I've never been to Sweden before so when I booked a flight to go and visit my brother (Charlie) and his Swedish girlfriend (Sanna) I had no idea what to expect.
But it's safe to say that I was impressed by Stockholm from the outset. I left from Newquay airport early in the morning and arrived in Sweden late afternoon, and as soon as I stepped off the plane and into the airport there were already tell tale Scandinavian signs... the extensive use of wood in architecture for example!
Charlie picked me up from the airport and we made our way to their apartment in Spanga, which is just 15 minutes from the centre of Stockholm. As we approached, we entered into a suburb of houses and apartment complexes, and then we turned into Sanna and Charlie's street, parked up and got out. We walked over a tree lined bridge and into a green oasis, their apartment is on the ground floor so they have the benefit of a small lawn and it's surrounded by trees, shrouding it in privacy. It was amazing to see where they live for the first time and I was beyond happy that they had managed to find such a beautiful location so close to the city centre.
We sat outside most of the evening catching up and drinking beers, then I snuggled down on my makeshift bed in the living room with Panda (their dog). Charlie and Sanna had work the next day so I took the opportunity to explore the woods by their house – another reason why I love where they live! It's so nice that even just 15 minutes out of the city you can find tranquil areas of nature to escape to, and I think that goes for most of Stockholm! It's surrounded by beautiful lakes and woodland, and a city surrounded by nature is definitely my kind of city.
On Friday the adventure really began when Charlie took me into Stockholm for a tour of the city. On a friend's recommendation, I wanted to visit the Vasa Museum and Charlie wanted to take me to the Gröna Lund theme park, because he hadn't had a chance to go yet either. We headed into the city and as soon as I stepped out of the train station I was in love! Stockholm is an archipelago of islands and as a result it's completely surrounded by water and such a fun place to explore by foot. I was greeted to a view of the palace then we made our way over a footbridge and onto one of the smaller islands, and got the ferry over to where Gröna Lund and the Vasa Museum were conveniently located right next to each other.
First on the list of priorities though was food… We managed to stumble across a great restaurant right on the water that served an incredible selection of craft beers alongside a menu of homemade rye bread and delicious meat and fish dishes. One thing about Sweden though, everything is very expensive! It's about £8 for a pint and entry into Gröna Lund was £30 so it's not a cheap holiday!
After lunch we went to the Vasa Museum, which houses the only (almost) fully in-tact 17th Century warship that has ever been salvaged. We wandered over and bought tickets then walked into the darkened room and were blown away by the ornate exterior of the ship. Surrounding the ship is displays of all the salvaged possessions: clothes, pottery, mess kits, weapons and various other 500 year old items that are fascinating to look at. One thing I noticed is the complete lack of synthetic materials that have subsequently been developed. Most notably, plastic, on this ship everything is made of wood, pottery or metal – materials which will eventually return to the earth (and yet still they're preserved after 500 years) plastic on the other hand is pretty much indestructible, something that will turn our planet into one ginormous garbage dump. It makes me crave for a return to careful craftsmanship and building from natural elements rather than creating something that's termed 'disposable' but will actually litter our planet for generations. The biggest irony of the Vasa is that, due to its completely over the top craftsmanship, it actually sank just 20 minutes into its maiden voyage, proving that less is more when it comes to efficiency!
After Vasa, came Gröna Lund, just a two minute walk away, we bought our pass and proceeded to make our way to the two most brutal rides in the entire theme park. The first rattled us around so much Charlie and I both agreed that we're probably too old for rides now and the next suspended us at a great height before tilting us to face the ground in a terrifying drop. Both rides completely threw us but the rest were actually really fun and less scary than the start! Then after an exhilarating and exhausting tour of the city, we made our way back to the apartment.
Other than going to the Vasa Museum, another thing I really wanted to do was go swimming in one of Stockholm’s many lakes. So, on Saturday we all had a lie in and then Charlie and I packed our things and made for the lakes. There were a few to choose from and the closest, Säbysjön, was just a 15 minutes drive so we headed there. We arrived and walked through some beautiful countryside to get to the lake but when we got there we could see that it was a bit too wild and overgrown to swim in (would have made a pretty good picnic spot though) and I didn’t fancy getting stuck in pond weed! So, we headed back to the car to find another more tame lake.
We bundled in the car and set off again this time to Norrivken, a lake Charlie had been to before so knew it wasn’t overgrown. We arrived to a great expanse of water – I was excited to swim because I don’t often swim in freshwater and the surroundings were stunning!
After a day in the city escaping to the countryside and lakes was so nice, and I can imagine that it makes living in Stockholm really enjoyable because the bustle and excitement of the city is accessible alongside the peace and tranquility of the lakes and woodland.
We returned home refreshed and ready for our night in the city, Sanna booked a table for us at a traditional Swedish restaurant in ‘Old Town’ a historic part of the city with narrow winding streets and colourful buildings. For dinner I tried the traditional dish of pickled herring with crisp bread and crème fresh, Charlie’s not a fan but I really liked it! Afterwards, we went to an Irish bar and one drink led to several which in turn lead us to getting a taxi to a club. Trädgarden was amazing! It has loads of different floors (playing various genres of music) and a garden area outside with cocktail bars, creating an industrial festival vibe. A night in Trädgarden was definitely the perfect way to end my stay in Sweden!
I had such an incredible time exploring the city and the surrounding woodlands and lakes, and it’s safe to say that I’ve slightly fallen in love with Stockholm! Maybe my blonde hair means I have a faint genetic connection to Scandanavia because I felt completely at home there and cannot wait to go back next year!