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I visited Stockholm over the weekend and stayed with an old friend who recently bought a beautiful loft apartment in Gamla Stan, which is the medieval center of Stockholm. It is located on the original small islands of the city’s earliest settlements. Most of the buildings in this area date from the 16th century and are legally protected from renovation.

Although situated on a very northern latitude, Sweden supposedly has a rather moderate climate. Growing up in Sweden, I am not so sure about that, and coming from the warmth of spring in Vienna, I was shivering cold at times. But it is April after all, and some were sure to enjoy the customary fika, or coffee break, by the water.

In the narrow alleys and small squares of Gamla Stan you can find old and cozy cafés, restaurants and shops. During earlier days the inns around the old marketplace, Stortorget (below), were places where people came together and drank beer like we drink water today. I hear, in one of these inns the Swedish troubadour Carl Mikael Bellman entertained the drunken regulars. Today you enjoy a cup of coffee or lunch here.

At Stortorget the Stockholms Blodbad took place in 1520 when many noblemen were decapitated by the Danish king.

I was told by the owner of a small grocery store named Gamla Stan Livs, that one problem with keeping Gamla Stan intact is the constantly sinking ground level, a surprising couple of centimeters each year. The instability of the ground makes the houses and streets sink and it is noticed in the store,which has been there for many years.

As I was making my way towards the Royal Castle, Slottet, I dove into small stores and second-hand shops with stairs leading down into cellars and cave like spaces.