Stockholm, February 2012

The first stop in what could turn out to be a maritime themed tour of Scandinavia was Stockholm.  A very quick train ride in from the airport on the Arlanda Express saw the temperature drop steadily from about 0C at the airport to -10C as we got into the centre of town.

I had been looking for somewhere to stay in the old part of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, which has lots of character and is very close to the main train station, when I came across the Malardrottingen.  Originally called the Vanadis, this old motor yacht was the 18th birthday present for one of the members of the Woolworth family, it's now a small hotel moored on the island of Riddarholmen just beside Gamla Stan.  Very comfortable, with a great view across the sea ice from the porthole in my cabin.

The sound of the sea ice grinding against the hull of the boat was probable less alarming for me than it was for the arctic explorers in their wooden hulled boats at the end of the 19th century.   The further reminder of where I was each morning, was the sound and sight of a little icebreaker charging round the harbour breaking up the sea ice, so that the local ferries can get around.

The first stop on my brief stay in Stockholm, was again maritime themed.  I went (on one of the local ferries) to the island of Djurgarden which has lots of museums and other entertainments.  My target was the Vasa museum.  This award willing museum is built around the Vasa, a huge wooden warship from 1628.  This warship had a pretty limited military career, in fact it sank about 20 minutes into its maiden voyage.  This might have been pretty bad news for the Swedish Navy at the time (they tried at one time to blame Polish sabateurs, but eventually concluded it was just a bad design), but it's been very good news for Swedish naval historians.  The boat spent about 330 years in cold mud at the bottom of the Baltic, which turns out to be a great place for preserving a wooden ship.  The result is that there is a nearly completely intact 17th Century warship which tells us lots about both ship and the lives of the crew from that time.  There is a great audio tour (in English) on the museum website, if you can't get to Stockholm.

As I got back to Gamla Stan I could hear a military band in the distance, this band accompanies the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.  This ceremony seems to require a lot of drum banging, wearing of big hats and foot-stamping - and given the temperature the foot-stamping would seem to be a seriously good idea, although I suspect that the foot stamping happens in warmer weather too.  I've been to London lots of times and never seen the changing of the guard - I guess there is probably drums, hats and stamping there too.  My Stockholm afternoon was spent wandering around the snowy streets and waterfronts of Gamla Stan, and of course frequenting at least a few of the many cafes that line lots of the streets.

And to round off my day in Stockholm, A big plate of Swedish meatballs, it seemed rude not to.

Next stop, Oslo, by train.....

1 comment:

dianne@icefloe said...

This is amazing, I want to go please.