Setting Sail to Stockholm Sweden
OMG! This cruise ship is awesome. Silja Symphony really knows how to spoil a passenger. The cabins are small but so comfortable, the food is great, the entertainment is fabulous and the views are stunning. The ship has 13 decks (I was on deck 11), 986 passenger cabins and over 2500 passengers.
After an overnight trip (almost 20 hours in total), and some stunning early morning views of the sunset along with the Swedish archipelago comprising wooded islands, rocky cliffs, small cottages and piers and plenty of birds, I arrive at Stockholm Sweden.
I’m booked at the Castle House Inn. Located in the Old Town area that dates back to the Middle Ages, the hotel itself was once one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm. There is free all-day breakfast at the reception, lots of information on what to see and do, and the friendliest hosts I’ve met.
Gamla Stan, the Old Town, is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. The streets are narrow and winding, cobblestoned, and many of the buildings are of differing shades of gold and orange! Absolutely photogenic, to boot! And each and every shop (Gamla Stan is full of souvenir shops) is so beautifully and artistically designed that it is worth stepping into all of them just to see this. It truly is storybook-like.
Gamla Stan is also the most touristy place!
In the middle of Gamla Stan is Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm. Although the name translates to ‘Big Square’ in English, it is actually one of the smallest Old Town squares in Europe. Stortorget stands on the site of the original settlement that grew to become the Swedish capital. Today, it remains quaint, busy, touristy and so pretty.
Right outside my hotel is a bronze sculpture of St. George mounted on horseback while slaying a dragon in order to save a princess. This is believed to be allegory for the victory at the Battle at Brunkeberg, which occurred on October 10, 1471, when Sweden was attacked by and defeated the Danes. The slaying of the dragon has since become a symbol of Sweden.
Off the Stortorget is Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Mårten Trotzigs alley). Although it’s a little hard to find, this 90-cm wide street is the narrowest alley in Gamla Stan. The alley is named after the merchant Mårten Trotzig (1559–1617), who, born in Wittenberg, then immigrated to Stockholm in 1581, and bought properties in the alley in 1597 and 1599, also opening a shop there. He was later to become one of the richest merchants in Stockholm. He was however beaten to death during a trip to Kopparberg in 1617.
There is another old building close by. A one-time venue for royal weddings and coronations, Storkyrkan is both Stockholm’s oldest building (consecrated in 1306) and its cathedral. Behind a baroque facade, the Gothic-baroque interior includes extravagant royal-box pews designed by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, as well as German Berndt Notke’s dramatic sculpture St George and the Dragon, commissioned by Sten Sture the Elder to commemorate his victory over the Danes in 1471. In addition to the magnificent interior decoration of the church, there are also famous statues, royal thrones and art. It’s truly an ornate and beautiful cathedral and well worth the visit.
On the North side of the Stortorget is the Nobel Museum, which is where news and information of the Nobel Prize and Nobel laureates are to be found. The Museum also features a gallery where artifacts donated by Nobel winners are showcased along with their personal life stories.
Stockholm’s Royal Palace is one of Europe’s largest palaces and is now the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden. It has over 600 rooms in addition to the reception rooms, museums, the Royal Armory, with royal costumes and armor, the coronation carriages and coaches from the Royal Stable.
The Palace was largely built during the 18th century in the Italian Baroque style, on the spot where the “Tre Kronor” castle burned down in 1697. It looks like something out of the Roman Empire.
Strategically located in downtown Stockholm, the Parliament House was built in 1905 in Neoclassical architectonic style. The seat of Parliament mainly attracts two kinds of people – architecture lovers and politically involved individuals. Anyone who is interested in politics is invited to come and witness important debates that changes Sweden right in front of your eyes. The establishment also has one of the very few parliamentary libraries open to the public where anyone can borrow most of the books.
It’s also where the Right Livelihood Award takes place. The Award is usually called the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, and given out to people who offer solutions to the most urgent calls humanity currently faces.
Tucked away in the backyard of a Finnish church is Stockholm’s smallest statue. At a height of only 15cm, the statue was built by Swedish artist Liss Eriksson who named it the “Little Boy Looking at the Moon” but is now popularly known as the “Järnpojke”, the “Iron Boy”.
The sculpture is said to bring good luck to anyone who touches the boy’s head or offers a small gift to him. Tourists and locals offer all types of gifts; cheese, coins, food, fruit, flowers, etc. Sometimes he’s dressed in cape and cap, or even a raincoat during wet days. These offerings are cleared every night only to be started again.
The Riddarholmen Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) is the burial church of the Swedish monarchs. The congregation was dissolved in 1807 and today the church is used only for burial and commemorative purposes. Swedish monarchs from Gustavus Adolphus (d. 1632 AD) to Gustaf V (d. 1950) are entombed here (with exceptions such as Queen Christina who is buried within St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), as well as the earlier monarchs Magnus III (d. 1290) and Charles VIII (d. 1470).
Riddarholmen church is also one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm, parts of it dating to the late 13th century, when it was built as a Greyfriars monastery. After the Protestant Reformation, the monastery was closed and the building transformed into a Protestant church. A spire designed by Willem Boy was added during the reign of John III, but it was destroyed by a strike of lightning on July 28, 1835 after which it was replaced with the present cast iron spire.
Coats of arms of knights of the Order of the Seraphim are in the walls of the church. When a knight of the Order dies, his coat of arms is hung in the church and when the funeral takes place the church bells are rung constantly from 12:00 to 13:00.
I walk down (from the hotel) to Evert Taubes Terrass, one of the best viewpoints in Stockholm. Across from the Lake Mälaren is the island of Riddarholmen, with a stunning view of the Stockholm City Hall, Münchenbryggeriet and Södermalm’s coastline. Taube, the park’s namesake, was a beloved composer and troubadour who grew up on the Gothenburg archipelago; he is immortalised in the joyful statue at the corner of the park.
No visit to Sweden is complete without a visit to the Vasa Museum where the only preserved 17th-century ship in the world is on display. The 69-meter-long warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later in 1961. For nearly half a century the ship has been slowly, deliberately and painstakingly restored to a state approaching its original glory. The three masts on the roof outside the specially built museum show the height of the ship’s original masts. What is most amazing is that more than 95 percent of the ship is original. It is decorated with hundreds of carved sculptures.
The ongoing exhibition on the women of Vasa highlights the important but previously unknown narratives on Vasa. The researchers’ work reveals a partially new and surprising image of the living conditions of women during the early part of the 17th century.
Meet Brita Gustavsdotter Båth, the landowner and wood supplier at Ängsö Castle who sold timber to the shipyard where Vasa was constructed. Then there Margareta Nilsdotter, the head and property manager of the Stockholm shipyard who, after her husband’s death, assumed responsibility for the construction of Vasa and Skeppsgården, one of the largest workplaces in the country at the time.
It is absolutely a must-see museum in Stockholm.
Stockholm has been a delight. The weather has been great, the people are so nice, the food is delicious and I’ve enjoyed my stay here.
Now it’s time to proceed to Copenhagen, Denmark.