This wasn't our first trip to Sweden. We had been there before when we picked up our Volvo last year. So we knew what to expect. Tall, blonde, good looking people well dressed in khakis and pricey fleece. Sweden is like one giant J. Crew catalog. We knew to expect that everyone would be able to speak English as good as we can. And we also knew to expect expensive prices. The Scandinavian area of Europe is considerably more expensive than the rest of Europe. We can't get out of a McDonald's in Scandinavia without spending between the equivalent of $50.00 - $70.00. Just on hamburgers and fries. And no, the expensive hamburgers and fries aren't any better than the rest of the fast-food slop you can buy in any other McDonald's around the world.
We got off of the Costa Fortuna and hopped right on a bus that took us to the old town section of Stockholm. I have loved traveling to these old town sections of large cities in Northern Europe. Most of the large towns in Germany, like Berlin or Stuttgart, don't have an intact old town section anymore due to the extensive bombing Germany sustained in World War II.
Here are the kidlets in front of a fountain in the square Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm and basically the area that the whole town grew around. Stockholm can trace its beginnings to the 13th century.
The old town is called Gamla Stan, or Staden mella broarna which means the "Town between the Bridges." Gamla Stan is situated on the island of Stadsholmen.
Stockholm is full of old churches that were built by the different ethnic groups that settled in Stockholm.
This here is a runestone. A runestone was usually a memorial to a deceased man. This particular runestone was brought here and used in the construction of the oldest part of Stockholm. This stone has been dated to 1000 AD, so it is 200 years older than the oldest part of Stockholm. It's known as the Kåkbrinken. Our good friend who was traveling with us, Mr. Point, was quite disappointed to find out that the inscriptions had been redefined and painted in red so that they would stand out. He kept walking along saying, "Now who would take a red Sharpie pen to a perfectly good runestone?" That Mr. Point. He's so funny. For more information on runestones, click here.
Next on our list was a church that has a wooden horse statue in it. When we arrived at the church, our group was very dismayed to find out that while children were free to go inside and look, adults had to pay the equivalent of $10.00 to rest our eyes on the splendor of the wooden horse. My husband and Mr. Point came up with the brilliant idea of sending our kids in (for free!) to take pictures so we could take a look. I told you we travel on the cheap.
Here are some pictures so now when you go to Stockholm, you don't need to pay the $10.00 fee to look inside either. You're welcome.
After Gamla Stan, next on our list was the changing of the Royal Guard.
It was an intimate experience that we shared with over 5,000 other people who packed themselves into tightly roped off areas around the palace.
We got there early and staked out premium spots in the first row by the ropes. Mrs. Point sectioned herself off from the crowds with her stroller. That still didn't stop hoards of people trying to muscle into our space.
Here is sweet Mrs. Point calming sitting, and silently seething while Mrs. "I Covet Your Front Row Spot" edges up and keeps shooting a look that can only say 'I will kill you in your sleep if you don't move.' I tried to get a photo of the look she kept giving to the top of Mrs. Point's head, but I only managed to capture this one, a look of complete annoyance. Crowds in Europe in the summer, gotta love it.
And it begins! The ceremony is in Swedish and English, so of course, it takes twice as long.
And what is a Swedish royal changing of the guard without a marching band!
And what is a Swedish royal changing of the guard if the marching band doesn't play the theme song to Batman by Danny Elfman. Wait... what? Is Danny Elfman from Stockholm? Why are they playing Batman? What about Gotham City's cry for help says Swedish nobility? Not much, other than the song sounds cool played by a marching band. In Stockholm. Don't worry, we didn't get it either.
The crowds dispersed and we started wandering around Stockholm. This is what we saw.
Stockholm sits in an archipelago of 14 islands where the freshwater Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea.
Walking around this beautiful city, full of beautiful people, you get the feeling that the Swedes are an intelligent people. Capable of doing anything it would seem. But apparently not.
This building with masts rising from it is the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a ship that was built between 1626-1628. It sank after sailing less than a mile on its maiden voyage. She was located again and salvaged in 1961 and then turned into the museum you see now. The Vasa was built top heavy and although it showed significant instability in port, it was still allowed to launch. It would seem nobody had the courage to tell the Swedish King Gustavus that his shiny new boat wasn't going to float. After it sank everyone stood around pointing fingers at each other saying, "Well, don't look at me!" So Swedes lack boat building skills and the ability to own up to mistakes. Should I worry that both me and my husband drive Swedish cars? Did I ever mention that within five minutes of getting in our new Volvo, still on the grounds of the factory it was built in, a little piece broke off on the inside? It's never a good sign to walk into a car factory holding a piece of your car in your hands.
Don't worry Sweden. No hard feelings. How could I ever hold a grudge against a place like this?
Stay tuned for Stockholm - Part 2!
Until next time...