This post will be about the getting there and getting around, I'll post separately about the fencing.
The plan was to depart from Prestwick at 18:30, and arrive at Stockholm Skavsta at 20:30. From there, there's a 90-minute bus trip in to Stockholm, and then I needed to get to Bromma (by train or taxi or whatever was available), find my hotel, and get a good night's sleep.
The plane took off at about 18:45, a negligible delay. About 20 minutes into the flight an announcement came across - "are there any doctors or nurses on board ?". A couple of nurses duly appeared and went up to help, and announcements asking if anyone had any painkillers and diazepam followed. Another five or so minutes passed, and then the announcement that I was fearing - we had to turn around and go back to Prestwick due to a medical emergency. We got back there by about 19:45, and then we got to wait. The airport paramedics and the two nurses on board seemed to be talking for a long time without doing much, and I'm not actually sure if the ill passenger was actually taken off board or not (I was sitting quite a long way back). Eventually another announcement came across that we were waiting for the medical supplies on board to be replenished - and apparently it took them most of an hour to find them and get them to us. Finally, we took off again, at around 21:00, and this time the flight passed without incident. Fortunately, at the Skavsta end, the airport buses were still waiting, so at about 00:30 I boarded one and we set off, arriving around 02:00. A 20-minute taxi trip later, and I was at my hotel, finally getting to bed around 02:30. Not exactly the restful night I was hoping for (managed to doze a little on the plane trip (the second time around), but not at all on the bus - I was near the back, and bouncing around a lot).
Saturday was the competition - see the next post for details. Afterwards, I met up with three British fencers who'd been at the tournament and we all headed out to look for dinner. One of them knew a place that served a variety of meats (reindeer, elk, etc) in Swedish recipes, so we wandered around Gamla Stan (the old town) looking for it. Eventually found it, only to find it closed until mid-March. Plan B involved more wandering around Gamla Stan, eventually finding a place called Martin Trotzig, where we had a very nice meal indeed (a little on the pricey side, but we felt like splashing out a bit after our fencing performances).
After that, the other three went in search of a pub (of course), and I wandered around town for a couple of hours, despite it being around -10°C. I went up a hill, and found the Observatory, and admired the view from there for a while. I went down the other side of the hill, down stairs which were mostly covered with ice/snow/icy snow. About half-way down, I thought to myself "Well, this is going ok, I'll just keep holding the handrail so that even if I do slip I'll catch myself and not fall over". Of course, the Universe doesn't take thoughts like that lightly, and mere seconds later I slipped and completely failed to catch myself - landed on my left arm and ended up with a nasty scrape there. Typical ...
I managed to negotiate the rest of the stairs without incident, and after wandering around for a little longer headed for the train station and the warmth of the hotel.
On Sunday, I got moving very slowly - just made it downstairs for breakfast before they packed everything away at 10:30, and got checked out just before the deadline of 12:00. I left my fencing bag at the hotel, and headed in to town to be a proper tourist for the day. It turned out to be quite a nice day, too, mostly bright and sunny, hovering around -4°C or so, and every now and then a few snow flakes drifted by. I decided to go to the Vasa Museum, as recommended by one of the British fencers the previous night, and it was well worth the trip. The Vasa sunk in 1628, after sailing about a kilometre on its maiden voyage, and lay underwater for 333 years. Now it is preserved in remarkably good condition in the museum, together with lots of artifacts (and a few unlucky crewmembers). I left there around 3pm, since I had to get back to the hotel in Bromma, then back to the Central Station to catch the airport bus (it would have been easier to leave the bag at Central, but I don't think they had any lockers large enough, and dragging a fencing bag around town all day would have been no fun). Got back to the bus station around quarter past four, and found that there was a critical flaw in my plan - the airport bus runs every 30 minutes except on Sundays. A bus had left at 15:30, and the next one was at 18:30 - far too late for me to catch the 19:15 flight. Quick enquiries revealed a plan B - catch a train to Nyköping, then take a short taxi or bus trip to the airport - the catch being that after the 16:40 train, the next one was 18:40. I rushed out to the platform and got on the train with about 5 minutes to spare, and ended up reaching the airport around 18:00, giving me enough time to check in and grab something to eat before boarding. The flight back was uneventful, and I finally got home at around 22:00.
And that was Stockholm. One day I must visit in the summer, just to see what it's like without snow and ice all around ...