|Billl just loved the courtyard!|
It was right in the city centre, 2 blocks from the T-Centralen (Metro), half a block from the bus station to the cruise terminal and a block from the train central station. It would have been perfect had we taken the express train! We enjoyed Stockholm a lot because of this location. We wandered through the shopping centers, boutiques, and eating places. We even found a courtyard of an old hotel among old fine dining restaurants amid lots of greens and flowers around a pond. At the T-Centralen, on sidewalks along the shops, hot dog kiosks led us to feed our American fancy, even though Bill had bratwurst. Another time McDonalds’ burgers won!
|the Royal Palace|
Founded in 1250 (possibly as early as 1187), Sweden had been part of the Kalmar Union (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark). But uprisings and the breakup of the Union led to the accession of Gustav Vasa in 1523, establishing the Swedish royal power and the city began to grow. In 1634 Stockholm became the official capital of the Swedish empire. The Royal Palace is the official residence and principal workplace of the Swedish monarch, while the Drottningholm Palace, a World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Stockholm, serves as the Royal Family's private residence. It is likened to Versailles, including the huge garden, in France. At the Drottningholm grounds we took a wonderful tour of the oldest living theater in the world.
The first part of the name Stockholm, “stock”, means log in Swedish or it may have come from an old German word –“Stock” - meaning fortification. The second part of the name “holm” means islet, and is thought to refer to the islet Helgeandsholmen in central Stockholm. Old Town (Gamla Stan) was built on the central island next to this islet from the mid-13th century onward. It is just next to the Royal Palace.
|oldest street in Gamla Stan|
|the Nobel Museum at the Square of Old Town|
|our favorite restaurant so far, in front of the Nobel Museum|
There are many colorful restaurants around the Square. We chose to dine at the one which had on its menu a section called Swedish Cuisine. We were served the best Swedish Meatballs we have ever had, paired with lingonberries and pickled cucumbers, and shrimp and asparagus soup served with delicious dark bread made in their kitchen which we called Peter’s bread after our cheerful waiter, Peter.
One day we went to the Skansen Open Air Museum and actually enjoyed the Zoo (both the tropical animals and Nordic animals) more than the relocated Swedish farms and houses like the stone cottage and the Sami (indigenous tribe) dwellings. But it was raining, so I bought a throwaway raincoat and simply breezed through everything.
|Sami dwellings in Skansen|
Close to Skansen is the Vasa Museum where we found a long line of people waiting to get in. It’s good we already had the Stockholm card as that allowed us to bypass the line. The Vasa (a ship) sank in 1628 as soon as it was launched to sea! It was too tall for its narrow bottom, a foolish order by the King. It sat on the bottom of the ocean floor for 333 years until it was discovered, brought back up, and restored for 11 years. The ship is enormous and contains about 700 very well preserved sculptures which do a remarkable job of representing 17th century life.
Our visit to Stockholm would have been complete had we not had the misfortune of tickets being sold out in two places we wanted to experience, the Skyview at the Globe Ericson, largest spherical building in the world, and the City Tower at City Hall. We suspect that, since it was the day of the 'best marathon in the world', the Stockholm Marathon where 20,000 participate in running 2 loops of the city, these two places, where you get a great view of the city, was in high demand. Oh well, so we cannot give you an aerial view of the city.
|City Hall Tower|
But, before signing off, let me tell you about the HTL. Minimalist in design, check-in was via a kiosk at a reception area that doubled as a small shop. Before reaching the elevators is a large lounge and bar at the center. The rooms are brand new, quite like efficiency studios but with lots of leg room. There are no chairs and no table (except for 2 night tables on each side of a firm Queen-size bed), just like our bedrooms at home, encouraging guests to hang out at the lounge area. There are also no closets, just artistic buttons and places to hang clothes and bags, etc. spread throughout the room. At the lounge area, food served is always prepared from scratch. The breakfast buffet, where you choose 4 out of 7 items, is unlike any other hotel buffet and actually provides guests a brown bag for lunch option, if you don’t eat it for breakfast as we did the first day!
|Skyview at the globe Ericsson Building|
On the same block as HTL, we boarded the Bus 1 to go to the Terminal where we were to begin our 2-week cruise through Demark, Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, and England on MV Explorer and the unique Enrichment Voyage of the Institute of Shipboard Education.