Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stockholm - 3 June 2011

Unfortunately yesterday when we arrived was a public holiday which meant that the Tourist Information office was closed and the consequence was that we could not get the information we needed until 9:00 this morning. So as soon as possible, we purchased our Stockholm Cards and hit the sights.

Closest to the hotel was the berth to board the boat for the historic canal tour. Stockholm is surrounded by water and this trip was on Lake Malaren which drops a metre or so into the Baltic just near the hotel. The boat tour was a pleasant introduction and overview of the city with a bit of history and a few Swedish household names thrown in; Electrolux, ABBA, Alfa-Laval, Nobel, Bjorn Borg, Volvo, H&M, etc

Next door to the quay is the City Hall, visited via timed tour, and the tower, climbed via timed ticket, and juggling the two queues at two ticket offices on opposite sides of the building in order to dovetail the two visits was bit of a challenge but we finally got the times aligned and set off on the tour. The City Hall was built in the 1920s but looks much older, The Gold room is breath-taking as it is completely lined with murals made with mosaic tiles, primarily gold.

The views from the tower make the climb worthwhile and after soaking in the 360 degree views and stunningly clear vistas we returned to ground level and crossed back to Gamla Stan to use the hop-on-hop-off boat for our next stop. Unfortunately the free rides courtesy of the Stockholm Card finished 2 days ago so we decided to walk but after a couple of blocks in the heat we hopped on a bus to the Vasa Museum.

Swedish design has made many names famous but in the case of the Vasa it was particularly poor design that has made the name famous. The Vasa was a new warship commissioned by the King in 1625 and when it was launched in August 1628 it sailed for just 20 minutes before a small gust of wind blew it over and water flooded in through the gun-ports that were open after firing the salute at the launch and it sank in full view of the assembled populace. Fortunately less than 30 lives were lost and the ship sat in the mud for the next 333 years where the brackish Baltic water prevented the normal deterioration due to woodworm. Thus when it was finally rediscovered and retrieved from the mud it was in amazingly good condition and became the world's biggest conservation project as they reconstructed the ship from a 14,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. 30 years later 95% of the original ship was put on display in a purpose-built museum.

The irony is that the greatest maritime design disaster in Swedish history has provided the 21st century with the only example of a 17th C warship with all the intricate detail and many contents and created Stockholm's most popular tourist attraction.
This is definitely a must, on a visit to Stockholm.

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