What We Did On Our Summer Vacation, Day 11 (Stockholm)

Saturday, August 25 was our last port stop on our 9-day Baltic Sea cruise, not counting our final stop at the end back in Copenhagen. We docked in Nynäshamn, a port some 40 miles outside Stockholm, for the simple reason that Stockholm doesn’t have the capacity to dock every cruise ship that wants to pay a port call. There’s absolutely nothing in Nynäshamn other than trees and rocks, but we weren’t there to see the port, anyway. Our real destination, obviously, was Stockholm proper.

We took a bus from Nynäshamn to Stockholm and I must have been pretty tired, because I fell back asleep on the ride. All those days of running around crowded museums and cathedrals and such were catching up to me. When we got to the city, Stockholm turned out to be Paris, only set on a bunch of islands separated by stretches of water. Very cosmopolitan, modern city. Carole and I both thought it looked beautiful.

Only, there was a serpent in the garden. There was ongoing unrest from the extreme left. Or the extreme right. Or the extreme someone. And a big public protest/riot/assembly was planned for that Saturday… and the Swedes were taking no chances. Everywhere our bus tried to go, we ran into police barricades. Or police officers on foot. And at one point, police officers on horseback. Our poor tour guide was getting more and more apologetic with each attempt the driver made to get us to our first stop on the itinerary, the Stockholm city hall (where they give out the Nobel Prizes, among other things).

We finally got there after over an hour of backing up and trying side streets and going around and this and that and the other. And the Stadshuset, as it’s called locally, turned out to be worth the wait. The building was erected in the early 1900s but was constructed to look much, much older. The architect had something of a sense of whimsy and incorporated numerous off-the wall-design elements and art fixtures. Changes were made here and there along the way during the 12 years it took to build the place, resulting (for example) in a “Blue Hall” with nothing blue in it.

After that, we went to see the wreck of the Pride of the Swedish Navy, the Vasa — which had been so over-built and so over-weighted and so badly designed that it rolled a bit during its very first voyage, took on water through open gun-ports, and sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbor before it’d even traveled a mile. The ship sank in 1628 and was located again in the mid-1900s, when serious recovery efforts were begun.

They have the ship all pieced back together, with as many original fittings and materials as possible, in an enormous building. Various floors of the building give you vantage points to see the bottom of the ship, the deck of the ship, the rigging and superstructure of the ship, and so on. It’s a beautiful ship and an admirable restoration job, but still, one can’t entirely resist the urge to giggle at the whole sinking-on-its-first-voyage-before-even-leaving-the-harbor thing.

We had lunch on our own after seeing the Vasa. Our guide had the bus park in a busy downtown district right around the corner from a Swedish royal palace, and gave us what time he could to go find restaurants, forage, and come back. I’m sure we were originally allotted a lot more time, but the whole driving-around-Stockholm-running-into-police-barriers thing ate up a lot of the morning, and that left us in a hurry. We had to scoot by any number of nice little cafes with street-side tables and find a place we could get food to go. We wound up scarfing open-faced sandwiches and salad from Styrofoam containers while sitting on a curb around the corner from our bus.

We got to drive around a little bit more after that; we were taken to one harbor overlook where you could see just about the whole city, all the interconnected waterways, and an amusement park. Photos ensued. Then it was back to the highway and the drive back to the ship in Nynäshamn. I was groggy and tired and slept the whole way.

Once we got back to the ship, it was actually still early enough that we had time to visit the ship’s coffee shop/patisserie and then relax on the deck for a while before dinner, which was kind of nice. Dinner was a repeat at the “Le Bistro” restaurant. Carole likes that place, but for some reason I didn’t find anything appealing and ordered a cheeseburger and fries off the kids’ menu. Then it was the usual — wandering around the ship, doing not much of anything. The following day would be a day at sea as we headed back to Copenhagen, and then our cruise would be over the day after that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.