“Lost” in Stockholm

By Kevin Jiang • Stockholm, Sweden

There are three amazing things about Stockholm: its history, people, and cuisine. It is the capital of Sweden, a Scandinavian nation with centuries of heritage and thousands of coastal islands and inland lakes. Connected by more than 50 bridges and built on 14 islands, Stockholm houses 2.3 million people in its metropolitan area. It was settled during the Stone Age and was founded as a city in 1252. When I got the chance to visit, fueled with excitement and curiosity, I ventured on without knowing what was waiting for me.

My first stop, the Stockholm City Hall, is the building of the Municipal Council for the city. Famous for its grand ceremonial halls and unique pieces of art, City Hall is most well-known for hosting the Nobel Prize banquet each year. The guided tour is a must, and be sure to check out the Blue Hall (which is actually red), the Prince’s Gallery (with the mural pointed by Sweden’s Prince Eugen), and the Golden Hall (which is decorated with over 18 million mosaic pieces of glass and gold).

My next destination, the Royal Palace, was equally mesmerizing. The tremendous palace, built in the 1700s and painted pastel brown and yellow on the outside, holds more than 1,400 rooms. Even without a guided tour, the Palace still offers an irresistible chance for a taste of royal life. Two unique features of the palace which differentiate it from other grand palaces in Europe are the exhibition dedicated to royalty’s ceremonial outfits and a chamber furnished in 70s styles. Both share insight into the life and duties of the modern royal family.

One good thing about sightseeing in Stockholm is that a lot of the famous architecture and historical sights reside near one another within the city. Coming out from the backdoor of the Royal Palace, I was directly facing Gamla Stan, the medieval old town. Ochre-colored houses sit close to one another while busy restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and souvenir shops occupy the aged, cobblestone streets.

Just as I ventured into Gamla Stan, jet lag suddenly hit me. Unable to keep my eyes open and my body properly functioning, I needed a good, strong coffee americano to continue my journey. And that was when the “accident” took place.

“Can you pass me my wallet in the bag?”

“Yeah, sure. Just one second. But wait…where is my bag?”

“What do you mean, ‘where is your bag?’ You put it right under the table.”

“It’s not there anymore…”

After resting a bit in a small café in Gamla Stan, while going through the photos I had taken throughout the day, my mom and I noticed that our bag, which I had left under the table, had disappeared. Yep, that’s right, I lost the entire backpack on the first day of travelling. Deprived of wallets, travel documents, sunscreen, sunglasses, and basically everything needed for travelling, we were left with the one credit card that I had kept in my pocket.

Though upset at the situation, I was nevertheless surprised and comforted by the warmth of the locals. After hearing about what happened, the owner of the café ran out to comfort my mom and communicate with the local police. As I was running around the medieval alleys, circulating back and forth between fountains, statues, and small churches, looking into trash cans to see if our travel documents were at least thrown out, two shop owners sitting along the streets joined my search and started digging through the trash cans as well. However, our effort was futile in the end.

Frustrated and tired, we wandered aimlessly from Gamla Stan to the city’s central port. It was already around 6 PM, but the sunshine showed no trace of dimming, and it cast a golden tint over the entire cityscape. With an average height of five stories and a unified yellow-orange color theme, the buildings, which were mostly constructed in the 17th century, resembled each other in architectural style. Between the buildings, cobblestone paths ran across the city plane while locals immersed themselves in thoughts and conversations alongside the river.

Suddenly, upon spotting a group of people dressed in suits and gowns congregating in front of a tour boat, we decided to find out what was happening. One of the crew members explained that this was a weekly cruise tour that served fresh shrimp and seafood platters but also required a reservation at least one month in advance. Disappointed and ready to leave, we were once again surprised by “fate.” Another crew member who overheard our conversation called us back and told us that one couple had canceled their reservation last-minute due to an emergency, and that we could hop on if we wanted. Without a second of hesitation, my mom and I advanced.

After boarding the ship, we were welcomed by an ivory tablecloth, crystal wine glasses, and a sweet floral aroma in the air. The waiters soon seated us along the window and displayed the menu, which included shrimp scampi, salmon, and champagne. It was around 8 PM when the cruise sailed out of the port and started roaming gracefully through the islands during golden hours. Surrounded by fresh seafood, sunset, and nature, the lost bag was already out of my mind. From the reflective river, to the cottages hidden in nature, to the modern luxury apartments, everything seemed like an impressionist painting under the violet-blue infused sky.

Ever since I came back, I have been wondering what was so mesmerizing about Stockholm. What made me want to revisit again and again, even after my little “accident”? The answer is clear to me now, as I am recalling the memories and images in my mind: it’s the infinite possibilities one can encounter in this magical city.

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About the Author: Kevin Jiang is a sophomore majoring in History of Art and Economics from Shanghai, China. Outside of school, he is passionate about fashion, photography, and karaoke. His favorite cities are Copenhagen and Florence because of their rich artistic culture and unique aesthetic values, demonstrated by the people, fashion, interior design, and architecture there.

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About Guac: Guac is an award-winning travel publication run by an interdisciplinary group of students at Cornell University. We aim to inspire our readers to celebrate cultural diversity and view the world with an open mind through delivering unique stories from people around the world.