Stockholm: A pocket of perfection
It is 6 am in Stockholm, and we had just touched down from Reykjavik, Iceland. Lugging our sleepless selves off the jet-bridge with our lives strapped to our backs we stumbled toward the airport exit. Our passports were ready in hand expecting to be greeted by the friendly face of Swedish or EU customs agent. There was no such encounter. It wasn’t that the individual wasn’t nice it was that there was no customs check at all. I was expecting one since this was our first stop in the EU. So, we freely strolled into Sweden. Delirious and a bit bewildered that there was no record in our passports that we had entered Sweden. We hopped on a high-speed train heading for Stockholm Central Station. We were dropped off in the heart of what we would come to know as a pristine city. We had no place to go or any place to stay yet, so we did what any two sleep deprived American twenty somethings would do – we looked for a bar! Since it was 7 am on a Sunday, we couldn’t find one with its doors open. So instead we found ourselves laying down in a park back to back resting each of our heads on our backpacks on a beautiful Sunday morning.
The city was sleeping, dead silent and entirely peaceful. The only noise one could hear was the faint hum of the few passing cars, the birds chirping and the wind wrestling with the surrounding trees. I realized in that moment that the real adventure had begun. I wasn’t exactly sure where we were. Okay, I had absolutely no clue where we were, but my level of contentment with very high.
There was an owl hooting nearby, and it’s hooting was acting as the baseline to the songs that nature was blissfully reciting. The grass was the most spectacular of greens as if each blade was freshly painted. The air had a lovely chill like someone knew what temperature to set it at for our optimal comfort. There could not be a more picturesque little park to rest in. What we seemed to have stumbled upon was an oasis of serenity in the midst of a city that would soon be teeming with life. In Europe’s smallest large city Sundays are seen as an actual day of rest where nothing except a few coffee shops open their doors before 11.
After our attempt at a nap we headed to the heart of Old Town Stockholm just to be greeted by a police escorted procession with hundreds of soldiers on horses surrounding what we came to find out was the Swedish Royal Family. I was under the impression that they heard I was in town even though no customs agent could have made them aware of that. I found out later that they were doing a practice run for the procession that would be occurring the following day which happened to be Swedish national day. The Swedish people don’t celebrate their national day anything like we do back in America much to our disappointment. We were told that is a day where most people “go out on boats, drink champagne and enjoy some fresh strawberries.” That statement gave pretty good idea of who these people are. Stockholm is a pristine city. On our first day we walked 18 miles around the city. During all that walking I didn’t see one part of it that wasn’t either beautiful or clean or a stunning combination of both.
I had never seen such a place like Stockholm. It is like a real world fairytale, something as close to a utopia that any place could ever be. The streets were lined with fantastic store fronts, shops and restaurants from all around the world. The main thoroughfare has classic, borderline pretentious restaurants sprinkled in-between some of the world’s most well-known brands like Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and TGI Fridays. Yes, I said TGI Fridays, which for some reason seems to be a decently cool place to go in this little wonderland. The citizens of Stockholm are all sweet, well put together, beautiful and educated. Every time you turn your head you see something that catches your eye. Whether it is a beautiful Scandinavian woman or a building cascaded with the history that its opulent architecture attempts to tell you about. Their culture is the highest I’ve ever seen and their nightlife is some of the most spectacular on the planet.
All this near-perfection is bundled up into a city of about 3 million people where one of every six people owns a boat and has an average income of just over $60,000. I am not sure what it is here but there is a certain magic that seems to stay in the air