Tuesday, July 28- Buffalo, New York / Wednesday, July 29 - Stockholm, Sweden
We arose early, in anticipation of the coming trip. I stopped at Como Park, at 7 a.m., and Akron Falls thereafter, to leave last instructions before taking an early quit.We finished packing and took a cab to Buffalo Airport . There, we boarded a Continental flight to Newark Airport. The SAS/Continental terminal in Newark is spacious and airy. We waited for 2 hours before boarding SAS flight #904 for Stockholm, Sweden. The trip would take us seven hours flying time, at 600 mph. The food was good and alcohol was plentiful, as were small children. We got no sleep. We arrived Wed., 9:30 a.m. (local time) at Arlanda Airport, in Stockholm, Sweden It was sunny, cool and 68°.
We retrieved our luggage, with no problem, and caught an SAS bus to the city terminal, 26 miles away. We only had to walk two blocks over to check into the Stockholm Sheraton. After a quick change, we strolled over the causeway, to the Royal Palace, for the changing of the guard ceremony at noon. A marching band, in police uniforms, led the parade and performed for an hour.(yawn) It was hot , the courtyard was very crowded and we were tired. We then hiked over to the King Gustav II Torg, in front of the opera, where we purchased tickets for the 3 hour city tour at 2 p.m., for 400K. We had cafe au lait, in the outdoor cafe behind the opera, (38K) while we waited for the bus.
The bus tour stopped at the Royal Palace to view the crown jewels. Gold, diamonds, emeralds and an array of Royal treasures are artfully displayed in secure, glass enclosed exhibits. Then, we took a brief overview of the harbor area and central city (Nobel prize site), before heading out to Djurgarden. There, we toured the Wasa Museum. The Wasa is an enormous, elaborately carved warship that had sunk in Stockholm harbor in the 1700's. The vessel was top heavy. She rolled over and sunk on her maiden voyage. Reputedly, the king had authorized the extra level of cannons whose added weight sank the boat, so no official blame was ever attached. Impressive carvings and scale of size made it an interesting stop. Photos taken inside the museum did not turn out well, in that it is very dark, to prevent further deterioration of the vessel.
Later, we walked through Kungstradgarden. It is a very large central square that is flanked by cafes and food vendors. Inside the square, a stage had been erected for performers and protesters. There were chess games with outsized pieces, bocce, game tables, fountains and benches in the small square. It was very crowded at almost any time of day. The square was vibrant and interesting, but of course attracted the requisite number of hustlers. It is interesting during the day, forget it at night. We had smorebords (open faced sandwiches) in an outdoor cafe. It was sunny, 71 and beautiful.
We walked by the palace again and through Gamla Stan (Old Town), checking out restaurants and shopping. This section of town is quaint, with narrow pedestrian streets and lots of shops. It is very picturesque. There are many small restaurants and cafes throughout the area. We kept going until 7:30 p.m., before we retired, exhausted with the day's travel.
Thursday, July 30 - Stockholm, Sweden
We arose late and at 9 A.M. , breakfasted at the large buffet in the hotel. It seemed like everyone ate like a horse. There were several types of of fish, breads, cereals, eggs, meats and cheeses. Juice and coffee were served in unlimited quantities.
We walked over and through the nearby Stadhus (old city hall) and admired this venerable structure. Then, a ten minute walk to Riddarsholmkirken, in Gamla Stan. In this old and elaborately carved Church, a score or so of Swedish monarchs are buried. It has an impressive array of Royal tombs and vaults.
We caught the Djurgarden ferry (60 K for 2 round trip tickets) and docked at the GronaLund amusement park. Djurgarden (deer park) is a large island in Stockholm harbor. Located upon it, are several large museums, an amusement park, a few restaurants and a large "cultural park" called Skansen. Skansen houses a few score of historical buildings from the 1700's. Zoo exhibits are interspersed throughout. It is very well attended. We enjoyed seeing 'reindeer" close up, with their fuzzy antlers. A few rough hewn, Lapland, tent-like structures were interesting. They are similar to Mongolian yurts and Indian teepees. Admission to Skansen is 35 K each and was enjoyable.
Next, we walked down the central boulevard to a magnificent, turreted edifice called the Nordic Museet (30 K each). It was loaded with kids, but the exhibits weren't very good. It looked like the building must have housed a much more impressive collection that had then moved on to better quarters.
We walked back to GronaLund for a coke and watched a bungee jumper plummet off of a crane. They must be crazy! The ferry, back to Gamla Stan, was crowded with strollers. The locals take their kids everywhere and cart food and beverages underneath the strollers, for a family picnic. Gamla Stan, with its cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, was very crowded with tourists. It was overcast, cool and in the 60's. We repaired to the hotel for a nap.
At 6:30, we again walked to Gamla Stan, for dinner at Kristina's. It is an old and comfortable restaurant. Salad, entree and mineral water were 270K. After dinner, we walked up to Kungstradgarden to watch the frenetic activity. The Chess games, speakers and other activities were entertaining. We walked further through the downtown area and listened to music in yet another shopping square. It was cool and nice. Loads of tourists were about. Footsore, we retired at 9 p.m. It was still very light out due to the northern latitude.
Friday, July 31 - Stockholm, Sweden
We breakfasted early, at the hotel, and walked to the nearby Stadhus plaza. There, we bought 2 tickets for the Drottningholm Palace cruise, at 60K each. It is a pleasant one hour cruise, south along the Riddar River. As we approached the pale yellow Royal palace, with green spires, it reminded us of Versailles. For 25K each, we toured this 18th century masterpiece. The furnishings are ornate and well preserved. It is a good snapshot of Sweden in the 1700's. The current king and his family live at Drottningholm a great deal of the time. Their quarters are closed to tourists. Afterward, we strolled the length of a large formal garden, with a central fountain. Next, we toured the Chinese Pavilion, on the grounds, for 25K each. It had been a summer tea house, and was laden with oriental art. On our way back, we saw another "changing of the guard." The king was in residence. The boat ride, back along the river, was pleasant and took 45 minutes. A bus ride to Drottningham is quicker, but not as scenic.
From the jetty, we walked through the waterfront to the Nyboplan Area, hoping to catch the last ferry to Millesgarden. We were too late. We shifted gears and took a subway to Ropsten, for 24K and a bus to the island of Lindigo. Finally, we walked the last 1/2 mile to Millesgarden. It is the home and sculpture court of Carl Milles. Perched on a cliff, high above the river, it is beautiful. Huge renditions of his statues, which adorn fountains throughout Europe, were placed atop columns and in various nooks throughout. It is beautiful and a must stop. The bus and train back to Gamla Stan took us only 20 minutes.
We stopped off at the Cattelin restaurant, in Gamla Stan, for fish, fries and a Tuborg beer. (350K.) We were still unsure of the tipping procedure. Thirty percent is already included in the bill for tax and service. When questioned, the waitress seemed to indicate that her tip was not included. It can be confusing.
We again walked up to Kungstradgarden to view the colorful elements at play. It is a great people show, if you are careful. It was in the 60's and sunny, in the early evening. We were pretty tired and footsore, so we took a slow walk, back along the river, to the hotel. It was 7:30 P.M.. We were ready to watch some TV and retire. CNN was a favorite with us, or the English SkyeNews. It is interesting what a lifeline an English language station becomes. All day long, the usual verbal cues are unintelligible. This breeds a sense of isolation. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we enjoyed the scenery. Food and beer prices were very expensive. The subway and busses were clean, efficient and cheap.
Saturday, August 1 - Stockholm, Sweden
We got up at 5 a.m. and watched CNN. After an early breakfast, we walked through the downtown area. We caught the 9:03 A.M. train, for the 50 minute ride to Uppsala (120K round trip for 2). There, we toured the Uppsala cathedral. It is enormous, airy, light and ornate. Several monarchs and Botanist Karl Linnaeus are buried there.
Then, on to Uppsala Slot (castle). The view is beautiful but the tour was not worth 40K each. After walking to the bus station, we took bus #29 to Gamla Uppsala. (34K) We almost ended up in god knows where, because the old town was not immediately recognizable from the bus. It is a series of small mounds with an old wooden church and a small farm. Vikings of long ago had held sacrificial rites here and wove a legend of sorcery and mysticism around the place.However, the skies were a beautiful bright blue and it was warm and sunny. We wandered around the area for an hour or so. There is a charming restaurant there called Mattsgarden. We stopped on the patio and had some mineral water. (30K) The old church was also picturesque. Gamla Uppsala is an old sacrificial ground for the early Norsemen. As a modern tourist attraction, it leaves something to be desired. We caught the 2:10 bus back to Uppsala and the 3:13 train to Stockholm. It was S.R.O. for an hour, with hundreds of backpackers riding the rails. Most of them looked tired and disheveled. We stopped at the hotel for a nap and to freshen up.
At 6 p.m., we walked over to Gamla Stan and had a pretty good dinner with wine, at Rubino's Italian restaurant. It was a charming place, with an outdoor cafe for drinkers and diners. Later, we walked past the palace and under the bridge, to "Stromgarterran" , an outdoor cafe on the river. It has a great view of the harbor. We had a glass of draft beer.
We strolled across the stroget for a last walk and enjoyed the evening, before turning in early to pack for the trip to Gothenburg. We had a nice stay in Stockholm. It is an interesting city, if expensive. Two to three days here are enough. Carpe diem.
Joseph Xavier Martin