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!
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.
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.
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
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,
Friday, August 24, 2007
Le Tour de Sweden, Stage 2: Sightseeing in Stockholm