Wake up again without an alarm. I am getting good at this. We get ready quick and catch a cab to the airport. Our flight is SouthWest style without seat assignments. It is about 35 minutes from Bergen to Oslo. In Oslo we take care of all our VAT tax and get on a quick flight to Stockholm. SAS rocks!
We land in Arlanda Airport at about a quarter past twelve. Pretty efficient travel. Hop on a bus to the Central Terminal and end up in probably the biggest bus/train station I have ever seen. We wind our way to the T-bana. Hop on whatever it takes to get to our hotel. It is the Gustaf Vasa hotel, across from the Gustaf Vasa Church. Is is a RS hotel, we'll see. We are on the second floor above the street, unlike Molly's there is no salsa band playing all night long. This will do. We are on a hunt for food now because we haven't had a real meal all day. We start to search for food and decide that the Scandinavian rip off of Subway will do. It is called Sandy's and it might as well be called Star-way because it is Starbucks and Subway smashed together. The food was simple and fresh. We enjoyed it, man were we hungry. Now we are ready to conquer Stockholm. It is Sunday and boy does the town feel like it. No one is out. We bought 24 hour bus passes and we are finding them to be a great deal. Our hotel is all of 100 ft. from a subway station so it is highly convenient in this city with a superior public transportation system. We hop on and head for Gamla Stan.
Gamla Stan is the old city of Stockholm. Stockholm is really a set of connected islands and Gamla Stan is the first one. It has most of the historical landmarks including some old churches and the royal palace. Almost the whole island burnt to the ground in the late 17th century so they rebuilt everything from scratch just about. The royal palace was modeled on the dominant style of the time which is Italian Rococco and the city plan is government centered. It actually reminds me a lot of Siena or Florence then it does of Sweden. The island only has walk streets towards the center, nothing large enough to drive a car through. It is quiet since it is sunday and most places are closed. We use this as an oppurtunity to get in as much uncrowded site seeing as possible. It is pretty easy to get situated since it is so small. We hit the palace because it is open and is definitely high on our list of things to see. We missed the Norge royal palace in Oslo, I hope we didn't miss much. We only get to see maybe half of the palace apartments before it closed, they were nice and revalidated our tickets for tomorrow. We saw the changing of the guard and checked out the gift shop. We figured out that we could plaster our whole house with pictures of the swedish royal family. I think I would be a little uncomfortable selling my mug like that on just about anything. Fortunately I am not royalty so I can hold off on the self marketing. After this we wandered to the main shopping lanes looking in the shop windows figuring out what we are going to come back and buy tomorrow. We are in the land of St. Lucy and we are trying to get Kate something like that. We make mental notes, there are some prospects.
It is about dinner time and we are hungry so we spy a few places and end up at this one place called Jerusalem Kabob. It is just off the main drag through and archway adjacent to this beautiful courtyard. We order up all this great middle eastern food and go to the courtyard to eat. We sit in these great wicker chairs and pick up our forks. Just as I start to dig into my hummus this lady comes over and tells us we have to leave. There is a restaurant right next to JK and the wicker chairs belong to them. JK patrons have to sit on the lower class plastic white chairs just about 6 ft. away. Fine with us, food tastes the same. It is very good and a great price. Not as good as the Veggie place in Bergen but still fantastic. The guy running the JK is working his butt off and is real nice about it so it was a pleasant dining experience. Dessert soon followed which was some ice cream in a waffle cone (a craving as it turns out). I picked raspberry and chocolate and Jo gave me flack about it. After she tasted it, she changed her tune. We finished up Gamla Stan by following RS' DIY walk. It was a little hard to follow at times because he wants you to walk through courtyards that are closed up on Sunday but we get through it. The last stop is supposed to be this incredible epiphany on how Sweden just kept building off the edge of the island but it was totally lame if you ask me.
While leafing through the Stockhom This Week booklet I noticed that there was a fair going on in the park behind our hotel so on the way back from Gamal Stan we stop in. There was only an hour left in the fair and just about everyone had packed up. There was this really cheesy band playing country music badly in both english and swedish. This is where Jo develops the craving for fresh hot popcorn which she holds with her until Chicago. The walk back to the hotel from the park is beautiful down this great tree lined street. In bed by 9pm.
Got up early because of our early bedtime last night. The hotel serves breakfast so we go across the hall to take our freebie. More bread, cereal, cold cuts, cheese and tomatoes. Iam convinced that Wendy & Dad stayed in nicer hotels, no one is serving us Lutefisk. Wait a second maybe it is the other way around. I think I will shut up now.
We set out to see all the rest of the royal palace. It is not as big as Windsor but it is definitely impressive. You see the Swedes tried real hard during the last couple of centuries to keep up with the Jones, and the Jones were the French and British royalty. The apartments are elegant. I can't imagine actually living in one of these rooms but they look marvelous. The royal treasures are actually beautifully stated. Not gaudy at all. The palace museum is well layed out with plenty of english signs for us foreigners. The royal family were no where to be seen, I guess they have a country estate where they spend most of their time. We did talk to a memeber of the security staff. He was rather candid on his opinion of all this. He did not particular enjoy the royalty's opulence at the sake of the people who they make their wealth from. Funny how he is working at the palace.
So far the weather has been gorgeous in Stockholm. Sun is out, it is almost warm. We are very thankful, Wendy catalog this as her coldest city on the trip. We finish up in Gamla Stan with some shopping and a little lunch in an Italian cafe. We bought almost nothing in Norway because we were waiting for me to get paid. Well I got paid and now we are buying out the Stan! Mostly gifts so I won't inventory here.
Next stop VASA! Vasa is this 17th century war ship that sunk about 20 minutes into it's maiden voyage. Somewhere in the '50s some amatuer historian found it. A project was carried out to excavate it and it was raised back to the surface. They then spent the next 20 years preserving it and cataloging their find. In fact they are still working on it, but it is mostly finished. The ship is massive and crafted down to every last detail. It would have been scary if it had ever made it to a battle. The excavation itself is just as interesting as the ship. It is quite an impressive feat of engineering.
When the Vasa sank, it was really the climax to a string of disappointments for the Swedish navy that year. The vasa was to sail to Poland to join a stockade to crush the Poles. Well, by the time the Vasa had sailed the stockade was already over and the Poles had handed the Swedes their asses. They didn't know because there was no way to get word to Stockholm. The admiral died on the way home from a disease he had caught, then Vasa sank. Sucks for them.
We made a quick trip back to the hotel to the hotel. We had dropped off our laundry to have it done that morning and wanted to make sure we got it back because we leave early tomorrow morning. Very bad move to leave one's clothes in Stockholm when you are in Copenhagen. Then right back to the same part of town to go to Skansen. We paid half price to get in to see nothing. It is a folk museum like the one in Oslo that we went to. It is supposed to be better but we are there so late there is nothing to see. Every building was closed. All the animals are inside except for some Bison (from america) and some pigs. The only excitement came from the killer peacocks. The peacocks being a stupid breed don't know any better and leave their cages. They can barely fly but they can get off the ground high enough to get out of their cages and get into every other cage and onto every building. They are beautiful but I bet they lose a couple a week because they wander into the fox cage.
Caught dinner at this great veggie fast food place called 'Meaning Green'. I think they should change the name to 'Mean Green' and dress the staff in fatigues handing out militant vegetarian pamphlets. I dropped the suggestion to the clerk and she just sort of looked at me funny. I guess it wasn't that good of an idea. Food was good, cheap and fast. RS should add it to the list.
Stockholm has been a pleasant city. The people are nice if a little busier then the norwegians. It is dirtier then Oslo but it is also significantly cheaper. It is obvious that Sweden and Stockholm have not had as much strife as norway has in the last 200 years because things seem older here and larger. I still want to see more so it must have been good.