The first thing we notice upon arrival in Stockholm is how it is all so excruciatingly clean, youthful and vibrant. What do they do with all the tired, old, dirty stuff here in Stockholm?
As it happens, we are none too fresh ourselves, having just overnighted on the boat from Finland. Are we at risk of being whisked away by some baby-faced-but-spotlessly-groomed officer of the Prosperity Police?
We ride the tidy tunnelbanna, walk to and across a picture perfect bridge, and arrive on a pristine island oasis in the very heart of the city. There we find our roost, the Hotel Skeppsholmen, a stylish refuge in a reconstructed circa 1699 building which previously served as barracks for the Swedish Royal Marines. After checking in with the Taylor Lautner look-alike at the front desk, we head to our room, an expansive design-centric suite with an idyllic view of the city across the harbor.
Feeling the need to see something aged and faulty, we cast off for the Vassa Museum. The Vassa is a 1628 vintage warship which sank on its maiden voyage, having sailed less than one nautical mile. Apparently, the ship was built top-heavy, a fact known to everyone but the commissioning king, Gustavus Adolphus, who his subordinates were afraid to tell. The extravagantly decorated and heavily armed Vassa was salvaged virtually intact in 1961. It looks like Captain Hook’s ship, but much more intriguing, because it is real. The museum engagingly tells the stories of the Vassa’s construction, failure to launch, and resurrection from the sea.
Buoyed by our visit to the Vassa, we head for the previously gritty, but now boho-hip district of Södermalm. Stieg Larsson fans will recognize the Södermalm neighborhood as the scene of much of the action in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I am not sure what it says about us, but we began to feel at home there in Södermalm, listening to Dear Joe croon tunes at the diminutive Snotty Sounds Bar. Likewise, we savored our commune with locals while dining at nearby Chutney, a vegetarian café serving creative, satisfying fare at digestible prices.
It took us a few days to dig a bit below the shiny veneer of Stockholm. We did eventually find our travel groove, but by then it was time to pack our imperfections and head for Copenhagen.