Europe on the Quick: A Long Weekend in Stockholm
In winter, airfares to Europe, and Scandinavia in particular, drop dramatically. Then again, so does the temperature. Would you want to spend 10 days there, strolling city streets in a parka? Perhaps not. But a long weekend can be absolutely refreshing, as Erik Torkells discovers in Stockholm.
"It's not the real Stockholm!" protested Martin. He's right, of course. Then again, Beverly Hills isn't the real L.A., but I sure like to visit.
As is often the case when people from two countries hang out, we talked a lot about cultural differences--the irony being that we have much in common. From what Martin's guests had to say, Scandinavia is obsessed with poker, sudoku, and Harry Potter. The Ikea lamp Martin has in his bedroom is the one I have in my office. And like at every party everywhere, most of the guests loitered in the kitchen.
Adam and I had such a good time that we stayed a half hour longer than we intended, and we were late for a reservation at Bistro Süd, which Martin had recommended. He insisted we come back afterward, as they were going to play Ping-Pong at Lysy Pingwin, a bar around the corner. (He even did a sprightly Ping-Pong jig.) Alas, we're older and more bourgeois than we like to admit. I learned later that the party went on until 5:30 a.m.
It was snowing, the first of the winter, and as we walked across Söder to Bistro Süd, where we had a wonderful birthday dinner of steak frites and Arctic char, I felt more alive than I had in months. If that's not why we travel--and the best reason for going anywhere, at any time of year--I don't know what is.
General advice for long weekends in Europe
Fly direct whenever possible. I came across an appealing air/hotel package on Go-today.com--$449 per person for three nights--but the company wouldn't promise direct flights. We'd be in Europe for all of 72 hours; I didn't want to spend any of them sitting around Heathrow.
Stay at a hotel that's centrally located. Stockholm has an amazing airport train, the Arlanda Express: It goes from the Arlanda airport to the city with no stops in between, and costs $24 one-way. Even better, we walked from the train platform at Central Station to the hotel lobby in less than 60 seconds. Also, because all of Stockholm's subway lines stop at Central Station, we didn't have to connect to get back to the hotel.
Accept the fact that you won't be able to see everything. Stockholm is home to 75 museums (see stockholmtown.com for info); we only went to two: the Moderna Museet, which has a great selection of 20th-century art, and the Vasamuseet, which houses a wooden ship that capsized in 1628--15 minutes after it launched--and was dredged up only 45 years ago. What about the other 73? Think of it this way: If you love a city you're visiting, you can go back and see whatever you missed.