Category Archives: Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden Part 2 JUN 21, 2023

With too many pictures from day 1, we had to break this blog up into two posts. This is Part 2 of our sightseeing time in Stockholm. Picking up from where we left off on the afternoon of day 1, we next saw The Royal Palace. It is one of the largest palaces in Europe with over 600 rooms and the official residence of the King of Sweden.

Mainly used for business, official events home to several museums, the Royal Family actually lives in another residence outside the city. The Palace was built between 1697 and 1754. It certainly does not have the grandeur of palaces in England, Austria or France.  There are Royal Guards on duty outside.

Charles XIV John’s statue, 1854

The Parliament House is the seat of the Swedish Parliament. The complex is huge, divided into an old building and a new building. The old building was constructed between 1897 and 1905 with an enormous Swedish coat of arms over the central bronze doorway.

The new building is connected to the old building with two large arches.

The Rosenbad complex are beautiful buildings that house the Swedish government and the Prime Minister’s office. The buildings were built at the turn of the 20th century.

The Sager Palace, built in the 19th century is the residence of the Prime Minister of Sweden. It is the building in the middle of the picture.

The Arvfurstens Palace, built in 1794, it has been used since 1906 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Adolf Gustav II (1594 –1632) was the King of Sweden from 1611 to 1632, and is credited for the founding of Sweden as a great power. He led Sweden to military supremacy during the Thirty Years’ War, helping to determine the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe.
He is often regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, with innovative use of combined arms.

The Royal Opera House was built in the late 19th century and is used for opera and ballet. King Gustav III was shot and killed at a masked ball at the Royal Opera House in 1792.  The murder had been predicted four years earlier when the King anonymously visited a fortune teller.

St Jacob’s Church was started in the 1580s and completed sixty years later. It is a pretty church with a combination of late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.

The Grand Hotel, on the city’s waterfront, was Sweden’s first five star hotel. It opened in 1874 and bragged that it was the first hotel in Sweden to change the bedsheets between guests. Notice the American flag.

The National Museum of Sweden is the largest museum in Sweden. It was completed in 1866 and houses over 16,000 paintings and sculptures from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century. There are around 500,000 drawings and graphics from the 15th century to the early 20th century. It is also the home to Scandinavia’s largest porcelain collection.

Nordiska museet is Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history, completed in 1907.

Sweden lets these robotic lawnmowers run wild

Hotorget is a public square used for open air markets with fresh vegetables and flowers, so common throughout Europe. This square has been used as a market since the 1640’s. Greta Garbo, a famous Swedish actress, worked as a sales assistant in the hat department of a department store that was once located at this square.

For dinner we stopped by a Mexican restaurant. Not great food, but okay. 

By the time we took the subway home and walked to the apartment, we had walked seven miles. We decided to stay home and rest the next day. There are always blogs to write!!

Stockholm’s Unique Buildings

After resting, doing laundry and working on blogs on Tuesday, Wednesday we took the subway back into Stockholm and took the Hop On Hop Off Bus to see other areas of Stockholm. These pictures begin day 2 of our sightseeing. 

The buses were crowded which was made worse by long waits at bus stops. The bus company blamed it on heavy traffic but we think they didn’t have enough buses on the routes for the number of people.

Gustaf Vasa church, 1906

Saturday, is Midsummer’s Day in Sweden. It is a national holiday and is the most important holiday in Sweden, second only to Christmas. In Sweden it is a celebration of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. People celebrate with picnics, family get togethers and many stores and restaurants are closed. Perhaps the upcoming holiday is why the crowds were so large.

The bus took us to some areas we saw on Monday, but it was nice to hear the running commentary on the areas. 

The Royal Dramatic Theater, built in the early 20th century, is the main theater in Stockholm.  Ingmar Bergman served as Director of the Royal Theater from 1960 to 1966.  It has gold sculptures in the front. Unfortunately it was hard to get a good picture from the bus.

We passed by a large city park where young families and friends sat under trees enjoying picnic lunches. The entrance to the park is through a lovely blue gate originating in the 1840s.

“An Aviation Monument” is located in Stockholm’s Karlaplan area. It was given in 1931 by the Aeronautical Society in memory of those aviators who lost their lives during the North Pole expedition and during the 1917 missions. The monument is that of an eagle with his wings stretched out; not to be mistaken with a somewhat similar Nazi Eagle.

We found the Stockholm Hard Rock Cafe and Bill got his tee shirt. Since it was late we decided to stay for dinner, eating outside on their patio.

We then took the subway home, logging five miles walking for the day. Another great day in Stockholm. 

Some observations:

  • Bikes, including electric bikes and scooters are very popular means of transportation in Stockholm. It seems every street corner has them for rent. It was a white knuckle experience several times to see our bus and people on bikes appear to play chicken with each other. The bikers seem used to the traffic and had no fear.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists have their own lanes and traffic lights. But many will go on RED which frustrates the cars and buses.
  • The Swedish people seem tall and very fit. Lots of young families walking and many young mothers with strollers and young children on the subways. The Swedes are not a particularly warm, friendly people, more serious but willing to help if asked. 
  •  It is popular to live on boats in Sweden. 
  • They throw Christmas trees in the lakes after Christmas because they feel it is better for the environment. 
  • Sweden was not bombed during WW 2 so after the war, while other countries were rebuilding, Sweden was replacing buildings to build newer ones. 
  • Stockholm is called “city by the rivers”, and was built on 14 islands. Some older historic homes are now leaning due to unstable foundations and historians are looking for ways to save them.

Up next: Embarking on our final cruise

Stockholm, Sweden Part 1 JUN 19, 2023

On Monday we decided to take a self guided walking tour of Old Town, Stockholm. Using our seven day travel card, we took the subway from our hotel into Stockholm. We exited the subway near the Stockholm Central Station, the 150 year old train station built in 1871. It is one of the busiest train stations in the Nordic region with about 200,000 visitors every day.

Next was Klara Church, built starting in 1572 with a 380 foot tower built in the 1880s. It is the tallest church in the city. There was a charge to go into the church but the kind lady at the entrance waved us in.

The next stop on our walking tour was Stockholm City Hall which is located on the island of Kungsholmen and was completed in 1923.  The building has a bit of a foreboding medieval fortress look. The tower is 350 feet tall and has Tre Kroner, or three golden crowns, at the top. This is the Swedish coat of arms and symbol of the city. The city hall is the location of the Nobel Prize banquet each year.

Before crossing the bridge into Old Town, with the sky threatening rain, we decided to go back to the train station for lunch at a McDonald’s located inside. Yes, McDonald’s. It was close, familiar, easy and inexpensive. With a full day of sightseeing and a rain storm approaching, we didn’t have time to figure out anything else. The rain came down in sheets just as we reached the train station door. 

After lunch we decided we better use the train station restroom facilities before heading to Old Town.  What we didn’t expect was a charge to use the restroom. 10 Swedish krona which is about 98 cents US money. The problem was most of Stockholm prefers electronic payment (credit card) instead of currency. In fact some restaurants have signs saying no cash. So we had not converted any US money to Swedish currency. We had some euros left over so we each took one euro in. The man asked if we had krona and when we said no he looked rather disgusted and took the euros and gave us each a krona to put in the turnstile to get in. We noticed as we washed our hands at the tall sinks there was a sign saying you could not wash your feet in the sink. I would be impressed if anyone could get their feet that high. 

With all that done, fortunately the rain had stopped as we walked across the Norra Jarnvagsbron Bridge into Old Town, also known as Gamla Stan. This island town was founded in the 13th century.  The streets are mainly old cobblestone and difficult to walk on. 

The first site on our Old Town list was The Norstedts Building, a Swedish publishing house. The building was constructed between 1882 and 1891 with a striking tower and spire roof that casts an impressive silhouette amid the Stockholm cityscape.

The Burger Jarl’s Tower is a former defensive tower built in the 16th century.

Along the waterfront was a cute statue of Evert Taube, a much beloved balladeer in Sweden. He is so popular there are three statues of him in Stockholm. Little did we know when we snapped the picture!

Wrangel Palace was next. We discovered there are lots of palaces in Stockholm! This palace was once part of the Old Town’s defensive fortifications in the 16th century and later the largest private residence in Stockholm. When the Royal Palace burned down in 1697, the Royal Family moved here until 1754. Today it is home to the Court of Appeal.

The pink Stenbock Palace nearby, built in the 1640’s, also houses the Court of Appeal.

Birger Jaris is an important Swedish statesman who played a large role in the formation of Sweden in the 13th century.

Riddarholm Church is one of the oldest churches in Stockholm and is the burial ground for Swedish monarchs for over 600 years. The church suffered a major fire in 1835 and then acquired the lattice work iron church steeple.

The House of Nobility was constructed between 1641 and 1672 as a place for Swedish nobility to host events.

Bonde Palace, built between 1662 and 1673 is another former noble residence. It was in disrepair and almost torn down, but public opinion saved it. It has now been the home of the Supreme Court since 1949.

We walked down Vasterlanggatan, the Old Town’s most popular shopping street. It used to be part of the old defensive walls of the town. Today it was crowded with tourists. In medieval times this area was home to many copper and iron merchants and their workshops.

We came to Marten Trotzigs Grand, Stockholm’s narrowest street. It consists of 36 steps and measures only 35 inches at its slimmest point. Bill and I walked up the steps. At the top were several tourists waiting to walk down. Too narrow for passing.

On the corner of this street is a runestone in the wall. The stone dates back to the Viking Age, possibly 11th century,  and is one of the oldest items found in the city. A little souvenir shop nearby sold imitation runestone.  Three runestones were found in Stockholm. This one on the wall, as well as a second one on display in the Museum of Medieval Stockholm. The third one was in a church stairway and has been lost over time.

Next up was Stortorget, the main square in Old Town. It is the oldest square in Stockholm with colorful 17th and 18th century buildings. It is a popular meeting place for locals. The most important building in the square is the Nobel Museum. It was built in 1778 and was formerly home to the Stock Exchange for more than 200 years. The Nobel Museum opened in 2001 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awards and to celebrate the winners. The Nobel Award is named for Alfred Nobel, an inventor, entrepreneur, scientist and businessman. He established the foundation in 1895 when he left much of his wealth to the foundation in his will. Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite and blasting caps that are still used today.

Stockholm Cathedral was high on our list of places to visit. We don’t usually pay to enter churches but we made an exception with this gem. Built in 1279, it is one of the oldest and most important landmarks in Sweden. It was here that Swedish reformer Olaus Petri spread his Lutheran message around the kingdom. It is the site of royal coronations, weddings and funerals as well as religious services and concerts. It has a 217 foot tall clock tower that is a visible part of the Stockholm skyline. The inside was surprisingly made of exposed brickwork.

The church has a collection of medieval as well as contemporary art, including a metal statue of St George and the Dragon. Wood, iron and gold leaf were used to carve the statue, including elkhorn for the dragon’s scales. The statue was consecrated in 1489 as an altar monument to the shrine of St George.

The altar is made of silver and ebony and was donated to the Cathedral in the 1650s.

There are two Royal Pews from 1684 that are only used by members of the Swedish Royal Family.

Most of church floor includes tombstones.

Sarcophagus of Jesper Kruus (1577-1622) stood out near the altar.

Since 1527, the Cathedral has been a Lutheran church.

Next up:  Stockholm Part 2

Goodbye Norway, Hello Sweden JUN 16, 2023

As the ship sailed from Flam, Norway, we went to an upper deck to take pictures of the amazing views of the fjords. Just breathtaking. Norway is everything we expected and more.

The Sognefjord or Sognefjorden Fjord, nicknamed the King of the Fjords, is the largest and deepest fjord in Norway. Located in Vestland county in Western Norway, it stretches 205 kilometres (127 mi) inland from the ocean.

We had one more day at sea. Mid morning they had a parade down the promenade of some of the ship’s crew and officers. Our captain was at the back of the parade on the right. With over 1,700 people working on the ship, the parade represented only a handful.

The roof of the promenade changed motifs often, see the tulips. On disembarkation day the roof displayed photos of different crew members waving goodbye.

Each evening they had live music on Deck 5 near Guest Services. It varied from classical music to modern ballads. Since our cabin was on Deck 5 we often passed through that area and enjoyed the music.

In the late afternoon the ship passed by the white cliffs of Dover as we sailed through the English Channel. Too far away and too much sea mist to see anything.

June 17th found us back in Southampton, England for disembarkation day. It turned into another long, tiring travel day. Up at 6:00 A.M. for breakfast and off the ship by 7:15, MSC is to be commended for an efficient, quick disembarkation. Easiest we have ever had. We were impressed. After a wait, the ride we had booked from Southampton to Heathrow Airport arrived for the 90 minute drive.

Things fell apart at the airport. We arrived by 11:00 A.M. for our 3:30 flight. Plenty of time to have a relaxing lunch and get through security. The first hint of trouble was British Airways had our flight listed on the board but no gate number. As time for departure inched closer, still no gate number. While other planes departed, no gate number for our flight was displayed. Long story short, our flight was delayed for two and a half hours. When they finally announced a gate, from the gate we took a bus to the tarmac and used steps to board the plane. The captain had multiple excuses for the delay. Our seats were unbelievably tight in leg room. British Airways should be ashamed. Bill had to almost sit sideways in his seat for his legs to fit. It was a long two and a half hour flight to Stockholm. After delaying our flight for two and a half hours, they offered us a tiny bag of pretzels. Nothing to drink. They should be ashamed. 

Stockholm is an hour ahead of England, so with the long delay, we arrived in Stockholm at 9:30 P.M. instead of the 7:00 P.M. we had planned for. We got in a long, slow line at Passport Control with only two officers working. After making our way to baggage pickup, we next had to find our way to the train station under the airport. After walking forever we found the train station and bought two seven day passes from a very nice railway worker. His English was a little rough but he kindly told us step by step how to get to our hotel. He even brought the map up on his phone with each connection and had us take a picture with our phone. That was the good news.

The bad news was that due to some rail repair, we would have to take a bus to another rail station to catch the train. By now it was well after 10:00 P.M. Fortunately, this time of year in Sweden it doesn’t get dark until almost midnight. Since it was a Saturday night, there were lots of people out and about and it felt very safe. Sure enough, following directions, we took the bus to the train station, found the right train, got off at the right stop, found the right subway line, and got off at the correct subway stop near our hotel. Our day went from ship to car to plane to bus to train to subway!! And plenty of walking!! We walked from the subway to our hotel and arrived shortly before midnight. We had an electronic entry into the hotel and our room since the hotel had emailed us all the codes earlier in the day. For dinner in our room we had crackers and a Snickers bar with soft drinks from the vending machine at the subway station. To say we were tired is an understatement. When my watch went to a new day at midnight, I lost all the data, so I don’t know how far we walked, but it was a lot

The next day was Sunday. We slept late and then walked to a nearby large grocery store. It was multiple levels and took us a while to find things because everything was in Swedish. We liked the escalator/ramp that takes people with their grocery carts up and down. We bought some things for breakfast, drinks and snacks. We are finding food, especially restaurant food, is very expensive in Sweden. 

Next up: A day exploring Old Town, Stockholm