Continued from Part 5
Day 18 (Narvik >)
The day dawned unusually dry. Andrew and I headed back up the hill into town to buy breakfast, lunch, dinner and breakfast, which worked out at under £1 each per meal.
We took down the tent; the back zip finally broke completely after eighteen days of gradual decay, then we had a very civilised lunch of chicken, chips and vegetables. After that we played Yahtzee and cards until it was time to head for the train.
The 15:50 to Stockholm pulled out on time, luckily it was reasonably empty so there were plenty of seats available.
The shortest diary entry so far ends.
Day 19 (> Stockholm)
The night train wasn't the most comfortable I've been in on the past few weeks but I eventually managed to get to sleep at about 02:00. It was therefore with renewed energy that I stepped off the train at Stockholm Central station some 19 hours and 1542km after leaving Narvik.
Despite hopes that the weather would be better in the south, we arrived to a persistent drizzle which followed us as we took the T-bana (underground) to our campsite at Bredäng, having bought 72-hour travel passes with our newly-changed Swedish cash.
Having waited for the drizzle to subside (it didn't) we put up the tent, we then headed back into Stockholm for the afternoon.
What a contrast! Having been in the sparsely populated northern lands, suddenly I was thrust back to civilisation. Crowds, cafes, shops, street sellers, buskers, a decent public transport system - it was big, it was buzzing and it was just what I needed.
Before long I decided that the map was pretty unnecessary, whichever way I turned I came across something interesting, and if I got bored I could hop on the T-bana and head off somewhere new. I wandered round Norrmalm, Gamla Stan and Södermalm, having lunch along the way. I found free Internet access at the Parliament buildings, they also had free newspapers and magazines so it was a nice place to relax.
Later I got the T-bana to Mariatorget on Södermalm where there was a nice park before heading 'home'. Intriguingly the T-bana train which arrived at Mariatorget for Bredäng was absolutely packed apart form one carriage which was completely empty, so a couple of bemused Swedes and I went into that one.
Back at the campsite I declared that this was the best day I'd had so far. This did not meet with much agreement from Andrew and Richard, who were grumpy about the rain, me, each other, the campsite, the rain...
Day 20 (Stockholm)
I woke to a sound with which I am now very well aquainted: the monotonous drumming of rain on the tent roof. Thankfully it had subsided by the time I headed into the city with Andrew in tow.
First stop was the Riksdag (Parliament) where there was a free tour at 12:30. The tour was interesting if a little slow and we saw all the important rooms including the chamber itself. The contrasts with the British parliament couldn't have been more marked. The (light wooden) seats are arranged by constituency, not party. Voting is all electronic (green, red, yellow buttons) and apparently everyone is very well behaved.
After this I left Andrew and went first on a walking tour of Gamla Stan (the Old Town) from a leaflet I'd picked up. Totally by chance I managed to see the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace. I also visited the new Noblemuseum, documenting the history of the Nobel prizes.
Next I took the free ferry over to Djurgarden. The city is at its most beautiful across the water and this provided some great views (the sun had even emerged!).
Djurgarden is home to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is (was) a warship which sank on its maiden voyage in the 16th century à la Mary Rose.
The museum is rather gloomy inside to protect the ship; it was only when you walked below, round and above the ship that you began to appreciate it's sheer scale and the superb preservation. According to a film, there was insufficient ballast to counterbalance the huge weight of armaments demanded by the King.
I got another ferry across to Skeppsholmen, one of the smaller islands then walked across a bridge back to the city centre.
Two T-bana rides took me to the 1912 Olympic Stadium, which Andrew had recommended. I didn't have very high expectations but in fact the deserted stadium was both magnificent and atmospheric.
I decided to make good use of the facilities since there was no one else there, and ran the 400m in 1 minute 17.48 seconds. Sadly this didn't compare with the stadium record of 44.64 seconds set by Jerome Young (USA) in 1990. Nor did the attendance of 1 threaten the record 35,200 who watched the Rolling Stones on 3rd July 1995.
It had been a long day so I caught the T-bana back to Bredäng, arriving just after 19:00.
Day 21 (Stockholm)
For once I woke early (well before 10:00 anyway) so I had a shower and dried some clothes before breakfast.
I headed into the city with Andrew and we got the same ferry as yesterday to Djurgarden to visit Skansen, the famous open-air museum.
This displayed old buildings from all over Sweden, as well as various Scandinavian and not-so-Scandinavian animals. Hence we could see bakeries and brown bears, windmills and wolves, rose gardens and reindeers. It was well worth 30kr, but it was rather tiring walking round the buildings after a couple of hours in the sun (the predicted rain for once failed to materialise).
We got the T-bana back to Bredäng and headed for the beach. The water was rather cold but certainly swimmable. Later we returned to the tent and ate cooked chicken and pork from the supermarket. Just as things seemed to be going well, inevitably a crisis ensued when Richard discovered a huge amount of ants in the tent, which had been gathering in his bag. It took about half an hour to clear out the tent and the ants. And so another day and another night passed.
Day 22 (Stockholm)
Most days at Bredäng seemed to start with Andrew and I heading into town on the T-bana at about 11, stopping off at the local Rimi to buy a cake for breakfast - but today was very different. I had two cakes.
We had decided to devote today to the Stockholm Archipelago, the assortment of large and small islands that surround the city to the east. At the ferry port we settled on Grinda, an island two hours away by ferry.
The boat trip was pleasant enough, the ferry was packed but we got seats outside. On arrival Grinda was a bit of a disappointment. No doubt on a gloriously sunny day it would be delightful but on a cloudy Saturday, with two and a half hours to kill, it seemed a little ... well, boring.
The sun came out for the return journey and the combination of this, sitting inside in the warm and a cup of hot chocolate regaled my spirits.
By 19:30 we were back at the campsite - a rather needless trip since Richard decided not to come back into town.
We started by walking into Gamla Stan, where we watched a man doing a juggling and/or comedy act for a while. He was neither the best juggler nor the best comedian I have ever seen, but he provided half an hour's free entertainment.
Next we went on a silly underground trip to Globen station, in search of a large white dome that Andrew had spotted from Skansen. Sure enough, the deserted dome was there (actually the 'Globe Arena') as well as a football stadium (so Andrew was happy).
We then got the T-bana back into town and more by luck than judgement happened across the main street where people seemed to be congregating. We went for a walk, had our second hot dog of the night, before returning to the campsite.
£1 = 15 krone (Sweden)
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"Whichever way I turned I came across something interesting."