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Jul 2017

Stockholm City Coat of Arms

A trip to Scandinavia in tandem hasn't been done before although Mrs Guff has seen the Little Mermaid up close and yes, it is a disappointment.

Stockholm was supposed to happen in 2003 but a lost passport[1] and hastily rearranged flights meant the beach in Brighton was ended up on, in February, in T-shirts so no, not in the nuddy.

First-time comparisons with Sweden are inevitable but with just five nights here, only the surface will be scratched of the cultural[2], linguistic and geographical differences? Pitching respective nations to outscore each other in such situations is pointless, right?

Let's give a go anyway.

[1] Mine, inexplicably, down the back of a kitchen drawer and the place has since been exorcised.
[2] Including the price of a pint!

  Arlanda International Airport

Nearly 25 miles north of Stockholm, your cheapest option is the bus but the Arlanda Express train will get you to the centre in 20 minutes. £70 for a pair of return tickets will give you a taste of what to expect in the coming days, price-wise but this was the best train eva and a few have been gotten on.

Stockholm is, essentially, three islands and it's supposed that London can call on  Dogs,  Eel Pie and, at a push, Canvey, to keep the scores level.

To the north, Norrmalm and behind the grand water-front, Stockholm's modern centre and an awful lot of shopping. Rainy day mooching is accommodated in Åhléns City, not a mall but a single department store although Harrods is actually bigger[1].

No points awarded, though, the largest one in the world is in  South Korea, which even has a driving range in it!

[1] And we all know about that, right fellas?

  Stadshus (Hantverkargatan 1)

Or, the City Hall if you'd rather. On another island, Kungsholmen, this thing's tower is visible from just about everywhere.

One of the city's main attractions, this grand specimen hosts the banquets for the annual Nobel Prize ceremony, no less.

Kungsträdgården is no Hyde Park but plays host to outdoor events in the summer including the all free ROCKFESTEN.

Yes, it's mainly attended by inkier versions of  Bill & Ted but the closing act on Saturday night is particularly being looked forward to... Excellent! [air guitar].

As you head north, things soon run into the residential so a tentative opening with no real, early advantage to either side in the Guffers Play-Off...

  Hobo Hotel (Brunkebergstorg 4)

'Boutique' lodgings complete with Courier font and a PO-12 PCB pinned to a corkboard next to the bog. Turns out it's a  drum machine that can be used to provide the entertainment when your money soon runs out in the bar downstairs.

To the south, Södermalm or at least it will be when it's finished.

A sequence of locks[1] link Lake Mälaren to the left and the Baltic Sea but this watery setup has only gone and made the original, 1935 concrete all rotten.

That's the reason for the rebuilding, you see, and an opportunity to redevelop the area as a new 'civic quarter'.

Not so much up and coming more 'up and hmmming' as you venture out across the gondola for a view that's a little bit borderline for these wobblies.

This was originally a lift but no longer works so you'll have to haul yourselves up the hill into the heart of, what was recently described as, Europe's '  coolest' neighbourhood.

If by 'cool' they mean too many coffee shops and a  BrewDog™ then that's hardly something that's not seen before. The everyday rubs shoulders with the artsy and the artisan but it's no better or worse than Manchester's Northern Quarter.

If this flimsy, footballing narrative[2] is being stuck with then there's still no breakthrough...


[1] The Metro station called Slussen is a clue.
[2] It looks like it is.

  Fotografiska (Stagsgårdshamnen 22)

At the top of Södermalm, photographic exhibitions in an old customs house that's not nearly as big on the inside.

Most people can be found nabbing a window seat in the café upstairs where there's a good view over the water and down to a rum-looking bunch of Hells Angels heading for the ferry to Finland.

Gamla Stan is Stockholm's old town, literally, and sits in the water separating the north and south islands, geographically.

Strictly speaking, two more smaller islands here,  Riddarholmen and  Helgeandsholmen means the subs from down the divisions are being brought off the bench to try and keep it scoreless...  Chiswick Eyot and  Sheppey[1], at an even bigger push.

It's on Gamla Stan that you'll find yourself with all of the other tourists for it looks not a little unlike this.

Away from the Scandi knick-knacks and the prohibitively expensive pizzerias, it's also home to Sweden's Royal Palace and Parliament building, the  Kungliga slottet and  Riksdagshuset respectively.

Now, they're impressive enough but nowhere near as iconic as our own Buck Pal and  HP sauce. GERRIN! You can always count on the big guns...


[1] The  Carlton Palmer of islands in the Thames?

  Barrels Burgers and Beer (Stora Nygatan 20)

What it says and where the beer's of the 'crafty' variety although there's no reindeer in a bun. It's not all about the meat, the friendly, young waitress will fill you in on some meteorology. Seems the summers in Northern England are just about on a par and their winters often aren't as icy as you'd imagine.

  The Hairy Pig (Lilla Nygatan 13)

Unusual combination of tapas and a variety of home-made sausages, served hot-dog style and all washed down with a selection of local, 'craft' beers. Try the one with the brown sauce and  lingonberries, an unexpectedly good balance of tart, sweet and savoury.

The Swedes take great pride in a good brown sauce, as do the Italians with the tomato, and it's what you'll find your meatballs normally swimming in. This told by the waiter,  Stephen Merchant's younger brother although he lacked his happy-go-lucky lankiness.


Small island linked to Gamla Stan that's home to a statue of Evert Taube. Evert Taube? Only 'one of Sweden's most respected musicians and the foremost troubadour of the Swedish ballad tradition in the 20th century', like you didn't know already?

The island is also home to most of Stockholm's judiciary and the Island of Justice is being pitched to a Scandi-production company as this is written. BBC4 will be all over it.

There's actually another island,  Djurgården, that's a walkable mile east along Strandvägen or the quayside if you'd rather.

It's there that's being headed to for a wander in the 100-or-so acres of woodland. There's some old royal residence or other around every corner and you'll find plenty of these on the ground, the fieldfare, of course.

A couple of these have been clocked up close in the UK but they were dowdier and not nearly so colourful. That'll be because they breed in their numbers in Northern Europe but head west for the winter when there's no need for them to be so 'matey' and all showing off.

Stocking up on cobnuts in Kent is their main concern where, at that time of year, it's not nearly so cold for them, they say. I don't know, they come over here nicking our cobs.

Here, with their strength in numbers and superior, summer plumage...


With Djurgården off the bench and, quite frankly, playing a blinder, things are getting tactical since Stockholm's main visitor attractions are up against now.

Before you get to the woods and the parkland, you'll pass the themepark,  Gröna Lund. It's relatively modest but also hosts outdoor concerts in the summer with Marley, Joplin and Hendrix all playing here in its heyday.

There's Glastonbury and its funfair, of sorts, but never having been, they can't be confidently compared. Not never been to Alton Towers, neither, so the best that can be done is this one in Seaton Carew...

  ABBA The Museum (Djurgårdsvägen 68)

Not just a 'museum' but part of the much larger 'Pop House' that's a hotel, restaurant and entertainment venue or Karaoke if you'd rather.

ABBA's in the basement alongside some Eurovision costumes and an unexpectedly captivating display of photographs of the big acts to have played Gröna Lund since the 50s[1].

You will 'Walk In, Dance Out' and even at the best part of £50 for the pair of you, there's still a grin at the unbridled joy of that group of middle-aged, American women down there.

P.S. Benny might have put on a few pounds but he's looking well these days, eh?

[1] This might only run until December 2017.

Stockholm's main naval yard used to be back over the bridge on yet another island but there was some shipbuilding on Djurgården. The industry lasted well into the 1960s but the island's western shore has now been developed to accommodate the city's main visitor attractions.

These include the Lightship Finngrundet and the ice-breaking  SS Sankt Eric, which, despite neither being built here, offer a rare, Krona-free experience[1].

Meanwhile, back behind the roller coasters and up a slope, this small area of remarkably well-preserved 400-year-old wooden housing would once have been home to the workers of Djurgården's dockyards.

 Sting and Jimmy Nail would be appalled at these pristine conditions that give no hint of a hard day's riveting in the winter...


[1] That includes Gröna Lund even if you are just looking to play the öret[2] falls.
[2] It's thought that means penny.

  Vasamuseet (Galärvarvsvägen 14)

Stockholm's most visited attraction, a Maritime museum that's home to the  Vasa, an early 17th-century warship that sank less than a mile into its maiden voyage. Think the  Mary Rose only more of it, in fact just about all of it since the Baltic mud kept it remarkably well preserved.

As for the Vasa, there's no suitable comment, the queues were nearly back to the 17th century.

Ever been to Beamish[1]? You know, the North of England  Open Air Museum, all 350 acres of all things largely old and industrial, all renovated and revamped from the Victorians? Well, they've got their own one here called  Skansen and a side-entrance has accidentally been snuck in acausing a teenage attendant some confusion.

But where are the trams? Where's the town with its bakery and bandstand? Where's the school and the Manor House and the mine?

Admittedly, this one's less industrial themed so there are some old farm buildings but it largely looks to be a kiddies zoo with the talent on show mostly homegrown and a lonely looking brown bear who's being fed fermenting fruit twice a day, not shown.

There's no scary dentist's chair and there isn't even anyone making  cinder toffee!...


[1] If you live within a 30-mile radius, the answer is yes and you'll be eyeing the expiry of that annual membership having not quite got round to going back.

Frank Atkinson, a Northern museum curator, of sorts, pitched an idea to Durham County Council in the late '50s 'for the purpose of studying, collecting, preserving and exhibiting buildings, machinery, objects and information illustrating the development of industry and the way of life of the north of England'.

It's hoped his patter was a bit snappier than that but the open-air element of Beamish is now known to be stolen from the tradition of the Scandinavian Folk Museum after Atkinson visited here, probably.

Beamish didn't open until 1972 and Skansen has been here since 1891, the oldest example of its kind in the world, no less, and most of what's in Beamish doesn't even date back to then.

Because that side-entrance was snuck in, and not the front door with everyone else, the town has only now been found with its bakery, traditionally dressed tanners, silversmiths and glass-blowers.

There is a Manor House, a Nordic belfry, an old tavern[1] and the 1.3 million annual visitors outnumber Beamish 2:1.

The earlier effort is going to have to be chalked off and, despite the zoo, this is conceded to be really, rather impressive...


[1] Now knocking out 'craft' Swedish beer[2] at £5 a half.
[2] Or, standard Euro-lager as it should be called.

It may have been mentioned earlier that Stockholm is, essentially, 3 islands. There are 14, actually, so thanks to the ref for playing play-on earlier on.

That's not the full story, this is the start of a large archipelago to the east that contains as many as 30,000 islands, they say. You are, therefore, duty bound to take a boat at some point where there's an awful lot of this sort of thing going on.

This is one of the larger lumps of hardened lava, it's thought. The smaller ones are mostly privately owned but Swedes still flock here in July, paying a premium for modest, wooden cabins to swim, fish and sit in the garden in a gazebo for a fortnight. This sounds idyllic and it is, a bit, but...

Without the mountainous backdrop of Scotland's Inner Hebrides, say, another archipelago, Oban is much preferred as a base. Did somebody just say Scotland? They did but the Celtic cousins can't be counted on for an equaliser,  Sturgeon would be flagging furiously for offside.

No, the Lake District is being brought on in the last minute...

Well, hasn't Windermere got islands in it as well?

  Moderna Museet (Exercisplan 4)

Yet another island, Skeppsholmen, with a modern art museum on it alright with all your big hitters in here. The permanent collection is fantastic and a rare, Krona-free experience although you'll be scratching your chin in places...

Hmmm, just what exactly is being 'juxtaposed' here?