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{24/02/2012}   Stockholm, deer, cinnamon bun and polar bear pee

     I may have had three nights in Stockholm, but in reality I had a few hours at leisure in Stockholm.  So I might just manage to write 500 words about Stockholm!

Check out the ice plates at the bottom of the photo, note the wee-yellow tinge?  It can only be polar bear pee.  This could be the closest I ever get to seeing a real polar bear (except the one who put its paws on the glass and smiled at me in Singapore zoo), its pee.  And I so don’t want to hear of any alleged geographical impossibilities of that being polar pee.

Everyone says Stockholm is expensive (I was first/last there when I was 18 and my overriding memory is of the expense).  It is both expensive and more expensive than you can possibly comprehend.  The train (admittedly we had to get single tickets but a return was almost twice as expensive) from the airport to the central station was £26.  Each.  One way.  A 20-minute journey.  Ouch.  As for much needed alcohol, a glass of wine for £9 and a small beer for £6.  A loaf of bread (admittedly a very heavy rye and seeded little number), £7.  Most main meals at mid range restaurants were about £25.  But good food.

Thanks to a recommendation, we went to De Svarta Fåren (The Black Sheep, which I think should be called The Three Sheep because of their sign) in the old town, Gamla Stan.  Lovely atmosphere, fantastic food.  We both had “deer” (rein or venison?) with juniper sauce and chanterelle mushroom sauce and it was cooked to perfection and truly delicious.  You choose two side dishes as part of the cost.  I had cooked beetroot with goat’s cheese (very large portion) and a salad.  Lovely, delicious, want to go there again.

The next night, we finished work really late so didn’t get to a restaurant until about 10pm (people eat a lot earlier) so I didn’t register what it was called.  But I had ox cheek with parsnip puree and a fancy word for two mini onions.  How bloody good was that?!

We had hot lunches at the work venue, and they were all really, really good.  I hadn’t expected Stockholm to be a good foodie place.  Ooo, and we had buffet breakfast with soft meaty smoked salmon, very good cold meats, decent but predictable cheeses and absolutely fantastic breads.  And I didn’t even over-eat because I was too tired!  We also had hot chocolate and I had a huge cinnamon bun at the chocolate place next to The Black Sheep.  Well, when in Sweden …

As for my limited impressions of Stockholm, it is a very pleasant city and I would be happy to go again.  On paper I should love it (water, snow (although the grit had obliterated what would otherwise have been quite deep snow), colourful buildings, narrow streets) but I just like it.  There are some wonderful buildings but I’ve been to prettier North European towns and cities.  But service was generally good, everyone we encountered spoke fantastic English and most people were really friendly and there is a nice feel to the city.

Gamla Stan appears to be where tourists head, the palace is there (a princess was born there yesterday and the cannons went off to celebrate) and so are the hilly, cobbled, colourful streets.  Once away from the tourist shops, there are some beautiful workshops and craft shops.  The antique shops were great, and surprisingly cheap (old cheaper than new, unlike in the UK!).  Lots of quirky and interesting designs, as you’d expect from a Scandinavian country.  My favourite shop was the one in the photo.  A woman, the wife of the owner we spoke to, has made metal signs using her own designs for about 30 years.  They are beautiful.  There was a sign of a man side-on, just his head and shoulders, very smokey blues/jazz bar feel.  I think he was smoking a cigarette.  The owner said that was him when he was younger, playing the piano.  Beautiful works of art.  And, yes, of course I got the Varnig For Katten sign!

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