Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sweden Stop

Our first port of call was Stockholm, Sweden. Connor learned to say "STOCKHOLM!" and she has the cutest rhythm to the way she matter-of-factly clucks the two syllables.Kirk woke up before 6:00 AM to venture out on the ship's decks. He wanted to welcome Sweden by photographing the famous Stockholm Archipelago as we cruised in. This latticework of 24,000 islands and smooth glacier-polished outcroppings dot a 150-mile stretch of the eastern coast. Connor and I stayed in bed, but it did look like a worthwhile wake up call in Kirk's photos! I wonder who lives in these incredible mansions in the middle the islands??!!?? Sweden lived up to the "green" stereotype rumored.We did get to see the tail end of the archipelago at breakfast. The ship's historian narrated the entry via overhead speakers. Look out Stockholm - here we come!Although if it had been up to our little Connor I think we would have stayed by the pool all day! She was a little reluctant to pass it by as we readied to disembark the ship. She especially loved gazing at the "big kids" splashing and swimming around.
Once we pryed Connor from the pool we skampered off the boat and took the public ferry immediately over to the Djurgarden island, which was used 400 years ago as the king's hunting grounds - but today houses some great tourist picks. Our first stop was to Skansen, Europe's original open-air folk museum founded in 1891. It's a huge park gathering more than 150 historic buildings (homes, churches, shops, schoolhouses) transplanted from all corners of Sweden. It was a kid-friendly way to kick off our day as Skansen not only had incredible architecture but also had a zoo interwoven throughout. It was a hot, sunny day yet we were delighted the crowds were minimal while we took in maximum fun! I would probably spend an entire day at Skansen if we had more time. It is much more of an all day event than the 2 hours we allowed."MOOOOOO!" says Connor (see her lips!)And the Moo Cow answered back with a "Moo!" of her own.Skansen's biggest hit was the "Bears Taking a Bath!" Connor loved watching the baby bears wrestle and frolic around in their "bath." Doesn't it look like the front one is looking right at us?!?Swedish phone booths are colorful and made me smile with the double half doors, the green wood and the red top!From Skansen we walked to the nearby Vasa Museum. Considered a #1 must-see spot in Stockholm, we made sure not to miss it.This glamorous but unseaworthy warship sank 20 minutes into her 1628 maiden voyage when a breeze caught the sails and blew her over. After 333 years at the bottom of Stockholm's harbor she rose again from the deep with the help of marine archeologists.The Vasa, while not quite the biggest ship in the world, had the most firepower, with two fearsome decks of cannons. The 500 carved wooden statues draping the ship - once painted in bright colors - are all symbolic of the king's power. Painstakingly restored, 95 percent of the wood is original.Here is a model of the ship in its pint size glory...We found the Vasa ship fascinating. The photos really don't do it justice since it won't all fit in one picture. And the 3 enormous masts poke through the roof of the building giving perspective on the size. It all felt very much like the "Goonies" pirate ship images to me.We walked from the island into town. It was a lengthy journey but it gave us the opportunity to experience Stockholm harbor-side. We found many beautiful buildings that made us do a doubletake.
You can't go to Stockholm's Old Town area (Gamla Stan) without noticing the teeny, tiny narrow alleys. They are everywhere. Definitely makes connecting streets easier, efficient, and a bit mysterious.We stumbled upon this fist-size Iron Boy statue - the tiniest public statue in Stockholm. Supposedly Swedish grannies knit caps for him in the winter! He was very cute.This is Stortorget, Stockholm's oldest square. It was the heart of the medieval city. On this day it was the site of where Connor fell asleep for her nap (with one shoe on and one shoe off, of course)!Sweden is the home of Pippi Longstocking. I didn't know that! Kinda makes me wonder why Pippi was given red hair instead of the everpresent blond hair and blue eyes?!The biggest surprise was Stockholm's City Hall building - the site of the annual Nobel Prize banquet. It was a moving building and I couldn't help but to reflect on the geniuses who have celebrated and been celebrated here. Not wanting to miss the boat on our first stop we didn't have time to take the guided tour, but will be sure to put that on the top of my to do list next time.'Sleeping Beauty Connor' awoke from her slumber and was ready to run. City Hall's green lawn on a picture perfect day made a good spot to let out some toddler energy.
Stockholm really was a great first stop; although when you are a city known for the ABBA dancing queens and the Nobel Prize what better spot could there be? As Rick Steves describes it: "One-third water, one-third parks, one-third city, on the sea, surrounded by woods, bubbling with energy and history, Sweden's stunning capital is green, clean, and underrated." We rated it an A and will hopefully return for a longer visit one day!

1 comment:

Heather said...

Reid, since you enjoyed Sweden so much, I have a reading suggestion for you. Stieg Larsson wrote a mystery trilogy just before he died. I think all three books may be out in Europe, although only the first two are available in the States right now. Try The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.