Romancing with the idea of love, converting my thoughts into a verse, I often imagine a serene lake encircled by very old trees draped in colours of fall, dead leaves covering the moist earth and sound of those leaves crunching under my shoe. Surreal, it all seemed until I experienced this and much more for real in Stockholm, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. If peace were married to beauty their home would be something like Stockholm. I wasn’t sure if I admired the beauty more or the tranquility there.
For my first solo trip, the experience was much more exciting than I imagined, primarily because of the ethereal beauty of the country.
Swedes say their country wears a different look in every season. I am glad my tryst with its capital city happened in autumn. For it is during this time that shades of leaves paint the entire country in mesmerizing hues and the weather is just perfect to enjoy long walks in tree-lines streets.
I admire Stockholm for more reasons than one. Picturesque landscape, peace and few people are some of the obvious ones but the city has much more to fall in love with it. I was sure of liking this place as soon as I walked into the Arlanda airport as it wore a comfortable deserted look. Comfortable because of an array of choicest restaurants within the small airport. The city loves its food, I noticed. That was quite pleasing for my ‘foodie’ instincts. And this was just the beginning of a series of pleasant sights that unfolded one after another as I acquainted myself with the city.
Stockholm is built on 14 islands, which means you are always close to water. This also means that you get to see entire city on a boat and take pride is seeing one of the biggest archipelagos of the Baltic Sea if you visit it in summer or autumn. During winters, it gets better as you can skate and go for excursion trips over the ice. So, if you love water as much as I do, you do not really need another reason to be here. I was enchanted by sheer sight of clean flowing water everywhere I went!
Besides water, the city boasts 75 interesting museums. So there are a lot of places to see in Stockholm. Two of its museums — Skansen and Vasa go beyond the imagination of a typical museum. Skansen is world’s first outdoor museum, giving you an insight of history of Stockholm. Go to the top of Skansen and you will witness Stockholm’s cityscape. What’s more? It also boasts the city’s only zoo, which has a variety of animals like bears, elks, and wolves native to this part of the world. Vasa Museum, on the other hand, gives you a fascinating experience of a different kind. It is built around a fully intact 17th century ship, the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. The museum is said to be one of the most visited ones in Scandinavia.
Sweden is a heavenly bliss for a ‘navigationally challenged’ person like me. The subway system works on two main grids, the green line and red line and it is rather difficult to get confused. All I had to do was to remember that I was putting up at Körsbärsv, which has a simpler English recall name of Cherry Road. Metro stations and bus stops have convenient maps that do not look scary and it is not at all difficult to follow them. Local people around are highly reliable and helpful and almost everyone understands and speaks English. There were a couple of times when I got lost and had no clue where I was supposed to head. But there was something about that place that let me love the idea of getting lost. I walked out of the station and did what I liked doing best there. Promenade. I took long walks on stoned streets, passing some museums, watching colourful buildings, hearing the sound of silence with no other thought in mind but pure admiration of splendor I was experiencing.
Each street in the city is a photographer’s delight with beauty brimming all over. Of all the places, I found Gamla Stan (Old Town) most picturesque. Archaic buildings and cobblestone streets made for a perfect frame and equally perfect reason to fall in love with entire city. I spent quite some time there wandering aimlessly taking a note of structures I saw. The main attractions here are The Royal Palace, Borshuset or the stock exchange building, and the two iconic buildings (from 17th and 18th century) on the Stortorget. The latter ones house restaurants and cafes, which are worth a visit. I went to Kaffekopen, which I think was quite a romantic space, and enjoyed a large cup of coffee and cinnamon rolls.
Stockholm would only have remained half met had I not taken a boat trip to catch a glimpse of entire city at one go. I chose the trip that took me about 2 hours to pass under 15 bridges while viewing all the well-known buildings. It was a guided tour with recorded commentary available in 10 languages. I feel summer would have been a better time as far as archipelago is concerned when I could have taken a 2 day trip and visited some islands. But not particularly complaining because those couple of hours on water, amidst beauty were breathtaking.
On the whole, the ‘Swedish’ experience was quite gratifying for me. The wanderer in me loved walking miles and miles relishing the beauty of every stone on the cobbled streets. The food aficionado that I am savoured everything from reindeer meat to all types of breads and cheese. Only my shopping instincts had to be put to sleep since Sweden is a very expensive place. Moreover, a couple of absolutely stunning overcoats I picked up at H&M had to be turned down because they carried ‘made in India’ tag! But barring that I’d say Stockholm is an unforgettable experience. A good camera, love for nature, and comfortable shoes – that is all you need to make the best of each moment you spend in the city.