Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



Today was Di’s birthday, and the weather could not have been better.  We woke this morning to brilliantly clear blue skies, with no clouds whatsoever, and it remained like that all day.  Temperatures were in the mid-20s (Celsius), humidity was low and there was the gentlest of breezes blowing all day.  It was weather from heaven!

Although the daylight hours in Stockholm were not as long as Murmansk, we were certainly not restricted by the sun; sunrise this morning was at 4:35 am, and the sun did not set until 9:11 pm.  As befits a birthday, we therefore took our time over breakfast before heading out for sightseeing.

We began by walking from the hotel to the city centre, a distance of 2.8 kilometres.  The first stop was the Tourism Information Centre as we had decided to purchase Stockholm Cards to cover the next couple of days; once purchased the cards give free access to most of Stockholm’s sites and free travel on buses, trains and most ferries.  Having purchased our cards, we proceeded to make the most of them.

Our first visit was the Stockholm City Hall.  Despite its classical (and grand) architecture, this imposing building is only about 90 years old.  As well as being the building where city council meetings are held and where Stockholm’s city officials work, the building also hosts the annual Nobel Prize Awards ceremonies and banquets.  Visits to the building are only arranged as group tours, so we joined a group and were both very impressed with the building and the architectural surprises that it held.

We had wanted to do one of the canal tours that are available in Stockholm, and the departure point for the ‘Historic Canal Tour” was right beside the City Hall.  We therefore made our way to the wharf and after a wait of about half an hour, our ferry left the wharf.  Our ferry route followed an anticlockwise circle around Kungsholmen and Langholmen, two of Stockholm’s 14 settled islands.

The trip gave an excellent view of several of Stockholm’s historic buildings as well as its newer residential construction.  Apart from the high environmental quality, I guess two things that surprised me were the huge number of people sunbaking on what seemed like any piece of bare rock available, and the large number of very expensive boats that were moored at tens of large wharf areas along our route.  The boat trip took 50 minutes, and I felt we had a much better understanding of Stockholm’s built environment as a result of the cruise.

Our next visit was one that we had booked earlier that morning, a trip to the top of the tower of City Hall.  Because of the limited amount of space available, visitors are only allowed to go to the top of the Tower in groups with a maximum of 30 people.  Our group was designated to depart at 2:35 pm, and like everything in Sweden that we have experienced, the departure was punctual. 

Getting to the top of the 106 metre high Tower involved a climb of 750 steps, but the view was certainly worth it.  In today’s crystal clear air, the view was absolutely magnificent in all directions, but especially to the east where the historic centre of Stockholm is found on two islands just a short distance across the harbor from the City Hall, Riddarholmen and Gamlastan.  The 15 minutes that we were allowed to remain at the top of the Tower passed all too quickly, and we were ushered down the stairs to sea level once again.

Given that today’s weather was ideal for walking, we confirmed our plan to explore the two historic islands that we had seen from the top of the Tower on foot.  A short walk across a bridge brought us to Riddarholmen, the small island where Stockholm’s settlement began.  The island was a beautifully preserved area of old buildings, dominated by a large church and a triangular open area beside it, which today was partially filled by a large, poorly parked, vulgarly painted tour bus.

A further short walk across a bridge brought us to Gamlastan, the main area of Stockholm’s Old Town.  More vibrant and more commercial than Riddarholmen, Gamlastan was Prague-like in its beauty (= high praise!).  Narrow streets lanes lined with beautifully preserved old buildings, painted in pastel colours, led us enticingly onwards.  We were constantly intrigued by small surprises we encountered – beautiful little open squares, fascinating shops, the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, and so on.

We took the time to go inside one beautiful old church, called Storkyrkan.  Founded in the 13th century and built in the Swedish brick gothic style, this was a fascinating building with aspects of Catholic architecture (such as the large altar), a huge statue of St George slaying the dragon, special stalls for the Royal family, and a huge (actually, very huge) painting showing the Last Judgement.

Not having had lunch, we were both starting to become a little hungry by late afternoon, so we decided it was time for Di’s birthday dinner.  Her choice for this evening was Indian food and we settled on Lilla Karachi, a small Indian/Pakistani restaurant in a street of Gamlastan called Lilla Nygatan.  We chose three dishes to share: tandoori chicken, spinach paneer and lamb biriyani, washed down with wonderful mango lassis.  Di’s comment on the food at her birthday dinner was: “it was very tasty – great flavour”.  My comment: “the food was superb, but the company was even better”.

It was still light when we finished dinner, so we decided to walk around Gamlastan for a while longer.  While doing so, we took the time to visit the Nobel Museum.  This was a very simple but effective photographic display honouring the achievements of Nobel Prize winners in the six areas for which Nobel Prizes are awarded: physics, chemistry, economics, medicine, literature and peace.

By the time we finished at the Nobel Museum it was almost 8 pm, so we decided to finish today’s sightseeing and head back to our hotel, a very simple procedure using Stockholm’s excellent train system and our newly purchased Stockholm Cards.

Day 28 - Stockholm


2 August 2013