For us, the search for the Glögg begins in Stockholm.Älgbert Elgson
Anyone who knows the story of our Älg knows that he comes from Rovaniemi in Finland and grew up there in Santa Claus Village. That’s why he’s fascinated by everything that has anything to do with Christmas. Although we were actually only back in Scandinavia last summer when we explored the south of the north, our traveler felt an inner restlessness that drew him back north. So we decided by a narrow two-thirds majority to take an unscheduled vacation to Stockholm this winter to explore the local Christmas markets.
Our experiences on this trip are described below in the form of a travel diary.
Thursday, 8.December 2022
The day started relatively late for us, because our train to Vienna was not supposed to leave until 09:16. Well prepared and armed with a seat reservation, we boarded in Linz. When we left the train station „punctually“ at 9:30 a.m., our adventure could already begin. The landscape passed us at 200km/h and we arrived at Vienna’s main train station without any particular incident. Due to the slight delay, we only had one minute to catch our connecting train to the airport. Anyone who travels by train stays fit. With our suitcases, we sprinted to the right platform at a pace that would have impressed even at the Olympics. The nice conductor replied to us in a friendly voice the motto of the Austrian Railway: Don’t rush! We have time. Get in calmly.
What a stroke of luck for us, because without this conductor we would have had to wait for the next train and probably missed our flight. Arrived at Arlanda Airport, we waited patiently at the luggage belt. Before our trip, we received valuable insider tips from locals and acquaintances and will certainly head for them in the next few days. The Arlanda Express brought us to the Swedish capital in a short time and only a short walk separated us from our hotel.
Just a few steps away from the main train station, we realized that it is definitely colder in Stockholm than at home. An icy wind of only -7°C blew in our faces and the forecast for the coming days predicted even colder temperatures. But we don’t let such little inconveniences stop us. The suitcases quickly stowed in the hotel room, we went on a stroll to get an overview.
Illuminated Älgs, atmospheric Christmas lights and golden, shiny malls were among the first destinations we headed for. The travel provisions were replenished and the adventure could begin. The further course was discussed over a traditional Julmost and a rough battle plan was drawn up, but anyone who knows our travels knows that our plans rarely work as desired and that we have to improvise again, but at this point we didn’t know if it was the case with this one adventures would be just like ours past.
Friday, 9.December 2022
The alarm rang and we jumped out of bed and under the shower. The rich breakfast tasted even better in view of the impressive ambience and we prepared ourselves for the upcoming day, which should begin as relaxed as the previous one ended, so we started our exploration tour towards Gamla Stan. We are not here for the first time, but it is always nice to notice that even if you think you already know a city, you can always get to know new aspects and facets. First of all, our way led us past the typical sights, because we first wanted to enjoy the panoramic view from Monteliusvägen at Mariaberget, where we fell in love on our first visit to the city. From there you have a good overview of the old town, the town hall and Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s large amusement park.
The old town of Stockholm (Gamla Stan) has a lot to offer. From small winding streets to wide boulevards, a bit of everything is represented. There are also many typical tourist and souvenir shops. But among the many junk shops there are still small shops selling local handicrafts and not mass-produced Chinese goods. Even if these are some bizarre souvenirs such as handmade vegan toilet brushes. Today, for the first time, we really realized that we happened to be traveling to Stockholm during the week in which the Nobel Prize is awarded. At the Royal Palace, we noticed the many identical-looking Volvos with the same inscription: Volvo Official Car The Nobel Prize.
Thanks to our luck as a discoverer, we were able to attend the photo session of some of this year’s Nobel Prize winners with the Swedish royal family, albeit from a considerable distance. Well, they were in the palace and we only saw them through the big front gate while standing outside in the parking lot next to the official Volvos, but we were still kind of there.
The small Christmas market at Stortorget right behind the castle at the Nobel Prize Museum finally got us in the Christmas spirit and got us in the mood for the coming days. The smell of roasted almonds and Glögg (Swedish mulled wine with raisins and almonds) convinced us and we left our first Julmarknad in the Swedish capital strengthened.
Even the strongest adventurers can be brought to their knees by the cold. So we decided to warm up a bit in the Medieval Museum in front of the Swedish Parliament and learn something about the history of the city. Rather by chance, the remains of the medieval city wall and the foundations of medieval houses were discovered during the planned construction of an underground car park. Many artefacts, from small glass beads to entire ships, were found during the excavations and it was decided to build a museum for the sensational find rather than a dreary underground car park. Admission to the very well prepared museum was free, but definitely not for nothing. With the help of many models, the history of the origins and development of Stockholm was presented to us in an easily understandable way. We also got to know the Ratzeberger family, who moved into an old tunnel and were obviously already preparing for Christmas. When the sky got dark we made our way back to Stockholm City Hall. Artworks of light were installed across the city to celebrate the Nobel Prize. These are so well integrated with the buildings they are projected onto that you get the feeling the buildings are dancing and moving.
On the way back to the hotel we had to tackle another, but expected problem -> the cold. Due to the frequently blowing cold winds, it happens that after a whole day in the fresh air, even an Älg gets a little chilly on the tip of an antler. A new pair of long thermal underwear should do the trick. We also needed these urgently, because we still had big plans! 🙂
Saturday, 10.December 2022
If there’s one constant in our travels and adventures, it’s that our elaborate plans never end up going as planned, for a variety of reasons. Some unforeseen event always means that we end up having to improvise again. When we searched for the Glögg in Stockholm, it was supposed to be the shoe of one of Älgberts travel companions, which quit the service on the most important day of our trip. The sole detached from the rest of the shoe and extensive exploration on foot in these cold temperatures was out of question. So we had to improvise again and first of all get suitable footwear again. Due to the strategically excellent location of our accommodation, this meant only a small time delay and the hike to Skansen could start only slightly late.
Today the day has come when we went to the big Christmas market in Skansen, the Stockholm open-air museum on the western part of the Djurgården peninsula (it’s actually called Valdemarsön).
It was opened on October 11, 1891 with the aim of preserving and making accessible Swedish culture and customs and was open daily, except for a short break between November 2020 and April 2021. The popular Christmas market has been held on Christmas weekends since 1903 and is very popular. In the old buildings of the open-air museum, the interiors were decorated for Christmas and in some, musicians played old traditional sounds on their musical instruments. Lucia chants were performed in the Seglora Church and in the Ordenshuset we were able to attend a Lucia celebration as it was celebrated in the 1920s. At Bollnästorget, the large square in Skansen open-air museum, many small stalls were set up with all sorts of things to offer. From knitted wool hats, bee honey, Christmas tree balls to physical well-being, everything you could wish for at a Christmas market was there. Swedish Christmas classics were played on the stage and on the dance floor and people started jumping around the Christmas tree like little frogs. All age groups enthusiastically participated in this dance spectacle and we too felt the urge to move with the crowd. But what hold us back was that we had absolutely no idea what we should have done in order not to immediately stand out as non-Swedish in the dance. We probably should have watched explanatory videos like this one beforehand to better understand Swedish customs:
After an extensive shopping tour at the various sales booths, we looked for a strategically clever place to be able to attend the actual highlight of the day. Because it wasn’t just any day, but the Saturday before the actual Lucia festival on December 13th. For this purpose, a Lucia concert is traditionally held in the Skansen, which we definitely didn’t want to miss. The angelic voices of Lucia and her entourage lit up the night, as did the crown of light Lucia wears on her head. It should bring light into people’s lives on the longest and darkest night of the year. The longest night of the year is actually on December 21st, but the calendar change in 1752 and the fact that the Swedes have „always“ celebrated the winter solstice customs and Lucia celebrations on December 13th could not persuade them to change the date. But actually it is only a young tradition, because the Lucia festival has only developed into a nationwide custom in the last hundred years, when the Skansen did its job at the end of the 19th century and took up the West Swedish Lucia traditions in order to preserve them for future generations. This process intensified when a Stockholm newspaper chose a Lucia for the first time in 1927 and subsequently spread beyond the original borders among the Swedish population and found a permanent place in Swedish customs. With slightly frozen feet, but with many new impressions, we started the walk back to the hotel after the successful conclusion of the Lucia concert.
A Royal visit
Sunday, 11.December 2022
After another hearty breakfast, we started the day at a freezing -8°C. Our first destination was again the royal palace in the heart of Stockholm, this time to explore the inside of the building. In none of our previous stays in Stockholm have we been able to fit this visit into our tight schedule.
So Älgbert grabbed his crown, because somewhere in this great building there must be a throne to claim the palace for his kingdom Älgia. The castle stands on the foundations of an older castle that was expanded in the 16th century and crowned by the imperial symbol, the three crowns. The castle, which was therefore called Tre Kronor, was to be expanded into a representative castle at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, but shortly after the start of the conversion process in 1692, the building almost completely burned down. In the decades that followed, the castle was rebuilt in stages. The older building history can be viewed in the basement of the castle. In the „Tre Kronor“ museum, which is housed there, the history of the origin of the important building is brought closer to the visitors and the visitors can recognize the individual stages of construction on the walls. Another part of the basement houses the treasury, where the priceless insignia of Sweden’s power are housed behind thick armored doors. The crowns exhibited there immediately aroused certain desires in our travel Älg.
While the exterior is built in the Italian Baroque style, the interior is a broad mix of Baroque Classicism, Rococo and Empire styles. Straightforwardness, austerity and pompous solemnity were intended to illustrate the ruler’s greatness and power. This is reflected above all in the representative rooms of the palace, such as in the Rikssalen with the royal throne.
After the successful tour of the castle and incorporation into the Kingdom of Älgia, we continued after King Älgbert oversaw the changing of the guard. We strolled along Drottningsgatan (Queen’s Street) to Kungsgatan (King’s Street), both popular shopping streets, and looked into the shop windows. In the elegant 1920s-style Café Vete-Katten (Wheat Cat), we enjoyed a piece of Prinsesstårta (princess cake) and warmed ourselves up from the inside with a large mug of hot chocolate. Strengthened and warmed up, we continued our exploration and strolled back to our hotel under the Christmas lights of the shopping streets. A dinner in the Prinsen restaurant rounded off the day with typical Swedish Köttbullar and Ankbröst.
As a little digestive walk, we visited the Nobel Week Lights one last time, which were installed on the occasion of this year’s Nobel Prize ceremony and illuminated Stockholm’s landmarks with works of art made of light.
Monday, 12.December 2022
The alarm clock rang relentlessly and jerked us out of our deep sleep. We walked for at least 12 hours every day in the cold and slowly it left its mark. As usual, the breakfast was very rich and helped us to regain our strength to be able to explore this beautiful city for another day. Our first stop that day was Rosendal Slot on the Djurgården peninsula and its surroundings. The castle is closed during the winter season, but that couldn’t stop our Älg from taking possession of it and conquering it, just like the Kungliga Slottet yesterday. For lack of a throne, a park bench in front of the palace had to be used this time.
At Rosendals Trädgård, which is also currently in a winterly sleep, we were finally able to find a suitable Christmas tree decoration. From all our travels so far we have taken something with us that we can hang on our tree at Christmas and look at it as a reminder of all the beautiful adventures. Icelandic Christmas sheep made of felt, Norwegian angels made of royal glass production, a London memento for the Queen’s 70th jubilee and many other oddities are among our treasures. This year, a Swedish Julbocken made of straw has been added to our tree hangings.
On the small island of Beckholm there is still a small shipyard, as there used to be many of this kind in Stockholm. The Vasa sank off this island on her maiden voyage which lasted only about 20 minutes and the ship was only about 1400 meters on its way before it capsized due to construction errors in fine weather and sank to the seabed. Fortunately, this fate did not overtake us when we took the ferry from Gröna Lund past the shipwreck site to Slussen. Once there, we went to the „Balcony of the Stockholmers“, a viewing terrace on Fjällgatan from which you have a beautiful view over Gamla Stan and Gröna Lund, as well as Skansen. On Stigbergsgatan there are still a few of the old wooden houses that used to characterize the cityscape, especially in the poorer parts of the city.
There used to be simple wooden houses on both sides of Stigbergsgatan. When two large school buildings were erected in the early 20th century, the area suddenly became more attractive, with many of the typical wooden houses being demolished in favor of new stone and brick developments. In the 1940’s and 50’s many of the old wooden houses still did not have access to running water, sewage systems or other modern conveniences. This only changed in the 1970s when the remaining houses were renovated and fitted with better insulation, central heating, modern kitchens and toilets. Just not the house with the number 21, the crookedest house on the street. This was restored to its original condition in the early 1980s and renovated to how the houses looked at the turn of the century. This building, called Blockmakerens Hus, is now part of the Stockholm City Museum and can be visited.
The way back to the hotel took us past Katarina Kyrka and directly along a shopping street. There are a surprising number of them in Stockholm with international chain stores that are always the same. But between these are real jewels of the decelerated Scandinavian consumer culture. We got inspiration for redecoration plans at a shop that sells old lamps, and we finally got our hands on a copy of the latest Hälge comic at a newsagent. After a short visit to the Christmas market in front of the Nobel Museum and eating a waffle and Glögg, we went back to the hotel, because today we had something special planned for the evening. In Sweden it is customary to have a Julbord around Christmas either at home for friends and family or, failing that, to have it with friends and family at a restaurant. This is a buffet of gravad salmon (gravad lax), smoked salmon (rökt lax), pickled herring (inlagd sill) and smoked eel (rökt ål). The main part of the Julbord offers hot dishes such as the traditional meatballs (köttbullar), sausages (korvar) and other meat dishes. There are also potatoes, fried potatoes, vegetables and sauces, as well as cold cuts and various types of crispbread and bread with butter. Finally, if you’re not already bursting, you can fill the remaining empty spaces in your stomach with fruits, sweets and cakes from the dessert table. Round as a ball, but happy, we started our march back to the hotel late in at night. Another successful day with many new impressions came to an end.
Tuesday, 13.December 2022
This morning we even woke up before the alarm clock rang because it was a special day. On December 13th, Lucia is celebrated in Sweden and this is one of the reasons why we went to Sweden for this adventure. Our hotel where we are staying this week has a Lucia concert planned over breakfast which we really didn’t want to miss. We secured the best seats, got the best items from the breakfast buffet and waited patiently for Lucia and her entourage to enter. The chorus sounded heavenly and angelic. The premises rounded off the overall experience. This is how you can start the day.
Our daily schedule was deliberately not set very tightly. The last few days have been a bit exhausting and the thermometer should reach even lower values today. So we wanted to spend more time indoors for a change.
Our first destination was Stockholm City Hall, which was only receiving visitors again that day after the Nobel Prize week had passed. Stockholms stadshus is today the home of Stockholm City Government and City Parliament. It is located at the south-east end of the island of Kungsholmen and was built between 1911 and 1923 according to plans by the architect Ragnar Östberg in the style of Swedish national romanticism. It was inaugurated on June 23, 1923. In the Blå hall, which by the way is by no means blue, the Nobel banquet with around 1250 guests takes place every time. We were told that each of the guests only has about 50 cm of space at the table due to the limited space. The guests of honor are each granted 5 cm more, but they must also dine shoulder to shoulder. The town hall is not a museum and due to a heated budget negotiation we were not able to visit the Rådsalen. However, the premises shown to us, such as the Golden Hall, were compensation enough. Thousands of mosaic stones have been arranged there to form a golden work of art and reflect the modernity of the 1920s.
Nordiska Kompaniet store is rightly called the Harrods of Scandinavia. The decoration of the shop windows is as famous as it is popular with the Stockholmers and very imaginative. The Art Nouveau department store opened in September 1915 and housed Sweden’s first mechanical escalator. It should serve as a modern department store of the future for an upscale clientele. It still fulfills this requirement today. The international brands that are present in the building today are all well-known. In terms of price, the goods on offer are more at the upper end. But looking doesn’t cost anything and that’s why we started exploring, partly shaking our heads at the price.
Anyone looking for an approximately 30 centimeter tall glass figurine of a fat woman for the equivalent of €15,000 or a wing chair for €7,500 has come to the right place at NK. Anyone who visits the department store without intending to snag such bargains will not be disappointed. In addition to the beautiful architecture, in particular the glass-covered inner courtyard made of marble and brass, there are also all kinds of delicacies in the basement at an acceptable price and on the upper floors we also found sheep’s wool slippers for the equivalent of 70€.
A few euros poorer but many impressions richer, we started our way back to the hotel.
Back to the origin
Wednesday, 14.December 2022
Everything comes to an end and so does our Lucia adventure in Stockholm. Many new impressions could be added to old memories of the Swedish capital. We’ve been here several times now, but each time we have the same feeling that we haven’t seen everything. On the other hand, this is a very good reason to come back.
In the past few days we have walked a total of 87.77 kilometers in freezing temperatures. On average, it was only 12.54 kilometers a day.
• Thursay, 8.December -> 8.89km
• Friday, 9.December -> 16.22km
• Saturday, 10.December -> 12.01km
• Sunday, 11.December -> 14.78km
• Monday, 12.December -> 19.09km
• Tuesday, 13.December -> 11.38km
• Wednesday, 14.December -> 5.40km
The temperatures were always well below freezing and we had to improve our wardrobes without planning. Partly due to environmental influences, similar to Iceland, and partly due to material fatigue, we were forced to make unscheduled stops. Nevertheless, we were able to head for all of our goals and spent valuable days in Sweden.
The search for the Glögg was successful and some bottles could be imported for personal use. We will enjoy these during the Christmas season and think back to our good times in Stockholm.