by Preethy Rao
If you have a geography itch like me where places pique your interest simply because they are a fascinating landform on the globe, then Scandinavia got to be on your list. Growing up on far out mind images of the Land of the Midnight Sun, of cold polar places, where people are well taken care of – nothing relatable – everything fascinating – I imagined – I went.
A short flight from Frankfurt lands you in the expectedly efficient Stockholm airport. Trains and buses take you to the city in no time. The Courtyard Marriot in Kungsholemen – clean? Check. Efficient? Check. Is it the shape of things to come?
Stockholm is an archipelago – a cluster of many islands – seamlessly connected by bridges and public transport. Charting out your routes everyday is no sweat as Google gives you ample information on bus and train connections. However, some struggles in figuring out metro connections are real unlike the self-explanatory networks of Tokyo, London and New York.
And the game changer both in Sweden and Norway: the electric bike! Its like your childhood “scooters’ transitioned into a suave self-assured battery operated dude. Download the Bolt and Lime apps in Sweden and Ryde in Norway and you are done. Pick up a parked ride, bar code it and off you go. Drop it at your destination; close your ride. Goodbye, sore legs.
It’s amazing how these parts are committed to do away with gas guzzling cars . Neatly marked cycling paths means you can zip around carefree, although Oslo seemed a little less organized than Stockholm.
Museums are a middle name for European cities. If you are a Gen X, fed on a diet of ABBA, head to the ABBA museum on the island of Djugarden.
Interesting displays on the band members’ lives, their journey to becoming a world famous band , dioramas of their dressing room with real objects, a karaoke room where you can sing your favourite ABBA song, a stage where you can perform a song with holograms of Bjorn Benny Agnetha and Anni-Frid – the place is as real as it gets in ABBA fandom.
If ambling is your thing, take a walk in the charming, snaky lanes of Gamla Stan (Old Town).There are many outdoor cafes, small souvenir shops and pretty water front spots to bask in.
Book a spot with someone for a guided tour – our guide Sara, a student of Stockholm University, took us through the backstories of the neighbourhood’s history, architecture and the political scene of Sweden as we gazed at the Parliament House and the dormitory for Ministers when it is in session.
You can spend a relaxed day at Skansen – an open air museum – also on the island of Djugarden – with interesting recreations of old workshops, farms, a rose garden, a zoo (if you are so inclined) and a church where we listened to a melodious choir singing traditional Swedish songs.
Coinciding your trip with the Midsummers Day (June 23) all over Sweden will mean partaking in the joi de vivre that people there feel after a harsh winter perhaps. Skansen had a crafts bazaar and group summer dance where everybody skipped to a merry folksy tune . All in all, a happy mela vibe, really.
If old ship wrecks are not your thing (Vasa Museum), then Fotografiska overlooking the water will be a a guaranteed high. A Russian immigrant artist based in LA had a photography exhibition that spoke about the pain and longing of displacement. You can indulge in such creative journeys, and then spend hours at the Museum shop scanning through stuff that is as creative as the exhibits – a daily digital detox card set, a 1000 piece puzzles of great art works, self help art books, cutting edge photo posters – it’s Candy Land.
After all that brain fodder, chill at Fotografiska’s own café as you sip coffee with a fika (friends bond over fika) and drink in unhindered views of the Baltic as cruise ships glide by, the charming Stockholm skyline lovingly looking over its water. Or, a short (what else ) scooter ride takes you to Herman’s a vegetarian/vegan café nestled on the hill overlooking the same waters. Sumptuous, delicious with a bonus view – all’s well with your trip!
If you are a stalker of Royalty, head to the scenic Drottingholm Palace – off centre from the city. An hour plus bus and metro ride takes you to the water facing Palace or you can reach via pre booked ferry rides from the city. The plush maximalist Baroque Palace interior crammed with gold trimmings and urns and substantial chandeliers could stun you as would the rolling gardens in the Palace , good for a dreamy amble and photo shoots.
If you have an extra day in hand, go island hopping with the numerous ferry operators – step out on one of them and spend a day just chilling and partying (if you are in a group). Grinda was on our itinerary.
Throw in a free ‘sunset’ view of the city from a slippery cliff at Skinnarviksberget one evening – and you are in love with a charming city. Spoiler alert: the sun never really sets unless you are dragged kicking and shouting at 11 pm!
Know Before You Go
Fika is a Swedish ritual and an institution. It is coffee with a sweet snack with friends. It says make time for friends.
Language is no problem if you are an English speaker. Everyone speaks fluent English.
Summer trips are great – 18 hours of daylight at your service. Most public places shut late. Cafés and birds twitter well past 10 pm!
Midsummer Break is the Friday between June 19 and 25. Some businesses are closed on that day, especially restaurants.
Electric bikes are a great self-reliant way to move about the cities of Stockholm and Oslo.
Sweden and Norway are vegetarian friendly – the concept seems well understood and practiced here.
Also read : 10 Reasons Why Indians Should Visit Serbia
Featured video : Ryan Shirley