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Take a Hike -- On a Rooftop -- In Stockholm

By Dale Waldorf

Step through the attic doorway for a breathtaking panoramic view of the Venice of the North. Perched like a weathervane amidst the spires, turrets and towers of surrounding rooftops, you view the city of Stockholm, Sweden laid out before you as far as the eye can see.

Buckled into a full-body, oil rig-style harness topped with a construction hard hat and oblivious to early morning temperatures, you step out into the open air -- 130 feet above the streets and waterways glistening from the receding mist.

For the moment, the immediate task of connecting yourself to the steel walkway underfoot demands your full attention. Once you hear the click of the harness clip (“the dog”) as it snaps onto a toe-level silver rail, you know you’re ready to walk the dog on a roof bordering Stockholm’s Old Town.

Joining nine other adventurers, you’re about to experience an amazing opportunity to hike the rooftops of the Old Parliament Building on the island of Riddarholmen, across the bridge from Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old quarter located south of today’s cosmopolitan city center. Your first instinct is to tread cautiously on the steel walking-path that meanders along flat-roofed terrain, over higher and lower roof intrusions, around abutments and along segments of buildings that appear to have meshed over centuries of architectural change.

However, cautious movements along the path soon turn into more confident steps as the soft din of chatter, laughter and gentle encouragement for the dogs to move along is heard rising from roof angles and linking stairways. Although the dog may not always be obedient and often prefers to pause at junctions that connect the lower rails, a bit of gentle persuasion usually keeps your harness moving along the pathway. And while you’re bending down to ease your dog forward, you might just as well help out a fellow dog coming along behind, for rule #1 is ‘don’t kick the dog.’

This newly acquired canine certainly keeps you aware of your location and at times overrides a curiosity to absorb the magnificent 360-degree view extending to the horizon. To satisfy this curiosity, highly experienced and qualified guides conduct historical and architectural talks at strategic viewing stops along the way.

This is the time to absorb the unprecedented panoramic view of the city of Stockholm -- past and present -- as the sounds of “ooh,” “aah” and “oh, look” escape from fellow hikers. Your eyes roam from the characteristic black rooftops of Old Town to the Royal Palace, which houses one more room than Buckingham Palace in London, to Nobel Park, which contains a copy of every indigenous tree and bush and is one of 38 parks in the city.

Once you descend by elevator to ground level, why not cross the bridge into Gamla Stan, the once walled city of old Stockholm? As you amble along the cobbled streets and narrow passageways, the buildings you initially identified from the rooftops take on a much different appearance at ground level. Varied architectural styles still reveal traces of original medieval elements and Stortorget
(Main Square) continues to serve as a popular meeting place, surrounded by the palatial Stock Exchange Building housing the Nobel Library and Museum.

Stockholm’s rooftop tour operates from April to September. Safety requirements and rooftop system comply with EU standards, guides are expertly trained and there are specifications for height, weight and health considerations. For more information go to www.upplevmer.se.

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