Three Days in Stockholm (Nordics Part II)

I'm so excited to share Sweden with you! But first, let me share something that happens often... a hectic travel day. Transport to the Geneva airport took double the time. We ALWAYS take the train, but someone coordinated a car for us (a major no no). The driver ended up driving on the shoulder for about half of the trip.  Weaving in and out of traffic.  Later we learned this was all due to the Geneva Auto Show.  We arrived at the airport 60 minutes before takeoff.

After passing through Customs, we are separated getting through Security.  We are flying on a partner airline that does not recognize 'travel companion' and Bill was through security in two minutes.  It would take me at least an hour.  Then I saw several passing the line due to flights boarding, and I followed them (it was worth a try, right?).

I get through security; we rush to the gate and.... my eyes suddenly well with tears. Not for the relief of making it through the last few hours but for seeing a sea of Swedes!

Let me explain. I grew up in Minnesota (Americas Scandinavia), where 80% of the state is Nordic and German.  Much like Sweden's Archipelago, Minnesota has 10,000 lakes. Water is part of the culture, as is the Tundra climate.

Arriving at the gate for our flight from Geneva to Stockholm, we are surrounded by Swedes.  It felt like being hugged, and that we were going home.  It is at this moment when I truly understand why we are drawn to stay close to home, and the constant pull towards living in the Midwest.

Saturday Afternoon

A strange sight a week after the media reports violence in Sweden... while unloading our luggage at the hotel we saw two 1970's station-wagons (old, beaten up) with about a dozen men smooshed in each car.  Bill and I looked at each other, and I immediately wished I was quick enough to take a photo... no one will believe what we saw in front of The Grand Hotel.

Think Mad Max...

Once settled into our hotel, Bill relaxes and I'm eager to explore.  First stop was to find a local bakery with Kardammome Bullar and coffee (for Sunday).  Then we visited the a.m.a.z.i.n.g Nordic spa, and dinner close to the hotel. 

Sunday is a busy day for us.

Sunday Morning

I'm up and out the door for a sunrise walk. A thin layer of fresh ice is blanketing the water, and I can see my breathe in the air, blue skies.  Perfection!

On this day, we are guests of a professional colleague who will show us old town and bring us to dinner in the evening.

Photos above:

Upper Left: A walk through Gamla Stan, to the Royal Palace. It's Princess Victoria's Name Day, and the crowds are gathering to celebrate (she is next in line for the throne).  Name day is a special day celebrated by many in Sweden, similar to a birthday.

Upper Right: This is Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, an alley style road dating back to 1597. It's just 35 inches at the narrowest spot

Lower Left: Stortorget Square. I am going to look for a biography/historical fiction to learn more about these streets. There is a square in the Gamla Stan that many say they feel the energy from the violent deaths.  It is here where Stockholm was erected around this historical central square (1400AD).  

Lower Right: Tea at The Grand Hotel. Note, it's only 2PM. This is our second champagne and our third plate of sweets! You start with the bottom plate with finger sandwiches and work your way up to sweets.

Sunday night we had a wonderful meal and discovered that Urban and Perilla travel more than we do.  Bonus: they live near to a member of the band ABBA, who's home we passed while listening to ABBA.  They gave us a walking tour and drove is through the 14 islands that make up Stockholm. Perfect hosts (thinking of everything, including the ABBA music timed perfectly).

Monday: Family Day

The highlight of my trip was spending the day with this lovely, strong, amazing woman. My childhood penpal/cousin. We walked, talked, talked, and walked some more. Sharing and building the foundation for a strong friendship (one that cannot be broken since we are family). We haven't seen each other since 1981, having six hours one on one was a real gift.

In the evening I met with two other cousins.  They were toddlers to my fourteen last I time we met.  Sadly the photo didn't turn out, but it was lovely reconnecting.

I cannot wrap up our stay in Stockholm without writing about The Grand Hotel and Nordic Spa.  They say a photo tells a story, if true I don't need to explain much about this unbelievable place.  Traveling with Bill gifts me with some amazing experiences, including an occasional stay in a breathtaking place like this one.  (photos: lobby, our room, spa lounge, Nordic Ritual)

Warming Up to Nordic

Although Nordic spa rituals are done to detoxify skin and muscles, better sleep and a stimulate the immune system.

1) The body is warmed up with a 10- to 15-minute sauna session to open pores and liberate toxins.

2) There is a quick cool-off with submersion under a Nordic waterfall or in a cold or temperate pool or shower. This treatment restores normal body temperature while rinsing off toxins and tightening pores. Blood circulation is activated with a rush of adrenaline.

3) Repeat the sequence several times, then rest peacefully for another 10 to 15 minutes in a relaxation area until the body system finds its normal rhythm.

This winter loving gal can confirm the shock to your body is intense. The cold plunge took my breathe away the first time I tried it.  But I enjoyed the experience so much that I made time for this ritual daily.

Observations and Touristy Things

  • The food is very salty.
  • Where are the vegetables?!
  • Sweden must not cater much to vegetarians. I was surprised to find no options in a few restaurants (not even a salad).  At Fika in the Grand Hotel, we had to request vegetarian off the menu.
  • Migrants sit on street corners throughout the city, part of the landscape. So much so that I researched to understand if they are Syrian refugees.  No, they are from Romania.  No papers, claiming a spot and sitting.
  • While it's not fair for me to make assumptions after just one week in this country, I know my grandparents would be sad to see the violence and poverty. 
  • Stockholm is steep in tradition!  Blue and Yellow flags proudly on display
There is SO much to see on Stockholm's fourteen island city.
  • Spend half a day walking through the streets of Gamla Stan (old town)
  • Prastgatan (translating to Priest Street) is a picturesque street in Gamla Stan.  Dating back to 1586
  • Monteliusvagen is a .25 mile path along Lake Malaren with stunning views
  • Visit Skansen, and outdoor museum.  Near Skansen is the ABBA Experience and a carnival. 
  • In the afternoon, find a local coffee shop.  Not a day went by without Fika in my grandparents home. What is Fika? it means 'taking a bit of time out of the day to site with a cup of coffee, good company, and a treat.'

I loved Stockholm.  Please put this city on your must-see list!

Next stop: a road trip to Vastervik, my family home town on my mother's side.