Tag Archives: sweden

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Exit Via City Hall

Good news: the rain was basically over and done with by the time we’d finished our breakfast. Bad news: a lot of plane delays meant we are set to get home after 11pm. I’m just going to filter out all airplane related rants, because positivity.


Anyway, with out flight (originally) set to depart at 6pm we had most of a day to say a goodbye to Stockholm. This started with our first breakfast that wasn’t bought in a supermarket, so we ventured back into the Old Town to find somewhere suitable. We settled on a Café Schweizer whose distinguishing features are a near constant smell of oranges and walls that have been scrawled on with permanent marker.

For 89 Krona we got orange juice, coffee and a sandwich. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to prices in a country. In the UK that would be daylight robbery, in Sweden this felt almost reasonable. I did enjoy my salami and brie sandwich, even if the only reason I picked it was because of the sheer number of poppy seeds.

After this we did some light souvenir shopping before crossing over to Riddarholmen. Why? Well, yesterday, when we clambered up to Monteliusvagen, I spotted a place that looked like the ultimate place to take photos of the lake to the west of Stockholm. We would have gotten better views had it not been so cloudy/foggy, but I think we managed to get some cool views.

From here we got to our first and only destination of the day: Stockholm City Hall. This building’s main claim to fame is that it hosts the Nobel Winners’ Banquet on December 10 every year. Also, you can see the top of the City Hall’s tower from pretty much anywhere in Stockholm. So yes, it’s a place to go.

The only way to see inside is via a guided tour, which is given every half hour. With the weather being a bit grey and misty we were very lucky to get the final two tickets on the next tour. We were also very lucky to get Joanna (probably spelt wrong) as a tour guide as that made the 50 minutes just fly by.

The interior of Stockholm City Hall was far more impressive than I could have imagined. From the painted cityscapes in the Hall of the Prince (done so that you would get a view of Stockholm no matter which side of the table you are sat on) to the brickwork and columns in the Blue Hall (which isn’t blue because they thought the red bricks looked nice just the way they were).

So this was all well and good. I was not at all prepared for the Golden Room. The walls are covered in glass mosaic tiles containing a gold leaf. The walls depict famous people and events on Swedish history with the back wall showing a woman (representing Sweden) in the centre of the world inviting countries from the east and the west to broker peace.

There are plenty of other stories about the construction of the City Hall, all of which are entertaining and embody exactly what it is that should be admired about Scandinavians. For the history and the artwork I think I preferred this guided tour to our experience in Fotografiska. Don’t discount this building just because it’s a town hall.

Lunch… well that was meant to be at the airport as a way to keep us going through the flight and into a late arrival. Well, you can see from the picture what we ended up doing. A bagel at the airport Starbucks cost more than breakfast. For something more substantial you are looking at £25-30 per person. So, we just cobbled together our remaining Krona to buy crisps, chocolate and some bottled water. I mean, it’s fine but I am really looking forward to being able to get lunch for under £5 again.

Anyway that’s it for Sweden. I’m writing this on the plane home polishing off the remaining pieces of the (rather nice) salt-fudge chocolate bar. I think we got the timing perfect for our itinerary and I am now thinking about a future weekend away that I want it do in two months time. I’m between Malta and Cyprus right now… so I guess we’ll see where I end up.

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – ABBA, Death and Photographs

Well, this is first. For the first time since starting this blog I have a vacation day where I managed to not tick anything off of any of my lists. I thought about listening to a list album as I typed this up or even shift over the two breads from the first day, but that would be dishonest. In the end, I like writing these little travelogues if only to give me a chance to revisit my holidays when these are published six months later.

So anyway, the day started with us finally finishing off the rest of the limpa and kavring. We managed to make a real saving there with those breads when you consider how many meals we got out of them. After this we took a tram back to the amazing island of Djurgården to visit…


… the ABBA Museum! We almost didn’t come here, but the more I thought about it the more I realised that this had to be done. It’s embarrassing to admit but I had tears in my eyes at the end of the introductory video. Since it feels like ABBA have always been around it’s so easy to forget how great they are.

This is the most expensive museum that I have been to for a long time (with tickets at about £25 each) so it really isn’t a place to go if you have negative or neutral feelings for ABBA. For me, this was an excellent place to spend a morning with the audio guide making it even better as it is actually narrated by the four members themselves. It just helps to make this feel less like a museum and more like an experience.

The amount of memorabilia on display is astonishing. Costumes, gold records and instruments are pretty much a given. However, this also had the helicopter from the Arrival artwork, newspaper clippings about the group members’ pre-ABBA successes and reproductions of many key rooms in their history. One of the more touching ones was a reproduction of Agnetha’s kitchen where the view from the window helped to inspire the touching song ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.

It would have been so easy to make this museum a cash-grab, but this is something Sweden are legitimately proud of. Also, I can’t image the current King of Sweden ever forgiving the creators of the museum if they half-arsed it. Sure it’s a bit pricey, but I had a brilliant time despite not engaging in any karaoke or dance lessons. I did, however, have a go at the ABBA trivia and song-mixing games long the way… where I completely sucked.


Either side of the ABBA exhibits were two other music based rooms. One about the nearby Gröna Lund music venue (which didn’t interest me) and a room full of Eurovision things. This Eurovision room is the first place you enter and it was the moment I realised that I would really enjoy this museum.

After this we boarded the ferry back to Gröna Lund to make use of the lunch menus. We settled on a place that had Toast Skagen on the menu. It was that or meatballs… and I think the hub has had enough of those for now. Think of Toast Skagen as a posh prawn mayonnaise on toast that is then topped with fish roe. Utterly delicious and especially good if you have decent prawns like this place had.


Fuelled up and raring to go we took the metro a few stops south to Skogskyrkogården – the only place on our itinerary as suggested by the husband – a UNESCO World Heritage recognised cemetery. Yes, I’m worried about him too.


What makes this place unique is how the grave plots are amongst the woodland. None of the gravestones are large or ostentatious, which means that the trees are able to pull focus. It’s a weirdly beautiful place to walk through and brings a meaning to the phrase ‘Forest of the Dead’. Like with all major cemeteries there is a celebrity grave to find: that of screen legend Greta Garbo. The nice thing is how her grave stands out, but not so much that it ruins the ambiance created by the surrounding trees.

We had a beautiful day to walk about Skogskyrkogården with the trees providing a lot of much needed shade from the hot August sun. Before leaving we spent a good amount of time sitting in an area on top of a hill set aside for meditation. Being surrounded by graves the talk did drift towards the morbid. Still, not a bad setting to get a little bit morbid in.


Back on the metro we went feeling a bit refreshed spiritually. The next destination was  Monteliusvagen. It’s a small street on the edge of cliff on Södermalm Island which affords you great views of Gamla Stan and the surrounding area. People aren’t wrong. We had a perfectly clear day for this and got some stunning views from up there. It feels like one of those very open secrets which means there are always people there, but it won’t be heaving.

We finished our day on Södermalm with a visit to Fotografiska – a photography museum. It didn’t get off to a great start as this museum refuses to take cash and instead wants people to buy tickets on their app (which doesn’t work for UK residents) or by card (which incurs fees when used internationally). The ABBA museum is technically cashless as well, but they have a way to pay by cash if you don’t have a card.

So yes, we didn’t start our visit in the best of moods. This was improved by the first of two exhibitions which was centred around horses. Sounds a bit weird but it was so interesting to see how humans and their relationships with horses are depicted. Some were humorous, others tragic, most showed how close the bond can get. This culminated in a room that showed a number of different short films where this theme was continued.

The one we saw was a recent short film in Swedish titled ‘Hingsten’ where a female student stalks a teacher she has a crush on and ends up basically raping him. It was a bit of a hamfisted way to shoehorn in a link between horseriding and sex, but it was interesting to watch this amongst an older crowd of museum patrons.

There was a second exhibition centred around a particular photographer and then a non-existent third exhibition that was to be opened in a few days time. So we essentially payed full price (plus card fees) for two thirds of a museum visit. A bit of a disappointing way to end the day.


Still, that’s nothing that can’t be cured by some fast food. Being in Sweden we got ourselves a burger from Max Burgers – a national fast food chain that managed to chase McDonalds out of a number of Swedish towns. You know what, I can see exactly why. The burgers are cooked to order and the overall quality of everything is far superior (with the exception of the strawberry milkshakes) which means I would happily frequent them if they chose to franchise in Britain. There probably isn’t room for another burger chain…but you never know.

So that’s the last full day in Stockholm. We have a late flight tomorrow which means most of a day tomorrow! Maybe we’ll find something from the food list or just end up crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s as prepare to return to the UK. Hopefully it won’t rain too much!

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Vasamuseet and Skansen

As is the tradition of my trips abroad, today was a museum day! The itinerary itself crystallised around the second of two Lonely Planet locations and I am very happy with how it turned out.

To begin the day we had more of the food that we purchased for yesterday’s dinner. Although we were still unable to finish off all the remaining kavring and limpa bread… so I know what’ll be for breakfast again tomorrow!

One thing I really love about the city of Stockholm is that it is built on 14 islands. We spent most of today on Djurgården since that appears very much to be the most fun island in Sweden. This island houses many museums, a theme park (sadly closed during our entire trip to Stockholm), a zoo and many other attractions. It’s like the real world equivalent to Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island… just without the weird donkey curse.

Because we are cheapskates we decided to walk from our hotel to Djurgården. It was only 25 minutes away since we’re staying just north of Gamla Stan so we had a nice leisurely walk along the waterfront before reaching our first stop.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 73/100Sight: Vasamuseet
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Position: #206

The Vasa Museum is one of two ship museums on the Lonely Planet list; the other being the Titanic museum in Northern Ireland. It’s one of those things I would have probably missed out otherwise as I’ve never been interested in boats or pirates.

It just takes that first moment of walking into the museum itself to get why this could be on the list. As museums go, Vasa Museum is pretty unique because of the story of the Vasa itself. A 17th century flagship built for great expense and decked out with beautiful carvings and paintings… only to sink less than 30 minutes into its maiden voyage and become the ultimate example of hubris.

What you see in the museum itself is the salvaged ship that has been brilliantly preserved and restored after being underwater for 333 years. All this and get the museum boasts that the boat you see is still 95-98% original. How? Well, because the water and the silt itself were favourable enough to prevent the ship from completely disintegrating.

I’d recommend getting onto one of the free museum introduction tours and making use of the free 17 minute movie that the museum offers. We ended up watching the movie in Japanese with English subtitles… which was interesting in of itself.

After leaving the Vasa Museum we made our way to Skansen – the worlds first open air live museum, which was founded in 1891. It is absolutely massive and I could see us having just spent the entire day here. The entire attraction is split nearly 50/50 between a zoo containing Scandinavian animals and buildings that have been relocated from other areas of Sweden for the sake of education and preservation.

Being a living museum, a lot of the relocated buildings have people inside dressed in traditional garb to explain things to the visitors. You also have onsite blacksmiths, woodcarvers and glassmakers who you can watch as they make their crafts which can, of course, be purchased in the gift shops.

The layout of Skansen really does help to breathe new life and give a new purpose to these buildings that would have been demolished otherwise. The wooden church is one of the more popular as people can actually get married in it. The yard also features some old gravestones… which really gave me the creeps.

For me, I loved the old farmhouses…but that might just be because they housed some of the farm animals from the children zoo. I mean, who wouldn’t be enchanted by a litter of piglets snuffling around looking for food. These piglets pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trip to Skansen (where we ended up skipping lunch because I didn’t feel like spending £17 on a burger).

So yes, the zoo at Skansen. It contains many local animals such as lynx, wolves and wolverines… that is if you are lucky enough to see them, which we did not. We were far luckier with other animals, however. We managed to see the brown bears being fed and got very well acquainted with some moose.

The highlight of the zoo itself was a tie between the reindeer (including an almost pure white one) and the bison/wild boar enclosure (also containing baby animals). I don’t know what it is about the water in Skansen, but it appears to be really good for making baby animals.

After the zoo we engaged in the very Swedish custom of fika… or at least my husband did. I just opted for fizzy water because I don’t really like coffee. I’ll take the pastries though. I’m only human after all and we skipped lunch.

A final farewell tour of Skansen later and we boarded a ferry to get back to Gamla Stan from Djurgården so we could have a quick sit down in the hotel before heading out for dinner. The ferry ride itself went way too quickly at about 7 minutes. Wish I could have had more time to appreciate the views.

Dinner itself was at a restaurant called Nomad. Dinners out are expensive in Stockholm so we searched around for a place that felt reasonable in price but still had a good reputation. I hadn’t expected a fairly hipster restaurant, but there’s a first tome for everything.

Being in Sweden, I wanted to have some fish. To start was herring dressed in three different ways (my favourite was the one on the left, which was actually the plainest and yet was still very flavourful and sweet) whilst the hub had chanterelle mushrooms and cheese on sourdough toast. Both dishes were gorgeous.

For the main I had some salmon (because I keep seeing it everywhere) with dill potatoes and a mustard sauce. Again, this was delicious. The salmon didn’t always need the mustard as it was great just the way it was, but options are always appreciated.

And there we are the end of Day Two. As of writing this I’m not sure what I’ll be doing tomorrow. We have plenty of options; it’s just that we have to round them down. Hopefully we’ll cobble together another great day.

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Exploring Stockholm

List Item: Visit all EU countriesProgress: 18/28

Välkommen till Sverige!

Country: Sweden
Year first visited: 2017

After my first full day in Stockholm I am just so full of excitement at what I am going to be seeing on my remaining time here. Looking back at my other travel posts, it feels like I fall for cities pretty easily. But hey, rather this than spend money to be disappointed.

So yes, this is the first full day in Stockholm. We only made it to the hotel at about 11pm local time because our easyJet flight was delayed by about an hour. The only thing worth reporting is that the announcement on the shuttle train between Arlanda Airport and Stockholm Central was done by Björn from ABBA. Ain’t that just the coolest!

Having arrived so late the previous day we both basically slept through our alarm and ended up waking around an hour later than we hoped. That made it a bit of a rush job getting ready in the morning as there was a 10am walking tour I wanted to do.

Here’s the thing. If you told me a few years ago that I would be doing walking tours around a city I was visiting… I’d probably think future me was a bit sad. Sod it though, I’m in a new place and I want to learn as much about it as I can. Did I overdo it today by doing two of these walking tours in one day? Obviously, but my head is full of new useless trivia and my feet are glowing – so that’s a day well spent.

Anyway, we started the day doing a 2 hour free walking tour of the city north of the old town with Free Tours Stockholm. It really is one thing to be walking around the city and another to know some of the stories that go along with it.

For example, we walked past the gym where Swedish Crown Princess Victoria met her commoner husband. We also walked past the former bank building (pictured) whose bungled robbing led to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. What can I say, those two hours went by in a flash.

At the end of the tour we were deposited on the border of Gamla Stan (the old town) in time for the changing of the guard. We didn’t stick around for this as we’ve seen it happen once before in Copenhagen and I couldn’t image this one being all that different. Instead we made our way straight to Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral).

There’s been a church on this spot for ~700 years and it has been growing ever since. In the current incarnation the exposed brickwork of the vaults and columns make for a beautifully patterned interior. Unlike the rather sparse cathedral in Helsinki, there were some really notable pieces of ornamentation to see here.

Firstly there’s the alter which is a vision in ebony and silver. It’s very striking and unlike anything I’ve seen before in a church. The colours did make me think of the grim reaper, but I’m not sure that was intentional. You also have some extravagant royal pews and an insanely old statue made of elk antlers and oak which depicted the slaying of the dragon by St George.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 72/100Sight: Gamla Stan
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Position: #99

Much like with Tallinn, the Old Town of Stockholm is the big thing to see. The whole thing is on an island and it doesn’t take that long to navigate across. There’s a lot of little alleys and offshoots, which means multiple routes are necessary to appreciate it.

Before we explored, however, there was a desperate need for lunch since we skipped breakfast. Things being what they are with exchange rates (thanks again Brexit), Stockholm is a fairly expensive city. However, if you’re like me and are coming into this being used to prices in London… it isn’t too much of a shock. Also, it’s worth finding ways to make things cheaper. For example, look for lunch deals – some places offer substantially cheaper lunch options.

We found such a restaurant in Gamla Stan. Don’t get me wrong it still felt expensive, but everything is relative. Between us, my husband and I shared some Swedish meatballs and some elk meatloaf in a chanterelle sauce. I am happy that these were suitably Swedish food choices.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Gamla Stan. With the brightly coloured houses and the sheer sense of history, I can really see how this is the most popular part of Stockholm for tourists. I plan on returning here on later days for some souvenir shopping and maybe breakfast on our final day.

We mooched a bit at the waterfront watching German cruise passengers being ferried onto dry land and made friends with some oddly cute seagulls before looping back to start the next walking tour at 4.

Now, was it a bit weird to have the same tour guide for both tours? Yes. Didn’t it matter? No, because he’s really good at what he does and was fairly easy on the eyes. Two more hours of history and stories passed by in a flash. I still vividly remember how an event in Stockholm led to the coining of the term ‘bloodbath’ and how some of the Americans in the group were getting a bit rankled every time our guide talked about the benefits of living in Sweden (e.g. paternity leave, free university fees, universal healthcare etc).

After this tour broke we walked across to the Southern island to checkout a larger supermarket and to get some good views of the Old Town from a higher vantage point. I don’t know if I am high enough to do the city true justice, but I think it’s a nice enough picture.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food items: Limpa Bread and Kavring
Progress: 674/751

Coming to Sweden, there were three food items I wanted to look out for. Having read stories about the third I will not be trying surstromming here in Sweden. Instead, I will try this when I get home and can get some proper ventilation going. There would be a fourth if you count moose cheese… but I doubt I have enough in my bank account for some of that.

We did, however, find the other two items. Both of them are types of rye bread that can be found in Sweden. These formed our dinner tonight and breakfast for the next day. Trying to be Swedish we also bought some salami, cream cheesed infused with chanterelle mushrooms and a tub of shrimp salad with surimi and dill.

Starting off with the limpa bread. The name itself conjures up something a bit pappy to the point where I was expecting something akin to the Jamaican hardough. Instead think rye bread, then think malt loaf. Combine these flavours, give it a lighter texture and you have limpa.

It’s a rye bread with the hint of molasses and orange zest. It feels like it’s on the verge of being cakey, but the crumb texture isn’t right for that. We found this went really well with some chanterelle cream cheese. The woodiness of the mushroom really complimenting the bitterness of the zest and molasses.

The other bread from the list is called kavring. The initial whiff as you open the bag and the reassuring heft as you hold it definitely points to this as a rye bread. Darker than the limpa, but lighter and less dense than a lot of rye breads you can get. It’s like they remembered to add yeast to give it a bit of a rise.

Both of these are breads that I would happily buy if they were available in the UK. The fact that these both look near mass produced makes me weep when I think that, back at home, there’s no real equivalent widely available.

We finished off the evening with a cinnamon bun, because they are everywhere in Stockholm and they were on offer. Who can say no to a pastry swirl that moist with cinnamon sugar. I like these better than their American counterpart because they aren’t drowning in icing.

So yes, that’s he first day. Tomorrow will be my ticking off the other Lonely Planet site here in Stockholm: the Vasa Museum. Should be a special day.

Around The World in 100 Films – Start Point

List Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 22/100

Time for me to open up the second of my three film bucket list items with a rather arbitrary goal of seeing films from 100 different nations. Unlike the Oscar list item this is something that can be permanently crossed off unless I suddenly get the urge to add another batch of countries to keep this going.

Now, I have decided to count countries as long as I watched the film after I put this onto my bucket list which was (yes I made a note) on August 5th 2013. This means that some countries (e.g. Finland, South Africa, China and Israel) are not on the list yet despite me having seen them in the past. I figured using this cut off point would serve as a way to make this more challenging whilst also keeping Burkina Faso (still stoked about that one).

Whilst I was preparing this list I saw there were 21 countries on the list and instantly envisioned doing a really cool triangle number diagram as you can see below:WorldCinemaTriangleNotice the problem? Well in making that list I had forgotten that I saw a Polish film at the end of January which means poor Hungary (my most recent nation) has to lay on the outskirts since I decided to do this in order of seeing them. My inner math-geek is not impressed with this. It was later pointed out to me that a film I thought was Australian was from New Zealand, now my inner flag-geek is unhappy too.

Still 22 countries down, 78 to go. Not a bad place to start with, although there are not many of the big film nations left which will make this interesting.

Any film suggestions for yet unwatched countries will be VERY much appreciated. Bear in mind re-watches are not allowed here so films like Tsotsi, Drifting Clouds and Waltz With Bashir will not count.

  1. Germany – Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  2. U.S.A. – Robocop
  3. Netherlands – De Vierde Man(The Fourth Man)
  4. Czech Republic – Kolja (Kolya)
  5. Italy – La Strada
  6. Burkina Faso – Sarraounia
  7. Argentina – El Secreto De Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes)
  8. Japan – Zatoichi Monogatari (The Story of Zatoichi)
  9. Brazil  – Cidade De Deus (City of God)
  10. Denmark – Melancholia
  11. United Kingdom – Blowup
  12. Norway – Flåklypa Grand Prix (Pinchcliffe Grand Prix)
  13. France – La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game)
  14. New Zealand – The Piano
  15. Poland – Popiól i diament (Ashes and Diamonds)
  16. Spain – El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive)
  17. Sweden – Viskningar och Rop (Cries and Whispers)
  18. Belgium – Ernest & Célestine
  19. Greece – Kynodontas (Dogtooth)
  20. Canada – The Sweet Hereafter
  21. Algeria – Z
  22. Hungary – A torinói ló(The Turin Horse)