What took me there was a career day my work was putting on at one of the big research institutes in Stockholm. I arrived by very cheap flight on Ryanair, which means that I arrived 100 km from where I was supposed to be. Nevermind; Europeans are organized. Walk out the terminal and onto a bus that, in 80 minutes, gets you to the center of Stockholm. My hotel was a bit outside of the center, but it was absolutely fabulous. It's always a good sign when all the ladies at the front desk are absolute clean freaks. I had the sweetest little room that came complete with its own teddy bear. And, the bear came home with me (for a price, of course). This is what happens when I travel by myself.
To get your bearings, Stockholm is here. The city itself is situated on 14 islands, so there are a few boats involved in getting around. I got a slow start on my free day, Sunday, but when I did I went straight for Gamla Stan, the city's old town. It's pretty much a tourist attraction at this point, but that's OK -- it's a nice one. Windy, cobblestone streets cover the island, whose northeast corner is dominated by Kungliga Slottet, or the royal palace. My understanding is that this is where the royals work, not live. I walked around a bit and pondered touring the royal apartments, but couldn't be bothered to stand around and wait for 15 minutes until they opened. I eventually circled back to this area, brought in part by the sound of a marching band. (I have a knack for finding marching bands.) The occasion this time was the changing of the guard and it was quite a show.
I spent a couple more hours on Gamla Stan, shopping and wandering the adorable streets. I then took the ferry over to Djurgarden to visit the Vasamuseet. The Vasa was a ship that set out on its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, then promptly sank. In 1961, it was brought back up to the surface and restored, and they built the museum around it. If that doesn't sound like the coolest thing you've ever heard, then I can't help you. The ship was 69 meters long and adorned with incredible carvings, many of which survived. In retrospect, I wish I would have allowed more time to spend here. The next day I heard some exchange students in a coffee shop complaining that the museum had "only one boat." Gads. I also dropped by the Moderna Museet -- modern art museum -- although admittedly I just went to the giftshop. I got there and realized I just wouldn't be able to appreciate it. It's a fantastic space, though, and looked like a great museum.
On Monday I did a couple of work interviews and then headed back into town to drop by the Ostermalms Saluhall -- the food market, of course. It was small relative to ones I've been in around Europe but had a fine offering of food stalls and restaurants. I bought some elk sausage, then had a second lunch of marinated salmon. YUM. I spent the rest of that afternoon working in a coffee shop before my evening flight back to England.
Food: I had some pretty decent food in Stockholm, including, yes, Swedish meatballs. We had a company dinner at Clas på Hörnet, which serves traditional Swedish food. I had herring and another fish dish here. The restaurant was excellent and the food quite good. The next night some colleagues and I walked down to the center and ended up at a place called Drottninggatan 6. I had serious reservations about; it showed all the signs of a tourist trap. But oh, was it good. I had reindeer steak and and two of my colleagues had the Swedish meatballs -- both were fabulous. The following night I took a trip out to Sodermalm to go to Pelikan, a restaurant hyped in my guidebook as great for meatballs and beer. I couldn't get this fabulous combo out of my head, so I took the 12-minute train ride out to it. Indeed the atomopshere was nice and I did have good meatballs here. But, after seeing several places with an extensive offering of Belgian beers, I was a bit disappointed to get to Pelikan and see no Belgian beers, but the likes of Red Stripe and Anchor Steam on their beer menu. Nevertheless, I had a great meal and even better people-watching here.
Photo album here.