The walk from the harbour to the centre of Stockholm is a half hour walk along a main road, with the sea on one side and the sheer side of a carved-out cliff on the other. Stockholm is modern, industrial, but a little like Venice with the water leading up to the spires and rooftops of old buildings at the end. There is construction happening everywhere, and we walk under a concrete bridge covered in chipboard panels, under the process of renovation, until we come out on the other side. The modern slowly gives way to the historic, an elevation of cobblestones and restaurants with outdoor seating and blackboards offering traditional Swedish food…and pizza.
The cruise ship tour groups are everywhere, fighting for space in all the squares, competing voices shouting out about the Reformation and wars. It is interesting to see a city that hasn’t been invaded in 5000 years, there isn’t much by way of a mishmash of buildings, until you cross the river again and the old competes with the new. Despite the crowds, the old town is romantic, every expectation of an old port town with the palace at its heart. The new part of the city is spacious and cool, the way only Scandinavians know how to be cool. I can imagine Lisbeth Salander walking around, solving crimes.
John gets a haircut in a hotel with an outdoors theme that effortlessly accomplishes the type of design that entire teams in Hoxton could only dream about. The secret seems to be temperament, and space. Even in this capital city, you can allow a sofa to take up a room and nothing else. The sofa also won’t be packed with twelve hipsters running their businesses on MacBooks.
A shame then, about the old town and the crowds. I am fully aware we are contributing to the problem, but I leave Sweden curious to return. The science fiction bookshop leaves me drooling, the photography museum by the water opens until 1am. It seems the type of place to rent an AirBnB for a week on an off season. I think we’ll be back.