Besides the icebergs running down the rivers and the snow still covering the ground, my first real interaction with Stockholm was the coffee. Coming from Spain, which has about the same quality of coffee as Italy, I wasn't highly impressed with their pots of coffee. I started the day off in a small coffee house in Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm. Spread between 14 islands in Lake Mälaren Stockholm's Old Town is situated on a small island named Riddarholmen in Swedish, which means The Knight's Islet. Connected to North and South Stockholm with multiple bridges Gamla Stan's streets are filled with winding cobblestone streets, some dating back to the 13th century, and brightly colored buildings that stretch high and make the already small roads feel even more narrow. At 8am on this Sunday morning, the old town seemedmore like a host town and after a few cups of Folgers-like coffee I ventured out and had the island to myself. Soon after however, tourists started clogging the streets and this is when I decided it was time to meander across one of the bridges to North Stockholm - or Norrmalm as they say in Sweedish.
The bridge I took gave me a great view of the Royal Palace situated in the Gamla Stan, overlooking Norrmalm, and emptied out in the King's Gardens - where the King actually used to have a vegetable garden that was used in the Palace kitchen. The bare trees let the colored buildings peek through and I could imagine the tree-lined walkways full of greenery during the Spring. Although on my busride to Sweden we changed over to European Summer time, it still appeared to be quite Wintery in Stockholm. I stopped off at the tourist information center to aquaint myself with the city layout, because up until now I had miraculously wandered from Södermalm (South Island) to Gamla Stan and now to Norrmalm. With map in hand, I was easily equipped to meet up with my two Swedish friends, Mattias and Olle, when they called. I caught the spotless metro and headed back to Södermalm to meet them in the trendy area where my hostel was located. Mattias and Olle are two Swedes who lived in Spain for a few months last year that I have kept in touch with. Even though everyone in Sweden speaks almost perfect English, I was excited to see the city from a local perspective. First stop with the boys was more coffee! Again, the Folgers pot of coffee wasn't so impressive but the hole-in-the-wall cafe with live music that seemed like a mix between gypsy tunes and Irish dancing music was entertaining enough. They decided I should try apple pie, which I thought was quite American, but was pleasantly surprised when an apple pie, with RED apples, came out and was topped with what tasted like homemade cream. I also tried Olle's blueberry pie which was equally as tasty.
With full tummies we started to walk it off and headed to another part of Södermalm towards a large hill that overlooked the old part of the city and another island to its left. Since it was quite misty it wasn't the best view, but the boys made sure to tell me that during the summer its a great view, to which I replied, thank you for telling me that since I am here now haha. Down the hill and towards the south to a riverside street filled with bars and fun mirror and mosaic art and then eventually to a pizza place where I was introduced to Sweden's finest - Kebab Pizza. Made with the shavings of meat just like a kebab, complete with tomatoes, yogurt and all, the pizza was huge and surprisingly good. Now to me, a Turkish kebab pizza doesn't strike me so much as a Swedish dish, but the boys were insistent that no one makes as good of a kebab pizza as Stockholm, so I took their advice and ate it up. By this time, the night had fallen and the heat had went with it, so I jumped on the metro and headed back to the hostel to rest after a long and scattered first day in Stockholm.
When I got back to the hostel at like 8pm, I got into the room (which was a 12-bed room) that I shared with a bunch of other people and there were 3 people already sleeping?! It was 8pm!! Turns out a German mother and her two teenage kids were staying in the hostel with us and apparently they go to bed that early in Germany! I immediatley had a flash-forward to Berlin and hoped that the Germans we were going to meet there weren't so lame! The other guests in the room were fun young travelers so we managed to talk in small voices and I got some good tips about Berlin and talked to a few girls about San Sebastian and then called it a night and crawled into my top bunk (honestly...when was the last time I slept on a top bunk? 12 years ago?!)
More to come on my Stockholm adventure soon!