It was barely past 3:00 p.m. and the sun was setting. That’s the thought that kept coming to mind as I walked to my hostel from the bus station. Wandering through Stockholm’s maze of canals, each twist and bend seemed to offer a new view of the Scandinavian city at dusk.
After several months in Central Asia and the Middle East, the clocktowers, cathedrals, and town halls of Stockholm seemed lifted from the pages of a storybook. The city looked old, but not in the crumbling way of many places I’ve visited. It was stately and dignified; aged, but groomed. A welcome change.
My hostel was another welcome departure from the last couple of months. The boat, formerly the Mälaren, is now a hostel known as Den Röda Båten, and it was moored along one of the main canals through the city. The gentle bobbing from the rise and fall of the water was almost imperceptible, and I quickly fell into a deep sleep. I was exhausted.
The next couple of days, I did my best to savor Stockholm at a leisurely pace. Luckily it is a sleepy place in the winter when the hours of daylight can be less than a typical workday. I visited coffee shops and devoured amazing salads topped with lox, spent an hour lounging in the Stockholm Public Library with a book of Korean short stories, and even met up with some friends I had met in Mongolia.
Mikaela was able to take me all over Stockholm, showing me some of the best parts of the city before we went to Ellinor’s flat for a delicious salmon pesto dinner. I love it when things work out to meet up with friends met on previous trips. It’s a surreal experience to meet someone you associate with Mongolia in Stockholm, Sweden!
The Old Town of Stockholm was enchanting to explore. Narrow streets wind through its heart like termite burrows as people walk to and fro on the cobblestones.
My visit couldn’t have been better timed, the Christmas Market was just getting underway. I couldn’t resist picking up some homemade glögg, as well as some tasty treats to bring home for my family.
There were so many more incredible experiences in Stockholm to be had, but the last thing I was able to tick off my list waited until my final evening in Sweden. I found a public house tucked away on a quiet backstreet and stepped inside. A portly, tattooed man greeted me warmly and seated me in a corner. The place oozed warmth, and I felt myself begin to melt into the cushions behind me. I only bothered looking at the drink menu. I knew what I wanted for dinner. I ordered a Wisby Mork beer and an entree of Swedish meatballs.
They were perfect. Rich and hearty, served with gravy, potatoes, lingonberries, and pickled vegetables. I savored every bite and washed it all down with the beer. Then, since I have no self-control (and it was the last night of an exhausting trip) I splurged a bit more and ordered a caramel apple crumble. That crumble was as wonderful as any of my dreams of paradise. I left with a full belly, a happy heart, and a reeling credit card. I grew up eating Swedish meatballs (my Aunt Bertie makes the best ones!), so eating meatballs in Stockholm was kind of a bucket list activity for me!
I walked back slowly, stopping over the bridge to stare down the canal towards Den Röda Båten. Tomorrow, I was going home. The emotion was there, same as the last time, but it had diminished. I knew, deep down, that I would only be staying a short while.