Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Five Cool Things About Stockholm

There are far more than five cool things about Stockholm, of course, but here are some I especially liked on a recent visit to the Swedish capital:

1. Ostermalmshallen Market. This spacious indoor market occupies a heritage building, and it is a beauty. Stocked with bakeries, fishmongers, cheese sellers, coffee makers, sweet shops, produce vendors and more, it's a great place to snack, shop or have lunch, and a great place to people-watch. On my first visit, a sharp-eyed local called my attention to Benny Andersson, the former member of ABBA, walking the aisles with an environmentally sensitive string bag. Shoppers and workers pretended not to notice him. Benny bought some cheese. Which is only appropriate when you consider how much cheese ABBA sold. Located on Ostermalmstorg.

2. The Royal Dramatic Theatre. In Swedish, the Dramaten. This ornate structure is the showcase for high-art, theatrical division. The great filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, also an accomplished man of the theatre, was artistic director there after he retired from filmmaking. Public tours, including the extensive costume department, are available to the public, and the classic, horseshoe-shaped main auditorium and marbled halls are impressive. Nybroplan.

3. Kvarnen. In English, "The Mill.'' A well-appointed, spacious tavern with a full, bustling bar and busy kitchen, this is the fictional hangout for Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson's insanely popular trilogy of crime novels - you know, the one that begins with "The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo'' and concludes with "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.'' I didn't see the tiny, punked-out Salander there or anyone who looked like her, but the fish is fresh and tasty, the schnaps and beers are cold and this is a lively spot to hoist a few and eat casually and well. It has a stylish edginess to it; when the manager gave me his business card, I saw that it is made of metal. Tjarhousgatan 4,

4. Gamla Stan. In English "Old Town.'' This is the narrow-laned part of town where Stockholm began in the 13th century. The heart of the district is perhaps unavoidably touristy but locals visit, too. The Royal Palace, the enormous and grand official residence of Sweden's kings, is in Gamla Stan, just off the water. In warm months, people sit outside drinking coffee - Swedes consume copious amount of coffee - or licking ice cream cones. Swedes supposedly eat the most ice cream of any people in Europe. Yet, Sweden is chilly. Go figure.

5. The Red Room at Berns Salonger. The Red Room is, incongruously for a stately European hotel and performing arts venue, a pan-Asian restaurant, albeit an Asian restaurant that also serves Swedish staples like the rich moose meat I sampled at lunch. Story goes: Some Chinese were stranded in neutral Sweden when China was invaded at the start of World War II, and couldn't get home. If you have a lemon, make ... dim sum. The Red Room was transformed into the first Chinese restaurant in Sweden. Before that, it was a haunt of artists and writers, including August Strindberg, a regular, who set a short story in the restaurant - then more like a private club, and pre-Asian - and entitled it "The Red Room,'' natch. Berzelii Park,

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