Friday, August 24, 2007

Le Tour de Sweden, Stage 2: Sightseeing in Stockholm

We only stayed in the archipelago for a night (easily too short of a stay), but our agenda called for us to return to Stockholm to explore the city.


We were able to visit two other family friends, Jacob and Lovisa (siblings, and the grandchildren of mom’s my Swedish host mother), who both live in Stockholm. Jacob housed Max’s bike for a night and then cooked us a wonderful dinner when we returned. Lovisa graciously lent us her apartment so we had a place to stay in the city, free of charge! What a deal.

Stockholm is a gorgeous city. It’s sometimes called “the Venice of the North” because the city is built on 14 islands and surrounded by waterways. Wherever you live in the city, it is easy to find a canal or a lake where you can fish, boat, or swim (the water tends to be very clean.) The subways are breathtakingly cool (click on this link to see what I mean) and make getting around the city a breeze. People were friendly, and the weather was amazing, which definitely contributed to how much we enjoyed our visit.


August 13th was the day we dedicated to exploring Stockholm. The day before, we had purchased the Stockholm Card – for about $40, we got 24-hours of unlimited public transit trips, free admission to “over 75 attractions!” and the convenience of carrying around a simple piece of paper rather than kronor of all denominations. It all added up to a pretty good deal, considering the admission to many museums was between $9 and $15 and each Tunnelbana (subway) ride was $3!


The obvious strategy was to spend all day trying to visit as many attractions as reasonably possible. It was an exhausting day, to say the least!

Highlights:

The Vasa Museum! Anyone who goes to Stockholm but doesn’t visit this museum is crazy! The Vasa was a huge Swedish warship constructed in the 17th century. Only a mile into her maiden voyage, due to insufficient ballast and poor design, the boat capsized in the Stockholm harbor. In 1961, after more than 300 years, the boat was discovered, salvaged, and reconstructed. The boat now sits inside the museum and it is massive! Since I last visited the museum (when I was eight years old), they have remodeled the museum and the history component is fantastic. Well worth the visit! (Picture snagged from Stockholm Visitors Board.)

Skansen. Have you ever visited Colonial Williamsburg? Sturbridge Village? Well, Skansen is Sweden’s outdoor “living history” museum, and it outshines all of the places like it that I’ve seen – probably because it was the first of its kind in the world. (And it’s huge! Check out its map!). My guidebook hit the nail on the head when it said, “Partly because of the attention paid to accuracy, and partly due to the admirable lack of commercialization, Skansen manages to avoid the tackiness associated with similar ventures in other countries.” It was very enjoyable.

The boats. Our Stockholm Card allowed us to take the ferries from island to island for free, so we took a nice ride from Norrmalm (the city’s modern, commercial center) to Djurgården, a beautiful green island that is home to the Vasa Museum, Skansen, and Gröna Lund. (Aerial picture also snagged from Stockholm Visitors Board). We also took a canal boat tour around Djurgården and learned a little bit about the history of the area. It was a nice tour and it was equally pleasant to have the opportunity to sit down for an hour!

The History. Take Gamla Stan, for example. The “old town” section of Stockholm has been around since the 13th century, and has plenty of tiny alleys, walkways, and restaurants to explore. Stockholm has royal palaces, a medieval museum, an ancient cathedral… and what other city has a 340-year-old reconstructed warship sitting in a museum? You tell me.

Getting lost. It’s really easy to get lost in old cities. The streets are never set in a nice, even grid, so part of the fun is wandering around with almost no idea where you area. Thankfully, the city really isn’t that big, so you’ll inevitably run into a bridge, canal, or building to reorient yourself.

Craziest moments:

Repacking the bike box in the middle of Västra Skogen. We thought we might be able to take the bike (sans box) on the subway. The station agent on duty sternly told us otherwise. Mr. Station Agent then watched in amazement as, in less than 10 minutes, we disassembled Max’s bike in the plaza just outside the station’s entrance and fit it inside the box. Poof! Bike? What bike? We were let through the subway entrance gate with a smile of wonder.

The Muffin Café. AMAZING GOURMET MUFFINS. Wow. And wow again. (Highly recommended. I think it’s on Drottningsgatan).

Vilda Musen! The “Wild Mouse” ride at Gröna Lund amusement park. You had to pay per ride (we had free admission to the park), so we chose one ride, and we chose right! A wild little roller coaster. Such a blast.

And finally…

Our Stockholm visit, by the numbers:
Boat rides: 3
Subway rides: at least 10
Bike box toting stints: 2 (could have been worse)
Hours spent looking for a restaurant we couldn’t find: 1 ½
Hours spent trying to repair camera buying a new camera: 3 ½
New cameras: 1! (Didn't get to use it til Uppsala, though.)
Soccer fans spotted on the subway on their way to the big game (Djurgarden IF vs. Hammarby IF): hundreds and hundreds!
Drunken soccer fans we saw get arrested: 1
Hours of fun: lots and lots!

The new camera:


The next installment: off to Uppsala!

Keep reading, keep commenting, love,
Linnea

8 comments:

Chris said...

Some of this kind of reminds me of the trip Judy, Carole, your mom and I took to NYC and DC. The - this is a great thing to do because we get to sit part - expecially.

So happy to be getting my blog fixes again!

lauren said...

it all looks so dreamy. ah, to be young and travelling again.

sounds like you're having some fun!

Carlotosway said...

I dont have any memory or the stockholm subway. did we ride it when we visited last? Looks like it puts NYC's subway to shame, although judging by the pictures, the ridership is much lower. All the stations were empty!

Definitely remember the Vasa museum, I think that when we were there they still had a bunch of misters on it to keep the wood from warping.

I dont think we went to old town much either. that wouldve been fun.

Where are your paper-wrapped sugar cubes??

Sally said...

yum, the Muffin Cafe sounds like fun. :-) Would love to have seen the Station Agent at the subway station. Bike? What bike? haha

Betsy said...

Speaking of The Station Agent, I recommend the movie of the same name (starring Peter Dinklage). He also plays a role in Death at a Funeral, an ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL British farce that's out right now. You've got to see it!

Glad you had a good time touring and that there wasn't more damage to yourself, either physically or to your pride!

The Stockholm Metro is fabulous! Was there a particular "artist" who envisioned that?

Anonymous said...

Ha!! it lets me comment now! thats so exciting!
Sweden looks soooo lovely, i'm so glad everything is working out well there. I had a near miss with my camera the other day too--im in the process of trying to post pictures so we'll see.
you know how sometimes you pick up a book and you get kind of lost in it and feel like your in another place? Thats what reading your blog is like, and its so nice!
Lots of Senegalese (and otherwise° love,
Zoe

bbElf (a.k.a. panda) said...

Awesome! I really want to go to Sweden now (and I mean "now" as in at this exact moment in time, not as in from this point onward).

"Vilda Musen!" is going to be my new all-purpose exclamation...

Linnea said...

Oy, comments! I love it! Thanks for reading!

Chris -- sitting is awesome! :-)

Lauren -- traveling has definitely been a lot of fun, and so is writing about it all.

Carl -- we need to sit down and compare notes. My only memory from my first trip to the Vasa Museum was the cool turny-vending-machine locker contraption that we put our coats in. The museum is PIMPED OUT now. You have to come see it. And I haven't seen ANY paper wrapped sugar cubes yet, can you believe it?

Mom -- the muffins were absolutely devine. Dare I say it -- better than Cheeseboard?

Betsy -- many, many different artists have contributed to the subway, but I don't know if there was a person with the primary vision. The "paper maiche" stations were my favorites. Incredible, really, worth the trip to Stockholm alone.

Zoe!!! I changed my commenting system because I realized I might be locking out people w/o Google identities. I can't wait to see pictures from Senegal!

Panda -- Sweden is absolutely worth the visit. As is the Vilda Musen. :-)