And I’m back!
You’ll have to wait a day or two for a post on Croatia. It’s a work in progress. In the meantime, I will regal you with my whirlwind stopover in Sweden!
I arrived this afternoon from Split hoping to hit the ground running with only 17-hours (including a few for sleep) to see the Swedish capital. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. Despite it being June 1, the sky was cloudy and the ground was about to get wet. Very, very wet.
But that would not deter me…or the thousands of runners I, er, ran into upon exiting Central Station at around 3:30p.m. Today, it seemed, was the Stockholm marathon. Here I was feeling sorry for myself that I had to walk around seeing the city with an umbrella over my head and these folk were running 26.2 miles in wet socks. Yuck.
I took inspiration from them and carried on toward City Hall where they hold the Nobel Prize ceremony…and other types of ceremonies of the lovey-dovey kind.
It was too bad only the soon-to-be betrothed could get past the gates at this late point in the day: The halls were now closed to those of us not looking to settle down.
Then I crossed over into Gamla Stam, looking for a piece of “kebab pizza,” which a local I met on the express train suggested I try. (I was hoping for something more like fika or meatballs, but there’d be time, I figured. This could be my snack…)
She swore there’d be several spots to get such a local delicacy, but as I navigated the Old Town through the downpour, my stomach’s growl was no match for the thunder outside — or my hunt for kebab pizza. I needed to take cover and refuel ASAP, so I found a cafe and chowed down on a relatively pricey piece of olive quiche. I’d eat something more traditional later on. In fact, I had made a 9p.m. reservation at a place called Tradition — a “hip” new spot where they offer (wait for it…) traditional Swedish food in a more contemporary way.
I finished up quick and was on my way, but upon reaching the nearby Nobel Museum, I saw that wretched word again: Closed.
I was having no luck.
And with this weather, I just couldn’t bring myself to go on a boat ride around the archipelago. At this point, all the other museums would be closed too.
The only thing left to do was eat. Again…
Sure enough, as I continued to walk in circles around Gamla Stan, I happened upon a little sticker that’s sure to send any foodie into a flutter: Michelin Star, 2013.
I knew Stockholm was, er, holm to some great food and star chefs, but I didn’t have time to really research and book, not to mention the fact that I’m (sorta) on a budget.
But that sticker!
I didn’t recognize the name of the restaurant, but what do I know? Nothing, in fact. And I couldn’t even ask good ole Google as I had no internet.
Unbeknownst to me, I had just happened upon the oldest restaurant in the world — THE WORLD — to have the same surroundings since it opened in 1721: Den Gylden Freden.
It was only 6p.m. and I had just had a quiche.
Meh, I thought, I guess I could consider it my appetizer…
And so in I went.
It definitely seemed like a posh place that in two hours would be filled with good-looking Swedes on their Saturday night out.
It being only 6p.m. — the You’re A Nobody Hour to Eat at a popular restaurant — they had a lovely table for one and I nestled in, oblivious to where I was.
Everyone speaks English really well here, so when I asked for the suggested wine pairing for the Swedish meatball dish (it was that kind fo place — a Pairing Place), I also asked that she not bring the meatballs right away.
The waitress kindly offered to wait and said she’d bring me bread in the meantime.
And oh! The bread.
It was a pumpernickel so sweet and soft it could’ve been cake, but with the perfectly soft butter surrounded by chunky seasalt, it was an obvious savory carb worth a week of Weight Watcher points.
I sat, content as could be, sipping my wine, eating my bread and slowly getting past 25-percent of the John Irving novel I started three days ago, A Widow for One Year.
It was just getting good, as was this day.
Finally, after about 45 minutes — and nearly one table turnover to my left — the waitress asked if she could bring my main.
It was time. I was sorta hungry again. And oh! The meatballs. They were light and covered in a creamy brown sauce, with a side of lingonberries, mashed potatoes and small salad of pickled cucumbers and dill on the side. Absolutely divine.
As I sat eating, a new table arrived and I saw the woman almost pass up the pumpernickel bread.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I warned. “It’s too good. Really. Take two.”
She listened, thanked me, and that begun my evening with two Stockholmies. The craziest part was that not only did this woman’s boyfriend run the marathon I saw earlier today, but he used to work at this very restaurant and now works at the one I had a reservation at for later! (And clearly needed to cancel.)
He said the new spot is great, but that he worked at Den Gyldene Freden for many years and it’s a Stockholm standard — a world standard, actually. Then, he kindly gave me a tour! He showed me all the rooms — the main floor, downstairs cellar and even the “closed for private parties only” upstairs dining rooms. It’s where, he said, the Swedish Academy, made of up 18 esteemed members and founded in 1789, meet weekly to discuss matters of the country, including the Nobel Prize nominees!
So I missed the museum — I got to see where the committee has lunch!
Needless to say, my Michelin-starred meal was ace, and the company even better. Both were just what I needed after a week spent eating mediocre food with (an albeit lovely) group of tourists in Croatia. (More on that soon — promise!)
By the time I finished at 8:30 (and no I didn’t have dessert — only had so many Kruner on me and was stuffed!), the rain had stopped. Thankfully, it was still very light out so my new friends Helen and Richard gave me a suggested route and I headed back out onto the streets to see the Royal Palace and walk over a few bridges.
While I didn’t get to see very much of it, I can tell it’s a beautiful city and I’m sorry I won’t get to see more this time around. I’d come back, especially since I have Swedish relatives nearby.
All in all, despite the weather and my having spent about $185 on transport and food, it was a good day.
Now am off to sleep in my Jumbo bed in an actual Jumbo Plane. With my flight to Tel Aviv so early tomorrow morning, I figured it’d be smart to stay as close to the terminals as possible without actually being in a Gate Chair, wiping drool from my mouth every five seconds. And when I came across this place… well, call me a high flyer!
My luggage is stowed in the above compartment and my “economy class single” even comes with a television.
Not that I have the energy to turn it on.
Over and out, kids.