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We had a chance to spend the better part of two days visiting Stockholm during a summer one week blitz through Scandinavia in late June.
We took a train from Bergen, Norway down to Stockholm connecting in Oslo. The train was horribly hot. My wristwatch has a thermometer and it actually measured 93.2 degrees (F) on the train. Everybody was miserable. Most trains (other than the fancy high speed jobs) are not air conditioned in Europe.
Our hotel of choice was the Grand Hotel. It is said to be the finest address in all of Sweden. It is typically a very old hotel that caters to the well healed. The best way to describe it is this. If you arrive in Stockholm in your private Grumman G-4 jet and arrange to have a Rolls Royce limo pick you up then you must stay at the Grand. For the rest of us mortals, I think we might be able to make a better choice.
Like many old hotels in Europe, not all the rooms are "air cooled." Our two rooms had no air conditioning and they were HOT, HOT, HOT and with no view other than a brick wall.
The hotel was lovely with marvelous public areas but we all agreed that since we didn't show up in the lobby in dinner jackets for the guys and gowns for the gals, we felt that we were out of place.
Since it was hot we phoned down to order some ice. Typically when you order ice in Europe you get a small sugar bowl full. And that was exactly the case here. I counted 12 small ice cubes about the size of table grapes in our tiny bowl! We all just waived the white flag and surrendered to the fact that this was going to be a hot stay. The outside air temperature was probably 83 (F).
It's funny. We've been to Europe many times in the summer and winter and hotels are usually hot even during the winter. Even when you crank the heat all the way down the old buildings really retain the heat.
Everybody told us that we had to take in one tourist site--the Vasa Ship Museum. It is Stockholm's most famous tourist attraction and well worth the visit.
The Vasa sank on its maiden voyage from Stockholm in 1628. In the 50s some men determined that she must still be somewhere on the bottom and the search began. Years later they finally raised her and restoration work began. Now she is fully restored and sits inside this huge museum complete with video presentations, displays of artifacts and exhibits. Since the water where the ship went down is brackish and not pure saltwater, the ship was amazingly preserved. They explained that in pure saltwater critters called "ship worms" destroy much of the wood. Ship worms do not live in brackish water, however.
We wandered through the streets of Stockholm and found it to be a very agreeable city. One thing that struck me was how clean it was. Seattle is known as a clean city in the U.S. and I think Stockholm is much, much cleaner.
As for dining we had only one night in Stockholm and we chose a restaurant called Eriks Bakfica. It came highly recommended as a true Swedish experience.
I asked our waiter to suggest an appetizer that a native would select and without even stopping to think about it, he pointed to a herring sampler starter. So that's what I chose. It featured one of Scandinavia's favorite foods marinated in 5 different ways. There was herring in cream sauce (the kind we're used to here), herring in wine, even herring in curry sauce. All pretty good although for those squeamish about fish, herring is an acquired taste. The main course was--what else in this part of the world--fresh fish. I had the plaice (a flat fish similar to flounder) sautéed. As with most fish in this part of the world, it came pretty much swimming in butter. (I wonder what the heart disease rate is like in Scandinavia? Perhaps the omega-3s in the fresh fish counters all the butter they wolf down.) While we can recommend Erik's we were a little disappointed at the short menu. When traveling to new places we prefer to see a larger menu with more options to explore. There were probably 5 main items on the menu here.
The weather was nice during our brief stay. Lots of sunshine and, as I mentioned, highs in the 80s. Stockholm has lots of water around which makes it feel a bit cooler in the street.
Stockholm isn't cheap. You may have to look far and wide to find a really good hotel for under $200 a night. And book your hotel well in advance. One year I started planning a proposed trip to Scandinavia in March and all hotel space was already gone for June! Meals are steep, too. At a finer restaurant you're probably looking at $35 to $40 per person to start and prices can rapidly escalate. Wine by the bottle doesn't come in at much less than $40 a bottle and that's for the cheap stuff.
Once nice thing about Stockholm is that it's a safe city. Just be on the lookout for pickpockets in crowded tourist areas and you'll have a safe trip.
DRIVING IS ON THE RIGHT IN SWEDEN. CURRENCY IS THE SWEDISH KRONER. A PASSPORT IS NEEDED FOR THIS TRIP.