Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: Our Lifestyle Adventures: Loving Stockholm

Friday, June 13, 2014

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Loving Stockholm

Billl just loved the courtyard!
As soon as we emerged from Customs in Stockholm, we were told at the Airport Visitors’ Centre that the express train to the city was not operating, down due to electrical problems…the first time in its history! There was a mad rush to the buses but the wait there was more than an hour. So we took a cab for SEK 470, about $75! When we got to our Hotel, HTL Khungastan, we were pleasantly surprised!  It was where the nonsense of hotels had been removed, hence HTL, just opened last May 2 on a promo!

It was right in the city centre, 2 blocks from the T-Centralen (Metro), half a block from the bus station to the cruise terminal and a block from the train central station.  It would have been perfect had we taken the express train! We enjoyed Stockholm a lot because of this location. We wandered through the shopping centers, boutiques, and eating places. We even found a courtyard of an old hotel among old fine dining restaurants amid lots of greens and flowers around a pond. At the T-Centralen, on sidewalks along the shops, hot dog kiosks led us to feed our American fancy, even though Bill had bratwurst. Another time McDonalds’ burgers won!

the Royal Palace
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Stockholm is the most populous city in the whole of Scandinavia, with 1.4M in the urban area and 2.2M in the SMSA. An important global city, she ranked 27th in the world, 12th in Europe and first in Scandinavia by the Global Cities Index in 2012. In 2013, Stockholm was named the 8th most competitive city in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Sweden, in fact, has the world's eighth-highest per capita income and ranks highly in many performance indicators for national performance.
Drottningholm theatre, oldest living theatre in the world


Founded in 1250 (possibly as early as 1187), Sweden had been part of the Kalmar Union (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). But uprisings and the breakup of the Union led to the accession of Gustav Vasa in 1523, establishing the Swedish royal power and the city began to grow. In 1634 Stockholm became the official capital of the Swedish empire.  The Royal Palace is the official residence and principal workplace of the Swedish monarch, while the Drottningholm Palace, a World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Stockholm, serves as the Royal Family's private residence.  It is likened to Versailles, including the huge garden, in France. At the Drottningholm grounds we took a wonderful tour of the oldest living theater in the world.

The first part of the name Stockholm, “stock”, means log in Swedish or it may have come from an old German word –“Stock” - meaning fortification. The second part of the name “holm” means islet, and is thought to refer to the islet Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm. Old Town (Gamla Stan) was built on the central island next to this islet from the mid-13th century onward. It is just next to the Royal Palace.

oldest street in Gamla Stan
We walked the oldest street in Stockholm, Merchant Street, still full of quaint little unique shops. It led to the Nobel Museum right at the Center Square. The Nobel Prize is a set of prestigious annual international awards established by a bequest in the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel in 1895. Since 1901, a total of 791 men, 44 women, and 21 organizations have received the Prize. The Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo while the other prizes are awarded in Stockholm. As of 2012, each prize was worth US $1.2M.

the Nobel Museum at the Square of Old Town
our favorite restaurant so far, in front of the Nobel Museum
There are many colorful restaurants around the Square. We chose to dine at the one which had on its menu a section called Swedish Cuisine. We were served the best Swedish Meatballs we have ever had, paired with lingonberries and pickled cucumbers, and shrimp and asparagus soup served with delicious dark bread made in their kitchen which we called Peter’s bread after our cheerful waiter, Peter.

One day we went to the Skansen Open Air Museum and actually enjoyed the Zoo (both the tropical animals and Nordic animals) more than the relocated Swedish farms and houses like the stone cottage and the Sami (indigenous tribe) dwellings.  But it was raining, so I bought a throwaway raincoat and simply breezed through everything.

Sami dwellings in Skansen

unforgettable Vasa 
Close to Skansen is the Vasa Museum where we found a long line of people waiting to get in. It’s good we already had the Stockholm card as that allowed us to bypass the line. The Vasa (a ship) sank in 1628 as soon as it was launched to sea! It was too tall for its narrow bottom, a foolish order by the King. It sat on the bottom of the ocean floor for 333 years until it was discovered, brought back up, and restored for 11 years. The ship is enormous and contains about 700 very well preserved sculptures which do a remarkable job of representing 17th century life.

Our visit to Stockholm would have been complete had we not had the misfortune of tickets being sold out in two places we wanted to experience, the Skyview at the Globe Ericson, largest spherical building in the world, and the City Tower at City Hall. We suspect that, since it was the day of the 'best marathon in the world', the Stockholm Marathon where 20,000 participate in running 2 loops of the city, these two places, where you get a great view of the city, was in high demand. Oh well, so we cannot give you an aerial view of the city.

City Hall Tower
But, before signing off, let me tell you about the HTL. Minimalist in design, check-in was via a kiosk at a reception area that doubled as a small shop. Before reaching the elevators is a large lounge and bar at the center.  The rooms are brand new, quite like efficiency studios but with lots of leg room. There are no chairs and no table (except for 2 night tables on each side of a firm Queen-size bed), just like our bedrooms at home, encouraging guests to hang out at the lounge area. There are also no closets,  just artistic buttons and places to hang clothes and bags, etc. spread throughout the room. At the lounge area, food served is always prepared from scratch. The breakfast buffet, where you choose 4 out of 7 items, is unlike any other hotel buffet and actually provides guests a brown bag for lunch option, if you don’t eat it for breakfast as we did the first day!  


Skyview at the globe Ericsson Building
On the same block as HTL, we boarded the Bus 1 to go to the Terminal where we were to begin our 2-week cruise through Demark, Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, and England on MV Explorer and the unique Enrichment Voyage of the Institute of Shipboard Education.