Our last port was Stokholm, and we decided to do another SPB tour to see the city as, being such an enormous ship, we needed to dock 45 mins away from the centre of town. There are many positives with cruising, but one negative is that it costs quite a bit to do guided tours with our family of 6, and sometimes there is little choice. I had not done enough research on the port, because we soon realised that we could have caught another Hop On Hop Off bus there. However, our Swedish guide for the day was excellent, and we certainly learnt a lot more than if we had ‘gone it alone’. We drove through beautiful farmland and forests on our way there, with the autumn colours on the Silver Birch trees making the scenery very pretty. Again, we had been blessed with gorgeous sunny weather which our guide (in short sleeves) described as ‘summer’ (it was 16 degrees). Our tour included viewing the spectacular city from a look out point, seeing the historic town hall, a drive-by of the most expensive regions of Stockholm, and passing by Alfred Nobel’s house (before the town officials made him move after his experiments to develop gun powder killed several people).
The Vasa Museum was next. The Vasa was a warship built in the 1600s during the 30 year war. It sank on its maiden voyage due to balance issues; somewhat embarrassingly, the long awaited ship did not even make it out of Stockholm’s harbour. It was discovered and raised in 1970, and is now housed under special darkened conditions in the museum. The huge ship was a sight to behold, being preserved so well due to the brackish water of the harbour. Sadly, many women and children died when it sank, and the remains of clothes, shoes and bones could all be viewed. It was the best old ship I’ve ever seen by far, and we could easily have spent the whole day admiring it. Caleb was disgusted when he learnt that we had to leave after an hour.
The old town was next, where we had an hour to roam by ourselves and buy lunch (we had a very traditional meal of pizza), followed by a walking tour. Our guide pointed out a Viking painting outside one of the shops. She also filled us in on many interesting facts – Stockholm comes from the name given to it in medieval times. ‘Stock’ is the Swedish name for wood, and ‘holm’ means island. In the time that the city was named, the harbour was filled with wooden barriers to prevent pirate boats from coming too close. Stockholm is remarkably well preserved with many beautiful old buildings, as it was not involved in WWII. We saw many interesting looking museums (such as one for the Nobel Peace Prize), and lots of cute shops, but unfortunately could not go in due to our time constraints. The Swedes seem to have a great way of life too, and I saw many fathers out with babies today, obviously on their generous parental leave. High school and tertiary education is all free, and anyone in the European Union can access the university. I was surprised that the city was so much more lovely than I expected, and full of fascinating history. We will just have to come back one day!
Our last day of cruising tomorrow! How sad.