Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful national capitals in the world. The Old Town is particularly spectacular, and walking around the city's waterways and parks is a glorious way to spend a week-long stretch of European summer.

This lovely, lively city, with its maritime bent and international flavour, is a magnet for immigrants as well as tourists. Over 15% of greater Stockholm's population are immigrants. Just stroll through the quaint streets, and you'll hear everything from Polish to Japanese.


22 Jun 2001 - Stockholm, Sweden

After landing in Stockholm Vasteras, a bus from right outside the small airport took me into central Stockholm - typical Ryanair - take you into an airfield miles from where you want to be. At least the bus journey gave a good view of Sweden's fantastic forests and countryside. However, this was not the usual traveller type trip that I go on though as I was visiting a friend who was then living in the lap of luxury in a superb flat slap bang in the middle of the city.

The daytime was spent seeing Stockholm. Its a beautiful city with plenty of narrow, medieval streets, quaint houses and some more recently built (but still fairly old) large buildings such as the palace and the Stadshuset (city hall) allows a fantastic view. One of the great ways to see Stockholm though is by boat as you travel between the various islands. We visited a fairground type attraction situated along the harbour and the Vasa museum which is certainly worth a trip.

In the early 17th century, Sweden was busy building an empire around the Baltic Sea in northern Europe and a strong navy was essential. During the 1620s Sweden was at war with Poland and in 1625 the Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus ordered new ships for his navy. Among them was the Vasa.

The Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage in 1628 and as it left port, fired a salute but after a few minutes of sailing the ship began to heel over. She righted herself slightly - and heeled over again. Water started to gush in through the open gun ports and to everyone's disbelief, the glorious and mighty warship suddenly sank. Of the 150 people on board, 30-50 died in the disaster. When Vasa had been salvaged in 1961, archaeologists found the remains of 25 skeletons.

The ship was remarkably well preserved in its muddy coffin and today when you see it you are actually looking at 95% of the original timbers. This really is like taking a step back in time as the museum explains the exhibits excellently and will give you a real insight into the far from glamorous life of a sailor in the 17th century.

Of course, no tale can be complete without the usual drinking session. As this was the height of summer there was a real atmosphere of joviality and happiness in this not quite top country of the European suicide league. After coming out of a pub at 2AM it was already getting light which is a bizarre experience for someone not so used to being in the higher latitudes. With the tunes of some cheesy euro pop reminiscent of the Eurovision song contest.

In winter the converse is true. Though I have never visited in winter I can guess that with only a couple of hours of twilight daytime before it becomes night again, locking away the shotguns, ropes and cables, throwing the pills down the sink, nailing the windows shut, hiding the belt and scarf and getting the electricity cut off is imperative for survival as some people find living though the winter just too much of a struggle.
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