Frantic in Stockholm (Part I)

When I logged into Facebook this morning, I saw a memory from three years ago. The memory included a photograph taken at the Bandaranayaka International Airport during my first foreign trip! And it dawned on me that I’m yet to do a write up about my visit to Stockholm Sweden.

I, along with two work colleagues, traveled to Stockholm on a work assignment. But, we arrived in Stockholm three days prior to initial meeting with the clients, so that we would have an opportunity to do some sight seeing.

When we arrived in Sweden, we took the Arlanda express, and traveled from Stockholm Arlanda AirPort to Stockholm Central Station. Next, we took the subway to “Slussen”, followed by a short bus ride to “Henriksdal” where we settled into the apartment that would be our home for the next two weeks. After having a bite to eat, we walked around the neighborhood, and did some grocery shopping before hitting the sack.

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The next day, we were up bright and early! First order of business, after a breakfast of course, was to purchase a “Stockholm Pass” which would entitle us with free entrance to more than sixty attractions, museums, and tours! The Stockholm pass doubles up as a travel card, which can be used when taking the bus or subway. It was the last few days of spring, the sun was up and it wasn’t too cold as we made our way to Central Stockholm, purchased Stockholm Passes, and began our adventure!

We bought the Stockholm Pass valid for 2 days. This meant we had to pick the attractions that interested us the most and plot out the most optimal path that would enable us to cover all the locations within the allotted time period.

We first visited the Stockholm City Hall, known locally as the Stockholms stadshus or Stadshuset. It is the building of the Municipal Council for the city of Stockholm and stands on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island. It houses offices and conference rooms as well as ceremonial halls, and the luxury restaurant Stadshuskällaren. We took part in a guided tour of the premises and got to see The Blue Hall, with its straight walls and arcades that incorporate elements of a representative courtyard. Even though this hall is not decorated in blue, it keeps its name after Östberg’s original design. It also happens to be the dining hall used for the banquet held after the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony. The organ found in the Blue Hall, having 10,270 pipes, is the largest in Scandinavia. In the level above the Blue Hall you will find the Golden Hall (Gyllene Salen), named after the decorative mosaics made of more than 18 million tiles. The mosaics portray motifs from Swedish history. We were also granted access to the council, which had an amazing wooden ceiling resembling an ancient Viking Ship.

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Next we made our way to the “House of Nobility” (Riddarhuset). This is where the records of Swedish nobility are maintained. “Riddarhuset”translates to “House of Knights, as the knights belong to the higher ranks of Swedish nobility. The museum was closed for renovations, so we continued to the next attraction, The Royal Palace of Stockholm, which was unfortunately closed as well. The Royal Palace of Stockholm is the official residence of His Majesty the King. Though the King and Queen live in Drottningholm Palace, the Stockholm palace is the daily place of work for the King, Queen and various departments of the Royal Court. The Palace, designed by the architect Nicodemus Tessin, is built in Baroque style and has more than 600 rooms spread across its seven floors.

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Walking around the outside of the Stockholm Palace we came to the Royal Armory (Livrustkammaren). This museum, the oldest in Sweden, contains artifacts of Swedish military history and Swedish royalty. King Gustavus Adolphus established the museum in 1628 when he decided that the clothes he wore during his campaign in Poland should be preserved.  Having an interest in war history and military history, I was right at home at the Royal Armory and I absolutely loved the artifacts and exhibits. But that’s not all; there was a special Game of Thrones exhibit (more like a game of thrones wing in the museum) which was simply awesome!

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After the awesome experience at the Royal Armory, we cut across the city towards a waterfront location at which we could board a small boat departing on the Royal Canal Tour. The Royal Canal tour is a sightseeing tour that allows you to see Stockholm from the water. It is a guided tour that covers most of the famous locations of the city, as well as some beautiful privately owned waterfront properties. The boat travels under fifteen, yes! Fifteen bridges (Stockholm is made up of 14 islands, and there are more than 50 bridges connecting these islands), and also passes through a lock of water that connects the Baltic Sea with Lake Mälaren.

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The last stop for the day was the Vasamuseet or Vasa Museum. This maritime museum located on Djurgården island, puts on display the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. The building that houses the museum is built around the salvaged 64-gun warship “Vasa” that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. This building stands out in the Stockholm cityscape because the three masts of the Vasa stick out through the roof. Inside, you will find 10 different exhibits that showcase various artifacts and treasurers, the story of the Vasa, miniature reconstructions, life on board the Vasa and the salvaging process. The center piece, of course is the exquisitely preserved ship that has 95% of its original structure. You will be able to see the decorative carvings and sculptures around the hull of the ship that illustrate the craftsmanship of ancient boat builders.

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We left the Vasa Museum just as it was closing for the day. Day one of sightseeing in a foreign country took its toll on us, and we decided to head back home to the apartment and call it a day.

To be continued…

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