone. A crass decision which narked off the many who had already paid.

Back on dry land we had a brilliant hot chocolate at Chokladkoppen again in the Old Town. Look for the rainbow flag. It flies all year.

The Flying Elk. Not a mythical beast from JK Rowlings imagination nor an endangered species. Hardly with food this good. It is a posh bistro/gastro-pub popular with the locals which is always a good sign. Food to die for with every mouthful an explosion of flavours. The Flying Elk has something to suit all tastes. As does the city of Stockholm itself.

ICEBAR Stockholm The coolest place in the city by far is The Icebar. Close to the central station. It is the world’s first permanent ice bar at a constant -7C. So what do you get for your money? Snazzy blue and white warm coats and gloves and inside exquisitely crafted sculptures. Every year the images change. The experience lasts about 45 minutes – not enough time for extremities to drop off. So relax. Fancy a drink? – with ice naturally.

Take a bit of Pollock and add some Bacon and Munch slowly. No were not having a picnic and neither is it a recipe from Nigella. No we are in Moderna Museet. Home of weird and hardly wonderful art including Andy Warhol alongside Jackson P, Francis B and Edvard Munch.

Edvard Munch’s (Scream) masterpiece is reminiscent of an odd looking pasty-faced customer of mine in Sheffield though her head was a bit squarer. Iconic maybe but a masterpiece? – the painting not her head. The jury is out on this but it is a superb representation of migraine sufferers anguish.

The Royal Palace is boxy in shape and with 608 rooms is one of the largest palaces in the world. Changing of the guard is at 12:45 come rain or shine. Today it was raining. Look out for the silver throne in the Hall of State. You will also get to see the Royal Apartments, Royal Chapel, Royal museum, Royal Guard and of course the Royal Gift Shop and Royal Cafe.

Stikki Nikki in Gamla Stan. Is Sticky Vicky in Benidorm her sister? No ping pong balls flying through the air here. No just the finest gelato a Swedish coin can buy. Nicole Emson is Texan born and called Stikki Nikki on account of her long skinny legs. She started selling daily fresh homemade ice cream from a kiosk in 2008 and now has 8 stores.

Do check out the underground art in all subway stations – the wonderfully named tunnelbana.

LGBT is mainstream here in Stockholm so it is not unusual to see men walking hand in hand and girls kissing in the street.

We passed HILDA. Looking inside this Swedish Institution it was full of shoppers buying homewares. The prices were crazy. £30 for a tea towel.

The rain continued as the day darkened. We were determined to stay out as long as we could. We had until 8:30 for our evening meal so we did what most Swedish people would do. Fika!

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Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

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