Friday, January 2, 2009

Sweden for the New Year

I didn’t have to work over the New Year’s holiday so my friend from work, Rixt, and I decided to take advantage of the long weekend and check out Stockholm since neither of us had ever been but had heard plenty of good things.
It was just as we imagined, really, really cold!, but also very beautiful and clean. Our hotel was just at the end of the main shopping street so we spent our first day basically strolling around and checking out the quaint souvenir shops, restaurants, and various other boutiques throughout the winding, cobbled stone streets of Gamla Stan (old town) area. Stockholm is built on 14 islands so there were amazing waterfront views basically everywhere you looked. It took quite a while to walk the 3 km because we literally had to stop every 30 minutes at some of the thousands of coffee shops around the city to warm up!
The first night we discovered the world’s largest Christmas tree and had a very authentic dinner of Swedish meatballs, the best ever!, at the Pelikan, a 100 year old beer hall.
On New Year’s Eve we went to the Vasa museum, an indoor exhibit of the world’s oldest war ship that sunk on her maiden voyage in 1628! The ship was entirely intact and completely restored after its rescue from the bottom of the ocean in 1961, 333 years later. After a few hours of gazing at this amazing piece of history, we ventured on to Skansen, displaying actual period homes, churches, barns, windmills, etc. from various regions of Sweden and the indigenous wildlife to the country such as moose and reindeers….what could be more festive?
NYE night, we tried in vein to find a nice restaurant for dinner in old town, but as we had no booking we were reduced to an extremely dodging Mongolian bbq, but it accomplished our need for nourishment before ringing in 2009 with the Disney On Ice crew that was in town. Although their hotel party was quite a trek from the city centre, we had the best views of the most spectacular fireworks display I’ve ever witnessed – the entire Stockholm skyline was ablaze for no less than 30 consecutive minutes.
Since pretty much everything in Stockholm was closed on New Year’s Day, we took an excursion to, what we expected would be the sleepy town of, Stigtomta. To our delight, we found that the city had a massive lake where tons of people were spending the day ice skating. It was incredible watching people skating off as far as the eye could see. Of course all of the cute shops in the very quaint village were closed for the holiday, but the trip was well worth it just to see how Swedes enjoy a typical day of winter recreation.
I class the first visit to Sweden as a major success and the ringing in of ’09 as possibly the most pleasant I’ve ever had!

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