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Part Five: Stockholm
Friday June 11th
Arrived in Stockholm where it was overcast and 14 degrees. But suddenly here were people who were smiling and friendly and SPOKE ENGLISH! They were all very disappointed to learn that we were not going to be staying for the imminent Royal Wedding (Crown Princess) which was to be on the Saturday after we left (just 2 or 3 days later). Money machine: first we'd put the card in the wrong way – actually had to be upside down before it would work. Then it only allowed us 2,000 SEK ($NZ400). Then we found a 24/7 for a "toast" – a bit like a subway 12 inch only toasted and we shared one for 49SEK and a nice cup of coffee each. We bought our ticket for the Arlanda express and went down in the lift to connect with it. A splendid ride at 200kph. We were there in 20 minutes. Now we needed to find the ticket office to purchase our 7 day senior pass. This proved to be rather tricky and we spent considerable time trundling our bags up lifts and down escalators, down stairs and along concourses. Finally found it. Take a queuing ticket and wait for the number to come up. Not too long. (20 minutes). And no problems getting the ticket. We received two plastic cards which we just had to hold it against the touch pad on the gates. We caught the metro to the stop that looked closest to the hotel, Gamla Stan, but it turned out that we needed to go one more stop to Slussen. Then it was still a long and somewhat worrying walk to find the Loginn Hotel, a hotel-in a ship, moored along the quayside. Very glad when we found it. Very glad to have "included breakfast" confirmed. Very glad to find we could use credit card to pay. Not so glad when we saw our room. A bathroom the size of one in a motorhome. The room the size of the 7/8 bed plus about 2 feet of space to sidle out on one side and a 2ft shelf at one end to stow the bags. Hardly any hooks or rails for clothes or towels, but it does have a tiny port hole! There is a constant sound and movement as the waves lap gentley against the side of the boat. We are right up in the stern and on the lower "deck?" level. When you flush the toilet the whole thing shudders and seems about to explode. The first time I flushed it I thought it was all going to fly apart – it was a huge noise! We explored the boat – lounge, rather gorgeous with red velvet upholstery, and with free wifi. Dinner menu rather expensive. A very cosy sleep – we both had to turn over together! I slept OK – Larry not so well from 3a.m. on.
Saturday June 12th
Overcast and a bit windy but clear.
We woke before the alarm and wrote diaries etc. Showered and up for breakfast shortly after 8.30. Very nice. Cornflakes, muesli, sunflower seeds, yoghurt, croissants, toast, coffee, juice. I had a bit of trouble figuring out what the juice labels were till a friendly lady showed me which one was orange. The word that looks like "orange" was actually apple. I did see someone with a boiled egg – must look out for that tomorrow. After breakfast we headed for the metro – along to the pedestrian crossing, up some steps then a gentle slope and a couple or 3 blocks to the metro (Mariatorget). On the way we found a "deli" which turned out to be a supermarket and we went in and identified several of the items we will pick up on the way home. We bought 2 meusli bars. Proceeded to the metro – it was all so easy. Off at Central Station and found the ticket office for our travel info by train to Copenhagen. Here again we needed a ticket to give us a place in the queue but we didn't have too long to wait. We got a very helpful lady and the ticket cost a little more than I'd worked out on line: SEK789 each. We didn't get the "senior" one, since that can only be bought 24 hours before departure and we didn't want to risk it. Then we set off for the Tourist Information Centre which we found was located in Sweden House. It was about a 10 minute walk from the station, along Klarabergsgatan, past the National Theatre and a circular "square" down on the next level. A sunken circular square. Called Sergels Torg. On our level was a fountain and on the lower level a demonstration against ethnic war. We picked up a few brochures on boat trips and other sight seeing options then moved out into a huge square (Kungstradgarten) to watch a Morris Dancing display – further down marques were being set up probably for events tonight. Walked back to Central Station to buy rolls and coffee at George's on the Station (free toilet – but I had to collect the key from the girl) and talked to a swedish lady who helped us identify our coins. 5 crown (or was it kronen?) for a public toilet. Then homeward via the supermarket and picked up chippies, beer, (3 ½ % alcohol) milk, oranges, biscuits. Slept for about an hour then upstairs to work on emails. I composed a reply to Mardi. Larry wrote the bulk one this time. We had our beer and chippy break to give the puter a chance to recharge then went out to explore some of Gamla Stan. Evidence of preparations for the Royal Wedding festivities were everywhere. A cold wind made it rather less than pleasant so turned back after about an hour. Home by 8p.m. Back to finish and send email to Mardi and the bulk one. Larry put photos to date on the laptop.
Sunday June 13th
Awake at 6 and read etc till 8.30 for breakfast. (Larry finished the first Wexford Book. ) Found a boiled egg. The couple in the next booth were very chatty – well, she was anyway. From Gottenburg for their son's open day or such at Naval school. After breakfast we told reception of our concerns over the room toilet – seems to be leaking – and the noise and shuddering that I described before. They may give us a new room. Metro T Centralen then changed to Kungsgatan. After a bit of confusion about directions (Larry was unsure!!!) We headed for the departute point for the "Under the Bridges" Boat Tour. Just missed the 11a.m. So bought our tickets and after a short rest, did a short walk in front of the Royal Palace where there was a big stage set up in front, presumably for wedding festivities. We saw just one guard outside his sentry box. Then back in time to queue for the midday sailing. We had to sit inside – 4 each side of a table which had plug in headphones and we could select our language for the commentary. This gave a pretty comprehensive commentary for practically the whole of the 2 hour trip. The weather today has been radically changable – hot sunny; rain; a bit of wind; overcast – but not really cold. We saw a great deal from the boat and learnt quite a bit about Swedish/Scaninavian history. How much can I remember, though? At the end we walked across to take photos of the National Theatre – pretty flash – bits of gold decorating it – hadn't seen any of that sort of thing in Sweden before. Then a block away was a metro. Into Centralen for lunch at George's where again we got chatting to a couple from New York here for a conference. Half a bread roll and a coffee each. Then home via the IGA supermarket where we bought 2 oranges. The Hotel gave us 2 new rooms to choose from – we selected the one that may be marginally bigger and has wardrobe and 2 portholes and a bit of extra shelf space all around the bed. This room was warmer than the first but we found that one of the lights was not working. They said they'd get the elctrician to sort it . . . . or give us another room. Hmmmm. Time for a rest. Then beer and chippies. At 6p.m. out into the sunshine and walked to Gamla Stan along the waterfront – the route we used when we had arrived. But then we crossed the bridge and made our way to the Old Town. Past the Royal Palace in front of which now seemed to be setting up for an orchestra concert. We walked right round the Palace and past the church beside it, then meandered through a maze of little streets – buildings 3 or 4 stories high on each side. At one point it opened into a biggish square with restaurants all around and public seating in the middle. Very popular place. Further on we found a cafe that sold ice creams. Ordered 2 scoops each in waffle cones (39kr each) and sat at tables outside to eat them. As we rose to leave it began to rain. Not too heavy – not too wet – but enough to make us hurry to find the metro. Just down one street and a couple of blocks away. The walk home was a little more wetting, but still not toooo bad. Just as we entered the hotel I got a call from my brother from London. Difficult to talk because of the delay. He will ring again in a couple of days! Coffee and biscuit. Orange.
Monday June 14th
New room. Under floor heating in bathroom. Closed the door cos it made the room a bit hot. Breakfast started at 7 (being a weekday) but we didn't get up till 8.00 or so. Hardly anyone else in the breakfast room and the maitre D was now a very large blonde woman 50ish. A good breakfast. Then we went out to find Skansen and/or the Vasa Museum. Usual metro to Centralen. We caught the 47 bus to Skansen from the main road (Hamngatan) and first got off at the stop for the Vasa Museum. I got the impression that Larry was not too keen about visiting this old ship museum, but we went in to have a look at prices. When we discovered that it was going to cost 110kr for pensioners we decided to leave it and went back to the bus stop to pick up the next Skansen bus that took us to the end of the line (Skansen). Entrance for pensioners here was 100kr. We tried to get money from the ATM at the entrance but it advised "Closed". Inside we found good (free) toilets. We followed our map . .. . well, tried to. It was not very clear and there were not enough signs to help follow where we were on the map. Many school parties. It was all very disappointing with a lot of the stalls in the market street and buildings generally not opening till near midday. Doesn't pay to make an early start, it seems! I did go into a farmhouse where the "guide" in traditional dress explained the rooms in the house – the parents bed in the corner of the room was very small and here they slept sitting up (like Peter the Great). Many buildings were real log cabins, others just timber construction with very small windows. The fences were interesting: branches laid at 45degrees to the ground and a few sad farm animals in very tiny enclosures (they had been in barns in which they lived in the winter) very mucky pastures. Cows, sheep, pigs, goats, peacock, ducks, seagulls, otters, beehives, seals. Some houses had shingles on the walls. Other buildings had thatched roofs. We didn't go near the "Swedish Wild Animals" section it seemed to be quite a distance, so we missed the brown bear (bjorn) and others. By now food and crafts stalls were beginning to open in the Market Street by 11a.m. So we bought some chips and sat down in the sun (Larry in the shade – no hat!) and guarded our food from the thieving seagulls! All manner of buildings all of which had been brought in from different parts of Sweden to be preserved in this one "living museum" We took our chance to try to exit by a long steep path and through a clever rotating gate. A short walk to the bus stop and lo! Back to the metro (T-Centralen.). Again the weather was changeable. Hot and sunny, then overcast with a cold wind, but no rain today. I Just wore a T shirt, pink jacket and took umbrella. Back to our floating hotel for an hour of sleep. Then had our light fixed (twice!) Then cup of tea and biscuit. While light being fixed (NOT) the first time we spent our time upstairs in the lounge checking emails. Out at about 4p.m. to explore our local streets where we checked out a nice Italian restaurant as a possiblity to treat ourselves later. Found a bookshop which had an english section, saw a Steig Larsson – one of the Millenium Trilogy (but this was only Swedish – the shop keeper tried to persuade me to buy it in Swedish – "it's really quick to pick up reading in Swedish"!!!! - yeah right!) for about the same price (equivalent) as we'd pay for it at home. We walked up and back about 2 or 3 blocks. Past a "folk Opera" where they are advertising Gunoud's Faust. We came home for our beer and chippies. Then out again and first tried the Morby line but found it was a too noisy old train so changed at Ostermalmstorg and took the metro to Ropsten for a view of the sea from the platform but when we went down to the road there was very little to see. So back again. Decided against the flash restaurant meal and bought a chicken salad 49kr instead. When we got it home we discovered that one of our "airline forks" had been broken, so we had to manage with a spoon. Managed to spill my portion on to the duvet – oops! Picked most of it without too much of a mess. Oranges, coffee, biscuits (new choc chip) then bed.
Tuesday June 15th
Sun. Overcast chilly wind.
No eggs for breakfast. Set out before 9 to T-Centralen and Gamla Stan and from there walked round the waterfront to City Hall. I was feeling quite run down and needed to sit down whereever a seat was offered. From there inland a bit till we found the metro Radhurst Metro – up Hantverkarg which is in Kungsholmen (King's Island). Metro took us back to Slussen from where we sought out the Katarina hissen (lift). 10Kr each. Had to wait a few minutes for the driver then all aboard and we were at the top before I turned round to look out! Once out at the top, I experienced quite a bit of vertigo – the whole structure was moving and it was quite a long way up! There were two bridges connecting the apartment building and then the suburb of Megborgarplatsen which was the metro we caught to get back to Centralen. Time for coffee and ½ muffin. Then we decided to ask how we find our train for tomorrow, so took a queuing ticket and waited 15 minutes or so. The lady was able to satisfy our questions. Actually I think we did that before we did the Katarina lift. Then we headed back to Mariatorget and had lunch at Sophie's. Special: anything + kaffe + a drink 75Kr. Sounded fine, but we had to wait a long time (over ½ an hour) for it to arrive and sitting outside in a chilly wind. Baked potato for me, BLT for Larry. We never did get the extra drink – we couldn't be bothered waiting till it might have arrived. Home for an hour's sleep then out to visit the Rival Hotel, which had once been owned by the ABBA boys. We found it in a little square called "Mariatorget"! Photos then home via IGA supermarket. On the way we were passed by numerous sirens – police, fire. Also a bus trying to make way for the police – had come too close to scaffolding against a building – quite a hold up and lots of police. Pretty well cleared by the time we passed that way again. Home. Beer and chippies. Phoned Ina our homeexchange host in Copenhagen. Then upstairs to Lounge for a bit of space and to check emails. Dry niggling cough is beginning to be a real nuisance.
Wednesday June 16th
Stockholm – Copenhagen.
At breakfast I had 2 eggs – even tho' they were actually hard boiled. We were packed and ready to leave way before 9a.m. But decided to set off anyway. The day was warm (no wind) and sunny. So the 40 odd steps (Larry carried both bags to the top) and the not so gentle slope beyond, took its toll and I needed lots of rest stops. Used our blue card for the last time and found a space on the metro easily for our bags. What was not so easy was getting up to the main concourse at T-Centralen. Several lifts, stairs, escalators and walks later, we made it and gratefully sat down with about 40 minutes before departure. I bought some mint Mentos (11Kr) and Larry bought a Guardian (35Kr). The train arrived about 10 minutes prior to departure and our seats were spacious and comfortable. Bags loaded in the baggage section (someone moved mine to an overhead shelf so he could fit his bigger bag in). We visited the bistro car once where we collected a dinky little cardboard tray to carry our stuff back to our seat in. We bought 2 coffees and a filled roll. Back in our seat we ate the previously bought "sandwiches" and 2 cracker biscuits filled with cream cheese (we'd bought a packet of these ready made). The news last night mentioned a whale stranding but we didn't see any sign.