As soon as our ship disembarked in Stockholm at 8.30 am, the clock was ticking. We had to remind ourselves to be back to the ship before 2.30 pm as it would sail to Copenhagen after that. If only we could “freeze” the time a little longer. Visiting Gamla stan, means old town in Swedish, was the wisest decision we made in an inevitable situation since it’s reachable in about 20 minutes on foot from the harbour.
That morning, solitude conquered the old town discovered over 700 years ago. Passing through the alley, surrounded by warm-colored medieval buildings with beautifully carved gates, signboards and statues, the shop windows were still dark with no one behind closed doors. The sound we heard merely came from the morning breeze and ourselves speaking a language that (hopefully) only us could understand.
We walked at a snail’s pace as if we had all the time in the world. The map was nothing but a huge piece of paper with scaled graphic images folded in our hands. Following our own hearts lead us to major attractions in the area, such as Nobel Museum, Stockholm Cathedral and The Royal Palace quarter.
I said to myself, “Get yourself a cup of coffee!” Giving ourselves a reward, we sat on wooden chairs in the outdoor area of a café in the main square of Gamla stan. It took me 5 minutes to find the name of the café, that actually placed on my left side, hand-written on the window with gold marker, almost invisible because of light reflections from the sun. “Kaffekoppen”, it says.
The indoor dining room turned me back to the time when medieval era was in reign, shown in a modest way. Unlike the building’s eye-catching salmon pink façade dated 1650, the walls and ceilings are left unpainted. The source of lightning is candles placed on each dining table and the main display (while some others are not burned for safety reasons), apart from sunshine passing through the window and the opened door. The pantry has Romanesque-styled groin-vaulted ceiling, but using bulbs for functional purposes.
The presence of the later version of vintage decorations, from old packaging of Omo, Mars, Lipton, old photographs, used bottles until sketches of a coffee cup signify a harmony between medieval and modern art.
I heard a senior barista instructing her new assistant how to run a coffee machine – in English. May be a good proficiency of Svenska is not compulsory to work in a touristic place. I assume that the new assistant is a foreign student doing a part-time job to support her living.
It reminds me of good old days of a student’s life…. meeting people and making friends with people all around the world while earning some money!
Our drinks came in an impressive presentation. Served in a bowl as big as that of chicken soup, my mochaccino was the best I’ve ever tried in my entire life. No kidding! I also zipped my dad’s cappuccino, topped with a foam and made with love. Like any other Swedish coffee, it kept us awake to continue the walking tour.
Later on, we searched something less appealing but undeniable very important: toilet! Not necessarily to go that far, it took a few more steps to the cafe’s basement where lies a cellar vault with empty seats. Nobody wanted to miss the nice weather.
There’s only one “double-you-see” (or WC, a synonym for toilet. Non-English speakers may pronounce it differently), so please be patient and line up!
While waiting for my turn, I observed another intense medieval ambiance delivered by dim lightning from candles. Now I can imagine how legendary figures, from Robin Hood to Rembrandt, merely counted on candles to do their activities at night before electricity was invented.
The rear part of the room are guests’ wall of fame, where the bricks are full of scratches from sharp objects, forming letters, numbers, and heart shapes to mark their presence and a shout out about their relationship status.
Indeed, exploring a medieval town and house was the best thing that happened to us. And we hated it when a glimpse of life in middle ages had finally (unfortunately) come to an end. In present time, we only had 2 hours left to wander the rest of the alleys and visit more shops, while heading back to the harbour where the ship docked.
A German bible quote from Psalm 37:5 on top of the café’s entrance gate reveals the moral of our quick journey to the Swedish capital, “Befiehl dem HERRN deine Wege und hoffe auf ihn; er wird’s wohl machen” (Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it)
May we didn’t simply follow our hearts and mind to choose the right destination. May be it wasn’t really a coincidence. May be, we unconsciously heard Him whispering in our hearts, obediently followed His voice without questioning, felt it right when our two feet stepped forward and didn’t look back. May be that’s why we didn’t need any map. May be…that’s what I think.