Stockholm, Sweden - 2011

The Paranoid Abroad, Gahan Wilson, 1972

The American Tourist's view of Eastern Europe,
from the wonderful
"The Paranoid Abroad"
by Gahan Wilson.

(Click any image to see it full size)

Stockholm is just an hour from Helsinki, so you can't just not go. And we were rewarded with a world class city. After tiny Tallinn, moody Riga, grimy St. Petersburg and compact Helsinki, we were truly impressed with the complexity, variety and sophistication that is Stockholm. We had purchased our bus tickets online, so we didn't have to deal with the usually expensive money changers at the airport. The Arlanda Express, the "fast" train, is only 15 minutes faster than the bus, goes to the same place, and costs nearly four times as much as the bus. Bizarre. So we took Swebus in and back out.

The old town is a small island, with narrow streets made dim and gloomy by the towering buildings crowding them. Unlike Tallinn, old town's buildings are typically six storeys high - twice the height, and the northern sun stays so low in the sky the old town streets never get much, if anything. Of course in the rest of the city, the sun is directly in your face all day, so there are some tradeoffs.

The Swedes like their buildings massive. Huge department stores, museums, government buildings - all block long, rectangular and imposing. To their credit (and unlike New york), the city understnds it is a living being and needs constant renweal. So the streets are alive with different architectural styles, old attached to new, new taking elements from the old. And it gives the city a vibrancy that is most pleasant.

Swedes ride bikes. Tens of thousands commute this way. The streets are vast parking lots of battered bikes. No bike racks necessary. We were there for morning rush hour and the bike lanes were constantly filled with commuters. Cool.

Oldtown architecture, Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by David Wineberg Stockholm harbor street. Photo by David Wineberg Boutique Bakery, Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by David Wineberg
Elegant old town Fabulous colors Boutique Bakery

We hit the International Food Fair at the Galleria across from Ahlens, the huge department store. A couple of dozen booths served up Paella, wursts, huge pretzels (pizza covered, cheese covered, salt covered), half meter long strudels, forty varieties of English fudge, thai stir fry and English jams, among others, to the throngs that are constantly clogging the streets. Another pleasure was the food hall on Nybrog, filled with deli booths in a 100 year old building. Although the restaurant upstairs, with a balcony overlooking the indoor hall, says it's vegetarian, don't believe it. It's a buffet not quite worthy of a Seventh Avenue deli. We did buy cardamom pastries at Boutique, also on Nybrog, with huge breads piled up in the window and on the shelves. What a bake shop should be.

Prices were steep, though Helsinki is worse. If we could take out a second mortgage, it would definitely have been worth renting an apartment in Stockholm for a couple of weeks.

The Paranoid Abroad, by Gahan Wilson, 1972

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