End of June I landed on Swedish ground at Landvetter Airport in Gothenburg. I must admit, I was unsure if it was a clever decision to leave Bangkok again or not.
I have not so many times been welcomed in Gothenburg by warm and sunny weather, but this time I was.
It was kind of a relief to enter an airport there everything seemed to be normal, like in the good, old days before Covid. No people around wearing masks, maybe most people kept a bit more distance than before, but that was all. No problem at the immigration or custom.
A pre booked Mini taxi stood waiting for me and a helpful, polite driver took me in to the city.
I was back home again, well not exactly my home, but my mum’s.
After now having spent more than a month in Sweden, visiting also the south part Skåne and our capital Stockholm, I have had time to watch and listen to Swedes opinions about the whole Covid situation and I have realized how different the Swedes and the Thais are in their way of handling the Covid situation.
Of course, the Swedes are aware of Covid and the virus has hit us quite badly, but still we don’t seem to feel this fear that I have noticed among the Thai people. We have, from the beginning, been going against the stream, a good or bad decision, we can’t tell yet.
Restaurants are fully opened, as well as hotels, shopping malls, beauty parlors, hairdressers etc. People sit next to each other on trains, busses and trams, only the drivers are protected by a plexiglass window.
In the stores, there are marks telling us, or better said, advising us, there to stand, at least a meter from each other and the majority follows the suggestions.
People are smiling and look at you while walking the streets, not many depressed faces around. You can’t help smiling back.
I have also noticed the last few years, that the young generation serving in hotels, restaurants, shops, banks, you name it, are very polite and helpful nowadays. If we go back 15-20 years, it was not always the case. As we Swedes, since years, say “du” instead of “ni” to each other, I have noticed that the young generation are turning back to the more respectful “ni”. When I mention this to elderly people, they normally nod and say that I’m right. This is nice in my opinion.
In every country there are things to complain about, it’s natural as nothing or no one, can be perfect.
In both cities, Gothenburg and Stockholm, a lot of renovations are taking place.
To stroll around in our beautiful capital Stockholm, is a blessing. I just love the architecture and of course, a city built on 14 islands, connected through 57 bridges, surrounded by water, is a beautiful sight. There are 30.000 islands in the archipelago.
Stockholm’s smallest island is called “Strömsborg” and consists only of one small building and 3 trees.
Despite Covid, here are many tourists from all over the world.
They are amazed to see the Royal Palace, that has one more room than the Buckingham Palace, Skeppsbron, the Old city just behind the Palace and all the old fashioned boats laying side by side waiting to take people to the islands. Already early mornings, people are queing for a ticket and longing to explore one or more of the islands located in a not too far distance.
One of the most popular islands is Fjäderholmarna. It’s a relatively small island very close to Stockholm. Here you can enjoy lunch or dinner at the popular restaurant “Rökeriet” (the Smokery)
well known for its cuisine. It’s recommended to book a table. While sitting close to the sea, enjoying typical Swedish dishes, you can watch the yachts and big ferries passing by.
There are so many attractions for a tourist to visit in Stockholm. Most common places to visit are the “Royal Palace”, and behind the “Old city”. There is also the beautiful “Riddarhuset” (the House of Knights). Here you can attend concerts and presentations and if you belong to one of the noble families represented, you can arrange private dinner parties and weddings here. In this case I know what I’m talking about as I, many years ago, closed the hymn bands in its elegant Room of the Knights.
Riddarhuset was built in 1641 by 3 different architects, Simon de la Vallé, Justus Vingboons and Jean de la Vallé. The building was ready to open in 1660. Riddarhuset can be seen as a symbol for the nobility’s power during mid 1600th. Until 1866 the noble families used it for their meetings and still today, without the former power, they get together in this building.
In the Knights room are all the families’ crests placed on the walls, explaining every families number in the Riddarhuslängden (The lenght of the Knights house) a kind of list, including all, in Sweden, introduced noble families. It’s well worth a visit.
Not far away you will find “Regeringshuset” the Government building and the legendary restaurant “Operakällaren”. By the way, Sweden is celebrating 100 years of democracy this year.
At Operakällaren (got its name because the Royal Opera is located in the same building).
Here at Operakällan, many top Chefs have stirred the pans throughout the years. The Crown princess Victoria and Prince Daniel’s wedding menu was composed by Stefano Catenacci from Operakällaren and the dinners served at the Nobel banquettes on December the 10th yearly, are also created by Operakällarens Chef and staff.
Another, perhaps the most known Chef at Operakällaren, was the late Tore Fredrik Wretman. He wasn’t very successful in school and at an age of 16 he began apprenticing in the kitchen at the hotel Continental in Stockholm, but a year later he started working as a waiter at Operabaren in Operakällaren. This post led him to famous restaurant Maxime in Paris, 1933. There he worked as ” commis saucier and poissonnier”. A lot of other important postings at different locations followed until 1943-1944 when Tore Wretman returned to Operakällaren.
In 1955 he took over Operakällaren and after renovations and a complete overhaul, the restaurant was reopened in 1961, but then with another famous Chef, the Swiss Werner Vögeli. It says that Tore Wretman is the man behind the popular Toast Skagen.
Still today, Operakällaren is a popular restaurant for fine dining and managed by Chef Viktor Westerlind. A rumour is going around that Chef Westerlind is saying farewell to Operakällaren in coming autumn.
I will also let you know that Operakällaren is also Court Supplier, purveyor to his Majesty the King.
Since I was visiting Stockholm last year, many new restaurants have popped up. I can’t mention them all, so I have picked 2.
“Brasserie Astoria” at Nybrogatan, has in only a few months, become very popular. This old cinema is turned into a classy, modern restaurant. It belongs to the Frantzén Group with restaurateur Björn Frantzén. The building has gone through an extensive renovation where details from the original 1870s are carefully restored. The groundfloor has become a modern brasserie, created to offer a vibrant space full of life day and night. The winebar is welcoming and there are several, small rooms ideal for private dinners. If the weather allows, take a table outside, enjoy a lunch or dinner and watch the people strolling down Nybrogatan. I was in the mood for a refreshing Sangria which was not on the drinking list, but the bartender immediately created me one. Nybrogatan has turned into a trendy, busy street which has not always been the case.
Another restaurant on the same street, belonging to the new boutique hotel Villa Dagmar, a hotel and restaurant with a Mediterranean touch, I can warmly recommend. This hotel is connected to Östermalmshallen (the Östermalms foodhall), the most fancy and popular food shopping place for the upper class Stockholm citizens.
Two of Sweden’s top Chefs offer first class dining at Villa Dagmar. The hotel also has a huge bar and possibility to relaxation and training in “Dagmar Spirit & Retreat”. If you happen to be invited privately to friends and looking for a small gift to bring, the hotel has a flower shop located in the lobby.
Hotel Villa Dagmar is part of the same family as Hotel Diplomat on Strandvägen. Hotel Diplomat belongs to my favorites. To sit on its terrace, having a light lunch and watch the beautiful people passing by and the exclusive yachts in the harbor, is a great pleasure. People overall, are very well dressed in Stockholm, especially the young men and women.
A visit to the National museum is also a must. It is located on Blasieholmen 2 and was completely restored a while ago. This museum is owned by “Statens fastighetsverk” (The National property Board) and built in Neo-renaissance style by the architects Friedrich August Stueler and Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander.
There are many options to get to know Stockholm or “Venice of the north” as many call our city, a not at all popular name as Stockholm is a very clean city, compared to Venice.
Why not take the Ocean bus Astrid or Estelle to explore part of Stockholm? It’s a fun and special guided tour. The busses look like sharks and are painted light blue.
To guide on these daily tours is a popular summer job for the students. They explain in both an entertaining and professional way about Stockholm. You embark at Strömgatan, between the Royal Opera house and the Grand hotel.
The busses pass Stureplan, Humlegården, Karlaplan, Kaknästornet before they go into the water. You will be taken around Djurgården with the Vasa museum, Junibacken (a popular place for children there they get to know many of the late, famous author Astrid Lindgren’s fairy tales) and the amusement Park Gröna Lund as well as the popular Skansen. The busses round Skeppsholmen, Kastellholmen and the Royal Palace. You are also taken along the parade street Strandvägen, with all beautiful old houses, all like private palaces and opposite the harbor restaurants. The busses, are from the beginning built on Volvo chassis that have been shipped over to the US and changed into amphibian busses. The drivers of the Ocean busses must be both bus chauffeurs and educated captains.
It’s indeed an exciting way to get around and discover the city. These amphibian busses have been around in Sweden since 2014, they also exist in Gothenburg. If I’m not wrong, I think they have existed far longer e.g in Singapore there they look like huge ducks.
“Discover Stockholm with me” says PA Radencrantz welcoming. PA is the eldest son of late Kenneth Radencrantz and spouse Berit, a well known couple who used to live in Bangkok during many years.
PA is both one of the Ocean busses’ drivers and a well educated guide, who organizes guided tours both by feet and bikes. To join his tours is a fun experience. No one can probably tell about the history of Stockholm in such a professional and entertaining way as he can do. He knows plenty of anecdotes about people who lived long ago in Stockholm, as well as the people of today.
Last summer I went on a private biking tour with him and I can assure you, it was great fun and I learned a lot, but my poor butt was suffering for days afterwards, as I wasn’t used to bike for hours. See that you get an upholstery saddle if you plan to go on his biking tours.
I could write so many more things about Stockholm, but leave it for this time. Now it’s up to you to come and visit, just because you are worth it and you will not regret it!