By DOREEN NAWA
A TRIP to Stockholm was my latest visit to many foreign cities I have been to in 2014.
I was not sure what to expect on this visit, but what came to mind were flashbacks of Berlin.
I visited Berlin, Germany, early 2012 and stayed there for three months.
Built on fourteen islands, Stockholm, also known as the City on Water, rises gracefully from water so clean that you can go swimming or fishing in the very heart of the city.
Its waterfront is alive with water vessels – from ferries to shuttle you around the city, to sailboats and yachts that cruise out into the vast archipelago that stretches into the Baltic.
Of course getting around does not require a boat-you can walk, bike, drive or take advantage of the cityâ€™s impeccable mass-transit system.
Well organised is the city such that garbage has not found its place on its streets. The recycling policy is best in Sweden, and so are many other cities in Europe.
What took me this far was the World Water Week, a week-long conference organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
August 30, 2014, I arrived in Stockholm by air from Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Upon arrival at Arlanda Airport, I got on a train, the Arlanda Express, so fast a train that a distance of 45km was covered in 20 minutes.
A comprehensive map showing all transportation options, including long distance trains and buses, from Arlanda Airport is available. But the challenge for me was the pronouncement of street names.
What I liked about this city is the free internet access; you do not need a password to connect to Wi-Fi wherever you are. All you need to do is search for Wi-Fi and connect.
The use of Google maps is one thing that caught my mind, unlike on most foreign trips I have undertaken whereby immediately you get to the airport, you meet someone waiting to take you to your hotel.
But with Stockholm, everything is done through Google maps and codes.
From my experience, Stockholm did feel and looked very similar to Berlin. It seemed very casual and relaxing for a capital city, but had plenty of activity at the same time.
Always on the move, people pushing their suitcases in every direction heading out of the city, using the train, the Arlanda Express.
I stayed at the Omena Hotels, this one is somewhat unique. The hotel has codes for accessing all the necessary things that a first timer would need.
Before arrival at the hotel, two codes are sent to you via email or mobile phone. The codes are used as keys to access the hotelâ€™s main entrance and the respective rooms.
A great way to get an overall feel for Stockholm is to take the â€œUnder the Bridges of Stockholmâ€ river cruise. We travelled from the Baltic Sea, through various locks to, Lake MÃ¤laren to see the city of Stockholm from a very different perspective. Well worth doing.
Another spectacular viewing point of Stockholm is the viewing deck at Stockholm City Hall. You need to climb to the top, but the views of Stockholm and Gamla Stan are breath-taking and well worth the climb.
Clearly, the main attraction in Stockholm is Gamla Stan (the old town) and this is where all the tourists will head towards.
Gamla Stan is a short walk from downtown Stockholm and is rich with history, culture and architecture.Â I thought to myself, I should look at spending one day wandering around the streets of Gamla Stan and make sure I check out the following:
Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace): As a first timer; I needed to get to the ticket office for the first tour. This is well worth a visit, I was told so but time could not allow me as the conference programme was too tight.
Changing of the Guards: The Swedish Armed Forces protect the Royal Family and the palaces throughout Sweden, the Changing of the Royal Guards ceremony consist of marching bands, guards and soldiers, carefully executing choreographed moves which is a spectacular site not to be missed. I was told, should I think of visiting, and then I should get there early to secure a good position as it gets very crowded.
The history of Stockholm dates back to the 3rd century.
Within the graceful architecture of this historic capital you will discover a cultural life of exceptional vitality and energy.
Hundreds of restaurants of varying taste and style are found here, as well as innumerable shops and galleries showcasing the works of Stockholmâ€™s exceptional arts community.
Music in the city ranges over all types, from folk dancing in the parks and summer jazz festivals and classical concerts to Swedish and American pop and rock.
In a metropolitan area with well over a million people, you can escape the crowds – to a quiet beach, a lush forest, or even a deserted island if you like – sometimes in as little as half an hour. Or you can join the crowd, perhaps in the park for free aerobics classes.
When it comes to weather patterns, the month of August is the best time to visit the city.
August is characterised by falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing from 23 degrees to 18 degrees over the course of the month; exceeding 26 degrees or dropping below 16 degrees.
Unlike my Berlin experience in 2012 where temperatures reached negative 25 degrees, my prayer this time was for the warm temperatures and so it was.
By DOREEN NAWA