A whole day off to do some sightseeing, and generally just be a tourist, what a luxury. It did feel a bit strange waking up in the hostel and not having to pack everything onto my bike for another day’s riding, however I was refreshed after a good night’s sleep, even if I was woken up by drilling from next door at 07.30.
Stockholm is well worth a visit, and no doubt warrants a few days exploration, however I only had one so picked just a few places to go and see. I started with a general wander about, heading vaguely South East towards the Vasa museum on one of the islands.
Stockholm is built on lots of different islands, and there are bridges, ferries and canals connecting it all up.
Plenty of cyclists too, and cycle lanes everywhere, all clearly marked so you know where to walk as a pedestrian, and where to cycle, and never the twain shall meet. We should do this more in the UK.
It was quite a long walk to the Vasa museum, so much for a rest day, however it was nice to be using different muscles, and not be in any particular rush. On the bike front Stockholm has its own version of the Boris bike scheme by the looks of it; lots of the same hire bikes whizzing about anyway.
I got to the Vasa museum about 10.15, just as loads of coaches were arriving and depositing mostly Chinese tourists in their droves. Luckily they were in a different queue, and mine moved pretty swiftly anyway.
I could go on about the Vasa museum for a while, it was great, but better if you go and visit it yourself should the opportunity arise. The Vasa is a Swedish warship built in 1621, that sank on its maiden voyage, but was raised in the 1960’s and is now housed in a museum. It’s a massively popular tourist attraction and I could see why; my first thought was ‘it’s the Black Pearl’, from Pirates of the Carribean.
I was called upon to take quite a few photos of couples posing in front of the Vasa, but here’s one of me on my day off.
The Vasa was commissioned by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, to assist in the war versus Poland-Lithunia which was raging at the time. In fact Sweden seemed to be at war with several of its neighbours; the 17th century was perhaps its period of military might. The ship was finished too quickly, as the King was demanding its presence as flagship of the reserve squadron immediately, lest someone suffer his royal displeasure.
From what I learned the Vasa set sail too early, without enough ballast on board meaning it was top heavy. I don’t think they could put more ballast on board otherwise the lower gun ports would be underwater; basically the ship was structurally unsound. The gun ports, all 64 of them, were all opened to fire a salute as it left harbour, which was a bit over the top as usually just one cannon was fired. A squall hit which pushed the ship over to one side, letting water into the lower gun ports, and whilst the ship righted itself it was doomed and sank shortly afterwards with the loss of 30 to 60 hands. It sank after sailing just 1.5km; not really an auspicious moment for a ship bearing the Royal Family’s name – Vasa means sheaf of wheat I believe. I learnt a lot of this by latching on to coach party tours, but there are also free tours in English you can join at set times.
Here are some pictures of the Vasa, in all it’s glory, a truly amazing vessel to have been raised from the seabed and restored. It’s cannons were salvaged in the 17th century, via a primitive diving bell, but it was then largely ‘forgotten’ about (probably due to embarrassment), until it was ‘discovered’ and raised in 1961. Excuse me for not accurately naming bits of the ship; don’t have all that knowledge, or time to look them up.
The pictures probably don’t do it justice, but you get the idea; more impressive than the Mary Rose. There are lots of exhibits on topics such as life on board, the sinking, the raising and archaeology, Sweden at the time; 1 in 10 people were ‘recruited’ into the armed forces apparently. Aside from the Vasa there is a side exhibition which is equally interesting, that goes around the world telling you what was going on in other countries in the 17th century, such as:
- 30 years war in Europe – big armies with modern weapons, pretty horrific
- North America trading and colonisation – disease kills lots of Native Americans
- Gallileo versus the Inqusiiton – the Earth goes around the Sun
- Trading in new and exotic goods – the world opening up
- India and the Mughal Empire in ascendance, religious tolerance
- Ottoman Empire expands, stopped at battle of Vienna – learnt about the fierce Jannisaries
- End of the Ming dynasty in China – Manchus seixe power, Emperor commits suicide, Qing dynasty starts
- Japan opening up, then closing up (Edo period)
- Africa – slavery and exploitation
- Persia and Baghdad
I think I spent about 2 hours there, but could have stayed longer. Well worth a visit.
After the Vasa I grabbed a hot dog and hot chocolate, and continued my wanderings around Stockholm, heading over to the old town or Gamla Stan, where the Royal Palace is, via the Parliament building.
After having spent nearly 3 weeks in the ‘wilds’ the architecture is pretty impressive, and a nice contrast. I headed on to the Royal Palace, passing some guards marching around its perimeter.
I’m assuming these guards are professional soldiers and not cadets or actors; they marched well, but weren’t keeping very still at their guard post – not like the Queen’s Guard at Buckingham Palace. They had cool helmets though.
I went into the free bits of the Royal Palace, which included the Royal Chapel – very ornate – then continued my wanderings, stopping for another hot chocolate to refuel.
By this point I was getting a bit tired, having walked 12km on my rest day, so decided to head back to the hostel for a rest, before heading out to get some food somewhere.
Whilst sightseeing I also played a bit of Ingress on my phone, Stockholm being full of portals to explore. It’s quite a good way of getting around and seeing bits you might miss, as has a map and portals are usually interesting places. By the end of the day I’d levelled twice due to unique hacks and captures; this won’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t play Ingress, and needless to say I won’t be playing it much on tour!
I forgot about this picture of a map from the Vasa museum, which I liked because I could see how far I’d come.
After chilling out and updating my blog in the hostel, which was a lot busier today, I headed out to find food.
I initially thought I’d grab some Sushi, however that plan was quickly set to one side when I discovered the Dubliner, an Irish pub in Stockholm, full of ex-pats, or people working here a lot, or people like me who are on holiday and just stumble upon it.
It has a friendly atmosphere, good beer and good food. I settled on the Swedish meatballs, figuring I really aught to have some whilst in Sweden.
I discovered shortly afterwards that Monday night is pub quiz night! I joined a team consisting of two Aussies, over here for a sports competition, a Brit working here for a week, a Swede who works for Quatar Airlines, and a slightly mad Finnish woman; great company all round. The Brit, who’s name I think is Paul (sorry if my memory is failing), knows Norwich and the Fat Cat pub, as his Dad lives or lived on Nelson Street; small world. All interesting people anyway; chatted to Gordon (Swede – again sorry if name wrong) for a bit, very interesting life living in Quatar, which doesn’t sound very pleasant, and travelling a lot in between work.
The pub quiz was long, and needless to say quite a lot of beer was consumed. We didn’t win, or even come close, but it was great fun and a great break. Paddy and Alan ran a very witty ‘multi media’ quiz, with lots of banter with the locals; a lot of Irish.
Despite an invite to go on to another bar I said my goodbyes post quiz, and wended my way back to the hostel. If I’d stayed out I know it would have just got messy and I’d have felt terrible the next day; not good with lots of kilometres to pedal.
So a great day out in Stockholm; thoroughly recommend the city for a visit. Could see myself happily working there for a while should the need arise.
Also got some planning done; think I know the way to Copenhagen now. I’ve adjusted my handlebar grips a bit too, which will hopefully fix my wonky hand problem, or at least ease it a bit, just need to sort the saddle now.
Apologies for any spelling or grammar errors; Stockholm was two days ago and I’m in Linkoping now, having pedalled 250km since, quite tired, but should be getting a new saddle tomorrow which’ll help.