FOLLOWING A BOOK, STOCKHOLM, Gönül Midesiz | 07.03.2016

Reading the “Millennium Trilogy” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest) by Stieg Larsson, which criticizes the system from the perspective of the genius hacker with poor social skills, was my excuse to take a Stockholm tour, chasing the protagonist of the book, Lisbeth Salander. Walking the streets that Lisbeth walked, taking the subway “Tbana,” and comparing the image in my head with reality was something I wished to do. Besides, this wasn’t my first time doing this: I had also followed the trail of a book before by visiting every place mentioned in them in my visits to Rome and Paris. Because it was going to be my first trip to Stockholm, I studied up on every place that should be seen and then got on my way at the end of September for a 3-day trip.

Instead of the modern, colorless, boring city I imagined the capital of Sweden to be, I found a colorful and historic place. The city which has a population of 2 million is also a contemporary and modern location where people in suits go to work on bikes. Like all northern countries, Sweden has a high welfare level and the cost of living is expensive.

Stockholm is made up of many small islands. There are 14 islands that are interlinked with more than 50 bridges. Around the city lie 24,000 islands. The city, which was founded on the shores of the Baltic Sea, is made up of water canals between the islands and green areas (parks and small forests). I envied the bike lanes and the evergreen nature the most.

We got on the Arlanda Express train from the airport and got off at the central station. While walking to our hotel in Gamla Stan, we had our first impressions of the city. After passing the Klara Church and turning right at Sergel Square, which is decorated with triangular black and white stones, we found Gamla Stan after walking for a little while. We passed the historic bridge and got onto the island after passing the palace.

Gamla Stan (old town), which is the oldest and most touristic region of the city, is made up of 3 small islands: Riddarholmen, Stadsholmen, and Helgeandsholmen. I learned that when Gamla Stan is mentioned the largest of these islands, Stadsholmen, first comes to mind.

After checking in at our hotel, Scandic Gamla Stan, which was located at the other end of the island, we started our trip back via the same way we went to the hotel. We reached Drottninggatan, the most lively avenue of the city, after passing the very tall statue that we saw in the center of Sergel Square. We reached a small market after walking through the shops located on the avenue. We looked around the market, which had colorful forest fruits and plants, and we succumbed to the sights and bought a pack of cranberries to eat on our way out of the market.

Stockholm is a city that is respectful of nature and there are parks on every side of it. We visited the park Kungssträdgården (Royal Garden) which is decorated with statues and pools and joined those sitting around the pool in the middle to enjoy the sounds of water and nature.

After walking to the seashore from the park we visited the garden of the Swedish Military Museum located at Östermalm. Even though the museum is historically important, we didn’t enter because of our lack of interest in weapons. We took pictures of the old buildings of Gamla Stan, which were visible from the shores of Östermalm.

After passing the bridge to get back to Gamla Stan, we visited the Royal Palace which is surrounded with cannons. After watching the changing of the guard ceremony, we took a picture with the soldiers at the guard box. The King of Sweden resides within the palace.

After visiting Stockholm Cathedral, which hosts the coronation ceremonies and is one of two large churches in Gamla Stan, we continued our trip by heading to Stortorget.

Stortorget is the oldest square of the city. The King Kristian II of Denmark vowed to destroy all opposition when he conquered the city in 1520. He organized a large feast to which he invited all of the Swedish nobles and at the end of it arrested 82 of them that opposed him and had them beheaded the day after. On this square which was witness to the darkest times of Sweden lie colorful old houses and the Nobel Museum. We visited the Nobel Museum but I would say that it wouldn’t be much of a loss if you decide to skip it. The banquet following the Nobel prize ceremony is held in the Stadshuset (City Hall) Blue Hall, which is right across from the museum.

For dinner we chose to go to a café called Chokladkoppen, which is actually famous for its hot chocolate. We had some Swedish meatballs, of course.

The next day, we headed out by boat to Djungarden island, where the Vasa Museum is located. Vasa is a 69-meter 6-story ship made in the 17th century. On its first voyage in 1628, probably due to the 64 heavy cannons aboard, the ship sank not long after leaving the shipyard. After staying at the bottom of the sea for 333 years, it was restored slowly between 1961 and 1988. Currently, 95% of the ship has been restored to its original condition. The 6 stories of the ship can be seen within the museum. It is said that the Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Scandinavia since 1990. There are models and images showing the ship building and repairing process of the 17th century within the museum. Videos are also shown in the museum. When you visit the museum you can get an idea of that period and the labor that went into building the ship.

After the Vasa Museum we visited the Nordiska Museum which is located close by. Nordiska is an ethnology museum. You can find items regarding everything about Swedish society (business, life, traditional, and historic items). After Nordiska, we visited the Aquarium, which had exotic animals and fish, and then went on to Skansen Park and museum.

Skansen, which is located on Djurgarden island, is a large park and natural habitat that covers a 75-hectare area. This area was used as hunting grounds by the royal family in earlier times. There are 150 different buildings from all over Sweden – farmhouses, windmills, a school, a mining camp, the tallest bell tower of Sweden, townhouses, etc. – located within this area. Purely by luck, we saw a fair here; there are always different activities at the park. It was a colorful fair with stalls selling flowers, homemade jams, breads, cheeses, and similar natural products, play areas for children, and clowns. I even tried to walk on two planks, although I wasn’t too successful at it.

After the fair we visited the natural park. In the areas which recreate various natural habitats, there are many types of animals such as seals, monkeys, bears, wolves, and bison. This is also a zoo. The daily farm life of Sweden was recreated at the farmhouse located within the park. The resemblance of the Swedish village houses’ architecture and decoration to the village houses of the Black Sea region is quite striking. Because it is a living museum, guides wearing period clothing guide you around the park. We went back to Gamla Stan for the evening after spending the whole day in Djurgarden.

We bought trolls and wooden sabots with flowers from the souvenirs shops around Gamla Stan as keepsakes. There are also beautiful woolen hats and sweaters but we don’t live in a country cold enough to wear them and also they were very expensive. Even if you don’t buy one, don’t forget to take pictures with a Viking helmet. For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant in one of the side streets of Gamla Stan.

On our last day we walked around the places that we hadn’t visited yet. Firstly, we went to Stortorget Square, the most central point of Gamla Stan. We reached the St. George and Dragon statue located in a small square at Österlanggatan after passing Köpmangatan, which is the oldest street of the city.

After walking around the place we passed Marten Trotzigs, which is said to be the narrowest passage of Stockholm, to reach Tyska Kyrkan (German Church or with its other name St. Gertrude Church). It is one of the two large churches in Gamla Stan, and was built during the 1500s. The lectern made of marble and wood is the most beautiful piece in the church.  The engravings on the galleries and shrines are also very beautiful.

We walked to Riddarholmen, the smallest island of the ones that make up Gamla Stan, crossing a bridge to visit Riddarholmen Church, which has the graves of the people that governed Sweden for more than 300 years, and a Franciscan monastery. Riddarholmen Church is one of the oldest churches in the city. Construction began in 1270 and it was finished in the 1300s.

After spending our last day in Stockholm we hopped on to the subway at Gamla Stan, which was the one that Lisbeth used to escape those chasing her, to go back to the airport in the evening. Because we didn’t have enough time, we missed out on visiting Drottningholm Palace, 1 hour away from the city, and the amusement park Gröna Lund, even though we really wanted to see them. At least we have an excuse to visit Stockholm again in the future. We consoled ourselves with this thought.

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