Stockholm post conference

The Spanish look Spanish, the Germans look German but the Swedes don’t look Swedish!

I could live in Stockholm – in the summer! It is a remarkable city, impossible for me, at least, to do it justice – I shall try. It is far too simplistic to describe Stockholm as “Berlin” on water”. Yet the buildings have the same strong, stable, imperious presence. It is however, by contrast, a city physically untouched by the Second World War.

I am not sure if there is a name for the architectural style of the buildings? They are constructed of stone, pleasingly symmetrical, “robust, strong” yet elegant. Slate roofs and copper clade spires. IKEA is the last description that springs to mind – these buildings look and feel as though they are built to last a thousand years.

There is nothing “small” about the buildings or indeed the city other than the narrow cobblestone alleys between these masonic monoliths on the small island of the original city – a few hundred metres long as it is wide. These narrow alley ways are the only similarity with Spain!

As well as the sense that the city is a series of suburbs separated by water, there are two beautiful green national parks (south and north) – the lungs of the city – cool restful forests of oak trees some more than 500 years old dotted with fairy tale palaces and grand homes on vast green carpets and baroque gardens. A cycle paradise !

I swallowed my pride, prejudice and prowess in the name of price and rented a “girly” bike for two days. Exactly the same as Berlin but with a handle bar basket thrown in. Anyway if I was to get lost, I may as well do it slowly, although on this bike, definitely not gracefully – which I did (get lost that is).

In summary over the last 2 days I cycled around 3 of the islands that are part of Stockholm, walked around the medieval island that is the original city, then cycled the south and north national parks.

As to lost, it is such an inevitable daily scenario, that I shall not bore you with the details of the numerous episodes, as to reasons, sadly they defy logic or an explanation.

Every city or region visited to date invariably has an “iconic” product aimed squarely at the tourists. Yet I found it hard to pin down such an icon for Sweden! Eventually it became obvious in the seething cobblestones streets of the old city: Viking headgear! For both men and woman it involved a metal cap with horns. The female version added long canary yellow plaits. ( think Wagner! ) Would Pamela like one?

I was surprised to discover that as well, for the discerning tourist, one can participate in

An ABBA walking tour – why would you as Mr Lacey would retort!

A Stieg Larsson tour ( Girl with Dragon Tattoo)

A IKEA tour – they drop you at the door and you make your own way but they supply directions.

Whilst I am guilty of zealous use of the iPhone as my camera, I consider that I am observant and appreciative of the wonderfully unique culture, architecture and social milieu in which I am fortunate to be. The reason for this observation is that I am moderately irritated and depressed by a significant number of tourists who seem to constantly aim, click and record without really “seeing” what they are looking at. It is as though they feel they are so rushed with so little time to see everything or indeed anything, that they adopt the approach of looking at the passing world through the view finder, rationalising that they can “look” at the sights when they get home! Sigh!

Tomorrow I am taking a boat ride exploring the archipelago. But the onset of Autumn has reduced sailing times. It’s amazing but true that the “season” lasts at best 4 months! The weather has been faultless – cloudy crisp mornings then about noon , bright sun cloudy sky till about 5 when temp drops and wind becomes rather biting!

It’s less than an hour till the launch of the iPhone 5 ! Do I want one? Do I need one?