This was my last full day in Stockholm so I wanted to do more than just walk around the Old Town one last time. The Red Boat had brochures for tour companies laying around and I looked through one and found a 3-hour bus and boat tour, departing at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm. I thought the 2 pm tour would be excellent. I could book through any of the Tourist Information Centres in Stockholm, and I knew exactly where the Centre was in Old Town. Plus, I had decided that tonight I would go for a big feast so I was going to try and starve myself all day. I’m nothing if not dedicated.
After a bit of confusion with Tourist Centres (some prefer to use different tour companies) I finally booked my bus/boat cruise for noon. Before this time though, I had managed to stop at a local Espresso House and have a pot of tea and a large cinnamon bun for breakfast. I would make it through the whole day eating nothing else until dinner. Yay me!
I boarded the double-decker, all glassed-in bus and took my seat up top. We’d be driving for just over an hour and see much of Sodermalm and Djurgarden, plus a brief glimpse of Gamla Stan. We started by the Royal Palace, which is practically fully accessible to tourists (not all 838 rooms are). The Royals don’t live at the Palace, but do occasionally hold meetings and conferences there. Just thought I’d let you know. We headed for Sodermalm to look out over the water from almost 100 metres above sea level. Stockholm doesn’t rise too far from the sea.
The Royal Palace
The view from above (sort of)
We would eventually drive past the City Hall, several national theatres and important hotels. We ventured to Djurgarden and saw the Nordiska Museum (rumoured to have upset the Royal Family at the time because the building threatened to be bigger and prettier than the Royal Palace). We even drove past the house of one of the former members of Abba, but we weren’t told which member or which trendy apartment was the right one.
The retail district
The Royal Palace
We then took to the water for an hour-or-so long cruise around Djurgarden to see the sights from a different level. I could tell you, but I think the photos will give you a better picture just how beautiful Stockholm is. I sat inside most of the journey as the weather was the worst it had been on my trip. Not snowing or raining, but it felt like it was a possibility at any minute. When I did venture outside onto the observation area to snap off a few photos, I thought I’d ruin a lot of them by shivering too much. This didn’t happen though. I know I was raised in Alberta where we have frightfully long and cold winters, but I’ve been in the Middle East for 7 years now. I’m not used to the cold anymore.
This boat is another hostel – preferred by the younger crowd
The gate to the Royal Grounds where the Royal Family used to hunt
The Nordiska Museum
When we got back to land I decided to walk back towards Old Town and hopefully find a seat at one of the restaurants that served some traditional meaty food. I stopped for another pot of tea at the same Espresso House. Nothing to eat this time though. And after doing some browsing in the shops along the busy retail street, I walked through the arches of the Palace that kind of takes you from New Stockholm to Old Stockholm. And when the cobbled, tight-aisled pathways of Old Town greeted me again, I had around an hour to decide where I wanted to dine one last time in Stockholm. After much deliberation, I decided to go with Aifur, a restaurant I had been told about on the Friday night when I asked some woman in medieval garb why she and others I had seen looked like that.
The neon-lit sign out front leads you down a narrow stairwell into a darkened hallway, all wood beams and echos. I’m met by a tall man with a braided beard down to his chest. He asks me for my name and I tell him, mentioned it’s just me and I have no reservation. He looks at his booking list, looking remotely like parchment, and tells me he can fit me in. He asks where I’m from and I tell him I’m currently living in Dubai. He hastens me to wait while he grabs a horn pilfered from a dead cow (probably) and trumpets all his lungs into it. The restaurant quiets and everyone looks at me.
“This is Ger from the older countries, currently raping and pillaging in the Middle East.” He embellishes the story. The restaurant patrons clap and shout a welcome and I’m shown to my seat, only a little aware that some people are still staring at me. Long story short, as I know you’d rather just look at the photos, I gorged Viking-style. For a starter I had a plattern of cold cuts and cheeses, featuring moose, reindeer, lamb and pork. My main was two filets of venison (I think moose but I’m not sure), with pureed vegetables, mash, and cranberries. I wanted the mixed berry pie for dessert but they didn’t have it so they gave me an apple crumble for free. Halfway through the crumble they brought me a slice of mixed berry pie so I had two desserts. And, as you do, I had two glasses of mead. Heavy stuff is mead. Very sweet and not something easily poured down your gullet without thinking.
Thankfully I had a walk to my hostel so I could burn off some of the food I had just devoured like it was my last meal in Stockholm. I snapped off a few more photos to remember this wonderful city by. The next day, immediately after my 10 am check out, I walked through a downpour to the metro station to head to the airport and my flight back to Dubai. Once I landed, I knew that I had just returned from my last vacation for a few months. Oh well, my cats missed me at least.