Our last day in Stockholm
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.