Stockholm: Day 1

by kangcuzzi

One thing I notice about Stockholm is that you’re never  obliged  to do anything, let alone go out of your way to enjoy the quiet joys of the city. You simply meander around, on endless roads’ worth of cobblestoned streets, taking in the sights and making sure to build an appetite along the way. Sooner or later, something’s bound to come to you.

We started our morning in  Gamla Stan, the Old Town, which was conveniently located a footbridge walk away from our hotel. A lot of the shops were closed when we first arrived, so we just took a stroll and admired the buildings as they appeared one after the next. Individualistic homogeneity is the term I’d use to describe them: oxymoronic, yes, pretentious, quite, but it very well describe the way the buildings, all of similar heights and warm shades, were all distinct in their idiosyncrasies, be it the details of the roofs, the consistency of paintwork, the patterns, the windows, and so on. The common denominator, unsurprisingly, was that they were all very quaint and picturesque, so much so that I just wanted to capture it all and put it in my pocket somehow.

Surprisingly, given that was Gamla Stan was not particularly active whilst we were there, we spent a lot of time in the area. I tried a Swedish style cinnamon bun from a bakery named Bröd & Salt which happened to be nothing short of the best cinnamon bun I’ve had in my life. In a country that celebrates National Cinnamon Bun Day (this is true – it happens every October 4th), it is a fact that swedes take their kanelbulle  seriously. As the autumn chill numbed our fingers and faces (and my dad rushed back to the hotel to put on some extra-clothes … and eat some cup noodles whilst at it) my mom and I stumbled across  Stortorgen, the oldest square in Gamla Stan. There, we sat down for some coffee and hot chocolate with thick blankets over our laps. Needless to say, it was serene. For lunch we followed the archetypal  traveler’s advice and went down to some ‘medieval cellar’ (basically screaming “TOURIST TOURIST TOURIST”) for hearty Swedish fare. Okay, maybe not completely Swedish, but if what I hear about great food in Stockholm holds true, then my cheese sandwiches with tomato soup were very much Stockholm-esque. The venue was cool, too: apparently the cellar was built in the 15th century, and although I’m sure the ink graffiti was not written by the dead bodies that used to be piled in the room (otherwise there’d be a strange amount of love being found in a hopeless place … note the song reference), it seemed pretty authentic.

Next, we headed over to the Moderna Museet (The Modern Museum) to check out some modern art. Edit:  was there to check out some modern art (in Scandinavia I’m still a child, so I got in for free! Three cheers for Scandinavian age classification!), my family was there to … well, wait and drink some coffee. The exhibits were super cool – the special feature in the art section was an installation piece by an artist named Olafur Eliasson, in which there were a series of installations designed to involve the viewer in the work. In one specific piece, I was in a room filled with sand as a writhing hose spat air and flicked sand all over the place. It was an experience.

I learnt a lot about Surrealism, 20th century Russian avant-garde, Cubism and the like. One of my favorite pieces was a segment from the  I Got Up At series by Japanese artist On Kawara, who wrote a postcard from different places across the world to the main curator at the Moderna Museet with variations of the same message: I got up at (time). Eerily beautiful. Same goes for the exhibition of American photographer Francesca Woodman. Her pictures gave me chills; in their exploration of the human body and architecture, they were so haunting, yet so mesmerizing, at the same time.

After our my brief stint at the museum, we called it a day. After endless walking, our legs were pretty sore. But not sore enough to prevent us from quickly going through a huge H&M – when in Sweden, do as the Swedes do – and stocking up on some winter gear. After  that  brief stint we were truly done. We walked back to the hotel, where we basically holed up for the night … and it was only 7 in the evening. Oh well. One’s got to recuperate before heading back out to see the streets.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Örebro on an overnight trip. We’ve rented a beautiful Airbnb that I can’t wait to see. Here’s to seeing what else there is in store.