Swedish highlights

Sweden will always be the place remembered for the off road  adventures.  Tarmac to dirt track in less than a foot!  The forest tracks and roads are lovely but I have to say that the majority of roads are long and straight so can be a bit monotonous.  Some twists and turns to be found of course but the type of roads just confirms the size and scale of the country and how open it really is which is quite amazing.

Back to moose watch.  Despite the signs, the fences suggesting that an encounter is imminent and the careful observations along the long, long roads, not a one.  Chatting to a Swede from the north of the country I ventured to ask it this is just some sort of additional road safety ploy.  No, no, it seems that there are indeed moose and that the best moose encounter places are the forest roads to the north (tick) at around 4 or 5 in the morning.  Ah, that would be why we haven’t seen them then.  The chances of me getting up at that hour to go on a moose watch are slim to none so I will have to be content with my own version which is a bit twee but will be a good reminder of the many pleasant hours seaching in vain.

Gaston the Moose in more convivial surroundings
Gaston the Moose in more convivial surroundings

Stockholm

Why Gaston?  Well, another great reminder of a very lovely bar in Stockholm which we happened across.  The staff were so friendly and the atmosphere so relaxed it was easy to spend a pleasant hour or two just chilling.  The ability for Scandanavians to speak English to such a high standard is something that continues to amaze me and, although makes me feel incredibly lazy, is something that I am eternally grateful for.  Erin, our very knowledgeable host, was quick to make us feel at home and must have the best office I have ever seen.  Even she confesses that this is a very clear plus point that convinced her that the job needed to be hers. A whole room full of wine – holy moley.

Anyway we can full recommend Gaston if you are ever in Stockholm – gastonvin.se.  Those of you who know BinTwo in Padstow – it was like a bigger version of that and so will feel right at home there.  We even ended the evening with a couple of specially made cocktails – ‘The beat goes on’ for me – all Swedish ingredients (except the lime) and clearly part of my 5 a day as it contained beetroot, and the ‘Cornish Flip’ for Tim – something more sweet to satisfy his sweet tooth and containing, of course, a bit of rum and port a la salty seadogs tipple.

Vasa Museum

But a trip to Stockholm must not be without a trip to the Vasa Museum.  The warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in Stockholm in 1628 after a journey of only 1300 metres.  The quays and shores were lined with an excited public waiting to celebrate her departure – oops, not quite the send off that was expected.  Just can just imagine the shock and sense of dismay.  It was fine until it left the shelter of the surrounding cliffs.  It would clearly have looked incredible and would have been a fearful sight to any enemy but, once it hit the wind, it just keeled over one way and then the next and immediately began to take on water through the gun ports – soon sealing the fate of that ship and the crew, women and children on board.    It was enormous and was just too top heavy – built from more than a thousand oak trees and holding 64 cannons, over 50 metre high masts and hundreds of painted and gilded sculptures.  It lay at the bottom of Stockholm harbour until it was salvaged in 1961 and is now restored in full and is the most incredible sight.  98% of the original ship has been salvaged which is incredible.  I’d show you some photos but we managed to hit delete by mistake.  Do take a look at the museums website though vasamuseet.se (great weebsite too) as it will give you an idea of what I mean.  Perhaps the best museum I have visited.  Purpose built, yes, but the quality of presentation and the way they manage the number of people through the place was very impressive.  A queue for about 20 minutes, kept moving, no problem there.  Easy ticketing and once inside, no real sense of just how many people are there – never felt ‘busy’.  A huge building (obviously) which clearly allowed for clever visitor flow and had something for everyone.  Very few staff too really but not needed, the interpretation of the exhibits was so well done, but not overdone.  A regular film presentation and guided tours plus an MP3 downloadable tour if you want/need it enhanced what was there.  It is so complete that all you want to do it look at it.  There were some very good quality reconstructions of bits of the ship which meant you could imagine what it was like without having to board it – the reconstructed gun deck has to be my favourite.  Awesome. Go. Worth every penny although actually it was quite cheap by some of our standards – definitely much less than the Tower of London, for example.

Other highlights?

  • Interesting to read abou the years and years and years of wars between Denmark/Norway and Sweden – yet now there is clearly more alignment between the Swedes and the Norwegians (‘well, they are like neighbours’ said a wordly young man in the wine bar in Stockholm) with the Danes being seen as separate (‘well, they are more European now’ says same sage bod).
  • Great and effective underground to get in and out of Stockholm to save faffing about.  Even got ourselves an Oyster type card to make life easier.
  • The architecture is just beautiful – real mixture of styles but very carefully protected and no high rise to spoil the effect.  Very nautical (not surprisingly) with lots of nice boats to look at and some to go on and explore.
  • A really relaxed feel to the place and compact enough to walk around and just mooch.  Lovely.
  • Easy to find yourselves in the wrong place… well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  We stayed at a couple of Scandic Hotels which are all very nice and quite similar – there’s often several in one location too so plenty of chance to get a room for the night and good parking – but this + a number of places with a similar name = wrong hotel!  There’s Norkoping, Linkoping and Jonkoping – who knew?  We got the wrong koping but thankfully easily rememdied.
  • One place we stayed at – Vaxjo – for some reason sounded too much like Jackso(n) and so we found ourselves singing ‘we’re going to Vaxjo’ in the Johny Cash we’re going to Jackson stylie.  Little things…

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