Monday, April 12

Stockholm Highlights

Stockholm proved to be the ideal location for our Easter vacation. We were blessed with three straight days of sunny and relatively warm weather. We also cashed in some credit card loyalty points which secured us a harbour-view room at the Sheraton Hotel for £38/night. This was a smart move as the hotel’s central location meant every sight was a short walk away.

Our first day was largely spent wandering the streets of Gamla Stan, the old town, followed by a leisurely alfresco beer in the afternoon sunshine. Our second day saw us walk along the picturesque Strandvagen waterfront to Stockholm’s world famous Vasa Museum. The Vasa is an immaculately restored 17th century wooden warship. It sank during its maiden voyage on Sunday, August 10, 1628 and lay undetected on the floor of Stockholm harbour for more than three hundred years.

On the day of its launch, the beaches around Stockholm were filled with spectators, among them foreign diplomats. The Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, had intended the maiden voyage to be an impressive propaganda display. His nation was at war with Poland and the Vasa was to be one its most fearsome warships. However, the ship spent less than half an hour under sail before keeling over as strong gust filled its sails. Of the 150 people on board, 30-50 died in the disaster.

Remarkably the ship was rediscovered largely intact in 1956. A meticulous salvage effort successfully lifted the Vasa to the surface on April 24 1961. The event was broadcast live on Swedish television; a spectacle that rivaled its first and only voyage. A purpose built museum was opened in 1990 to displayed the restored vessel. Garry and I spent several enjoyable hours exploring the museum’s many exhibits.

On our final day in Stockholm we booked ourselves onto a lunch time boat tour of Stockholm’s inner archipelago. For three hours was dined as just a few of Stockholm’s hundreds of islands glided by. Our boat, the SS Stockholm journeyed out to Vaxholm, a quaint Summer resort town. The town once sat at the entrance to Stockholm’s main shipping channel leading from the harbour to the Baltic Sea. The impressive Vaxholm Fortress, sits opposite the town, built on a small island.

I was fascinated to learn that Vaxholm’s building are all built from wood, with only the exception of the church and the customs house. This building practice was intentional as it meant that the town could be quickly demolished in the event of war or impending invasion.

Our tour route also took us past many of the city’s most famous Summer homes. The Swedish all love to abandon the city during Summer, heading off for a month of leisure at their Summer residence. Some of them are spectacular venues that resemble fairytale castles, while others cling desperately to rocks on the smallest of islands.

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