Stockholm (May 15, 2017)

Our approach to Stockholm was magnificent. We came through a long, narrow channel that afforded us views of horses galloping toward the shore, dense forested areas, tall granite rock walls, swans, islands large and small, and one brightly colored house after the next, each with its own dock. I decided to unveil my last clean outfit and enjoy the view from a window seat at the coffee bar.

Sweden, with a population of 10 million, is the third largest country in the EU. For centuries it was a force to be reckoned with in the Baltic since it controlled all of it including the land and water access that St. Petersburg now covets. Think IKEA, Vikings, Pippi Longstocking, Absolut Vodka, ABBA, meatballs, Ingmar Bergman, the five Nobel prizes, and those chewy little red fish.

Stockholm, situated on 14 islands, certainly reflects a proud, impressive history. We enjoyed a walking tour around town with a funny guide who made it very clear she would have no qualms about leaving us behind should we lollygag. She walked us past the Nobel Museum, impressive government buildings, really old town homes that were tall and narrow just as we imagined they would be, and impressive monuments to people we had, for the most part, never heard of. In the backyard of the Finish Church we visited Iron Boy, technically Little Boy Looking at the Moon, which at six inches tall is by far the smallest statue in town. This popular little naked dude is sitting on a low platform hugging his knees. Someone had knitted him a tiny scarf and his head was shinny from all the good luck rubs it receives on a daily basis.

The highlight of our city visit was a stop at the Vasa Museum, again with the warning that the bus would pull out without us should we lollygag. This place is cool! Here’s the deal: in August of 1628, with much fanfare, the brand spanking new warship Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage. An engineering oversight made it impossible for her to sail in even fair winds and calm seas and she promptly sank right in front of the huge, disbelieving crowd that had gathered both on shore and in small boats. In 1961 the wreck was salvaged in its entirety after being submerged for 333 years! A phenomenon made possible, in large part, by the fact that wood worms do not live in the Baltic. This museum with all its wow-factor was built with the specific intention of housing the ship which is 98% original.

After our city tour we went to the small medieval town of Sigtuna for a quick stroll around. It was quaint and picturesque. The standout for me was seeing a runic stone (a runestone) for the first time. I had never heard of them, actually. Here’s what I learned: Runes are not headstones (even though they look similar)! They might be in honor of someone who died but they might also mark territory, explain inheritance, boast about constructions, or tell of important events. I don’t remember how old the one we saw is but the concept dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries.

After a great day we headed back to the ship in time to enjoy watching some of the sail-away through the same beautiful channel we had been in this morning. We had a yummy dinner before enjoying Greg Scott, a UK recording artist who bills himself as the tallest violinist in the world.


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