Sunday, 17 October 2010

Impressions of Stockholm

After just over a day in Stockholm, the city seems wonderful. The architecture reminds me somehow of Vienna, while the surrounding water has a distinctly Venetian quality: dividing and yet simultaneously tying the place together. The sun has been shining and the crisp air, cold enough to require bundling up, has me thinking of Christmas and longing for a mug of mulled wine and an open fire.

Aside from a lot of walking, I've had a couple of other highlights. The first was a delicious meal last night at Bakfickan ("The Hip Pocket"), the low-end of a set of restaurants in The Royal Opera House. The prices aren't exactly low-end but, having grown accustomed to London prices, I didn't find them too shocking. I chose Swedish meatballs in a flavourful cream sauce, served with some of the best mashed potatoes I've ever eaten, sweet lingonberries, and deliciously refreshing pickled cucumber. I washed it all down with a bottle of Landsort Lager, which turned out to be surprisingly tasty as well. The chocolate mousse, ordered in a flurry of food excitement, didn't quite manage to live up to the rest: despite a lovely delicate flavour, the mixed-in crunchy chocolate bits made for a strange texture and the mousse itself was a bit heavy. Still, with great atmosphere—including a conversation about Opera with the friendly Swedish gentleman at the bar stool next to me—and friendly service, I consider it £30 well spent.

My other recommendation is the Vasa Museum, just over the bridge onto Djurgården. This well-thought-out museum was built over top of an old navy dry dock and houses the imposing wreck of the Vasa, a 37-meter warship, which foundered and sunk on her maiden voyage in 1628. She was raised, almost fully intact, in 1961 and restored. The museum is well laid out, with a wide range of interesting exhibits about the ship, her sinking and restoration, and life onboard a ship and in Sweden in the 17th century. The museum is particularly commendable for having avoided the trap of adding flaps and drawers to make the exhibits "more interactive", opting instead to use good presentation and just the right level of detail to make them engaging. A hands-on computer exhibit on the top floor does an excellent job of explaining the forces involved in the stability (or instability!) of a floating ship.

Tomorrow I turn my attention back to work for a few days before heading on to Oslo.

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