When we plan a trip we always check Airbnb for nice places to rent. You can often find rooms or apartments to stay at that are both less expensive, have better location and offer more space than a traditional hotel room. That’s especially true when all five of us in the family travel together. So we have used Airbnb in locations such as Pula in Croatia, London and Miami to name a few.
From 25 stories up, to 25 meters under ground, this weekend Stockholm opens up spaces that normally are off limits to the general public. ‘Open House’ is a concept that started in London in 1992 with the aim of “showcasing outstanding architecture for all to experience, completely for free”. During two days, Oct 7-8, the public is invited to take part of guided tours of some of the most exciting buildings and places in Stockholm, all for free.
I managed to visit four different spots during the weekend. On Friday, I went to see the former lamp factory Luma in Hammarby Sjöstad, south of Södermalm. Architects from Link Arkitektur guided us round the iconic building which was designed by Artur von Schmalensee and Eskil Sundahl in 1929-30.
Nowadays, the building houses offices and conference spaces. At the very top of the building, there is a room with large windows with views of Stockholm in all directions. This room was previously used to test light bulbs but is now a conference room that can be booked for meetings or parties.
On Saturday I got the chance to visit another Stockholm landmark building, Wenner Gren Center. This 25 story building was once the tallest building in Europe with a steel framework. The view from the top floor is of course spectacular.
KTH School of Architecture
This new and exciting building by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter (pictured above in this post) in pre-rusted steel was finished in 2015. It has already won several design awards, among them the prestigious Kasper Sahlin Prize. Inside, some 600 students study architecture in a building that has a concrete structure, but inside most walls are covered with wood panels for a warmer feel. The stairs up to the top floor are quite cool too.
My final stop was located nearby on the KTH campus and it is the reactor hall R1, Sweden’s first nuclear reactor. You had to walk stairs down to the hall which is about 25 meters below street level. In the center of the hall is a pit where they used to test nuclear reactions and radiation. The reactor was active between 1954 and 1970 and the grid in the ceiling and on the walls was used when the reactor was shut down and they needed to measure levels of radiation in the room.
There are many interesting places to visit and since they are spread around Stockholm it’s impossible to cover more than a few during two days. So I hope that Open House Stockholm will be a recurring event that I can revisit next year.
The main reason we booked our trip to Croatia this summer was because we wanted to experience the wonder of Plitvice Lakes ( Plitvička Jezera in Croatian). It’s the largest national park in Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage site, located near the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It’s a four hour drive from Pula where we spent the first few days. That was about an hour longer than what we had expected but on the other hand we got some spectacular views along the winding roads up and down the mountains. We started off early in the morning from Pula and drove up to the national park via a lunch break with stunning views in the coastal town Senj.
Where to enter the park
The park is so vast that it’s probably not possible to see all of it during one day. We chose Entrance 2 since we had read that the lines were shorter there, and they were. We parked the car and bought tickets at the entrance without having to wait at all.
The lakes have absolutely crystal clear water but you are not allowed to swim in it because it would disturb the delicate balance in the sensitive ecosystem.
From Entrance 2 we took two boat rides and then walked along the lakes and waterfalls of the middle and lower parts of the water system. Our goal was to reach Veliki Slap, the Big Waterfall, which with it’s 78 meters is the largest waterfall in the park.
How to get the best photo of Plitvice Lakes
Once there you want to climb up to the vantage point where you can take some fantastic photos, like the one that is on the entrance ticket. To do that you need to climb up the path that is located to the left of the big waterfall and climb it all the way to the top. Keep right and you will eventually reach a paved road. Keep going to the right passed a small bridge and then immediately take the path to the right and you will soon see the lookout with views of most of the lower lakes. Don’t miss this, it’s quite breathtaking.
We spent several hours at the park and only managed to see half of it. But after a four hour drive and a long day at the park, we had to leave for our rented Airbnb place in the nearby town of Korenica. (Don’t forget, if you sign up to Airbnb via this link we both get a coupon worth 35 USD off our next stay.)
I would have loved to stay another day but we had to get back to Pula and our flight back to Sweden the next day.
Although there are both tram cars and boats (included in the entrance fee) to take you between the different spots, be prepared to walk a great deal. That way you will also get the best views from this magnificent place.
Cape Kamenjak is located on the Premantura peninsula and makes up the southermost point of Istria in Croatia. The area has been protected as a national park since 1996 and it’s a popular destination for tourists and locals in the region.
Be prepared that your visit will last for the major part of the day since the park is so vast. You will need to pay a small entrance fee when you enter the park and then you will be able to drive through the park on some of the worst “roads” you’ve probably ever seen. But it’s a beautiful place and well worth the trouble.
You can choose from several small beaches in the park, but there are no sandy beaches. Even the one that was marked sandy on the tourist map was completely devoid of any sand. There are only beaches with rocks or where you step in the water directly from the cliffs. We stopped at two of the small beaches on the eastern side and to be frank they we’re a bit disappointing.
So we headed down to the cliffs at the southern end of the peninsula and it was a spectacular sight. Now we were finally rewarded for putting up with the bumpy roads in the park.
There were cliffs with vertical walls dropping some 15 meters straight down into the clear turquoise water, but also lower cliffs where you could practically walk out into the water.
Swimmers of all ages jumped and dived from both sides of the U-shaped cliff and it was really cool to see.
It was way too high for me but I was happy to watch as my son and many other visitors challenged themselves.
Next to the cliffs, someone had come up with the odd idea to build a safari themed bar, with some slides and a table tennis table, all carefully hidden between tall grass and bamboo. Once you were able to locate the bar (not easy) you could order lemonade, snacks and other drinks. It was all a bit wacky and we sat there wondering how fast the entire thing would burn to the ground if someone dropped a match or a lit cigarette.
Between the Safari Bar and the parking lot there was a lookout tower with a very steep ladder. Just as we were getting prepared to leave, a small boy tried to climb the ladder and just before he reached the top, he lost his grip and slid some 4-5 meters down the ladder and fell on his brother’s arm, which broke. So if you have small children, please be advised that this is a bit dangerous to climb.
If you are planning to visit Cape Kamenjak I would recommend that you start down by the cliffs and then if you feel you have the time you can stop by some of the other beaches or even have a look at the path of the dinosaurs on your way out.