Cruising Into Stockholm.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Where I stayed
Good Morning+ Hagersten Stockholm
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Sweden  , Stockholm,
Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweden. What does it conjure up in the mind? Volvo's and Vikings? Blonde's, Bjorn's and Benny's? Ikea too of course! There are lots we associate with Sweden, but Sweden has some surprises too. Whether it is the excellent state of the Aussie Dollar at the moment, or it is just so, but we did not find Sweden as expensive as we had feared. We were a bit surprised that in Sweden it rains a lot in Summer and you can not expect it to be dark before 11pm.
Swedes are reserved and considerate people and helpful when asked. When in a large shop or information centre you always take a ticket from a machine and wait your turn. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. For example, you are browsing in a computer shop. You can browse without any hassle and when you are ready to talk to a salesperson you take your ticket. You can then continue to look around until your number comes up. I like it.

Stockholm has excellent easy to understand public transport and is gorgeous to look at (even through the rain!) with its many islands, bridges, churches and waterways.

But getting to Stockholm from Lithuania was an adventure in itself. We caught a morning bus to Riga, with rain all the way. The bus didn't have a toilet that worked, so the driver just stopped near a cow field for the toilet stop.
We walked the 3 kms from the bus station to the ferry port with our packs (we had no Latvia money for a taxi), then boarded the ship "Romantika". Straight away we could see it was much more cruise ship, than ferry - it was luxurious and we had a lovely cabin with our own bathroom. Live Entertainment was listed along with the many restaurants and night clubs for the overnight trip. We came to discover that lots of Latvians and Lithuanians go on the ship as a holiday, spending the day in Stockholm, then getting straight back on the ship again, making it a two night cruise.

We thoroughly enjoyed our taste of luxury and seated ourselves ready for the live entertainment. A nice surprise was that we were not hassled to buy drinks and could enjoy the entertainment without parting with too much cash. A high standard talent show was the first offering and it was being televised. A sort of "Australia's Got Talent" show called "Amber Star" and contestants were from the Baltic and surrounding countries, including Russia. Following this was another talent show including ethnic dance routines and children singing and doing ballet (not so high standard). We had dinner, then came back to the entertainment and saw a magician, singers and dancers that were very good. Then it was a rock and roll band and a lot of dancing and when we went to bed at 2 am the ship was still very lively!

Out on deck we watched our arrival into a very grey and wet Stockholm, then caught a bus into the city centre to the tourist information centre, where our priorities were finding a computer repair shop and accommodation for the night.

We ended up spending 3 days in Stockholm, seeing the sights, trying to get our computer fixed (we ended up buying another but still carrying our old one as we have ascertained it still works, it just needs a new screen which we may be able to find later elsewhere) and organising car hire for the next 6 days.

A full day boat excursion took us to a UNESCO Heritage listed Viking island site. Burial mounds dot the landscape and a tour guide explained to us the historic finds, which helped fill in some of the blanks in our knowledge of Vikings.

A visit to Drottningholm Slot (Palace) was another UNESCO highlight, especially the theatre. Back in the 1770's the King married a German Princess, who missed opera and thought the Swedes needed to broaden their cultural horizons. An amazing theatre was built, complete with mechanically move able stages and hand painted scenery, that could complete a change in less time than it is done today. Successive Kings who had no interest in opera began using the theatre as a storeroom and 200 years later it was "discovered" again, and found to be in perfect order. It is the only example left in the world of its type and is used in its original state, with original stage scenery changes for opera today. The King and Queen have special seats and attend.

The sun tried to shine for the first time since we arrived and made the Palace look beautiful and we walked through the stunning gardens to the Chinese Pavilion. This was built as a gift for a queen and is architecturally beautiful. It contains amazing Chinese ornaments and decorations collected by successive Queens.

We had one last UNESCO listed site in Stockholm so we caught the metro and found Skogskyrkogarden. It was one of those sites it is a bit difficult to see why it was listed. It is a cemetery with a chapel! We gleaned that it was one of the first in the world to be specifically designed to be in a beautiful setting, in this case woodlands, rather than a churchyard. We walked around a bit, went to the visitors centre, but still ended up a little non-plussed at its World Heritage status. Especially when we found a morbid Latin inscription that said "Today Me, Tomorrow You"!  

Time to head off onto the open road now with our hire car (Volvo of course!) and see as many sights as we can in 6 days.

Travel Tip: The Tourist Center will suggest buying The Stockholm Card SEK 425 1day, SEK 550 2days, SEK 650 3 days or SEK 895 5 days. The sales pitch is free transport and free admission to 80 museums and attractions. The drawback is limited opening times as to how many attractions can be seen. We opted not to buy the card and the first day took a ferry (not covered by the card) to Birka Island, then the second day to Drottningholm SEK 190 (3 attractions) and Skogskyrkogarden No Entry Fee. Our total transport for the 2 days (excluding the ferry to Birka)  including chasing around to try and repair the computer was SEK 180. Total SEK 370 for two days. 

Travel Recommendation: We would like to give a big thumbs up to OnOff electrical store in Stockholm and in particular Stefan in the repair department for all his help in getting a instore computer to speak English, to get us out of our immediate problem.

Footnote: Royal Domain of Drottningholm, Skogskyrkogarden, Birka and Hovgarden are all UNESCO World Heritage listed.
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