Luckily Stockholm is an amazing city and soon redeemed itself when we wandered through Gamla Stan(the old town). Gamla Stan is an obvious tourist attraction and we heard a lot more English and other languages than we were used to, but it's such a beautiful city centre with cobble stone streets, tiny twisty alleys and amazing old buildings that you spend more time appreciating the town itself than being worried by overbearing American tourists.
Afternoon light on the shutters in Gamla Stan
One of the many beautiful buildings in Gamla Stan
The hotel was a really good fit for us. It was right on the S-bahn line that led straight into the city and with our Stockholm cards we had unlimited travel on all of the public transport for 72 hours. It had a small kitchenette in each room(we were staying in the business apartments) and wasn't just a room with a large bed in the middle of it. This made things heaps easier with cooking food for Josie and hanging out with Ruth and Rhett in the evenings. We even saved a bit of money by cooking a few meals for ourselves. Stockholm remains a very expensive city to hang out in. We got our first glimpse of the Olympics here in the breakfast room where they had a large flatscreen TV tuned in every morning to the events in Beijing.
The next morning we headed back in to Gamla Stan to see the changing of the guard at the Kungliga Slottet. It was 45 minutes of tourist theatre and nothing more, but it was fun to see the bright blue uniforms and all the crowds of people holding their digital cameras above their heads trying to get a decent photo. Photography sure has changed in the last couple of decades... Actually the highlight of the whole spectacle was one of the horses deciding that he really didn't want his rider any more and rearing up until he fell off. We never did find out what happened to that poor soldier.
Good formation of Swedish soldiers marching by
We walked across the bridge to Södermalm and found a few cool shops, one full of clothes for the girls, and one across the street full of high end audio equipment for the boys! We had some good coffee at the corner shop and then headed for the edge of the island where we had heard of a slow food restaurant that sounded pretty interesting. Unfortunately when we got there they had closed the kitchen for lunch so we headed up the road to another very very fun café that had chai tea and incredible food. It was like a Newtown café transplanted to the seaside in Stockholm and was just the perfect place for us to unwind and spend a few hours chilling out.
Some crackingly good looking folks along the water's edge
On a really high bridge looking back over Stockholm
Skansen is Stockholm's outdoor zoo and historical recreation space and is a great place to hang out for a day in the sunshine. We were getting slightly more sunshine in Stockholm than we'd received in Nora and hadn't had any rain at all, but it still would have been nice if it was actively warm. Skansen has a whole bunch of old craft houses where they still practice woodworking, glass blowing and pottery the way it was done back in the 1600s
Traditional wooden forms still used for blowing glass. Still doing the simplest thing that works.
A beautiful set of woodworking chisels
Some very cute and ferocious bears
Our last big adventure in Stockholm was a ferry ride out in to the skärgården (archipelago) to visit Grinda. We missed our boat to Svartö that morning and so decided on Grinda instead. It turned out to be a fortuitous timing problem as Grinda was just what we needed after a hectic few days in the city. The ferry ride out was on a very comfortable large ferry run by the Waxholms bolaget (company). They've been running ferry services out into the skärgården for the last 150 years and were bang on time at every stop on the way out. And there were a lot of stops, the ferry must have made about 15 before we landed on Grinda out near the edge of the middle part of the archipelago.
Sail regatta in the skärgården
Grinda was a nice size island that had trails over most of it and we managed to find the highest point of the island fairly early on. This gave us an incredible view out over the island and the archipelago and the sun was nice and warm on the rocks so we spent quite a while there just hanging out and soaking up the atmosphere.
Hanging on the highest point of Grinda
We went to the north end of the island after that and managed our first dip in the Baltic for this trip which was quite cold but very worth while. We even had a couple of ducks come up on shore near us to thank us for the showing. Invigorated by the cool clean waters we headed back to the harbour where we had some fairly uninspiring food accompanied by some very, very Euro DJ efforts that of course included ABBA and watched the sun set over the water.
Sparkling reflections as the sun starting sinking
We headed back to the ferry dock to catch our ferry home just as the sun started putting on a real show and thankfully we managed to snap a few photos of the sky going crazy with colour. It was a truly memorable and remarkable day and I think next time we go to Sweden we'll spend more time at Nora and plan to do some island hopping in the archipelago in Stockholm instead of staying on the mainland. There are all sorts of interesting islands with youth hostels, hotels, restaurants and communities to explore and you can get day passes for unlimited archipelago ferry travel which sounds like a great idea to me. Anyone interested in joining in must be into cycling, exploring, appreciating incredible beauty and posing for an endless series of photographs in one of the most amazing places on Earth. Just like the folks I went with this time around! So thanks to the amazing Ruth, Rhett, Josie team and of course my ever lovely wife Col for making the trip to Sweden and Stockholm such a great one. Tack ska ni ha!
Red hot island glowing in the setting sun