Stockholm – Another sparkling day spent in buses and museums. You can imagine being a Viking on a day like this, cruising through the inlets and isles of the Swedish coast, riding the wind on a dragon boat, monarch of the world!
Some museums are worth it. The Vasa Museum in Stockholm is a jaw dropper! Nothing had prepared me for the impact of this one-of-a-kind, perfectly thought-through museum. Walk into the darkened hallway and enter the cavernous museum hall and there is a 17th century war ship levitated from the deep like something in a fevered dream of Pirates of the Caribbean, except that not even Jack Hawkins could imagine the demented level of decoration (when you look up the work ornate in the dictionary … or did I say that before ?) – spars and shrouds and rigging all looking like it is ready to sail off into a night sky to join The Flying Dutchman. Instead, on its maiden voyage in 1628 the weight of all that decoration caused it to capsize, then sink. Its masts sticking up from the bottom were a hazard of the harbor until the embarassed king (who had taken over design when the shipbuilder died) had the masts cut off.
The museum design allows you to view a ship model up close, then go from the top floor down level by level, giving you a close-up view of every detail from the crows nest to the keel. Videos, slide show overlays, and artifacts document both the building of the ship, the tremendous engineering feat which brought it up in one piece from its resting place of over 500 years, and its meticulously imagined and executed restoration.
The next Notable Site was the Stockholm City hall where they hold the Nobel Prize banquet each December 10, the anniversary of the death date of Alfred Nobel. It was fun imagining oneself dancing in the art-deco gold-mosaic ball room. The mosaic which dominates the hall does its best to be ecumenical, with Europe and the US represented on one side of the giant goddess of knowledge, and the domes of Istanbul, a tiger, an elephant, some vaguely Chinese mountains and an Arabian flag on the side of Asia. What about Africa? India? South America? I guess to the Swedes of 1920 most of the Southern Hemisphere was just geography.
After the official bus tour I joined up with a fellow cruiser and took the shuttle back to central Stockholm. Stockholmers tall, healthy, erect, slender, tending to blond. Streets clean, wide, lined with parks and trees. What’s not to like? (It’s a bait-and-switch – think about December when you have only 5 hours of weak sunlight per day!)
[Note: one of the cruise entertainers has written several blog posts about this same trip – for a different point of view, check out Duke Zoran’s Blog on Stockholm]
Tourist shopping tip: to avoid impulse purchases and subsequent buyer’s remorse, be pre-armed with an idea of something you would actually like to buy; if you find it, you have a successful souvenir; if not, you at least have a way to fend off souvenir hawkers. My comrade was looking for knitting wool; we poked around some very interesting shops in the course of finding something wonderful.
Next day – on the bus once more for a tour of the Viking Golden Hoard in the Historical Museum and a visit to the Royal Armoury in the basement of the Royal Palace. The lean and acidulous retired professor leading the tour enthralled us with the political maneouvreing between Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark during the 18th – 20th centuries – seems the Swedes were quite accustomed to cutting their coat to suit the prevailing winds (AKA neutrality).
It was a beautiful day to be passing in a dungeon (the locale of the armoury) so we were glad when the tour brought us back to the boat. The clouds were hovering and the wind freshening as we left Stockholm harbor , but now post-lunch we are on the sunny side of the boat and Mom is wrapped in a cozy terry robe snoozing on our balcony as the Baltic Sea rustles by.