Trip Start Jul 01, 2007
Trip End Nov 25, 2007

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Where I stayed

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

On 7th August I took the train from Copenhagen to Stockholm. First you cross the 16km long Oresund bridge from Denmark to Malmo, just across the water in Sweden. You change trains at Malmo then you rocket along at 200kmh through a flat land of neat farms with green fields, extensive forests and multitudes of lakes.
The Central Station is in the middle of the modern Stockholm and initially I was unimpressed, as it seems much like any other modern city, but as I walk to my hotel I go along the seafront and through Gamla Stan (old town), where Stockholm began in 13th century, then over to Sodermalm where my hotel is located, and these areas have beautiful old buildings. My hotel is called Anno 1647, which I guess is when the building was erected. I hadn't made a booking so I get the last room available down in the basement and I never have any idea what the weather is like as I can't see the sky from my small window. My room is not big enough to swing a cat and, yes, all the furniture is from Ikea.
Stockholm is built on 14 islands, and seen from the cliffs near where I'm staying, is beautiful, with water everywhere, old 17th and 18th century buildings lining the waterfront, boats and ferries coming and going busily, and green church spires puncturing the horizon. Several cruise ships are docked right in the city - they are huge, and dwarf the old buildings on the waterfront.
Coincidentally again, I have arrived on the day that the Tango 59 Degrees festival has started, so that night I head off to the first milonga. Virtually as soon as I walk in I see Ana, who I first met in Melbourne last year, then in Sitges only 3 weeks ago, and now here she is in Stockholm - we look at each other disbelievingly - and have a dance.
The tango festival is full on - 6 nights of milongas, and the last 3 nights dancing continues on at another venue (Emigrantes) until around 8.30am. I only get a few hours hours sleep in my tiny basement room for the whole time. You can imagine my state by the end of the week, especially as the previous 5 days I had been doing almost the same in Copenhagen, so I have a huge sleep deficit.
There is big buffet breakfast at my hotel which is included in my room cost and I'm keen to get to it as normally I stay at cheaper places that don^t include breakfast, and I need the energy. But it is only open until 10am, so after getting to bed very late in the morning I set the alarm for around 9.45 and arrive just before closing time. I am joined most mornings by Roula, a Greek tanguera who is also staying at my hotel, and we have a large leisurely breakfast alone until around 11, while the staff clean up around us and re-lay the tables.
Ana introduces me to Janne, a tall, very friendly Swedish man who is a lot of fun and he adopts us and takes us on excursions around the city. One night he organises a dinner party and informs Ana and I that we are to cook the main course - he is doing the entre, and other guests are doing desserts, fruit, etc. The party is so much fun - it's held at the house of one of Janne's friends, Birgitta, who lives in a beautiful spacious apartment in the heart of Gamla Stan - we can look out from the terrace and see the tourists wandering around below.
It's fun to go shopping in the food hall of one of the upmarket department stores in town, although Janne is deeply disappointed he can't get one of the Swedish specialties he wanted us to try. He is planning to give us herrings prepared in 3 or 4 ways, and cheese, and special potatoes that are eaten especially with the herrings, and the piece de resistance is to be this very distinctive herring dish from northern Sweden, but apparently the traditional opening of the season is one week away and he can't get it. Nevertheless the other herring dishes and entrees we have are great, especially washed down with several glasses of schnapps :)
Ana and me, as the Meditterranean representatives, decide to provide pan-fried salmon, a salad, and sauteed vegetables - onions, peppers, zucchini, tomato, fennel, etc. Other friends bring ice cream and mixed berries, so we have a real feast, then we go off to a milonga to dance until morning, naturally.
So my time in Stockholm passes in a blur of dancing, a little sleep, late breakfasts, a bit of sightseeing, etc. Stockholm is a city of around 1.5 million and there is a lot to see - there are over 70 museums, and as I walk around I notice all these tiny theatres tucked away in the side streets. Apparently there is quite a tradition of small groups of actors, musicians, and singers putting on small productions in these theatres, and I go to one of these in a basement cellar. A man and a woman dressed in period costume sing songs from Bellman, a greatly loved Swedish poet and composer who lived in the 1700's. There are only about 30 people there in the small basement but the sound was wonderful and the location very atmospheric.
So, Stockholm is another one of those places that I have only had the tiniest sample of and must revisit, not to mention the rest of Sweden, but I have had a wonderful time.
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