We knew about the 20,000 attendees for the European Diabetes and Internal Medicine conferences during the week that we would be in Stockholm. What we didn’t know is that there was a big race planned for that weekend too. 20,000 runners! That’s why 40,000 beds are full and the closest room we could find through the tourist bureau is $300 a day and 60 miles away.
We must have looked pathetic. We were tired. The last good night’s sleep we had was Saturday and this was now Wednesday. Sunday night we couldn’t sleep because we were excited to get on the road. Monday was the lumpy bed at the Hyatt in Arlington, VA and Tuesday night was cut short by the 6 hour time change and the attempt to sleep in a contortionist’s pose on the overnight flight. The guy in the tourist bureau took pity on us and pulled out a book with potential places to stay that were not in their system.
In my research, I had seen hostels and hotels that were on moored ships. It just didn’t appeal to me so I kept searching. Now faced with the possibility of sleeping at the airport or train station I reconsidered. After a couple of calls he found an “irregular shaped” cabin on one of those ships for a mere $145, available for one night only. We jumped on it. The hotel said they would hold the room for one hour. We were told it was a 20–30 minute walk from where we standing at the Tourist Center, across the street from the central train station. We hadn’t found an ATM yet. With no Swedish kroners, we couldn’t hop in a cab.
Stockholm is spread out over 14 islands. If you’ve read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Stieg Larsson you know about the quaint island called Gamla Stan (Old Town) where Mikael Blomkvist’s fictional magazine and his apartment are located. Lisbeth Salander’s secretive place is on Sodermalm. The central train station is on Norrmalm. The ship was moored on Sodermalm and Gamla Stan is in between.
With backpacks loaded, we set off to claim our cabin. It was a brisk walk with 15 pounds on my back after an overnight flight. A recipe for disaster for me. I needed to get my legs in step with the cobblestone streets. Years ago, the night before my brother’s wedding in Savannah, Georgia we were being goofy in Forsythe Park and I said, “Someone is going to the hospital tonight.” As we ran across the street, I stepped wrong and everyone heard my ankle snap. They all thought I had stepped on a branch but the broken limb was mine. Last year I stepped off the curb to get into a cab in Buenos Aires and down I went on that cobblestone street. Luckily it was just a bad sprain and not a break. Needless to say I am a bit wary, but still not weary, of cobblestone streets.
So here we are, hoofing it as fast as we can, laden with backpacks over the bridge from Norrmalm to Gamla Stan, winding our way through the narrow, potential bone breaking streets of Gamla Stan to the train station. A wrong turn put us on the wrong side of the tracks. We had to backtrack to find the right stairway that would take us to the opposite side and ultimately the bridge that would take us to Sodermalm. That’s where our ship was docked. All the while we worried that if we didn’t hurry, we would lose the one available bed in the city.
Along the waterfront, we passed several former cargo ships that now served as bars, restaurants, hotels and hostels. We were on a happening street. We approached the Kron Prinsessan Martha (Crown Princess Martha) from the bow. Okay, not bad. We walked up the gangplank to the LogInn Hotel reception area. Contrary to what my mother taught me, we took the room sight unseen. I knew I could not reject the last available bed in the city so no matter what, we were going to sleep there. We forked over the equivalent of $145 and trotted down skinny steps to the long, narrow corridor that lead to our “irregularly shaped” room in the stern.
We open the door to find a miniscule room that had 14 walls – 18 if you include the bathroom. There’s no evidence of bedbugs but I am sure they are lurking. The shower won’t shut off so Mike brilliantly stuck the shower head in the sink so the floor can dry.
You have to sit on the toilet at a 2 o’clock angle because the sink, scratchy toilet paper and the wall receptacle for feminine things were in the way. Ugh. I cannot wait for morning. If we hadn’t checked so many places we would have made a run for it.
Fake paneling and dingy frayed carpet covered everything. Then there was the wire that was coming out of the wall socket touching the foot of the bed. At least the dangling end had tape on it. And how about the broken toilet that had been moved to the top of the stairs outside our door? All I can say is EWWW!
Room 217 in the LogInn Hotel is hands down, no question, the worst room I have ever had in the world. Worse than any hostel; worse than the army cot Mike & I shared in a room that didn’t lock in McCarthy, Alaska.
The bathroom was in the building across the dirt road and didn’t open until 7:30 in the morning. Never mind that a pissed off bear that someone took a shot at was out there somewhere. Room 217 is worse than the room in Chena Hot Springs, Alaska that had no screens with swarms of man-eating mosquitoes. And I can’t forget the lovely setting and room at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge in Cooper Landing, Alaska. No hot water in late September and the fireplace made inoperable for the winter. The topper of that lovely weekend was when the septic tank pump truck pulled up just in time for dinner. Nope. This was much worse.
Mike disagreed and thought it tied with the army cot in McCarthy but I’ll stick with my assessment. The cot was a well-worn battle trophy after enduring a 9 hour drive from Anchorage – 2 of those on a 60 mile dirt road, crossing two rivers by pulling yourself across on the equivalent of a porch swing and arriving with a never received reservation. This lacked the outdoorsy charm of the McCarthy Hotel.
Running on fumes, we made a quick escape to find someplace to have dinner. Across the street, we climbed a daunting staircase to the street above that led us to a main boulevard in Sodermalm. We settled on Stora Vikingen/Röde Orm Pizzeria.
The next morning we went upstairs for the breakfast that was included in the room rate. You would have thought that we were on a completely different ship! The pleasant restaurant sparkled with gleaming wood polished to a shine. The food was a typical breakfast smorgasbord filled with meats, cheese, cereals, breads, fruits and juices. There was a room off to the side to hang out in with a giant flat screen TV. Too bad no one mentioned that when we checked in. The original plan was to leave our luggage there while we went sightseeing but we couldn’t check out fast enough. Also, since our plans took us to other islands there was really no reason to backtrack to Sodermalm after wandering around the city. We called a cab and took our luggage to the Central Station to store it in nice, clean, metal luggage lockers.
While waiting for the taxi, we walked to the stern of the ship and saw the rusty, rotting hull just outside of our crappy cabin. I’m sure that the Crown Princess Martha would be horrified that this beast is named for her. I wonder if the royal family knows that such an honor has been bestowed on their family. If they did, they would probably sink it.