Cosmopolitan Stockholm.

Capital city of Scandinavia.

We left Oslo by high-speed train, Stockholm by overnight ferry, and Helsinki by plane. It’s a good thing that we had so many varied modes of travel to separate one city from the next, because the week that brought us to all three of them was a complete whirlwind.

Stockholm calls itself the capital of Scandinavia, an official but, we felt, a completely deserved title. We could see it instantly in the city’s multicultural population and feel it in a buzzing energy utterly different from cosy Copenhagen. Stockholm also had the best example of a type of attraction we’d seen throughout Scandinavia, the model village bringing together architecture from different areas and different periods in the country’s history. Skansen is the original of these, founded in 1891, and our impression that it’s the best might have something to do with an amazing stroke of luck. Without knowing anything about it, we managed to choose the one day when all of the historical re-enactment groups from all over Sweden made their way to Skansen to fill the buildings with local food, games, and crafts from their regions. We drank elderflower cordial and tasted mashed horseradish with kale on crispbreads, played traditional games with strings and buttons, learned to card and spin wool, and had an absolutely tremendous day.

We splashed out for the traditional smorgasbord at Skansen’s lovely Solliden restaurant, though we were not quite able to manage the requisite five trips to the buffet: the first plate is traditionally filled with different types of pickled herring, then a smoked and cured fish course, a plate of charcuterie, the hot dishes, and dessert. Patrick did justice to the herring, sampling at least five kinds, as well as all the different cold cuts and a few of the hot dishes. I concentrated on the smoked and cured salmon, the pickles, the savoury little pancakes, and the Swedish meatballs, with lingonberries, which Sam also loved. We barely had any room for the pretty desserts, though we did manage just a taste of saffron cake, Swedish cheesecake, and various fruit mousses. We rolled out of there and didn’t eat again until the hotel breakfast buffet the next morning, at which point we found that our appetites had miraculously recovered.

Patrick managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the Vasa Museum the day of our departure.  Amazingly, this museum holds a perfectly preserved seventeenth-century warship that managed to sink little more than a kilometre into its maiden voyage and rest on the sea floor for 333 years until it was salvaged, preserved, and displayed. The artistry involved in carving the more than 700 sculptures that adorn the ship is astounding.

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