August 10 thru 11: I left Cedar Rapids on a flight to Stockholm, Sweden where I met up with a friend out of St. Louis, Ginni. We were spending a couple days in Stockholm before boarding Wind Surf, one of three sailing ships owned by Windstar Cruises. We had signed up for the “Scandinavian Tapestry” trip and would board the ship on the afternoon of the 13th. Upon arrival, I was met by a Windstar representative who assisted in getting my luggage loaded into a taxi and directed the driver to take me to the Scandic Anglais Hotel. Ginni was waiting at the hotel and, after I settled into the room, we ventured outside and started walking toward the water front. Our objective was to acquire a 24 hour Hop On – Hop Off tour voucher for both land and water. Upon purchasing the voucher, we got on the Hop On – Hop Off boat for a tour around Stockholm via water. We did not get off the boat but rode through all eight stops which consisted of Nybroplan, a shopping district with many restaurants; Vasa Museum, the world’s only surviving 17th century ship; Skeppsholmen, the island home of the Modern Art Museum and the Swedish Museum of Architecture; Tivoli Grona Lund which houses an amusement park with the world’s biggest Zac-Spin coaster along with Skansen, an open air museum depicting a miniture Sweden with historical quarters; Cruise Berth which is the port for cruise ships; Fortografiska which is a museum that presents exhibitions by famous photographers; Old Town which is the original heart of Stockholm; Royal Palace which is the Swedish Royal family’s official residence.
Once we rode all the stops made by the boat, we made our way back to the hotel. We got a
recommendation from the hotel staff to eat dinner at Sturehof, a restaurant with Swedish dishes. The food was okay but the noise level was quite disruptive. After a nightcap in the hotel bar, Ginni and I retired to our room in hopes of getting a good night sleep so we would be ready for the next day’s adventure.
August 12: We really had a great night’s sleep with neither of us waking up until 10:00 AM which meant we missed breakfast that was included in the room charge. An employee of the hotel directed us to a nearby coffee shop where we got coffee along with some fruit and granola. The bus stop for the Hop On – Hop Off was right down from our hotel so it was easy to find. Our first point of departure from the bus was at City Hall, the home of the Nobel Prize dinner, where we purchased a ticket for a tour. The City Hall was built 1911-23 and is the center of Stockholm’s local government; the Blue Hall is the venue for the annual Nobel Prize Banquet and its walls are constructed from handmade red bricks which the architect determined was too beautiful to paint blue. The Golden Hall, with 19 million pieces of gold leaf and glass, depicts Stockholm as a bridge between East and West.
After City Hall, we took the bus to the Vasa Museum which houses a massive warship built in 1628 that sank on its maiden voyage before it left the harbor; it has been recovered and restored. Sadly, there were 4 or 5 large groups of people wanting in at the same time so we decided not to wait in the LONG lines. By the time we found a place and ate lunch, it was late afternoon and time to get the bus back to the hotel. That evening we went to a delightful, small Swedish restaurant called Nalen where the atmosphere was quiet and the food delicious.
August 13: Today we are to board the ship so, after breakfast, we put our luggage in the hallway for Windstar to pick up and transport to the ship. After checking out of our hotel, we decided to walk to Skansen (an open air museum founded in 1891) where buildings and farmsteads from all over Sweden create 75 acres of living history in the heart of Stockholm. However, we were very disappointed; it seemed to be more of a “tourist trap” which caters to families with young children. We decided to take the ferry to Gamla Stan (or Old Town) which is where Stockholm was founded in 1252; of particular interest to us was the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral, and Old Town.
As we got off the ferry, we saw a restaurant alongside the Wind Surf (the ship we will be traveling on) so we had our lunch and then boarded the ship. Once all necessary paperwork was filled out, we went to our cabin to deposit some packages and make sure our luggage had been delivered. All was okay so we headed out to explore Gamla Stan using the self-guided walk provided by Rick Steves who we were pleased to have met before boarding the ship. Gamla Stan (or Old Town) was where all of Stockholm fit until the 1600’s.
We boarded the ship and changed for dinner. The crew was introduced in the lounge so we went there for drinks and appetizers; a couple from Manhatten joined us. After dinner, we listened to a group perform in the lounge but they were not the best so hope the entertainment in the other bar area will be better but will not find out tonight since it is time to turn in. Tomorrow the ship will depart for Sandhamn, Sweden.