Stockholm – perhaps our spirit city

WP_20160326_09_53_42_ProEveryone can relate to the concept of a spirit animal. It’s an animal that encapsulates the personality, demeanor of a given person. At home we often refer to a dog or a cat or a particular dog or cat as being so-an-so’s spirit animal but how about a spirit city?

Mr Jones has always claimed that he can ‘live anywhere’ and if you look at the places he has lived, that is somewhat true, he probably could live anywhere. He’s lived in some exotic places but then so too has Mrs Jones.

Creature comforts aside, most of us could live anywhere as long as we are relatively safe, fed, warm and dry. Meaningful employment is lovely if you can get it, but when you retire, well what is meaningful employment – matchstick boat building?

seeking a spirit city

We’re always on the lookout for the next awesome. So in our latest adventures we visited Scandinavia again, the reasons are multifarious but one of the reasons is that we had a seasonal break due and we had half a ticket; the return leg from Stockholm.

In the past we have visited Norway, Finland, Denmark and Estonia. We also visited Sweden before but it was a lightning visit and part of it included meeting up with family at the tail end of Christmas albeit briefly.

We thought we do something different this time around. Fly into the University City of Gothenburg and then take a train to Stockholm before flying back out to the UK.

Bucket-list items

Gothenburg has been unofficially on Mr Jones’ bucket list for decades. Back in the early 1980’s he had a pen-pal there who worked at the University and it seemed to be an interesting place filled with possibilities.  For Mrs Jones it would simply be another destination checked off on a list.

If you look at what Gothenburg has to offer, on face value it isn’t much. Though it is the second-largest city in Sweden and the fifth-largest in the Nordic countries its greatest claim to fame is that it is near the Kattegat, on the west coast of Sweden. So Norwegian and Swedish influences.

WP_20160326_09_11_40_ProTripadvisor will tell you that boating in the archipelago Is the no1 thing to do, we had no interest in that. No2 is visit the Lisebergs Nojespark – having visited Tivoli in Copenhagen and skipped the Skansen in Stockholm, things didn’t looked good for Lisebergs. No3 is the Botaniska Tradgarden.

WP_20160326_09_17_39_ProWe did go there and were surprised. We spoke with a carer there and remarked on the impressive tidiness and good maintenance of this small but elegant facility near the Central Station. On exhibition were over 10,000 Iris’ which was impressive. Also in bloom was the indigenous Clivia, a monocot of the amaryllis family also known as the Natal Lily or Bush lily of South Africa which hold a special place for Mr Jones.

We missed the Slottskogen, walked the Haga, skipped all the museums but did pass the Masthuggskyrkan and sought out the Keillers Park.

We looked at the Lilla Bommen from a distance and hung out at the Nordstan a lot and visited the Fish Church and just walked our tails off.

Masthuggskyrkan We stayed at the Radisson Blu Riverside Hotel, Gothenburg on the other side of the estuary which is in a business park – a new building with a good breakfast but off the beaten track.

That said, catch the right bus, and you can go from Nordstan to the hotel in one easy shot. We bought a twenty-four bus pass which worked a treat on buses and trams.

Gothenburg was fun, and we had a good time with some great memories – including hearing more Shaggy than we probably heard in the last decade.

But the weather was a little unkind and it is probably a better visit in the height of summer – we probably won’t go again.

Training

wp_ss_20160326_0002 (2)Our train journey traversing Sweden was uneventful, we traveled first class, with assigned seats in a high speed train that ran like clockwork and had a switchbacks at Laxa  before continuing on to Stockholm.

The vista was quite dull although occasionally we saw wind turbine farms, horses and the remnants of the winter snows.

Sweden was a different ball-of-chalk, we have visited before, and so we have a sense of familiarity with the place.

Sure, you still land up going down some odd streets and perhaps walking a little further than you would expect but the city is tremendously visitor friendly.

IMG_2116We stayed at a different hotel on this visit – at the boutique hotel Miss Clara by Nobis.

We had previously stayed at the Hotel Tengerlunden – both were fine places to stay. Easily walkable to all the great spots in Stockholm.

On this visit we spent a little more time at the places we liked and even made a visit to the Skansen open air museum and zoo on the island Djurgården.

IMG_2123Because we were in Sweden for the Easter Weekend we attended two masses, a partial one on Good Friday in Arabic at the Gustavi Domkyrka which was surprising and an English mass in Stockholm on the Sunday at the St Eugenia församling which was long but somewhat fascinating because the community is almost 100% made up of expatriates from Africa and Asia and sprinkling of other parts of the world.

Although we were only in Stockholm for a couple of days, we could have easily stayed for longer and we have concluded it is a city we could easily live in.

Learning Swedish would be advantageous and dealing with the short Winter months and cold would take some adjustment but the City is so amenable and aligned with our inner Sammi and Nordic roots we feel sure it could be a destination we might well consider sometime in the future.

As a side note, the murder of the beloved Olof Palme was commemorated in late February thirty years since the assassination by an unknown but suspected petty criminal Carl Gustaf Christer Pettersson on Sveavägen – the main drag into town – we saw piles of flowers and candles amassed on the sidewalk in  Palme’s memory.

I will end by saying that no trip to Sweden is even half complete if you are against eating fish, it is a staple and can be found at almost every meal. There is of course also Swedish meatballs a la IKEA style but that’s something else.

Swedish Meatballs, Sandwich Cake, Pancake with Lingonberry, Cream and dulce de Leche
Swedish Meatballs, Sandwich Cake, Pancake with Lingonberry, Cream and dulce de Leche
Swedish Sandwich Cake
Swedish Sandwich Cake – anyone?
Pickled Herring
Pickled Herring
Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon