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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.

Setting Sail in Stockholm

SWEDEN | Thursday, 20 September 2018 | Views [357]

Accurately painted scale model of the Vasa. The archeologists took samples from the Vasa to determine the original colors of the paint.

Accurately painted scale model of the Vasa. The archeologists took samples from the Vasa to determine the original colors of the paint.

One benefit to catching up with yourself a few weeks on is perhaps that it’s easier to pick the most memorable pieces of each stop to share rather than every detail as it still shines clearly in your mind. Then again what could be said in a few minutes still comprises probably a couple paragraphs of words!

Europe is certainly not the ideal choice to visit for anyone not capable of climbing quite a few stairs, as I was reminded as we wound our way up 7 flights of stairs to our Airbnb on the “3 1/2 floor”. Just as I was thinking “Well, at least we only have to do this  with a suitcase once”, we had to turn round and do it all over again because we where one staircase off in the building. Once there we had a lovely little apartment. Europeans are certainly clever at keeping stuff to a minimum and using every available opportunity for shelf space, especially in the bathroom. You might even call the little sleeping area in the loft a larger shelf built for a human. Though I was tempted to spend the night on the indoor hammock I decided the little loft was probably more comfortable.

On the first morning out we headed straight for the Vasa Museum, rather like the Kronan Museum in Kalmar, but with the real ship dominating the center of the museum built to house it, and standing 7 viewing levels tall. There’s nothing quite as impressive as standing before the ship and being dwarfed by its huge timbers. Only one thing that would be more striking is seeing it in its full colorful glory like the day it set sail. It’s hard to imagine at first, but the 10’ scale model recreates the vibrant colors that once adorned it’s wooden carvings.

There’s something about maiden voyages of renowned ships that just seems to spell disaster. Unlike the Titanic the Vasa only lasted a whopping 40 minutes into its maiden voyage before capsizing into the ocean. What was the cause? Well there was an inquest into it in 1628 at the time of the disaster and miraculously no one was blamed. The most likely to take the blame was the Dutch ship maker who had laid out the numbers for building the massive ship, but died prior to completion. He was renowned for his ship building, but had never built anything so big before. Back in the day there was no such thing as building plans. Instead everything was based on the lengths and numbers of previous ships. To add to this challenge the King had added to his wish list an extra row of cannons, which was ultimately what caused the ship to be so top heavy. However no one was about to interrogate the King for the flaws in the design! Then there was the stability test, which involved 30 men running from side to side in the ship to see if it would remain upright. The test was called off after 3 passes (I recall) out of certainty that it would cause the ship to capsize. However the King’s man in charge of getting the ship out to sea decided to order it set sail anyway as it was already long behind schedule, and the rest of the fleet had already left. Ironically the Vasa was destined for a battle against Poland, but was half built with timber from guess where? Yep, Poland!

For our lunchtime break from museums we met a friend of my friend’s family, now living with her young family and working as a doctor in Stockholm. Apart from a friendly conversation it was also probably the best meal I had in Scandinavia: shrimp bolognese. I’d highly recommend The Lake Cafe if you’re in the area.

The afternoon museum of choice was the Nobel Museum. The short tour was very worthwhile for an informative and sometimes humorous background on the Nobel Prizes. My friend came away having enjoyed the visit, but rather disillusioned with the selection process managed almost exclusively (with the exception of the Nobel Peace Prize) by Swedish academies. Some people have been nominated for multiple years running without ever having won the prize; I think the record holder may be something like 29 years?! Every year they release the information about the nominations from the 50th year prior so no one feels too bad about the choices that were made in the past, given they usually aren’t alive anymore!

One of the most unusual exhibits at the museum is the collection of artifacts, small and large, that come from Nobel laureates. Every person is asked to donate something to the museum related to the work for which they won the prize. Among several scientific instruments, and some quite unusual choices, is the shawl Malala wore when she addressed the UN at age 16. Given that the average age of laureates is something like 61 Malala is quite the outlier!

Before dinner we took a casual walk around the around the old town; down narrow streets, which we probably would not have turned, had I not been reading Rick Steves’ walking tour. He points out the small, and interesting pieces of history passers by would not notice such as the porcelain Phoenix over one door denoting to the fire department of days gone by that those residents had paid for insurance, and their house should be saved in a fire. Things haven’t changed very much you might say if you consider the private fire fighters supplied to residents who pay a high enough premium. One wonders though just how effective those fire fighters were in protecting one “house” amid a solid block of other buildings likely ablaze. 

After a full sight seeing schedule over the past week my friend decided to take the day off while I boarded a ferry the next afternoon and headed for Stockholm’s Archipelago. Assuming the best view was outside I took a seat on the back deck of the boat. While there wasn’t much to complain about with the view, there wasn’t much you could hear either over the sound of the engine. For about 2 hours we sped across the water with just a few stops at other islands. The best moments were actually the slower ones when the ferry was in narrow waters between islands studded with summer cottages and small docks for just one private boat. 

Arriving at the island of Grinda the other tourists headed up the “main” road (I pitied those with suitcases on the dirt road) while I chose a short little trail through the woods. It was blissfully peaceful and quiet. I wasn’t sure, but my suspicion after a few minutes was that had I been there a month earlier I would have found the low shrubs on the forest floor covered in wild blueberries. As it was I enjoyed my lunch on a large rock like a giant sleeping seal on the edge of the island. 

As usual I had to spend several minutes with my map figuring out where exactly I was at a couple cross roads before heading off to a longer loop around part of the island with my remaining 1 hour or so. As my walk progressed though I grew increasingly conscious of the time, and the all too near departure time for my highly preferred ferry journey back. With just minutes to go I ran the last section of road leading back to the dock, which of course turned out to be longer than I’d judged it to be on the map, and very thankfully the boat was 5 minutes late or I would have missed it. 

For the last evening meal in Stockholm I was determined to have something authentic, and spent probably an hour wondering down side streets in the Old Town, or at least trying to, but all too quickly ending up on a main tourist thoroughfare. In the end though I settled on something where my friend joined me, that though it had menus in 5 languages, felt more authentic. Indeed I decided it was time to try the marinated herring I’d been looking at on every other menu since arriving. What was the verdict? Well a bit stronger than I anticipated, I’d almost say saltier, but a good complement to the potatoes that came with it.  

After a stroll home it was time for bed and a very early morning to catch the 8 something train at the main station to Oslo due to the trains for the rest of the morning being canceled due to work on the track. 


Tags: food, grinda, nobel museum, old town, stockholm, stockholm archipelago, vasa museum


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