Homelands of the Vikings 1 – Stockholm

Homelands of the Vikings, Part 1: Stockholm

by Bob McCormac

This is a multi-part article encompassing my 20-day trip to the Nordic countries that spawned the Vikings and where they left their mark on civilization. In most areas, those direct influences have long since been erased but the impact on the cultures is still apparent in each country. Some of the articles also cover the neighboring countries, like Finland, Poland, Russia, and Estonia.

The first part of the journey covers Stockholm Sweden.

From Philadelphia, we took Icelandair to Reykjavik Iceland where we changed planes for the flight to Stockholm; in total, almost nine hours of flight time. Don’t expect much in the way of amenities on Icelandair and, when you’re at Reykjavik airport expect confusion.

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and it is situated across fourteen main islands on Lake Mälaren which flows into the Baltic Sea and is connected by 54 bridges. In contrast to Venice, where the city is sinking, Stockholm is actually rising due to a phenomenon known as post-glacial rebound, where the land springs up in the absence of the weight of ice sheets from the last ice age. The effects of glacial rebound can be seen is some of the buildings, where there is noticeable tilting.

After a 25-minute ride from the airport to our hotel in the heart of downtown Stockholm, we rest for an hour before we take on the trail forged by Stieg Larsson in his Millennium Trilogy (the Millennium tour can be booked on-line). For the uninitiated, the first book of Larsson’s trilogy originally took form in the title of “Men Who Hate Women” only to be changed by the original German publisher to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. The tour starts at #1 Bellmansgatan, Sodermalm where the novel’s protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, has his apartment. The apartment has no entrance at street level and can only be accessed from a second story bridge that runs over Bellmansgatan to the apartment building.

Bridge leading to Blomkvist's Apartment

Bridge leading to Blomkvist’s Apartment

View from atop the Bridge

View from atop the Bridge

From this point, the two-hour tour winds its way through the streets of Stockholm to some of the familiar haunts from the novels. If you take this tour you will encounter some true die-hard fans of Stieg Larsson’s work that will have all of the details memorized. Brush up before you go.

Mural of the Lisbeth Salander character in advance of the next installment in the series

Mural of the Lisbeth Salander character in advance of the next installment in the series

For fantastic panoramic views, walk from #1 Bellmansgatan about a block and a half up Bastugatan until you see the sign for Monteliusvagen Street; hang a right turn and walk up the hill to this high panoramic view of the city to the North including: Gamla Stan (The City Between the Bridges) – The Town or Old Town as it is known now. Many other historic sites to the North and East in Stockholm can be seen from this vantage point.

Old Town in Stockholm

Old Town in Stockholm

 Rooftops seen from Monteliusvagen Street

Rooftops seen from Monteliusvagen Street

Stockholm Central Station is a sprawling complex for train and bus departures that has an outstanding pedestrian arcade with many restaurants and shops. The Station is worth checking out both for the shops in the interior and the architecture both inside and out.

Interior of Stockholm Central Station

Interior of Stockholm Central Station

If you hail from an English-speaking country you’ll have no trouble navigating your way through the city as almost all locals speak English very well. Swedes generally begin learning English around age seven.

A great way to see a lot while in Stockholm, the “Hop On, Hop Off” busses can get you around a large part of the city between 10am and 6pm daily. You can even do a Hop On, Hop Off boat tour as part of the bus tour for a few dollars more. If you catch the boat, it will drop you off on any of the nine stops it makes.

Looking towards Old Town from the Hop On-Hop Off Boat

Looking towards Old Town from the Hop On-Hop Off Boat

For the photographer, get off the boat at the Södermalm stop and go to Photografiska (The Swedish Museum of Photography). The museum and the attached outdoor restaurant offer a great experience.

The Photography Museum, Fotografiska

The Photography Museum, Fotografiska

Young lady enjoying Photografiska

Young lady enjoying Photografiska

Almost directly across from Photografiska is the small island of Kastellholmen where a small, but prominent castle almost rises out of the lake. The castle, sometimes referred to as the Citadel, has continuously flown the Swedish naval flag since 1665 indicating that the capital city is still under Swedish control.

The Citadel on Kastellholmen

The Citadel on Kastellholmen

Stockholm has a vibrant shopping district that is heavily visited by locals and tourists alike. With one million citizens in central Stockholm plus tourists it can make for a very crowded experience almost anywhere you go in the city. On the corner of Olof Palmes Gata and Drotninggatan there’s an Espresso House where we stopped for a coffee and some people watching. The throngs of shoppers were nonstop the entire time. We even witnessed a pedestrian and driver getting into a slap fight in the middle of traffic after the pedestrian made some disparaging remark to the vehicle’s driver.

On December 10 each year, the Nobel prize awards ceremony is held at the Concert Hall on Hay Market Square. Later that day, a dinner honoring the winners is held at City Hall. The only exception is for the Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo Norway because Nobel felt Norway was the most peaceful country on earth since they had never initiated a war.

The Concert Hall without its outdoor markets during the week

The Concert Hall without its outdoor markets during the week

There is a lot to see and do in Stockholm and you could easily spend five days or more checking out all of the landmarks and other places of interest.

Stockholm Post Office edifice

Stockholm Post Office edifice

In Stockholm, we board our ship that will take us to our remaining stops. The transit of Lake Mälaren takes about three hours and once we hit the Baltic Sea the ship quickly picks up speed. The journey to Helsinki takes about seventeen hours in total.

Transit of Lake Mälaren

Transit of Lake Mälaren

Cove along Lake Mälaren

Cove along Lake Mälaren

About the Author

Bob McCormacBob McCormac is primarily a landscape and travel photographer from New Jersey in the USA.  Bob spent forty years as an information technology professional before deciding to pursue a long held passion for photography. Bob considers his style as simple and direct; trying not to over complicate the shot while still conveying the feeling.

You can follow Bob at his portfolio site, MAC Photography and on Facebook.

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  1. Pingback: Homelands of the Vikings, Part 2: Helsinki - Ugo Cei Photography

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