14/05/2011 at 8:05 pm 2 comments

So far using the trains in Europe has not proved to be the success story that I was expecting. Although the trains themselves are excellent and we did manage to get seats on the journey from Gothenburg to Stockholm, they are subjected to the same delays as in the UK. Our train was delayed for around one hour in the middle of Sweden seemingly to let all the other trains go past. No official reason was ever given.

Fortunately the Swedish country side is extremely beautiful, so we did at least have something to look at. It’s a mix of lakes, vast pine forests and large open fields.

After around six hours the train finally pulled into Stockholm Central Station and we headed to the hostel which was only a short walk away. Having dumped our things in the room Chris and I met a fellow traveller called Ben (from California) and the three of us headed out in search of some food. After yet another fine steak and chips we headed to a bar for several expensive Swedish beers. After an excellent cultural exchange of views and ideas we headed back to the hostel for the night.

The next morning feeling slightly worse for wear we settled down to a somewhat disappointing breakfast comprised of some depressing ham and stale bread.

We headed to Gamla stan (The Old Town), situated on the island of Stadsholmen. The area dates back to the 13th Century which combined with its narrow and cobbled streets has a medieval look about it. It’s a very pleasant area of the town to walk around. From the old town we headed to some cliffs which overlook Stockholm and provide some stunning views.

A view over Stockholm

Afterwards we headed to a place called Max’s for a burger. It’s essentially Sweden’s own version of McDonalds only a lot better. The food doesn’t leave you with the feeling that some small animal has crawled into your digestive system and died there.

In the afternoon we took a trip to the Vasamuseet. The museum displays a 17th Century warship called the Vasa which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. You’d think this would be of great embarrassment to the Swedish people, but instead they have turned it into one of Stockholm’s most visited attractions. In many ways the Vasa is like the Mary Rose, although not nearly as lame and crappy. The hull of the ships is amazingly well preserved and it seems that the masts and sails were the only major parts of the vessel that did not survive being underwater for over 300 years.

The Vasa... it aint no Mary Rose.

The ship was built during the reign of King Gustavus Adolphus, who from the sounds of things was a pretty arrogant guy. He had great expansionist aspirations and wanted Sweden to be seen as a world power. The Vasa was to head his fleet but unfortunately for him the vessel sank after travelling less than one mile.

On the beakhead of the ship are twenty figures depicting Roman Emperors. Notably Emperor Augustus has been exempt from this list and replaced by Gustavus Adolphus himself. What an absolute lad!

After leaving the museum we headed to the Systembolaget to pick up some drinks for the evening. These stores are government regulated and are the only place in Sweden where you can buy drinks that contains more than 3.5% alcohol. The beers/ciders were fairly reasonably priced and you can buy single cans rather than being forced to get a six pack. Spirits on the other hand are extortionate. On average prices were around £10 more than what you would pay for the same drink in the UK. Chris and I picked up several cans each of some Swedish beer as well as some extra strong Kopparberg cider. Unfortunately you don’t seem to be able to get it in the UK (yet).

In the evening Chris and I headed out for food. Having wondered around for some time we settled on an American steakhouse. It’s the kind of thing you just have to do when in Stockholm. Having completely forgotten about the burger I had consumed earlier I ordered an El Dorado burger, which was essentially a massive beef burger with jalapeño chillies piled on top. Any meal can be instantly improved with the addition of spicy fruit.

Upon returning to the hostel we again me with Ben. He had got talking to some fellow travellers, Mike and Ivan who both came from Vancouver and Kevin, who like Ben was from California. All six of us soon found ourselves wandering around Stockholm is search of somewhere to drink. Ivan led the way to a club which he assured us would definitely be open on a Monday night. However, we eventually arrived at the club in question to find that it was very much closed. In fact there didn’t seem to be that many places open at all. On an average weekday student night in Britain you would have found people everywhere, passed out on the floor, throwing up into gutters or falling into the path of oncoming taxis.

Eventually we found a bar that was open and settled down for some well earned drinks. After a few rounds it was suggested that we once again go in search of a club. Again though our search was in vein and we eventually had to stop at a 7-Eleven convenience store for some further refreshments. Eventually we decided that it would be best to head back to the hostel, partly because we were all bored of walking around but also because there was more beer in the fridge there.

Needless to say Chris and I both missed breakfast the next morning. Although based on the food we had had the previous day neither of us were hugely concerned.

Being hungover Chris, Ivan, Mike, Ben and I decided that a trip to the National Museum would be a great idea. Much of the exhibition was very similar to what Chris and I had seen at the national museum in Copenhagen. There was plenty of stuff from prehistory right up to the Viking period. We did however notice the strange way in which a lot of the information was worded. More often than not it would ask the reader questions rather than just providing the answers. When I go to a museum it’s because I want to be lectured to and informed, not the other way around. There was also a rather trippy video/slideshow which seemed to outline the whole of human history in the space of five minutes. It was displayed across three screens which made me feel somewhat sick, although this may have been down to the hangover. These slightly eccentric nature of the museum made it all the more entertaining. One of the exhibits even showed a can of spray paint, with a caption that read something along the lines of, “spray can for wall art, C.2000 AD”. I assume this was meant as a light hearted way of comparing ancient cave paintings to modern day graffiti.

There was also the hugely impressive “Gold Room” which was full of things like coins, necklaces and sceptres. There is no way we would have anything like it in the UK. All the gold would have been traded in at “cash 4 gold” as a way of helping to clear the budget deficit.

At this point Ben had to leave and go and catch a flight to Germany. The rest of us headed to the Systembolaget where we could pick up some liquid dinner. Upon returning to the hostel we cracked out the beers and a pack of cards and settled down to play some drinking games. We were joined by Danny, an American soldier who had just recently returned from Iraq where he had been training the local security forces. Chris and I were introduced to the games “pyramid”, “Kings cup” (essentially the North American version of “Ring of Fire”) and “asshole”. It quickly became apparent that I am terrible at all card games, although the quantities of beer involved may not have helped the situation.

On out final day in Stockholm Chris and I once again missed the below par breakfast buffet and instead went out in search of a kebab. The Swedes seem to think nothing of eating a kebab during the day, whereas in England it is the kind of food that you only eat when completely wasted.

Afterwards a group of us headed down to one of Stockholm’s parks located alongside the water. Ever since we had met Ivan he had been making grand plans about how he wanted to go for a swim in the sea. When it came down to it he managed to last about five minutes in the water before the freezing conditions forced him back onto dry land. At this point Chris and I said our goodbyes to the group and began the long walk to the Stockholm Ferry Port where we would board the ship to Helsinki.

Stockholm is a truly beautiful city. The fantastic weather which we had probably helped matters as well. The Swedes are all extremely stylish which made me feel comparatively tramp like. The guys all have solid haircuts and the woman are effortlessly good looking. Quite frankly they have put the English to shame.

My only regret about Stockholm is that we did not stay there for longer. You could spend days just walking around taking in the architecture and stunning views across the water. It is certainly a place that I will visit again.


Entry filed under: Sweden. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Gothenburg Helsinki

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jamie  |  14/05/2011 at 10:19 pm

    Sounds like a great time! Beers definitely help!
    Also loved the description of “depressing ham”.

  • 2. Alan  |  19/05/2011 at 9:52 am

    Stockholm sounds like a great town to be and you were certainly blessed with the weather which always makes a place look at its best.
    Is there anything other than burger to eat ? I thought they were a nation of fish lovers ? Does this mean the whole of Europe is subject to the same homogeneous food supplied by some filthy rich capitalist in the sky.
    The views look stunning and I hope you have many more pictures to show. The Vasa looks in good shape and puts our Mary Rose in a poor light, though I have never understood the need or obsession with preserving the past ! The only place we humans are going is forward. Yesterday is long gone.

    Oh just a note on European trains As you know Geoff does a lot of travelling and his view is that the British rail network is as good as any other and that the super efficient Euro-train is a subject to the same fallibility.

    To date You will now have been to Finland and back to Germany. So I hope you enjoyed Finland as much as Sweden

    Please eat some fish and Green vegetables
    Lots of love Dad xxx


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