The weekend before last we went to Stockholm for the third time, but the first during winter. The impetus for the visit was to attend Per’s birthday party and since we were already going to the city we figured it made sense to spend the weekend.
The temperatures had dropped quite a bit in the days before we left with overnight lows in the -25 range with snow. Apparently these conditions are bad for trains and the tracks as there were delays and cancellations all over the country. It’s not as if winter is a new phenomenon in Sweden so it is disappointing that the services couldn’t handle it. The national rail carrier and the administration responsible for the tracks have had to issue apologies for the poor service and are trying to repair their reputations especially as even the Prime Minister weighed in on the situation saying “Winter is after all one of the four seasons in this country”.
The worst problems were on the Stockholm-Göteborg route where one train was stuck in the middle of nowhere for 15 hours. We were “lucky” to only be delayed for one hour, which isn’t bad if they let you know about the delay so you can wait inside the heated terminal. Unfortunately for us the signboard kept updating every 5 minutes to say that the train would arrive in 5 minutes so we had to wait outside for about 45 minutes which isn’t a lot of fun in -20 weather even when you are dressed warmly.
Once in Stockholm we made our way over to Per’s for birthday brunch celebrations with some of his friends, family and colleagues. The food was great and included some Swedish specialties including lax and ostkaka along with eggs, bread, cheese, salad and some great truffle-salami. There were also a few speeches and songs which I didn’t fully understand but were fun nonetheless. Per is so popular that there were two seatings for brunch, so we didn’t stay too long so as to make room for others.
Next we spent some time exploring Södermalm which the Lonely Planet says is “Stockholm’s coolest ‘hood”. It was more than cool; it was downright frigid as the winds were howling. We ducked into a few stores to warm up and explored a little, but decided it would be good to get out of the cold check into our hotel. We decided to be somewhat adventurous (and cheap) with our hotel choice as we decided to stay on one of the large boats moored in the lake.
On Sunday morning we packed our bags and trecked out into the cold. At least it had stopped snowing, but the temperatures were quite cold so we thought the best plan was to do something inside. We took the ferry over to Djurgården and spent the day at the Nordiska Museet. In addition to learning about Swedish laundry rooms we explored exhibits on Swedish holidays, furniture, housing, fashion, table settings, folk art and the Sami people.
After we’d had our fill of the museum we made our way back to the train station for the return trip to Gävle. The station was crazy with multiple cancellations and delays resulting in massive crowds. By pure luck we were booked with a private company and our train left only about 10 minutes late; if we had been on the national carrier we probably would have been hours late. We quite enjoyed our third trip to the ‘big city’ and we’ll surely be back as there is still lots to see, but I think we’ll wait until things warm up a little.