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Contiki Russia Plus: Day 2 – Stockholm

Today was a whirlwind day as I tried to see as much of Stockholm as I could in one day. I woke up at 9:00 AM after a restful 6 hour sleep, locked my backpack in the luggage room and left my hostel around 9:30 AM.

My first order of business was a walking tour of the newer part of Stockholm with Free Tour Stockholm. The tour started at 10:00 PM in central Stockholm which was about a 20 minute walk from my hostel. I quickly grabbed a bottle of water and a pastry for breakfast & met up with the tour group.

We learned that Stockholm means “Log Home” and got its name because logs were placed in the water to protect the city from invading ships. We then walked up the main shopping street in Stockholm, Drottninggatan, where we found 3 H&M stores next to each other. There are actually 5 within a 10 minute walk of each other in central Stockholm!

We then learned about Queen Christina who successfully ruled Scandenavia in the 1600’s during her early years before abdicating the throne so she could move to Rome. She took 12 ships of riches and art with her which, in hindsight, is a good thing because the Royal Palace burned down and the pieces are some of the only remaining artworks from Sweden from before that time period! They can now be found all over Italy.

We then walked to the Haymarket, an outdoor market where anything and everything is sold, before turning our attention to the home of the Nobel Prize Selection Committee. Alfred Nobel invented dynamite as a way to safely excavate sites and to move the human race forward, but was considered to be an “Angel of death” due to dynamites use in weaponry. His own death was prematurely reported & he realized this would be his legacy, so he left his wealth to establish the Nobel Prizes. We also learned that the Nobel Peace Prize is the only prize awarded in Oslo because when the prizes were first established, Norway and Sweden were part of a larger country.

After that, we walked to the site where the Swedish Prime Minister, Olof Palme, was murdered in 1986. The case has still not been solved and is the most expensive investigation in the world.

We then walked to the square that had the bank building that the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” was first coined. The short story is that there was a 5 day hostage situation with a bank robber and 4 tellers. The tellers protected the bank robber when he surrendered by forming a human shield around him and even testified on his behalf in court! The bank robber got 2 years behind bars & one of the tellers was even in the bank robber’s wedding party!

Our tour concluded in the King’s Garden which was beautiful and massive! It overlooked the new Royal Palace which took 57 years to complete after it burned down!

One of the reasons I enjoy free walking tours so much is that the tour guides are working for tips as they haven’t been paid yet. The tour guides I usually get are energetic and informative & this tour was no different.

I then walked through the Old Town towards my second walking tour of the day. I was able to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere while stopping a few times to take pictures or enter a random church.

The second tour was by Stockholm Free Tour. Before the tour started, I grabbed another water and pastry because I didn’t have time to eat lunch. This tour focused on the actual Old Town and was only an 1 hour and 40 minutes. We started out by learning that the Old Town consists of 3 islands – which are a bit larger than they used to be due to the fact that they built on composted garbage that added mass to the islands. The main island is named Stadsholmen and is typical of the historical district of any major European city – cobblestone streets, narrow alleys & crowds!

We saw the narrowest alley in Stockholm – 90 centimeters wide!

We made a few photo stops at the old German Church and the world’s smallest statue, Boy Looking at the Moon.

The tour concluded at Stortorget which was home to the Stockholm Bloodbath. The King invited 92 noblemen to a 3 day party. Once they were full and drunk, he arrested them all for plotting against him and they were executed!

I then walked to the museum island, Djurgården, to go to the Vasa Museum. The museum is about a ship that never made it out of the harbor on its maiden voyage in the 1600’s – it sunk and was excavated in great condition in the 1900’s. It was fascinating to see a ship that is 400 years old up close!

I was running short on time, so I grabbed a cab back to my hostel to get my bag. A 10 minute ride cost just over $30 USD! That doesn’t compare to the uber from my hostel to my hotel – we were stuck in traffic and our 30 minute ride cost $75!

Unfortunately, I would have had to take 2 or 3 methods of public transit to get to both places, so a taxi was really the only option since I didn’t have 2 hours to kill.

Once at my hotel, I met up with the 6 other people that are joining the tour in Stockholm like me for a brief orientation before grabbing dinner and having an evening of relaxation in the hotel’s pool, hot tub and sauna. It was great to get to know the rest of the group!

We took it easy this evening and just relaxed in the hotel bar and watched the France v. Iceland soccer match. I retired to my hotel room around midnight. I actually have my own room tonight because there is an odd number of guys in Stockholm, so I lucked out!

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