Monday, July 11, 2011

It was better before the Reindeer Wrangling Championships

I thought I had worked the hotel thing out. Instead of trying to find the best three star hotel I looked for the 5 star hotel with the best deal. I have found that there are always a 5 star hotels that have special long-weekend deals which are only a teensy bit more expensive than the price you pay for a 3 star hotel.

This strategy worked brilliantly in Berlin and it was one of the best hotels in which we have ever stayed  - and at a very reasonable price. It has worked in other places as well.

The strategy failed completely in Stockholm where the hotel in which we stayed was an extremely expensive shithole. The ‘extremely expensive’ in this instance is superfluous. Stockholm – and I suppose Sweden – is the most expensive city/country we have ever visited.

It is strange how our expectations change. When we first came to Vienna we were flabbergasted by how expensive it was – then we were astonished last year by Finland – but Stockholm makes all these expensive Europeans cities seem like bazaars in Baghdad.

It is so expensive as to be scary. Not to Cate of course – she went shopping – but then she doesn’t have to balance the housekeeping money. I never cease to be fascinated by the fact that Cate can – without any prior knowledge of the city – and without any reference to any map – find her way unerringly to the women’s fashion stores just by sniffing the breeze.

Anyway – the hotel was not – as had been advertised – 5 star. It may have been 3.5 stars before it was used for the 1979 Scandinavian Reindeer Wrangling Championships but had gone downhill considerably since then.

I have never been in a room quite like the one we had. It was sort of art deco and had many panels of colored glass and an art deco bedhead. In common with many hotel rooms of the era – the lights were designed to illuminate only themselves.

We found our way around the room mainly by the light from our iPhones – and the fact that it never got completely dark in Stockholm also helped a bit.

Some of the doors in the hallway on our floor had plastic ‘Business Class’ signs stuck on them. Most of them were at an angle so had been stuck on straight and had sagged  - or had been affixed by a drunk.

I regret that this set the tone for the whole operation.

However – Stockholm was sensational – as I shall report.


  1. This is the country that gave us IKEA. Just be happy your room key did not also function as the screwdriver to put together your bed.

  2. Good that you managed to keep the phones happily juiced or it might just have been too dark altogether.

  3. Badger, I love your banter but I will never ask for hotel recommendations.

  4. hame I didn't think of this earlier. I know two Swedish couples who would have been able to make suggestions. As I said, shame...

    Where are you off to next? I may know someone there!

  5. Hi Badger

    I've been lurking here for a couple of months, and thoroughly enjoying your writing style and stories.

    We stayed at the Radisson Blu Harbourside when we were recently in Stockholm - a lovely new hotel that didn't require us to leave significant gold deposits in their vaults for the pleasure of staying there.

    We've always had a good experience when booking hotels through this site: Hotel Reservation Service. Just change the language from the drop-down menu at the top right of the homepage. We always back up our choice of hotels with advice from TripAdvisor. Also, a visit to the hotel's website doesn't hurt our decision, as well as locating it on Google Maps to make sure that it's where it should be!

    Michele (kiwi now living in Barcelona)

  6. I've said it before and I'll say it again – the best way to ensure that you stay in a decent hotel is to rely on the recommendations contained in a reliable independent guidebook such as the Rough Guides or Time Out Guides. The people who write those guides are knowledgeable, well travelled and can't be bought. Clearly Badger you didn't consult the Rough Guide to Sweden or the Time Out Guide to Stockholm before booking your hotel this time. Maybe next time you'll take my advice!

    Also, personally I would not take Michele's advice and use TripAdvisor. The comments on that site are invariably written by nutcases with an axe to grind. Plus, more often than not you get a mix of good and bad reviews, so how do you know which ones to believe?

  7. viennesewaltz: you do have to analyse the comments on TripAdvisor for yourself, as with any websites where personal comments are welcomed.

    Obviously one or two comments that are not in line with the others should not be taken as gospel. That's why I also recommend visiting the hotel's website as well - but often our research into where we stay is drawn from many more sources than the ones that I mention.

    Hotel Reservation Service has not let us down and, for all its reputation of being bad, neither has TripAdvisor since they started to clean up their act after a high volume of complaints about the quality of their guest reviews.