Yesterday morning we met Gail and Darryl at their hotel and proceeded to walk to and around Gamla Stan, the old town.
Stockholm is made up of many islands (the Stockholm Archipelago is generally thought to have around 24,000 islands, but the actual number could be as high as 100,000.) Gamla Stan is its own island, with winding, cobblestone streets and old buildings. Some may be residential, but there were a lot of little shops, cafes and restaurants. We wandered into two streets which were definitely tourist central – cheesy and cheap souvenirs and overpriced boutiques galore.
One of the old palaces is situated in the northeast corner of the island. The king and queen live in a different palace on another island to the west these days, but the palace on Gamla Stan still sees a lot of pomp and circumstance with a daily Changing of the Guard ceremony. Every day, the Guard Battalion and the Dragon Battalion switch. We saw a parade of mounted guards – all playing instruments – enter the palace on Wednesday, which is apparently how one of the battalions begins their shift. When we went yesterday, the other battalion showed up in a big tour bus. Kinda hilarious.
After we watched the ceremony, we walked back to our apartment, going up the tower of City Hall on the way. Great views. We braved the Stockholm Tunnelbana after lunch and went to Djurgården again to visit the Vasa Museum.
The Vasa is a mighty warship from around 1628, commissioned by the crown. It was to be their pride and joy, and they decked it out completely with elaborate carvings and a fantastic paint job, including gold. However, they sorta didn’t account for the size of the ship and didn’t put in enough ballast, so it capsized and sank within minutes of setting off – right there in the harbor. What with one thing and another, they lost track of the ship and didn’t find the wreck until 1956. The story of how it sank is hilarious; the story of how they brought it back up and conserved it is technologically incredible. While treating and rebuilding the ship – it’s 95% original – they built a special building for it and you can now see the 250+ foot long ship inside the Vasa Museum.
This morning Max and I got some fun pastries and local strawberries before taking the train to Norrköping. The train itself was marvelously wonderful – clean, comfortable, and beautiful – and the scenery was gorgeous. I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the flight from London, and reading it on the train was awesome. (And now I know a lot of the locations mentioned, too!)
We went to Malin and Jimmy’s house almost immediately after getting here, and spent a great afternoon and evening barbecuing and chewing the fat. Can’t wait for their wedding tomorrow! (Oops – I mean today.)