Stockholm fascinates without even trying. Vibrant city. Modern as glass and steel, and old as cobblestones and weathered brick. Men picture tall, blond women. Women picture tall, blond men. Walking the streets, you see a brunette and suddenly think, Mutant!
Brunettes are more common than you’d think. Lots of immigrants, which make up about a quarter of the population. The Vikings are long gone. Peace reins, except for the occasional riot. You may have read the recent Stockholm riots by, dare I say it…let’s put it this way, immigrants from arid areas around the southern edge of the Mediterranean Sea who are not Jewish.
“First, tell me something about Sweden!” Ok. Ok. Don’t panic…
Politically, where does Sweden stand? I know that’s a burning question. After centuries of conquest, Sweden embraced neutrality in the early 19th Century. Blame Napoleon. It’s a twisted, knotted rope, but most things military and political are. Russia wanted help against France. As part of the plan, Sweden ceded Finland to Russia and then pressured Denmark to cede Norway to Sweden. Strange way of doing business, if you ask me, which nobody has.
More recent news about Sweden’s neutrality. Long story. Happy ending. Sweden is not a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but works in close cooperation. Sweden is a member of the European Union, which kinda slaps neutrality in its pallid, fence-sitting face. But, like England, Iceland, and all the Scandinavian countries, Sweden kept its own currency. England’s is the Pound Sterling and the rest are called Crown, but with the country’s name in front, hence Swedish Kronor.
Did you know Sweden has a king? Carl XVI Gustaf has reined since 1973 and his wife, Queen Silvia is German, from Heidelberg. But when you get out of the Middle East and into Europe, it’s always the same with the monarchies, figureheads in a parliamentary system.
Ok, enough dallying. What about Stockholm? By the way, the ex-Vikings pronounce it Stock-kolm. And what’s the Swedish language sound like? Sounds sorta like a soft German, but without the heel clicking and drinking songs.
Stockholm is doubtlessly one of the cleanest cities you’ll visit. Everything is picture perfect, from the narrow cobblestone streets, dotted with stores and pastry shops, to the colorfully painted buildings, grand museums, palace, and churches.
Here’s something you may not know, Stockholm rests on 14 islands, at the end of Lake Mälaren. Info good for a bar bet. Wanta double down? Mälaren is a fresh water lake.
What’s there to see and do? Start with Stadshuset, City Hall, dating from 1923. Can’t miss it, with its tower and red brick. It’s here that the city government meets and also where the annual Nobel Prize Dinner is held for 1300 lucky guests. Don’t miss the breathtaking Gold Room, decorated with over a million gold tiles, including one wall set with an image of The Queen of Lake Mälaren, representing Stockholm being honored from all sides.
|The fabulous Gold Room|
|Blue Room, home of the Nobel Dinner|
|Chamber of Deputies|
|The Ceiling patterned after Viking ships' timbers|
|Classic Swedish style. Simple, yet elegant.|
Don’t miss the Vasamuseet (Vasa museum), dedicated to a single ship and a failed one at that. In 1628, just 20 minutes into it’s maiden voyage the huge warship,Vesa, sank. Stayed on the bottom until 1961 and got it’s own museum in 2000. Somehow the Swedes seem fixated on this ship and apparently so is the rest of the world, to the tune of over 29 million visitors. The ship is stunning, I’ll concede that, but also the personal items recovered are interesting and remarkably intact.
|To judge the size of the ship, look at the people below and to the right.|
Sit down for a Fika, which is Swedish for coffee, cake and, hey lookie at those cupcakes. Indoors, outdoors, take your pick.
A couple of museums you don’t want to sidestep. First off is the National Museum, featuring art through the ages. One of the biggies is Gustav Vasa's Entry into Stockholm. That’s King Gustav, not the ship, which never made it out of port.
Moderna Museet. It’s Stockholm’s modern art museum and the place where the world met names like Andy Warhol, Jean Tinguely, Robert Rauschenberg, Niki de Saint Phalle. Of course all your old favorites, such as Picasso, Pollock, and Dali are also represented.
Most of all, find a place to look down on the city. Watch the boats and water taxis plow through the water, marvel at the skyline, listen the beating heart of the largest of all Scandinavian cities.
Then go grab an expensive beer, or a semi-expensive coffee and hey, check out those blonds!