It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No… it’s just YLC’s Claire Duffy tramping on the roof of your apartment. Last week our acrophobic adjacent Duffy took her adventures to new heights with the newest way to tour Stockholm: roof walking with Upplev Mer.
This photo: Andreas Karlsson for Upplev Mer. Featured image: Tuukka Ervasti/ imagebank.sweden.se
Is this the time to mention I’m a weeny bit afraid of heights? Just a weeny bit, mind; I can stand on a chair without any problems, but last summer I spent nearly seven hours hiking upwards in Switzerland with my brother, only to throw myself to the ground in panic and refuse to look over the edge of the mountain top. So, by the process of deduction, my heebie jeebies must set in somewhere between a chair and an Alp. The question here is: where on the chair/alp scale does a rooftop 47 metres above Riddarholmen fall? Well, I was about to find out.
In the rafters of the Appeals Courthouse on Riddarholmen, as our tour group was being fitted with rather serious-looking harnesses and helmets, I casually asked our guides, Veerle and Katrin, whether anyone had ever made use of the harnesses – specifically, in an upsidedown fashion. They assured me that out of the hundreds of people taking the tour a year since 2007, not one has fallen. Clearly, the Swedish saying ingen fara på taket (no danger on the roof) applies quite literally here. All the same, I was glad of the sturdy clip that attached me to a wire running all the way along our route.
As it turns out, 47 metres in the air steps right up to the heebie jeebie line, but doesn’t cross it. It’s high enough to offer a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city – at one point Veerle and I worked out that we could just about eyeball no less than 10 of Stockholm’s 14 islands simply by pivoting on the spot – while still being far from unpleasantly scary.
The rooftop tour is an experience unique to Sweden and a great way to truly get a sense of Stockholm’s uncommon layout. Travelling around the city, it’s easy to forget that one is hopping from island to island, but from a rooftop, the maze of connecting bridges and the dominance of water is apparent.
Katrin’s tour is as entertaining as it is informative. She zips fluently between the history of the city, information on the present day, and weird and wonderful facts and anecdotes. The majority of the group were visitors, but even I, a veteran of touristy Stockholm stuff, learned a few new things, including the story of the 1200 year old ghost (Stockholm’s oldest) who haunts the very building on which we stood.
The first platform looks over Gamla Stan. Here we learned about the founding of Stockholm (or “log island”) by Birger Jarl, the fact that 48 dogs currently reside in the Old Town, and, gratifyingly for me, that Buckingham Palace has at least 20 more rooms than Stockholm’s Royal Palace. The tour continues towards Slussen, around a slightly nerve-wracking corner, to face Långholmen and Västerbron (of which, at the time that it was built in 1935, a politician said “it is nice looking, but who on earth is going to use it so far out in the countryside?”). Up a ladder and around another corner was a view of the tower of Riddarholmskyrkan, where a great number of Swedish kings and nobility are buried. Here Katrin tells us that there have been no less than four proposals made during the rooftop tour, and so far, they have a four out of four success rate.
She looks expectantly around the group; the couples present shuffle awkwardly and look at their feet.
So far, the hairiest part of the tour was a roof edge walkway which we had to cross one at a time lest we tripped and brought the whole group down on top of us. Now, however, we were at the bit I had been dreading; the highest point of the tour. Characterized by a walkway along the tip of the roof that runs parallel to the neighbouring Riddarholmskyrkan… with no handrail separating us from a Long Way Down. As it turns out, the view of the sunset silhouetting the crooked rooftops of Gamla Stan was so engrossing that I instantly forgot my nerves. All too soon the tour was over. There was just enough time for a few questions back in the attic, before heading back down to earth.
Upplev Mer tours continue until the end of October, so hop to it!