So the first place we visited post-big trip was Stockholm, because we plainly don't like to keep money for too long. We've gotten about a bit but, save a couple of trips to Denmark for me (once on business; once as a child to Legoland - the real one, back before it was fashionable), we've neglected Scandinavia. Here we were then, in the biggest of the Nordic cities.
Landing at Arlanda, I was surprised at the chaos at passport control -I guess I just associate tall blonde Europeans with efficiency- but lo, it was a scrum. Getting through that, it transpires that taxis are unregulated here and there's an eye to be kept on the posted fixed rate to the city centre.
We stayed in the Old Town, which is charmingly cobbled and filled with tourst-focused tat shops. So Chan was pleased.
The obligatory 'posh' meal we had on the first night was at Djuret ("The Animal") - a very meat-focused venue, furnished with various dead animals and parts thereof. The place settings feature butchering diagrams and shooting range targets. The vegetarian option is to stagger outside, pale-faced while searching in your handbag for a comforting handful of kale. Every fortnight they change the animal of focus, such that every visit is likely to be different. Ours was lamb, in a variety of preperations.
The wine pairings are labelled C2H5OH and C2H5OH+ depending on how much money you wish to hose away. The geeky pleasure I had at recognising the chemical formula for Ethanol caused me to forget to roll my eyes at the ridiculously pretentious label. I do wonder how you are officially supposed to order that though, "Ethanol plus, please?" Anyhow, the meal was otherwise excellent and we met quota for Apex-predator points that month.
We took a boat over to Djurgården island and visited the Abba museum. I'm not what you'd call a fan, but I'm not an animal either so I can appreciate their work, can pretend not to have enjoyed Mama Mia!, and there's no getting around their significance in musical history. For any non-Europeans reading, Abba came to prominence by winning the European Song Contest for Sweden. If you also need The European Song Contest explaining to you: it's a big international talent show and post-war effort at reconciliation where everyone apart from the UK offers up the best musical talent their nation has to offer, and we send the least bad thing with no independent commercial value available and act surprised when we get nul points.
Anyhow, the Abba story is an interesting one and it's an insight into music history and popular culture, Swedish and otherwise, that one might otherwise miss. There was plenty of commentary from the four themselves, which just reaffirms that Benny and Bjorn are the most chilled superstars in existence. There was a facility there where museum patrons could take part in an Abba music video in a studio-like setting. The results haunt me at night.
Nearby is the Modern Museum, where Chan took a shine to the Polkadot and Mirror proclivities of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who seems charmingly demented. On a different floor there is a resident exhibition on urban planning and housing - which was more interesting than I can make that sound. Evidently the cost of accommodation in Stockholm is several degrees beyond insane, as Sweden's oft-lauded social policies and stringent regulation do come with trade-off costs.
Back over in Old Town we wondered around The Royal Palace and Swedish Parliament buildings and watched the resident military going about the change of the guard in the drizzle. We toured the palace and read about the various monarchs (all of whom are named some combination of Carl, Gustav or Adolf - this last has fallen out of fashion though). I have trouble getting too enegised over royalty and their digs these days, though.
On a final food note: the best pulled pork I've eaten so far (and I've traversed Texas and Tennessee) was had at The Hairy Pig - a tiny place with about four tables and a pleasant smoky atmosphere. The chatty host learned that my lasting and enduring fealty is bought for nought more than meat sandwiches and beer.
Chan's logistics contribution
Where we stayed: First Hotel Riesen. - booked direct
Who we flew with: SAS (Manchester to Stockholm) - booked with Netflights.com