It was Benjamin Franklin who wrote that guests are like fish, in that they begin to go off after three days.
And it seems that late Autumn and early Winter is a veritable spawning season for house guests with my diary beginning to look like I’m running a backpackers hostel for anyone even vaguely related to me.
“But Aunty Pat,” I say, stalling desperately, “have you stopped to think of the danger to the environment that your cheap flight, short break to Stockholm might cause?”
“Don’t you worry dear, now that your Uncle Rodney and I have got our old age pensioners’ bus passes, we use public transport once a week to have a cup of tea at the garden centre so that more than evens out the carbon fingerprint thingy caused by the Range Rover and our little foreign holidays.”
The problem with these European short breaks is that people haven’t really formulated a real idea about travelling somewhere that is not necessarily all that touristy, where other people are not very exotic and just go to work and come home and in turn want to travel somewhere else half way across the world for their own holidays.
The notion that one might actually be venturing somewhere that may not necessarily be warmer or cheaper than one’s original starting point is a matter of considerable confusion for many. Stockholm must therefore be a complete enigma for just about everyone in the world, with the notable exception of the Norwegians and maybe the Swiss.
For the life of me, I really don’t know what is wrong with some visitors. I might say for example, “It’s going to be cold and it could be snowing. Bring warm clothes and sensible shoes.” So they turn up with an extra sweater and a pair of canvas boating shoes, or better still a pair of suede stiletto boots. And so we are then faced with days of miserable stoicism or abject whinging.
And then there is the cost. Well yes, this is not the cheapest getaway destination in Europe but nor does it need to be the most expensive.
So I might say something like, “Let’s have the dagens lunch (lunch special)- at 70 kronor. It is going to be the best value for money here because you get a hot meal, salad, bread, a soft drink and coffee which you can’t really complain about.”
Oh, but they can and they do. It will be along the lines of “No Love, I don’t really fancy a hot meal – I’ll just have a couple of sandwiches and a sticky bun and one of those miniature wine bottles and a proper beer.” And then I watch with my finger poised to ring 112 as my uncle turns a funny purple colour when the cashier presents him with the total.
My own reasonably priced lunch is then completely ruined as Uncle Rodney launches into an apoplectic tirade, saying that for what he has just shelved out for his and Pat‘s round of sandwiches in Stockholm, he could actually pay for a two week all inclusive holiday in Majorca and still have change for the bus trip home (although he doesn’t need to pay now he has his old age pensioner’s bus pass).
Then there’s the problem of sightseeing. The tourist season ended back at the beginning of September so, unless your visitors are particularly interested in museums, it can be a bit tricky to come up with anything suitable once you have ticked the Vasa off the list. And you can scrub out Skansen or a walk around Haga Park unless you are hoping for an early inheritance because the extra sweater, the canvas shoes and the suede stiletto boots will not be up to the job.
So if you feel that your Aunty Pat and Uncle Rodney could do with having their horizons broadened, then I would suggest a trip up Kaknästornet, the telecommunications tower that provides an impressive landmark for the eastern side of the city.
The tower is a pretty sensible outing because it is only a short walk from the bus stop for those who are less than properly attired and it really does give you the most spectacular views. From the observation deck on the thirtieth floor, you are up high enough to make out the various islands that make up the city and can see really out to the Baltic on one side and the expanse of Lake Malaren on the other.
The restaurant on the twenty-eighth floor is sort of a bit posh in a white tablecloth and chandelier sort of a way and actually not at all touristy tacky. The tables are arranged so that everyone gets a great view over the city and the meal prices are really not that heart-attack inducing. At weekends they do an excellent classy cheeseburger meal for 128 kronor that seems as big as the tower itself.
Alternatively, you could opt for the brunch platter for 139 kronor, which might be fun in a retributory type of way as you will get to see your relatives trying to tackle the cultural conundrum of pancake jam and French fries on the same plate. And then if you go down that route, you could just order teas and coffees so that Uncle Rodney doesn’t need to get a glance of the wine list because if he sees that a bottle of Australian red costs 300 kronor, it might just tip him over the edge…and it’s a long way down, I can tell you.
Mörka Kroken 28 – 30, 115 27 Stockholm
Restaurant: 08-667 21 80
NB – if you make a reservation prior to visiting the tower, you don’t need to pay the admission fee of 30 kronor per person.