You may have assumed from the tone of my previous post that the trip was over. The cruise had indeed finished, and we disembarked. However our flight home wasn’t till late (10:40pm) so we had all day to explore Stockholm’s scenic sights. The disembarkation process was remarkably smooth. We basically just walked off the ship. All accounts had been finalised, and our luggage, which we had left out the night before, was waiting for us on the dock. We hopped into a one of the line of taxis that were waiting and headed for the train station. We took a rather circuitous route in the taxi, as most of downtown Stockholm seems to be a construction zone, but we got there, and immediately (and somewhat fortuitously) found the lockers we needed to store our bags for the day. We bought our tickets for the Arlanda Express train to the airport – it wasn’t really necessary to pre-book, as the train runs frequently, but we were there, so we thought we might as well. (Note there is also a bus to the airport which is a lot cheaper but it is much slower and has to obviously navigate traffic.) We were amused by these graphic warning signs on the lifts at the station:
No idea what this says in Swedish, but it looks dangerous!
No idea what this says in Swedish, but it looks dangerous!
Having organised ourselves, we headed to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. The old city centre is contained on a small island and it is a delightful mess of narrow cobbled lanes, charming shops and cafes, quirky sculptures and impressive churches. Not to mention the Royal Palace. It can get a bit crammed with tourists, but armed with our trusty Rick Steves self-guided walk we set out to explore and manged to (mostly) dodge the worst of the crowds. See the captions under the photos for more descriptions:
Sweet statue. I did not notice this, but according to Wikipedia, the individual figures – a mother, a father, and a child – can be moved and rotated along tracks in the base.
Statue of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson , born probably in the 1390s. He was a Swedish mountain man and saviour, as well as the commander of the national Swedish army (from 1435). He was the leader of the Engelbrecht insurrection in 1434 against the German-dominated government of Erik of Pomerania. That’s all I know!
I know no details about this but I love them!
An English Pub. Naturally.
The benefit of self giuded walks is that you can wait & let the big tour groups pass and have the street (mostly) to yourself.
The Iron Boy – at 15cm tall, this is one of the smallest public monuments anywhere. The coins and candy give you an idea of the scale.
This is one of the “modern” portals in Gamla Stan, designed in 1935. On the left side of the portal sculpture is a seated man holding a coat of arms with the weapons of the General Assembly, a lion crowned (in colour the lion is yellow on a blue background and holds a grid in front of it missing on the sculpture). He symbolizes customs activities ashore. To the right is a mermaid with waves as a background symbolizing customs activity along the Swedish coasts.
Mårten Trotzig Alley, the narrowest street in Stockholm, named after a 16th century German merchant
These rounded cobblestones were really challenging to walk on.
View down an alleyway – I just love the architecture.
This Viking age Rune stone is built into a wall in Gamla Stan. It is older than the city itself.
Stortorget, Stockholm’s oldest Square.
Previously the Stock Exchange, this 18th century building now houses the Nobel Museum. Note the queue waiting to enter.
Old well (1770s) in Stortorget.
St George and the Dragon – a copy in Bronze of the one in the cathedral.
Love these old wrought iron signs.
Typical little cobbled lane with colourful painted facades.
The same lane from the other end.
Fürchtet Gott! Ehret den König! — “Fear God! Honour the King!”
I love these neogothic gargoyles!
We visited Storkyrkan, the Stockholm Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of St Nicholas. It was founded in the 13th century, and has been rebuilt and remodeled several times in its 700 year life. The interior is mostly Gothic, but had been hidden under plaster until restoration in 1908. The baroque facade was added to bring it more in keeping with the nearby Royal Palace. The cathedral is used today for Royal weddings & other ceremonies. It was here that the Swedish reformer Olaus Petri spread the Lutheran message. The magnificent St George and the Dragon statue inside the cathedral was carved from oak and elk horn in 1489. Some say it is symbolic of the Swedish victory over the Danes in 1471.
The striking interior is notable for the unusual red brick columns
The 17th century altar is made of ebony & silver. The Christ figure looks very military.
A very modern stained glass window.
The royal boxes (one on each side) are carved wood, dating from 1684
Angels upholding the crown over the royal box
This 4m high bronze candelabra has stood in the Cathedral for 600 years.
This statue is truly magnificent.
A very gnarly dragon!
The princess waiting to be rescued (aka Sweden being saved from the Danes)
From Gamla Stan we took a Hop-On-Hop-Off (‘HOHO’) boat to the island of Djurgården. With so many islands, commuting by boat is definitely the way to go in Stockholm. Djurgården is the home of several museums and a couple of theme parks, most importantly (for us) the most popular site in Stockholm – the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a magnificent warship, launched in 1628, which sank on her maiden voyage before it even left Stockholm Harbour. It became buried in mud and lay there for 333 years, until it was raised in 1961 – the best preserved ship of its time anywhere in the world. The Vasa now lives in a fantastic museum, a must-see for anyone visiting Stockholm, even if you think an old warship does not interest you at all. The entire ship is displayed, plus lots of exhibits about the history, recovery, conservation and more. The carving on the boat is incredible – there are over 700 carved figures and decorations covering the ship, and they are remarkably well-preserved. They were once brightly coloured in late medieval style – some traces of paint remain and enabled archaeologists to determine what colours were used.
Beautiful buildings line the foreshore
Locals & tourists enjoying the sunny weather
This was just opposite where our ship was berthed.
The miliary ensign is flown each day over the citadel, indicating that the country is at peace. Phew.
The Museum. The height of the masts shows how high the original ship was.
The Vasa – the best we could manage to capture the whole ship. You can see the multiple levels of observation decks in the museum.
Looking down from deck level. The tiny people below give a sense of the size of this ship
The stern is the most richly decorated.
Scale model of the Vasa. The colours are believed to be how it originally looked.
The rigging did not survive, but the pulleys are original.
The Quarter Galleries were used by musketeers. They are decorated by sea creatures – tritons & mermaids.
There are close to 500 carved figures on the Vasa
The Royal coat of arms. Only the lighter timber pieces are reconstructions, the majority is original.
A model of the ship in cross-section shows what life on board might have been like.
Detail of the “Life on Board” model
Detail of the “Life on Board” model
There are lots of detailed models showing what the original sculptures would most likely have looked like.
You could spend hours studying the detail in the carvings
There was a sign on the floor saying “selfie spot”, so we obeyed.
Through facial reconstruction (and some imagining) models have been constructed to tell the stories of people who perished when the Vasa sank.
The skeletal remains of at least 17 people were found during the excavation of Vasa. Most of these are men from the crew, but there are also two women and a child, who were probably guests. Some of these are nearly complete skeletons, in one case including hair, fingernails and even a complete brain, but others are only partial, due to disturbance of the wreck in the many salvage attempts over the years.
The king Gustavus Adolphus, depicted as a child being crowned by 2 griffins.
A Lesson learnt
We stayed at the Vasa Museum until our brains were full, and headed to the HOHO boat dock (after indulging in ridiculously huge ice-creams at the nearby cafe – we think there was a new server on duty!). Along with 30 or so of our new best friends, we discovered that there are two red HOHO boat services in Stockholm, and the one we had tickets for stopped at 3:30pm. You would think that it would run at least till the museums closed. Not to mention that it stays light for about 5 more hours and was perfect boating weather. A trap for the uninitiated! (HINT: Check the timetable next time!) After some vaguely helpful advice, google maps and sharing ignorance with other stranded travellers we found the local ferry (fortunately covered by our Stockholm Pass) and finally made it back to the city centre.
I think this is a car park. Clever way to mark the floor numbers.
The Royal Dramatic Theatre
Stockholm as depicted on the facade of the Post Office
We still had a few hours before we needed to be at the airport, but we were pooped and ready to go. We still had to make our way back to the station, find the lockers we had stashed our bags in, find the Arlanda Express train – all of which we managed but not without some difficulty and more steps than our tired sore feet desired! We got to the airport before the booking desk was opened, but eventually sank gratefully into the fairly comfy seats in the airport lounge and waited for our flight.
And with that our holiday was over.
I still have some thoughts to share about the trip, the ship, the food … so stay tuned and I’ll be back soon.