Day 7 Dec 28 - We had to leave early to catch the train which brings up my "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week". The only complaint I had from the trip was that breakfast was included every day as part of our package. Except for today. We had to leave before the breakfast buffet opened and of course we found out that morning as we tried to enter the breakfast area. We ended up stopping to get muffins from a corner bakery. Not only was it frustrating finding out that morning, I was looking forward to another Norwegian waffle. Those waffles were so good.
Walking to Central Station. Grand Hotel & Cafe on the left.
First Class cabin on Oslo to Stockholm train is last "waggon".
Waiting to depart. The inside was pretty nice for our 6 hour ride.
Uneventful train ride. I was hoping for some scenic shots out the window but the window was dirty and the country side was just plain old country side.
Finally at Stockholm. Surprisingly this was my favourite city. It just felt alive and hip to me. Add in the best shopping mall, best museum and best church and you have my winner. Also the people here spoke the best English of all of the places so maybe that adds some subliminal comfort factor.
Weather is colder, temps in low 30's and sleet sporadically pelted us. This is the weather I was expecting but still no snow. We did break out the hats, gloves and winter jackets for the rest of the trip though.
Our hotel was the Clarion Hotel Sign (http://www.clarionsign.com/). Travel Advisor only gave this place 4 stars so this is our slum of the hotels. Overall the first cruise ship cabin was the slum of the trip.
Pics of the dump.
No wonder if is only 4 stars, we don't have a full room. Actually the triangular room was very cool.
After checking in we were off to check out some sights while we still had daylight. On our way to the first stop we tried McDonald's. Quick and cheap. Cheap by Scandinavian standards, four value meals was 265 SEK (38 USD). Plus the food was much better than any McD's we had in England. Next door was a tourist store so we bought our Stockholm Cards and we are ready to rock the house! Instead we just slow jazzed our way to Stadhuset (City Hall).
Another city hall that we couldn't get into. It took 12 years, 8 million bricks, and 19 million gilded mosaic tiles to build the hall. Probably looks better in day light but it is out of the way so this is our chance to check it out. Most of my pictures didn't turn out because of the poor lighting but you can check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_City_Hall.
Stadhuset (City Hall).
View from the City Hall. Gamla Stan (Old Town Center) on the left, Sodermalm straight ahead.
Next was Gustav Adolphus Torg (Square). Gustav Adolphus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Adolphus) led Sweden from a regional power to a world power. He was King of Sweden in the 1600's and is widely recognised as the first King of a united Sweden.
Statue of Gustav. I never did get a good day time picture of his monument.
View of Parliament and Royal Palace from Gustav Adolphus Square.
The famous Grand Hotel where all of the important people stay when they visit. Viewing this was a stretch goal so I settled for a long distance picture after my near mutiny in Oslo.
Next was Kungsgarten (Kings Garden). More dead vegetation and sculptures but they added a skating rink and a TGI Fridays.
Karl XIII in Kungsgarten. The Karl theme continues.
Next up is Sergels Torg (Square) and the underground mall. Turns out this a massive shopping area. Multiple levels above ground, multiple layers underground, this is downright impressive. You can check out Sergels Square at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergels_Torg. The set up is what impressed me. I am not a shopping mall type of person but I could have spent half of a day here. I took some pictures but they don't do it justice.
Panoramic view of part of the shopping complex.
Sleet pelting us.
Obelisk in square.
Now it is 4 PM and everyone is hungry and tired. Next up was walking to our supper destination, Prinsen, a Swedish food restaurant. This was a navigational and restaurant failure. We ended up on the right street but wrong end. The street is a pedestrian street so no buses and no public transportation map to help us find the nearest bus route. Lori's feet are hurting so much that she is struggling to keep up with the group. And we have a long walk to get there. Lori says she can make it so off we go. We finally arrive. The menu is kind of expensive which I expected so we mulled eating there or keep looking. As we mull I see a person handing their coat to the coat check person so my decision is made, no more coat check restaurants. This time we are near a bus stop so we jump on to rest Lori's feet and head towards the hotel to Jensen's Bofhus. Another chain restaurant, this one is a Swedish steak place. Food was okay but USA is still the place to get a steak. Karl had a burger, I had steak, Lori had chicken and Kalle had nachos. Price was better, 606 SEK (87 USD). At least we are under 100 this time. No three squares a day on this trip.
Swedish steak restaurant.
When we arrive at the hotel Lori takes off her boots to discover that her boots do not have the insoles in them. She has been walking on the hard plastic frame of the boot sole for 6 days! My first thought is what a trooper. My second thought is why did it take six days to figure it out? (In case you missed the previous post we had to buy winter walking boots for this trip since we left ours back in the US.) Lori has this amazing attention to the smallest details but misses the most obvious ones. I didn't enjoy assembling Christmas toys with her because I will sometimes miss small screws or pieces and she never does. On the other hand she asked her car pooling partner Frank one morning when they put up the street lights in our subdivision. When they built the subdivision he replied. Problem is we had lived in the subdivision for two years at that point. So now that we have her feet problem diagnosed she feels a little better. Put buying cushion insoles on tomorrow itinerary, good thing the tour guide is flexible.
Day 8 Dec 29 - Hotel breakfast declines a little from the previous two stops. The one exception is the bread. Lori LOVES the bread. She kind of wanted to stay at the hotel and eat bread until she went into a bread coma.
The Lori Seppanen pic - the bread wall.
Outside view of our dump.
View of Stockholm as we go Vasa-ing.
First stop is Vasmuseet or Vasa Museum (http://www.vasamuseet.se/en/). If this isn't the world's coolest museum I want to know what is. I walked in and it took my breath away. The Vasa is a 1628 Swedish war ship that sank in the harbour on its maiden voyage. The actual 1628 WAR SHIP! The ship was salvaged in 1961 and turned into this museum. One of the brochures said the ship is 95% original. The brackish water helped preserve it. I had to look up brackish water - it is a mixture of salt water and fresh water which has a salinity between the two. Important because shipworms do not live in brackish water. I know the pictures do not do the ship justice but here they are.
We built a ship that sank in the harbour, lets turn it into a museum!
Side of ship. To big to fit into one picture.
Karl watched a brief video on the sinking. An official cause was never documented but the video placed the blame on the king for demanding so many cannons on the decks and the ship builder for not compensating with enough ballast. The ship was top heavy and was hit with a couple of waves in the harbour which caused it to list to one side. Water started filling the ship through the gun ports and it sank. 50 people died when it sank.
This was also the only attraction we saw that Karl thought was awesome. We were there about 45 minutes and he asked us why we were going through so fast, he was reading every single placard. At least I found one thing he liked I guess. He thought the Viking Ship and Resistance Museums were only okay which surprised me. The other interesting happening here was Kal Gal was feeling tired and started slowing down which is odd. Our usual excursion order is me in front, Kal a steady second, Karl floating front to back, and Lori guarding the back trail. In here Lori had to sit down with her to rest as we waited for Karl to finish in the museum.
1663 diving chamber. You can see a picture on the wall behind Karl.
The carvings were impressive in number. It was hard to see the small details because of the lighting.
This is their best guess at what colours the figurines were on the ship. Not only is the ship full of figurines they were all painted. I bet that brightly coloured war ship was a sight in the harbour.
View from above. We couldn't actually get on the ship or touch it.
Seal of 1628 Sweden.
The Polish Man.
The figures on the back of the ship.
Kind David on the corner. Hercules was on the other corner. Other figurines included the apostles, roman emperors, mythical beasts and biblical figures.
This was interesting.
Actual artillery in brown and molds in white.
The crew, 445 members.
Crew break down. Did you notice the "1 flogging-master"?
After the Vasa was Skansen Museum and Zoo (http://www.skansen.se/en/). Skansen is the world's first open air museum. Plus I thought the kids would like the zoo which they did.
But first we passed The Nordic Museum. Not enough time this trip, to bad.
Visiting National Museums at each city would have been nice also but two days to explore a city is not a lot of time. A consideration for future trips. Now onto Skansen.
The troop outside a copy of a 17th century store. I guess the bigger on top than bottom style is Scandinavian and not just Norwegian.
Old school fencing.
Farmstead of a wealthy 18th century mine owning family.
See below for description.
The ferocious Wolverine. I had to post him since Michigan finally broke the streak against the Worthless Nuts south of the border. Go Blue! The one thing that surprised me about it was the size of its paws, they were huge compared to its body.
Other animals we saw were peacocks, grey wolf, wild boars, European bisons, red foxes, great grey owls, elk, domestic reindeer, grey seals and otters. The Lynx was hiding and the Brown Bear was hibernating. The playful otter was funny, it would jump out of the water and run to the other side of its area which caused a pack of small kids to scream and chase after it. Once the kids got to the area was the otter was it would run back to the water and jump in. Of course the kids would scream and chase after it. Pretty funny. The zoo also perked up Kalle for a while.
This storehouse is one of Skansen's oldest with parts of the building dating to the 14th century.
Today's Steve Frey pic - check out those racks.
The Hallestad Belfry, the tallest belfry in Sweden at 40.5 meters. It was built in the 1730's.
Old school mile marker, see the placard above.
We also walked through an aquarium, monkey exhibit, baboon exhibit, bird exhibit and reptile exhibit. Next was lunch.
Some more traditional open faced cold cut sandwiches. This one was the best I had on the trip. It was best eaten with knife and fork. The beer is a Falcon, a dark beer that was okay. The glass reads Pripps BLA which is what I had at Jensen's. Both were okay but neither was as good as Copenhagen or Oslo beer.
Kinda funny. This is a Kalle and Emma statue outside Skansen which was exciting since it was the first time we have seen Kalle's name on a statue. The excitement was short lived when Kalle realised Kalle was the man and not the woman.
Next up was the Kungliga Slottet or Royal Palace (http://www.kungahuset.se/royalcourt/theroyalpalaces/theroyalpalace.4.396160511584257f218000138.html).
Narrow streets on the way to the palace.
Entrance to the palace but we didn't have time to tour it.
You have to pay 10 Kronor to use some public toilets.
Royal Palace on the right, Storkrykan straight ahead. Storkrykan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storkyrkan) is the Royal Cathedral of Sweden.
The inside of the cathedral. This was the most impressive church I have been in yet. Lincoln Cathedral is second. Lincoln had a lot of beautiful artwork and wood carvings but not like here. Lincoln easily wins the stained glass award though. Nowhere near as big as Lincoln but what they had was magnificent.
Not a great picture but this sculpture was magnificent. Well worth the trip to the cathedral.
You can see the troop in the back right. Kalle peaked at the zoo, you can see her pink head resting on Lori's shoulder while she slept.
I tried getting good pictures but the lighting was just enough to see everything but not bright enough to take pictures. Or I need a better camera than my simple point and shoot. I do have a birthday coming up soon Lor.
I was so impressed by this that I had Karl and Lori go look at it. The troop must have been wiped out by now because once we entered the church they all sat down.
I thought the elevated pulpit at Lincoln Cathedral was impressive but it is rubbish compared to this one.
Pretty nice picture frame.
This 15 foot tall painting was in the corner.
Next was back to my favourite shopping complex to buy Lori a pair of insoles. I offered to alter the schedule to get them first thing in the morning but she figured she could stand one more day. We did try a couple of places while we were out and about but kept striking out so that was our next stop. Lori was very happy to get them.
One of the traditional Swedish foods was mobile hot dog stands which served Grillad Korv Med Brod (Grilled Hot Dog on Bun). These were great, we should have utilised them more. The food was okay and cheap which was nice.
Leopard hat Lori and the kids placing our order.
Upper right: bratwurst, bottom: hot dog, left side: French hot dogs. The French bun was a cored bun with a hot dog shoved into it.
Obelisk at Sergels Torg. The reindeer weren't lit when I took the other pictures.
The kids had been asking for Ben & Jerry's most of the trip so Lori and I finally caved at 7-11 on the way back to the hotel. The night's excitement started when I decided to try some Swedish candy bars since the Norway candy bars experiment turned out so well. Not one of my better ideas. Lori selected the Kex and I picked the Dubbel Nougat. She did ask about nuts in the Nougat but I can eat Nougat in the US and I did read the ingredients so nothing to worry about. Unfortunately I missed the "hassellnotten". Oops.
We arrived at the hotel, unwound and tried our snacks. I gave away samples of my candy bar and ate the rest. And knew I was in trouble. I felt the reaction starting in my mouth and throat so I started downing Benadryl four at a time. That didn't work and I promptly lost my lunch. And lost it again. Back to the Benadryl stash. The head swelling starts, hives are joining the party and breathing is becoming a little raspy. The kids have frozen in their chairs and didn't move or speak for about the next half hour. I figured I must have looked pretty bad to have them stop talking. Lori calls her sister (thanks again for being there Teresa) to see how many Benadryl I can take. I've talked Lori out of calling an ambulance twice by now but the symptoms hadn't peaked yet and I was getting light headed. Last thing I wanted to do was pass out. Lori was in mild freak mode now, she probably would have went into DEFCON 5 if I passed out. By this time I have taken about 20 Benadryl, I say about because we counted 20 but lost track somewhere in the middle. The highlight was Lori telling me I looked like Shrek. I asked her if she wanted to take pictures (for the blog) but she was to freaked out. By now the Benadryl is kicking in and my swelling is going down. Hives are in overdrive and my scalp breaks out in sweat (that was really weird, why only my scalp?) and it feels like I have peaked. This is when I tell Lori I almost passed out earlier. I am on the downward slope now but Lori is on high alert for any more symptoms. I can still hear Teresa's voice incredulously asking what do you mean you don't have your inhaler? You don't have an epi-pen? I remember thinking that those would have been good items to bring with us. Eventually all my reactions disappeared except for the hives which were gone by the morning. What an exciting night!
Day 9 Dec 30 - Hives are gone but I felt a little fuzzy in the head all day.
December Facial Hair of the Month - the Ebeneezer Scrooge burns. For some reason they weren't popular with the womenfolk. Eyes are still a little puffy.
Continuing the family tradition of inappropriate tee shirts.
The Dana Johnson pic - breakfast morning buffet. Food is okay but not as good as last two cities.
Morning was time for SkyView at the Ericsson Globe, or Globen as the locals call it. After some blind mice navigating we find the metro and find it. You can read about it at Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ericsson_Globe). Kind of disappointing for me, Lori had low expectations so she wasn't disappointed.
On the way up.
My girls. XOXO
On top of the globe. It was far away from our tourist sights so we couldn't see anything which is what disappointed me.
Afterwards we stopped at the Globen Mall and fruitlessly looked for souvenir type stores. With a little time left before hotel check out we stopped at Gamla Stan for final souvenir shopping. We also found Evert Taube (another navigational success). Evert is a famous Swedish writer and musician.
The kids chilling with Evert. Temperature was -2 C (28 F) this day so they really were chilling.
Back to the hotel to gather our luggage, disagree on when to leave for the terminal, and finally decide to leave three hours early. Not part of the tour guides itinerary but he is flexible so no prob Bob. Later in the day I was really dragging and was borderline napping for part of the afternoon as my body overcame the allergy overload.
Cabin on our Silja Line cruise ship.
This ship was much nicer than the DFDS Seaways ship. Cabin was comfortable and ship overall was a step up in class. They even had an entertainer on a small glitzy stage who lip synced and shimmied in a sequined outfit. Karl's favourite part was the PlayStation room, pretty popular though so he didn't get on the games he wanted. They did sell Helsinki Cards on the ship which was another reason to like this ship. This ship was okay but I still don't want to take another cruise.
Teenager KJ - Vasa was great, everything else blah.
KK - Liked Vasa, Skansen Zoo, SkyView at The Globe.
Lori - Her favourite city of the trip, liked the Vasa, wanted to mutiny against the tour guide's packed schedule.
Jay - My favourite city of the trip, loved the Vasa, Shopping Complex at Sergels Torg and Storkykan (especially St. George and the Dragon).
Four out of four likes on the Vasa, did I mention how awesome that was yet?
Next up is Helsinki.
Thanks for listening,