From Copenhagen we crossed the border into Sweden crossing the Baltic Strait via the tunnel and bridge between the countries. On the Sweden side we were welcomed by border control: ‘Enjoy yourself in Sweden’.
We stopped overnight in the town of Jönköping. It looked a little uninteresting as we approached but another side was to be revealed. The hotel suggested some restaurants on the pier would be suitable for dinner so off we set. The walk to the pier was interesting as it took us through some old, restored buildings now used for offices and restaurants and, surprisingly, a matchstick museum! The only one in the world, housed in an old matchstick factory. Then we walked the length of the railway station on our way to the waterfront.
The pier had plenty of restaurants to choose from and a bar with live music. We settled on a restaurant and, although the food was slow to come, the food was good, the waiter very friendly and the extra glasses of wine to compensate for the slow service greatly appreciated.
We stopped to listen briefly to the music then headed back to the hotel. I left John at the bar as he wanted to continue to listen to the music and, so he tells me, dance with the locals!
The next day we drove to Stockholm along the shores of Lake Vattern stopping in Hjo (pronounced U!) for morning tea and then in a lakeside village, Askersund, for a picnic lunch. We noticed that there were many locals out in their own classic cars: American 1960s Cadillacs, Thunderbirds, Bonnevilles, and Chevy convertibles. Quite a cruising class.
In Stockholm, Kay had booked an apartment which was situated on the lower level of a house in the suburbs. This was a five minute walk to the station and then 6 stops into the city: very convenient as the train service was frequent and quick.
There was also a very large shopping centre and supermarket close to the apartment. After settling in we walked to the ‘beach’ and park on the nearby lake then headed off to the supermarket for dinner supplies. John had found this earlier on when he went for a walk and was initially disappointed that the village looked so ‘worn’ and then he discovered an huge shopping mall, 2 levels many shops of all sorts plus an enormous supermarket.
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John set up tables in the garden and Mike cooked a BBQ salmon accompanied by Ros and Kay’s salads, a glass or two of wine, eaten in the twilight, made for a very pleasant evening. Which brings us to daylight: sunrise at 4am and sunset at 10am with still a glow in the sky in between.
Mike simply loves jumping on the technology and working out the best option in terms of the cost of transport and entry fees to the sights. We have discovered that the city passes which combine both are generally good value, as are the ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus/ferry/sights tickets. In Stockholm we opted for a city pass and, because of where the apartment was situated, a two day travel pass.
Over the two days we were in Stockholm we visited the Vassa Museum, the Royal Palace, walked through and had dinner in the old town, visited the Cathedral, the Vikingaliv museum, the ABBA museum, and Skansen, an open air museum come family park, a bit like Old Sydney Town or Swan Hill in Victoria.
The hardware shop and bakery at Skansen, both in operation.
As well we did a lot of boating. Stockholm is a city built on islands with water and canals wherever you look. Catching ferries is simply part of life and we did a lot of this. John and I took advantage of two of the water sightseeing tours, one more harbour focused and one which circled one of the larger islands and which was focused on the history of the city. Both were really interesting, with good commentaries, as well as relaxing, with some great views of the city from the water. Seeing vegetable gardens on the water edge plus the 1,000s of boats along every canal made for a picturesque trip.
The Gamla Stan Old Town, originally an island but now connected to the rest of the city by many bridges, is full of narrow and often winding cobbled streets. This area attracts a large number of tourists, so tourist shops, cafes and restaurants abound.
Located in this area is the Royal Palace. Perhaps the highlight of this visit was the Treasury with its exhibition of the Norwegian orders and the regalia and dress which accompany the awarding of these orders.
There was also a fabulous display of Meissen figurines and crockery, and a most beautiful cabinet designed and made by Meissen, all belonging to the Royal Family.
The Royal Family can trace itself back for over 1,000 years with every king and queen known to today – except for in 1818 when the then king had no decedents and so Sweden did a search for an ‘appropriate’ successor and came up with a French nobleman, Bernadotte! He was chosen partly because Sweden wanted to align itself with Napoleon and use his help to reclaim Finland back from Russia. This didn’t work, so they went an annexed Norway instead! We are, again, learning so much more history: Scandinavia and Finland have each owned some / parts / all of each other over the years making the actual history eye watering!
The Vassa museum was amazing. The museum contains the Vassa, a warship built by the King in 1628. The ship was the biggest warship of its type ever built. However it is most famous for the fact that it sank twenty minutes into its maiden voyage. Look at the stern of the ship below. (This is a scale model of the ship.) The waterline was just below the windows on the very bottom level of the ship. You can immediately see how too top heavy she was.
On the day the ship was launched, with the King, Swedish and visiting nobility and all of Stockholm watching, and with all the cannon hatches open , all the boat painted gold and red and all cannons on display, the ship set sail. However, under sail, the ship caught a stiff breeze and heeled over. The water rushed into the open cannon hatches filling the ship with water and sending her to the bottom. Rather embarrassing for the king!
The ship was located in 1956 and raised in the early 60s, 333 years after it sank. Then followed an extensive restoration program. What you see on display today is 92% original. Obviously ropes and rigging etc have been replaced but because of the nature of the water in which it sank, the timbers were preserved. This was an absolutely fascinating visit.
Vikingaliv is s museum devoted to the life of Norsemen. It was interesting in that it is aimed at portraying an accurate picture of ‘vikings’. You were only a Viking when you set out on a voyage of discovery, raiding or warring. When you returned home you went back to being a farmer, or whatever. And Vikings did not wear horned helmets! This is fiction instituted by the movie industry and opera and perpetuated by souvenir shops! A very interesting look into the lives of ancient Norse civilizations. Mike was some what chastised when he asked the gift shop for a helmet with horns!
I can’t say I was ever a rabid ABBA fan, though I did, and still do, enjoy their music. A visit to the ABBA museum was fun and interesting with opportunities to sing along to the sound track of one of their songs in a recording box, or go on stage and perform with the group. Ros auditioned as the fifth member of the band for singing and John for dancing!
A section of the museum dealt with their costumes, why they adopted these and how each one related to the particular song/tour and who was involved in making them. The group themselves had a significant input into each and every costume. Many of the original costumes were on display. Other sections of the museum recreated important rooms/areas, e.g. the recording studio, of their time together
Our dinners were exceptionally good: first night in the garden, second night in Gamla Stan Old Town where Mike had herring three ways, and smoked reindeer, Kay Swedish meatballs, John chopped meat and seafood pasta with local Aquavit and beer (a perfect meal) and the third night in a local restaurant near where we were staying where we had Plankor: loads of potatoes with something on top: like pork, fish or reindeer or trout.
Stockholm is both an interesting and beautiful city, with its location on various islands in and around canals and its fjord making it a very picturesque destination. On one of our boat trips we motored along a canal which was lined with very beautiful old wooden boats moored one beside the other in a remarkable display of classic boats.