We arrived very late and took a cab to our hostel. The hostel not right in town, but impeccable – more like a hotel than a usual hostel. The next day, we found a pick-up point for the bus-tour, which was limited (it only ran until 4pm!) and over-priced, but got us downtown and near the Old Town (Gamla Stan.) We grabbed some lunch (a hot dog on the street!) and walked over to the Palace, thinking we’d perhaps do a tour. We came into the main courtyard and found that we had happened upon the changing of the guards! This was an hour-long ceremony with much marching and a brass band on horseback, including ceremonial trumpets, euphoniums, tubas, valved trombones and a set of timpani. The band members held heir instruments with one hand and the horses’ reins with the other. All except the timpani player, who rode a very large and beautiful Shire horse – he sat magnificently upon his steed and played the drums with many flourishes with hismallets. I assume the horse just knew where to go and when! Very impressive!
Gamla Stan was very charming. We wandered around the streets and had snack at a little shop in the square. Then more tour bus – this time to City Hall (http://international.stockholm.se/
cityhall), famous for its architecture. We had a very nice and informative tour…I loved the Golden Hall. (I forgot my camer this day, so will have to wait for nerdanel
to post her pics!) Weather was perfect. We walked from the City Hall across to other island, found main shopping district and strolled along a bustling street. We had this thought of sushi and looked for a particular sushi place noted in the guide - but alas! It wasn't open – found another sushi place instead!
How I wished for more time in this city!
I went back to the hostel for an early night while my traveling companion explored a bit of the nightlife.
Next day, walked to Vasa Museum. Big 17th century ship that had been raised nearly intact and preserved through some chemical magic. Quite fascinating...most of my pictures were way too dark, but you can see lots of them at the museum’s website here: http://www.vasamuseet.se/InEnglish/
I was not interested in the roller coaster at Grona Lund amusement park (although nerdanel
was! However, I then took myself to to Skansen (http://www.skansen.se/) the largest “outdoor museum” in the world. It has many exhibits and reenactments of life in Sweden . Sort of like Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts but with lots more class. And reindeer!
They had reindeer who seemed mildly curious about you and would come to the edge of the fence in search of a tidbit and let you pet them and scratch their necks. I was very taken with the reindeer and spent an inordinate amount of time with them. They smelled bad, but that wasn't their fault and I got used to it after a while. And they were quite tame!
Facts about reindeer:
They have very broad hooves and little extra bits on each hoof that cause a clicking sound with every step. It is believed that they used the sound to keep track of the herd in foggy or inclement weather.
Both male and female reindeer have antlers. The antlers on the deer I saw were fuzzy!
There are no more wild reindeer...only domesticated ones. The Sami tribe (indigenous to the area) used them for farming, fur and meat.
I then walked along river back to old town to meet up with Bethany, who had gone off on her own. Again – the restaurant we planned to go to was closed, so ended up at very nice Tapas place instead. Had excellent tapas, pasta and another very fine bottle of wine. We proceeded ambling through city ending up at very touristy “Absolut Ice Bar”. This is a bar all made out of ice – they give you parkas and gloves and you are let in through insulated doors…to drink out of glass made of ice and sit on blocks of ice.
We then topped off our evening with fancy drinks in NON-ice bar in hotel lobby.
I was surprised at how much written Swedish I could decipher. Of course “Gamla” means “old” which anyone who read LOTR could tell you (since we all know that “Gamling” meant, literally, “old man”) but there were other words than had a familiar sense – for instance “barn” means “child” - which seems related to the Scottish “bairn.” And in context, many of signs made sense after a bit of deciphering!
I loved Stockholm and again, want to return –perhaps not mid-summer when so many things seem closed, but maybe in late Spring! It’s a very walkable city and I’d like to take a trip out to one of the outer islands.