Story & Photos by Elaine & Henry Levy
Stockholm is a large city with much to offer. It is picturesque with an eclectic mix of old European and contemporary architecture, waterways and bridges connecting the different parts of the city.
We had the good fortune of having Aviva Cohen-Silber of the Swedish Tourism Office as our guide on our first day in Stockholm. Aviva took us to lunch at the elegant Grand Hotel situated on the waterfront, and with grand views of the city. No visit would be complete without a smorgasbord lunch, in which you can taste as many as twenty-five different Swedish delicacies, served in the Hotel's Grand Veranda Restaurant overlooking the quay.
Our next stop was a boat ride away to the Vasa Museum which houses the Vasa warship. The warship was built in the 1620s on the orders of Sweden's warrior King Gustav II Adolph, and was decorated with seven hundred sculptures and carvings. In 1628, as it was about to embark on its maiden voyage, a sudden gust caught her, water flooded through the gun ports, and the ship heeled over and sank, drowning most of those on board. The ship was discovered in 1956 by Andres Franzen, a Swedish marine archaeologist, and the restoration process began in 1961. More than 24,000 objects have been recovered from the sea, including skeletons, clothing, coins, tools and utensils, many of which are on display at the museum. The ship has been pieced together, and is an imposing sight. One should not miss this very interesting piece of Sweden's history.
City Hall is another fascinating place to visit. This is not only where the Swedish parliament meets, but it is also the venue for the annual Nobel Prize Banquet. The Ball which follows the Banquet is held in the Golden Hall decorated with 18 million mosaic pieces. One can easily gain a sense of the glamour of such an event.
A visit to the Great Synagogue was the highlight of the day. This is a conservative synagogue which is recognized as an historic landmark by the Swedish government, and as such, cannot be sold or altered. The synagogue seats about 950 people and provisions are made for separate seating for men and women, as well as for family seating. A memorial to victims of the Holocaust is engraved on the wall leading from the synagogue entrance to an adjacent community building. It was dedicated in 1998 by Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, and contains over 8,000 names of victims who were relatives of Swedish Jews. There are two smaller synagogues in Stockholm, both of which are orthodox. Adat Jeshurun, one of the orthodox synagogues, is furnished with benches, tables, an ark and pulpit which came from a shul in Hamburg, Germany, one of the few that survived Kristallnacht. We were told that Adat Jeshurun's presence symbolizes that Judaism is eternal and will survive despite persecution and assimilation.
Kosher food is available at Kosherian, located in the Jewish Center Building at Nybrogatan 19.
There are numerous areas in Stockholm in which to shop. The old city, Gamla Stan, had a wonderful selection of smaller shops where one could find handicrafts, jewelry, linen-made items, and crystal. The main city, which is located in the center of Stockholm, had the large department stores, i.e. N.K. ScandinNordist, Georg Jensen, as well as privately owned boutiques. ScandinNordist is recommended for its wide selection of crystal and glassware for which Sweden is well known.
After two exhausting days in Stockholm, it was a welcome change to take a boat to the Archipelago - an area in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Stockholm consisting of approximately 24,000 islands, rocks and skerries. For hundreds of years, access to several areas in the Archipelago had been restricted for military reasons; however, in 1997 most of those restrictions were lifted, and the Archipelago became an alluring summer retreat for Swedes as well as visitors to the area.
We visited the primitive island of Orno on our first day in the Archipelago. Orno is geared for the traveler seeking a quiet, simple retreat with a chance to connect to nature. Bike riding, boating and walking are the island's main activities. On an evening walk, we spotted several deer, and even ran into a moose! There are over fifty sites on the island where early man (1000 years before Christ) is buried! These have been undisturbed for over 3,000 years, and a map (or a guide) is needed to locate them. Accommodations are offered at Bed 'n Breakfast places (which, for the most part, do not have indoor bathrooms); there is no hotel on the island. The restaurant on the island, Orno Krog and Veranda, is quite good, and served an excellent fish dinner.
The next day, we island hopped to Uto - which is another large island, but very different from Orno. Uto is dominated by the Uto Vardhus Inn and Restaurant which was taken over by Andres Malm and two of his colleagues approximately five years ago. Andres has transformed this facility into a class act - the cottages are spacious and comfortably furnished. On the grounds of the hotel, there are, among other activities, tennis courts, volley ball courts, bocce and a sauna. Renovation is underway to construct a new building which will contain, in addition to lodging areas, a recreation center which will offer among other services Swedish massages. Biking is also a main activity, and bicycles can be easily rented. One can ride to the sandy beaches of the island, visit the iron mines or go the Windmill to get one of the best views of the Archipelago. For nightlife, there is a nightclub on the island which opens at 11 PM.
The restaurant at the Inn is a real treasure, and attracts not only the locals, but also celebrities such as Bjorn Borg (who was having lunch when we arrived), and the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. A three course dinner, overnight stay, and breakfast costs about $100, and is well worth the price. We enjoyed a delectable dinner consisting of caviar, salmon pate, baked halibut and dessert, all accompanied by a wonderful Chardonnay from France.
The wide spectrum of islands from which to choose combined with the almost always perfect weather - sunny, dry and cool, make the Archipelago a first rate choice for a vacation.
We returned to the mainland on the S/S Saltjohn, a perfect way to end a memorable experience.
As Sweden celebrates its 750th Anniversary, it is an excellent time to plan a visit!
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