I always knew that Stockholm existed. I just didn't know what that meant. I knew it was a faraway city that had probably survived some wars. I knew it sounded like a neat place to visit, but I didn't know why until we got there. Especially in the rain there was a certain hustle to the city. There seemed to always be a bike lane and plenty of pedestrians, some who waited to cross the street and some who didn't.
The city had a clean, fresh, new feeling that was still sprinkled throughout with older architecture
. Modern office buildings, shops, cafes, restaurants, train stations. You name it, they probably have it on the main streets of the city. Most people seemed a little edgy when we were there. Probably because it was still raining and getting colder every minute. We stopped in a coffee shop for some hot cocoa to keep us warm along our journey to the south end of town where the old town where Stockholm was first founded still remains well preserved on an island. The town is called Gamla Stan which means "The Old Town." It's mainly on the island of Stadsholmen. A quaint old town with narrow streets, plenty of shops and cafes for tourists and locals, and beautiful original buildings, this was a place we could have spent far more time if we had it.
The rain sprinkled down on us constantly and the further we went the colder we got. We stopped in a small shop where tourists can buy anything they might need with the Swedish flag or an elk embroidered on it. We bought a hat and a ring, neither of which looked particularly Swedish. We must have walked past at least 30 different restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs. There was even a small taco stand. I think we were more cold than hungry and decided to make a decision about where we were going to eat, warm up, and head back to the train. All I wanted to eat was fries, like the ones we had in the coffee shop in Linköping. They were more potato wedges than fries, but they were the best I think I've ever eaten in my life
. Finally, we settled on, not a Swedish restuarant, but an Irish pub named O'Learys. There is a chain of them in Stockholm, but this one was probably the most authentic looking one. Someday I would like to actually see an Irish pub in Ireland, but this wasn't a bad first impression of one. Football was playing on the television. There was music playing in the background (probably something Irish I couldn't quite make out). Patrons were gradually pouring in, speaking Swedish and knowing exactly how to order food in this place (they'd obviously been there before). We found a nice corner table right in front of a small space heater which made our night. I ordered a cheeseburger which, thankfully, came with fries. The burger was (surprise surprise) the best I've ever eaten in my life! And that might be saying something. I've had some pretty memorable burgers. But this was my first Swedish one. I'll have to go back there some day and recreate that experience.
6:00pm came early and we decided to head back to our home for the night
. When we arrived in the Arlanda airport we got on a shuttle which took us past the Jumbo Stay hostel where we had booked the Black Box Suite at the tail end of a jumbo jet turned bungalow above the ground. A small elevator took us and our luggage upstairs to the front door where we were prompted by signs (and a shelf of shoes and slippers) to remove our shoes before entering. The young lady at the front desk greeted us kindly as the French father and his tiny daughter finished checking in for the night. They headed up a small circular flight of stairs which led to a room above the lounge area which was formally the cockpit of the plane. Our room was directly in the tail of the plane where one of the black boxes was once housed. The bed was like sleeping on a giant pillow. Much softer than the bed we had slept on the past week. It was a delightful stay made even better by the fact that we had our own bathroom. Most of the other rooms are smaller and have dormitory style bathrooms along the hallway. Truly a neat experience for sure. This is the place we began and ended our visit of Stockholm. By the way, the bus from the airport to Stockholm may take a little longer, but the train into the city is way more expensive. Lesson learned.