My first impression of Sweden was that it was a bit 'boring' from a couple of years ago, when we took a 30-minute train ride across the Oresund Bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmo. I have to say, the main reason for our visit was that my brother and I have our own targets for "countries visited" to achieve (transit stops don't count and Wales, England and Scotland count as three countries, thanks). My new job made me think of Sweden differently, especially after my latest work trip to Stockholm.
Having spent all of my adulthood so far in London, one of the busiest cities in the world, Stockholm felt like a yoga retreat. On a Tuesday evening, after I finished work at my 'temporary office' near the city centre (with a whole three other colleagues in the building), I went for a wander, crossing a bridge or two, and walked over the cobbled streets into 'Gamla Stan' i.e. the Old Town.
The first thing I did was buy a magnet of a colourful building in Stortorget, the main square in Gamla Stan. I noticed that apart from review websites like Tripadvisor, another quick way to find out 'what you should see' on your trip is to visit souvenir shops. They usually have all the famous tourist landmarks on plates, bottle openers, magnets, bags and snow globes, all freshly made in... China. I still buy them.
TOP 5 FACTS ABOUT STOCKHOLM
1. Nobel Prizes in Sciences, Literature and Economic Sciences are awarded in the Stockholm City Hall
2. Stockholm is the 14th richest city in the world
3. The famous pop group ABBA was formed in Stockholm in 1972
4. Stockholm is made of 14 islands and 57 bridges
5. Stockholm has one of the largest archipelagos (series of islands) in the Baltic sea.
The first thing I noticed about almost every other person I spoke to in Stockholm (excuse the stereotyping), was their piercing blue eyes. I don't think I have seen so many pairs of beautiful blue eyes in the space of three days. Apart from trying to stop myself from being the creepy little Indian girl who keeps staring, I also admired how good everyone's spoken English is. Swedes have one of the longest life expectancies, probably due to their relaxed and healthy lifestyle, focus on quality over quality food and just the lack of too many people to stress them out.
There's no question about the fact that the Nordic countries are expensive to visit, even more than London. A beer is around GBP 8 (94 SEK, Swedish Krona) and at lunch time, it is normal to spend around 170 SEK (GBP 15) on a plate of Sushi (compared to GBP 4 for a beer and GBP 6-10 for lunch in the City of London). However, once you get over that, you will appreciate the quality of the food, especially the Salmon from it's neighbouring country, Norway. The salmon I had was probably the best I have ever had.
One evening, I acted like a traitor in Sweden and had Spanish food for dinner at The Hairy Pig, which was perfect with it's dim lights, wooden tables and cosy ambience. Delicious tapas style food and local red wine gave me some entertainment and energy to walk back to the hotel.
But as I had nothing better to do for the rest of the evening, I took a detour and walked to the end of Gamla Stan and sat in silence next to some ships, with not one living creature in sight (picture the typical wallpaper on a meditation app - this is what I was looking at in real life). I walked across one of the bridges to the island where The City Hall is, the 106-meter tall tower with three golden crowns at the top of the spire. I ventured into the building, apparently made with eight million bricks (I don't know why anyone would count... I don't know how many bricks a normal building would have either). It's certainly I nice place to wander into and walk near the water banks during and after sunset.
I have already gone on about how nice Gamla Stan is, by foot. However, with more time and budget there's a lot more to see in Stockholm, whether you do this with a 30-minute flight on FlyOver or via a boat trip along a big part of the 60km archipelago, with prices ranging from 1500 to 2500 SEK (GBP 120 - 220). I didn't have much time to see many of the other architectural sites that the city has to offer, such as the Royal Opera House and The Great Synagogue, but as long as I pass my probation, I should be coming back to Stockholm, gladly.