My trip to Stockholm was my first solo trip. I know it’s rather late to be writing about my very first trip since I have already written about a lot of my later trips. But no matter how many trips you take and how many ever places you visit, your first trip is
something which will stay in your mind as if it happened just yesterday. Like I have already mentioned in my early posts, I am an active couch surfer. Stockholm was going to be my first solo trip and I was really nervous while looking for a trustable host in the city. I couldn’t manage to find a couch surfing host but I got to know about a similar website called ‘Be Welcome’ which had the same concept as couch surfer but since had an old fashioned website. I tried my luck on Be Welcome out of sheer desperation and luckily I got through. My host was Iris, a PhD student from Stockholm University.
The reason I chose Sweden as my first destination in Europe is something I have already mentioned in my earlier post here. Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden is a part of the Scandinavian region (includes Sweden, Finland and Norway). I have no regrets of having chosen Stockholm as my first destination since it was a brilliant experience. I was there for four days and had wanted to stay only in the capital which I later realized was more than enough for only one city. I landed at ‘Arlanda Airport’ which was a little far from the main city. Iris had already given me some tips about the transportation facilities in Stockholm beforehand and so I had no difficulty in catching a bus from the airport to the town centre for 250 SEK (21£). Iris came to receive me at the centre station which was incredibly nice of her. We took the tunnel (metro) to a station called ‘Bergshamra’. Iris owned a student’s studio apartment within the Uni accommodation quarters and she had fixed up an extra bed for me.
In the morning, we discussed about what I should see in the city and packed some home-cooked food for lunch. She had her schedule free and agreed to show me around for all four days which was a treat for me. Stockholm is not cheap as compared to the other European cities, so she told me about some free/cheap places and also places where she knew the tickets were free at certain times. This did help me save a lot of money which would have otherwise been wasted on entry fees. If you type ‘Things to do in Stockholm’ on Google, the first topic which comes up is the ‘Gamla Stan’, a famous medieval old city dotted with old buildings. Colourful shops and narrow streets give the city its unique historically cultural touch. You might also get a classic Swedish street view of the locals enjoying ‘Fika’ (coffee) out in the sun. Iris told me about Swedish history and I was delighted to be present in such a historical place.
Stockholm is a collection of islands which you can navigate to and from using a ferry, train or bus. There are usually two types of cards in the city (for tourists): one is the Stockholm card, which provides you access to almost all the museums and other important buildings within the city. You can buy this card based on a one-day basis and will be charged accordingly. The second option is called the SL card, which is used only for transportation. I bought a three day SL card (230 SEK i.e. 20£) which was valid on all public transportation facilities. So if you are not a museum-type person (like me), I’d suggest you buy just the SL card and you will be okay.
Stockholm is a city you can literally explore just on foot. We walked from one island to another and that was probably the best way to explore the city. We decided to take a free guided ‘Tunnel Tour’ organized by the Swedish Government. An exceptional feature about Stockholm is their tunnel stations. Every station has been designed in such a way that it captures some historical event or represents famous personalities from Sweden. Every single tunnel station has its own unique interior and every design has its own story behind it. This is an amazing way to preserve your history and the best part of it is that one doesn’t have to pay to witness such beautiful works of art. So waiting for the train is never boring since one can always pass time by looking around.
It was my first day in town so I wanted to try the local Swedish cuisine. Iris told me that there is nothing ‘famous’ as such from Sweden when it comes to food and she took me to an underground restaurant called the ‘Café Sten Sture’ which was build in an old Swedish jail. It was inspiring to see how Swedish people have preserved their history in such modern ways. I had my first Swedish dish, a big boiled potato filled with chicken cubes and served with bread. The concept was new to me and I liked it a lot. Iris wanted me to see the ‘Stockholm Cultural Hall’ which had a free-entry photography exhibition going on along with a performance by some Swedish band which we really enjoyed. Iris was an art enthusiast and we spent the day exploring art, history and the culture of Sweden which was a wonderfully enriching experience and also a great start to my trip.
We met two couch surfers, Cora and Nima in the evening. Cora was from Germany and was in town to travel and Nima was her couch surfing host. We met at a traditional bar and had a few drinks. It was nice to meet them and we talked about a lot of random things. As we were finishing, Nima invited us to his place and we had fun at his place till 4 AM- four different people from four different countries all under one roof. We enjoyed each other’s native music (not that we understood the lyrics) and it was a superb night. I couldn’t have asked for a better first evening in Stockholm. The memory of Iris and me (drunk out of our minds, I may add) waiting at the bus stop in the middle of a freezing night always brings a smile on my face. I will continue more about the city of Stockholm in my next post. Till then, hang on and keep exploring.