If you are not an 18- 25 year old Italian male, Stockholm might not be the perfect location for a weekend break. And even then, you have to save up a little before you head for your nord adventure.
What initially started as a possible escape to Paris with an old friend of mine, turned into four days nation’s gathering in one of Scandinavian capitals.
During my last visit to Vilnius, I accidentally mentioned my girlfriends, that I might be joining a friend of mine in Paris for a two days city break sometime in July.
- It is not certain, – I said, – but I was planning to take a Eurostar ride anyway, so why not now? Plus, I promised him once, that I will drag him to Paris/…
- Wait wait wait wait wait, why haven’t we received an invitation? We too are going to Paris!
A week later a Facebook group was created under a title Paris it is. Later, July turned into June and during my trip to Amsterdam I received an e-mail saying: It’s not so Paris anymore.
I apathetically booked a return ticket to Stockholm.
Strangely enough, Stockholm was my first independent trip when ten years ago I decided to visit a Swedish boy I was in love with in a platonic way. We had virtual relationship via MSN messenger and I was dying to kiss him. And even then, with a guidance of the local and eyes full of imaginary love, Stockholm appeared grey and gloomy. Pus pus and farewell it was without even a thought to come back.
I landed at Stockholm (Skavsta), which is a tiny airport located one hour and a half away from the city centre. My dear friends, who landed a couple of hours before waited patiently to welcome me with a balloon shaped letter M. A bus was about to leave, so we got ourselves a return ticket out of ticket machine (around €22) and got on.
The bus was packed and we ended up sitting separately, I got a seat next to a man I met in London. Apparently, we were on the same flight. He had troubles to board the plane due to the last minute purchase. Fuck my life, – I thought, – one hour and a half stuck talking with a complete stranger. However, it turned to be a very pleasant acquaintance. I learnt that the man has a medical background and specialises in osteoporosis. I asked him why did he choose this particular field and he explained that it is a long story. I told him that we have enough time.
- At the time when I studied, there was no cure for the condition and our lecturer would invite people suffering from osteoporosis to the lectures. They all were crippled by the disease, however they all had smiles on their faces. I became curious to find out what made them smile.
- And what made them smile? – I asked.
- Even though that most of them lived in constant pain, they were grateful for their lives and that they can get on with daily routines without help. <…> And then we found the cure and people stopped smiling.
- This is a very sad story.
- But why? They became normal.
- You took smiles from people faces, – I said naively.
We arrived at the central station and headed towards our hostel, within’ 20min we were unpacking our bags. Why they did not go for Airbnb? – I hear you say. This was my question too, when I saw this little room with three bunk beds, no window costing us €180 per night. But this is what you get if you care to live in the heart of Stockholm and save on travelling.
Once we settled I encouraged the nation to go out for a pint and celebrate successfully planned journey. Let’s admit, when you reach certain age it gets harder to organise a bunch of people to meet, not to mention in foreign country.
We were lucky enough to find this ever so welcoming bar just around the corner, called The Queen’s Head. Even though it was about to close, a charming bartender was happy to let us in for one drink. One delightful drink it was. Beer recommended by the bartender tasted fantastic and was just right lubricant for our catch up.
Next morning we paid a visit to local Fabrique for a coffee and kanelbullar. For this short stay in Stockholm it became my favourite coffee shop. I went there each morning and I’m not ashamed. My hipster soul felt at easy surrounded by industrial design, smell of craft coffee and sort of homemade feel of food.
Since museums are closed on Mondays, Saturday was dedicated to culture. We went to see the biggest failure in Swedish history, also known as Vasa museum, which features a military boat from XVII century. The construction of the boat started in 1626 and for two years craftsmen from The Netherlands and Sweden worked on its’ design. Oak was brought from the enemy, Poland. And after two years, on Sunday, after church, population of the town gathered to see Vasa take off. And guess what? It floated for 20 min and sank. End of story.
I could not grasp the pulse of Stockholm’s night scene. However, I did find out, that all clubs are paid entry and was really tempted to visit Under Bron and Magenta.
Another thing we missed out on was a shrimp & taco 4 hour cruise with M/S Vindhem (€32). The door open at 6pm, boat departs around 7pm, Tues – Sat. Departure from Skeppsbron, in front of the Royal Castle. It may sound tacky and it probably is, but who would skip an opportunity to dance to live music on a boat whiles stuffing oneself with shrimps and champagne?
On Sunday, instead of my very favourite Sunday Roast, we went on meatballs hunt. Meatballs for the People (Nytorgsgatan 30, 116 40 Stockholm) is one of the spots to visit for non-vegetarians/ vegans. The plate of Swedish classics was mouth-watering and with a glass of Pinot Noir it went down as one of the best birthday lunches I ever had (total around €17).
That’s about it.
All in all, it was a pleasant escape to a different culture. Swedish are an interesting kind, confident and relaxed, as one of fellow travellers noticed: there is no worry in their faces, no finance related troubles, as oppose to Lithuanians, the poor. And they all disappear to the unknown during the weekend. Really, the town was dead for two days until Monday, then the place bloomed in all type of colours.