Walking through a big city as a visitor can be a lovely experience. I have a tendency to look up at the buildings and the strip of sky above me. As a visitor you’re not usually in a rush and have time to see details you might not notice if you’re rushing from A to B. I’m not a fan of sweaty summer walks through hot city centres so visiting Stockholm last weekend at the very start of (official) spring was perfect.
Living in an archipelago is lovely - close to nature and water - but a little time off the islands is also nice - especially in a bigger city where the food options are more diverse. It’s refreshing to see other scenery and people.
Warning! Getting off the islands can take time and patience! Particularly now as one ferry company sold off the regular ferry they’d used for forty or so years to travel a (somewhat) shorter route resulting in what now requires more travel time and several modes of travel. But the 13-hour return trip also allowed for some people-watching, and some reading and writing time.
After meeting friends at the popular Omnipollo’s Hatt, a craft brewery that has a tiny bar/restaurant near the ferry terminal, we headed to a pub that we knew shows football matches from the UK. We braved the blowy streets for the 15-minute walk, and when standing outside the pub, I just couldn’t believe it would fit us in!
The front bar was tiny, packed, and had a small television. We pushed our way through the throng towards the back of the pub - and it just kept going! It was a bit like Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series - we just followed the trail, through doors, down stairs, around corners - until we finally found a room with a TV showing our game. Who knows how far underground we were?! At least two stories I think. We sat in a small vaulted room, surrounded by a group of Aston Villa fans (our team), and received applause when one of us went up to the bar (way, way up the winding, staircase path) to fetch a beer or three.
I embraced the Arctic air as I stepped through the hotel doors to the Stockholm street, inhaling deeply, and appreciating the crisp, fresh air.
[Side note: Why are buildings so overheated?]
The sky was an azure blue, marred only by the occasional cloud wafting past. I was glad to have my beanie and gloves a few minutes later as brain freeze hit my forehead, the brisk wind picking up as we walked the narrow streets towards the Central Station.
Ornate buildings in soft, warm reds, oranges and yellows, hugged the road with barely any space for pedestrians. I wondered who lived behind the curtainless windows.
We snaked our way through narrow streets and worn cobbles, past an old church high on a hill, as they often are here, a reminder to people that the Church is above all else, perhaps not something people notice today as skyscrapers brush the clouds in a mighty show of capitalism.
We came to a set of narrow stone steps leading down to the street below, metal railings, a little bent with wear.
“This is where they think Olaf Palme’s murderer ran up.” My husband pointed down the narrow stairs and my gaze followed his finger.
We’ve been watching a Scandi crime drama based on books (fiction) that takes a look at the Palme murder. He was Sweden’s Prime Minister from 1969-1972, then from 1982 to his assassination in 1986. It’s still (sort of) unsolved.
We walked down the worn stone steps, perhaps even tracing the steps of a murderer. The noise I’d thought was someone rhythmically bouncing a ball against a wall was actually an escalator tucked behind a wall for those who didn’t want to/couldn’t take the stairs.
We reached the ground level and followed Tunnelgatan to an intersection where the it opens out. It was then I noticed a plaque—the spot Palme was shot, inlaid into the pavement, a candle and flowers commemorating the anniversary of his death just days before on February 28th. I’ve seen several fictionalised series and adaptations of what police and other experts believe might have happened—someone has even been named but not everyone is convinced.
The Sunday morning hustle and bustle of a city continued as normal as we stayed a few seconds, looking up and down the busy street, and at the movie theatre Palme had been to just before his death—pausing to contemplate death and life, and the secrets city streets hold.
We then headed down Sveagatan towards the station, dragging ourselves out of the past and the nation-changing event, into the present.
I was glad to get home, when we eventually made it—another seven or so hours including two busses and a ferry. Cities hold so much history and so many secrets, the buildings hold silent witness to the comings and goings of humans over time.
I prepared myself for what was to be a busy week. But in those moments, before the week had started, I enjoyed the quiet downtime for a few hours as I reflected on the weekend that was: the hustle and bustle of the big city that is Stockholm.
Writing this reminded me of another piece I wrote a while ago, The Worn Stones - time travel is real!
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Lovely story about your Stockholm visit. I agree, it's lovely to visit cities, big or small, and find their specific vibes. But visiting places you know from 'tv' or film adds something special.
Really enjoyed this, Lisa. ✨