Stockholm: Wednesday, 28th – Friday, 30th November 2018
Stockholm has a certain special place in our hearts. Before we were married Robert worked as the European Training Manager for the software division of a British company called Letraset. Letraset [famous for rub-down dry-transfers] almost went bust after they purchased another historic British company – Stanley Gibbons [famous for postage stamp collections and catalogues]. A Swedish company called Esselte [stationery] bailed Letraset out. As a result of this Robert often travelled to Stockholm during the late eighties. Matilda had also previously visited a good friend from university who worked in Stockholm for a period and Stockholm was one of our honeymoon destinations in August 1990.
When Robert was researching cheap flights and suggested places to Matilda, she approved some, rejected others and put some on the maybe list. When it came to Stockholm she flippantly suggested she wanted to replace the cheese slice bought on our honeymoon [over 28 years ago]. So, factoring in the transportation costs – travel and accommodation for a short city break for two – this must be the most expensive cheese slice ever.
In 2006 when we returned to Stockholm on a short city break, we discovered Robert’s Coffee shop while strolling through the Saluhall market. Robert’s offers coffee in “a second cosy living room away from home for happy campers”. Given both the acquisition of Alan the motorhome and the name, this establishment has a certain attraction and we stopped again for a hot beverage. The Saluhall itself, which opened in 1888, is being renovated and the original star-shaped floor plan will be re-instated. All the traders have relocated to a temporary Saluhall adjacent to the original In the interim.
We also revisited Vasamuseet. The Vasa is the only 17th century warship to have been salvaged almost intact. Having travelled just 1,500m on her maiden voyage, she was raised from the bottom of Stockholm harbour in 1961 and from then until 1988 she was housed in a temporary structure and treated with polyethylene glycol to preserve the timbers. We first visited in the August just after the new museum opened on 15 June 1990 when she was in a polythene tent, constantly being sprayed with water and chemicals to preserve her.
Since that first visit the preservation techniques and the displays have developed considerably.
She is truly an impressive yet sobering sight. They have now built replicas of various parts of the ship which you can walk through, and which Matilda could barely stand up straight in. It is difficult to imagine the hardship of the conditions which seamen were routinely expected to endure.
As with many things in life, it seems the workers were aware of the shortcomings of the design but management chose to overlook the alarming results of a test in which members of the crew repeatedly ran from one side of the deck to the other and demonstrated the fatal instability of the vessel.
Robert is often accused of only ever drinking beer. Well he does occasionally drink coffee and we stopped for one after leaving theVasamuseet.
Breakfast at our hotel is served in the Ming Restaurant – a Chinese restaurant within the hotel. In a curious combination of national cuisines, breakfast included Swedish meatballs and noodles. We were not at all sure that these had been specially prepared for breakfast – they looked suspiciously like last night’s leftovers.
We then walked to Stortorget square in Gamla Stan, the old town, but it was difficult to get the full effect as this is Christmas Market season across Europe and the view was obscured by stalls. We also found that the Pharmarium bar, which Matilda had identified as worth a visit, did not open till the evening. We would have to return later.
Whilst walking through the old streets, we came across an old favourite, the Ardberg Embassy, which we had been told no longer existed. It is still there and the only change in the last 12 years is that it now has many, many more bottles of whisky to choose from.
We also popped into the Bishop’s Arms and returned to the Pharmium Bar for our pre-prandial drinks. The Pharmium Bar is in an old pharmacy complete with all the old fixtures and fittings, including the drawers for the various herbs and medications and, at the time we visited, a barman who really takes his work seriously. At one point he risked burning his fingers on the freshly caramelised lemon slices for one of the drinks. A treat to watch a craftsman at work.