Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One day in Stockholm

Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, is situated on islands right on the Baltic Sea. It's vibrant and like many large cities, full of contrast. The medieval Old Town (Gamla Stan) is a quick walk away from the central train station and the more modern downtown areas.

We've visited Stockholm twice, on the way to or from Gothenberg, where good friends live. On a sunny day in October 2010, we got to spend a dozen hours there. That short visit reinforced my impression that Stockholm is a place you could spend many weeks and still just scratch the surface.

Before our visit this time, Bryan looked in a Lonely Planet guide, which tipped us off not only to the path we walked through Old Town, but also to what was one of our best lunches, ever. The Cafe Saturnus is not in Old Town. It's near the Ostermalm neighborhood and is a French-style cafe owned by a couple who worked in several restaurants before buying this place several years ago. They have three children and call the restaurant their fourth. Our experience there was fairly magical, so it's hard for me to write rationally about it.

Analeise and I had artichoke soup with shrimp, seasoned with lemon and what I think was French sorrel. The crusty bread that came with it countered the creamy, tart soup and made me very glad for my appetite. Bryan and Brooke both had generous roast beef sandwiches, served on top of dark green and purple salads. We ordered bottles of lemonade for the table, and they turned out to be organic and also quite expensive, but on that day, we were willing to spend and just happy to have the yummy lemonade.

For dessert, we split one of Cafe Saturnus' very popular and very large cinnamon rolls and a piece of perfectly-made, rich and dark brown chocolate cake.

Some of the other dessert options

The cafe is not entirely easy to find. The restaurant's only sign is the one on the window, and it's on a side street, but if you have time, make an excuse to find this place. If you go, know that you order at the counter and are then served at your table.

The shadow of the cafe's sign
The glass tile floor was designed and laid by the artist Cilla Ramnek (see below for a link to her blog). I would happily return to this cafe just to have a nice cup of coffee and dessert and to look again at this floor.

We had been a bit grumpy before our meal, but as the food arrived, and we started to eat, we were transformed into our happier selves and sat together, talking and laughing and drinking in the colorful, elegant atmosphere. We left the cafe and walked, giggling in the sunshine, to the lovely park that houses the National Library of Sweden.

Good food can work wonders on your spirit! Analeise's face demonstrates our whole family's mood after leaving the cafe.

Bryan and the girls approaching the library's front door

These lovely statues are in the library's entryway.

Gamal Stan is Stockholm's Old Town and is heavily tourist-ed, but don't let that stop you from going. The old buildings (starting from medieval times) are very close to one another, forming narrow streets and foot paths that go past restaurants, shops and galleries. The colors of the walls are worth the visit for me, as they impart a memorable warmth. Many of them are what I now think of as "Swedish Yellow," and they have a special charm, especially on a sunny day.

Swedish Yellow...
Bryan and the girls in Gamal Stan

Sweden's oldest continuously operating bakery is located at Järntorget 83. Open since 1785, Sundberg's Konditori serves their hot chocolate in large porcelain cups with a generous serving of whipped cream on the side. The raspberry tarts were perfectly prepared and contained the small surprise of a layer of dark chocolate under the berries.

I ordered tea and had use of my own sweet little pot for our time at the bakery.

Cafe Saturnus
Only in Swedish, this link will at least give you the address and show you the location on a simplistic map. There is a link to their blog there, but when I checked, there was only one post, which contained a photo of their deserving-ly famous cinnamon rolls and a cappuccino. The cappuccino I had there was terrific, by the way, so I'd recommend the coffee.

The National Library of Sweden
If you are a library enthusiast, don't miss a visit to this library. We only peeked in here, but I would love to go back. The vast majority of their materials are available only for reading on-site, and it is a well-used resource, being very busy the day we were there. According to their website, the library "has been collecting virtually everything printed in Sweden or in Swedish since 1661." It's situated by a lovely, large park and would serve as a restful break if you are otherwise busily visiting the more touristy areas of Stockholm.

Artist, Cilla Ramnek

Analeise's favorite store

Indiska is a Swedish fashion/housewares store with Indian and other Asian influences that Analeise first found in Tampere, Finland. Lucky for her, there's one just up the street from our apartment.

Bonus Photos:

Bryan and the girls walking down Drottninggattan...
Quotes from Swedish author August Strindberg's work are a permanent part of a pedestrian section of Drottninggattan (Queen Street).

Analeise and Brooke in a shopping area near the main train station.

It feels strange to write about an American store here, but we did go into an Urban Outfitters in Stockholm. The venue was originally a stage theater and then became a cinema before closing and sitting empty for a few years. The store managed to fit itself into the space, maintaining the stage for fitting rooms.

This gorgeous way of painting the ceilings seems common in Sweden, as we saw it here, in Stockholm's main train station and in an art museum in Gothenberg.

This lovely building is adjacent to the Cafe Saturnus.

warm, fun style

A side view of the royal palace.

The front entrance of the royal palace. The upper floor is getting some care.

This handsome fellow faces the royal palace from a building across the street.
Some more Gamal Stan shots:

A photo taken while walking back from Gamal Stan to the train station.

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