Well, first of all what a beautiful city. I took a number of puny photos which I’ve attached here which may give you a vague flavour of the Swedish capital. All things considered, I was quite lucky to get there at all – this was an adventure which really did not get off to a good start.
My 1.00pm connection flight to Oslo from London was delayed to 5.00pm due to fog, then after sitting on the tarmac for a further two hours we actually got into the air by about 7.00pm. I was also coming down with a cold which I had been desperately trying to avoid that had been infecting everyone in my office throughout December - great. On the flight as I expected we were advised that connecting passengers would have to stay overnight in Oslo and fly into Stockholm on Christmas Eve which is the day that many of our European cousins properly celebrate with family visits, opening presents, big dinners as oppossed to the 25th in England.
In retrospect, this was a blessing in disguise as by this point the prospect of another flight was hideous. Waking up in Oslo on Christmas Eve was also vaguely romantic as it was drenched with snow and bitingly cold as I trawled over to the airport – it was the first time I’d actually felt ‘Christmassy’ all year. Got to my hotel in Stockholm at about lunchtime and after a cursory look round as everything was closed I necked a shed load of paracetamol and had an early night in an attempt to shift my cold. Not exactly the most exciting Christmas Eve I’ve ever enjoyed but on the plus side it’s the first time in at least ten years I’ve woken up on Christmas Day without a hangover!!
Christmas Day however was brilliant – probably the best fun I’ve had since the legendary X-Wing acquisition of 1982. I felt much better and made it over to my friend’s family home in Kungsängen for mid-day. For a country that attempts to repress the consumption of alcohol so strongly (through exorbitant prices and booze only being available through licensed specialised shops, not in supermarkets, 7-11’s etc.) they drink like maniacs. Christmas day dinner essentially consisted off multiple shots of vodka and schnapps chased with a blend of three strong beers laced with port. Now that is a chaser. A few more drinks ensued and then we hit a couple of bars, then some sort of Indie/rock nightclub which is when things started to get hazy…
This all culminated in some of us ending up at a illegal techno party on a boat in Stockholm harbour hosted by the Socially Hazardous crew which necessitated further mayhem until late Boxing Day morning. Amusingly, I was back at Stockholm Central Station at 6.00pm in the evening to be picked up for the boat trip to Estonia – truth be told I wasn’t exactly in the best condition to embark on a overnight sea journey but like a trooper, I soldiered on…..
Following my return from Estonia I managed to get out and about in the old section of the city for a spot of browsing and window shopping as well as managing to get round a few museums, namely the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, the Nordic Museum and best of all the Vasa Museum, one of Stockholm’s major tourist attractions.
The museum is essentially an almost perfectly preserved early 17th century Swedish Navy ship that sank on it’s maiden voyage in Stockholm harbour in 1628. Due to a combination of nautical conditions the ship has been astonishingly well preserved and is the only salvage of its type in the world. It really is a fascinating sight to see, the level of detail that remain on the carvings and inlays on the ship are amazing. The ship itself is surrounded by a number of interesting exhibits and interactive displays, including a spooky CSI type reconstruction of some of the sailors from their frozen skeletons. Creepy.
On the minus side I would concur that the city is expensive – eating out alone without alcohol cost between £25 – £30 which is pricey but the food was good so I can’t complain too much. There is a genuine sense of history to the place with some interesting architecture to contemplate and everyone was very friendly and spoke perfect English – puts me to shame with my Grade F French GCSE. Let’s just say that languages were never my strong point at school….
New Years Eve was spent in Kungsängen where I enjoyed a fabulous meal which featured locally caught crayfish, dishes of moose and deer (allegedly shot by my friends neighbours out in the wild Kungsängen woods) some party games, fireworks and again, tons of alcohol. All in all a fantastic experience and I’m so glad I made the effort to do something interesting rather than remaining in London. The only problem is I’ve raised the bar now for Christmas 2008 but I think I’ve just about got enough time to work out a plan….