Last day abroad

Trip Start Aug 11, 2012
1
14
Trip End Aug 26, 2012


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Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stockholm is a very interesting city that I would love to come back to sometime. Unfortunately we only had the day here.  However, it seems we picked a good day to come.  We stumbled across an international triathlon taking place.  All I can say to that is that I do not envy those who had to swim in that lake, it has to be freezing.  We meandered around and found a magic show, which was actually rather good.  There was just a street performer doing magic tricks, and he was quite fantastic.  There was a HUGE zombie march going on downtown as well, with people packed in on the sidewalk as far as the eye could see (and Stockholm is rather flat, so that's a ways).  We meandered around a pedestrian street, found some good coffee, and had an all around good day.

Stockholm has a lot of interesting theme restaurants, hotels and hostels.  While we never actually made it to a theme place, we heard of a few.  For example, there is an old prison that is now a hotel.  You can rent prison clothes, eat prison food and get locked into your room at night.  There is also a hostel that is inside of a dysfunctional jumbo jet.  There is a restaurant on a boat, as well as another hostel on another boat.  So many creative things to see!

Apart from meandering we also had a tour and went into some museums.  First we went to the Vasa Museum, which is apparently the most visited museum in all of Sweden.  I think we all would have liked it a lot better were we not thoroughly exhausted and a bit annoyed by the checkout process from the boat this morning.  Even so, it was still interesting. 

In the 1600s, the king of Sweden was also the king of Poland.  The people did not approve of this.  They did not see how he could be loyal to 2 countries at once.  They also did not approve of the fact that the king was Catholic.  Apparently that’s not a good thing in 17th century Sweden.  So this king is dethroned and a new king is put in his place.  This starts a bit of a kerfuffle. The old king is still the king of Poland, but he’s been kicked out of Sweden.  Thus begins a war between Sweden and Poland.

The new Swedish king wanted a strong ship to fight in the war.  He wanted a ship with 2 gun decks, which had only been done a few times before.  He wanted an elite warship.  As a result, he hires a Dutchman named Henrik Hybertsson to build his ship.  Henrik builds the ship, dying one year before its maiden voyage.  The ship is lavishly decorated with sculptures and paints.  Many sculptures are direct insults to the Poles, their enemies.  The ship is completed with all sorts of new things.  The cannons are all the same size and model to reduce confusion as to which cannonball goes where.  There are two gun decks from which to fire.  The hull is carved and painted and the ship is christened the Vasa. All is well, and it’s time to set sail on the maiden voyage to go fight the Poles!

Well, the maiden voyage didn’t last so very long.  The Vasa never made it to Poland.  It didn’t even make it out of Sweden.  Heck, it never even got out of STOCKHOLM.  It went about 1,300 meters before a breeze caused the ship to capsize.  About 30 people died in the ship.  Luckily for the others, they had capsized so close to shore that those who escaped were able to swim back.

It turns out that there had been a few issues.  The ship had been made taller and more top heavy to accommodate for two gun decks.  However, the bottom wasn’t made heavier and the ship was not made wide enough.  The only difference between the Vasa, which lasted 30 minutes, and the Apple, which lasted 30 years, was 1 meter in width.  Had the Vasa been just a bit wider it would have been stable enough to handle the wind.  As is, it never got out of the harbor. 

After the Vasa Museum we went to Stockholm City Hall.  It was pretty neat to see.  Although I must say, the fact that City Hall is the second most popular tourist attraction is kind of saying something for the museum scene.  In that there doesn’t seem to be much of one.  Maybe we were just spoiled by St. Petersburg, where the government owns everything and makes it all into museums.  Sweden, on the other hand, is neutral towards just about everything so isn’t as likely to confiscate something and turn it into a museum. 

We also did a quick tour of the palace, although it was very quick indeed.  We had to detour around the triathlon and ended up arriving at the palace an hour before closing.  I think that was the fastest I have ever seen any sort of museum. 

Tonight we are on a quest for Swedish meatballs, then we are off to the Ice Bar.  This is a bar made entirely of ice.  The glasses are made of ice, the seats are made of ice, the bar is made of ice… it sounds very interesting.  It also sounds quite cold, but interesting nonetheless.  There are a few around Europe, but this is the original.  They give you parkas and mittens to go in to this giant walk-in freezer filled with ice that has been etched.  There were some tables (made of ice), some chairs (made of ice) but mostly just way too many people.  It was neat to try it though. 

Tomorrow is the plane back to the US.  While this has been a lovely trip, I am ready to go home.  We have traveled all over.  The favorite stop on the trip was likely Amsterdam, although all of us agree that we would like to see Helsinki again.  Only this time we would get a better guide.  A cruise is a lovely way to discover which places you want to come back to and which places aren’t worth as much time.  It’s perfect for getting a taste of a lot of different places. 

And remember, don't sleep on the floor in airplanes.  Apparently this has happened often enough on Scandinavian Airlines that they have to make an announcement.  See you all next time!


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