Cool Stockholm and a case of mistaken identity

Sailing into Stockholm is rather exciting. It is very much a city on the water, with its low rise buildings emerging from around rocky outcrops, the pieces finally coming together as a unified city as you approach the waterfront. You really do get the best views from a boat!

The waterfront

There are essentially two approaches to the city, the wide one used by the large cruise ships and the big ferries or the narrow one that twists through the Baggenfjarden which winds its way from Boo almost into central Stockholm.

The route through Boo

The route squeezes its way through a narrow gorge, the Skurusdet that runs for about 5 nm to Kungshamn, past the Royal summer cottage and into Sverige Holme. In places it is no more than 10 to 20 m wide and less than 3 m deep. It is used by the smaller Uto and island ferries as well lots of pleasure boats, so you have to be prepared to try to get out of the way and not enter the squishes when they are coming – the ferries show no mercy and as if to reinforce the message they have logs dangled along their sides to act as not very forgiving fenders!

Avoid the ferries, they show no mercy!

The shortcut to Stockholm through Boo

After spending a couple of days at Saltsjöbaden, entering the channel at Boo was a great way to get to Stockholm itself. Interestingly it was also the way the Russian fleet tried to capture Stockholm in 1718. Quite rightly, the Russian admiral thought that no one would expect them to sail a fleet of warships up the Skurusdet and if he did he could take the Swedes by surprise and come in behind them. It was a remarkable feat of seamanship with one major flaw! A garrison of 10 Swedes had the presence of mind to blocked the narrowest part of the gorge with boats when they saw to their horror and shock, the Russian fleet coming through the gorge and then held them at bay with 3 cannons until reinforcements could be got from Stockholm. This left the Russians trapped in the gorge and they only managed to extract themselves with heavy losses. They never managed to capture Stockholm. In their frustration and anger they ransacked towns along the Swedish coast over the next 20 years!

Navishamn was the ideal central Stockholm marina for us, on the Djurgården and just in front of the Italian Embassy with a tram stop just outside – the perfect place to explore the city from! It was also nice and secure and we could leave Grace while we returned to the UK for a few days.

Navishamn Marina

Brilliant trams that worked until 0200! They have newer ones as well!

From the comfort of our waterside ‘apartment’ we could see there was always something going on, ferries passing or cruise ships arriving and then turning round to leave. It is an awesome sight to see 300 metre long, 35 metre wide and 90000 tonne ships pirouette round their axes just a few feet away and barely making a ripple! We had the new Queen Elizabeth, apparently she can only make the trip at this time of year as she only has a partially double plated hull (not a confidence builder). Her siren has been tuned to be exactly the same as the old QE2, however my personal favourite was the Disney Magic which played “When you wish upon a star…” on its horn before leaving and Disney hits as it sailed away – so wonderfully tacky!

The Queen Elizabeth

The Vasa Museum was simply breathtaking, the ship itself was absolutely beautiful and it was quite amazing to see such a complete ship from the 1640’s.

The figurehead

The simply breathtaking Wasa!

The rather bright colour scheme!

I was so impressed that I even bought a souvenir tin mug and the English version of the book about the discovery and salvage that my father had bought when he went to see the ship in the 1970s. I can remember being fascinated by the book, simply because the strange and unintelligible language it was written in. Interestingly many of the photos and drawings are exactly as I remember them!

Tin mug! It has some disadvantages when drinking hot tea! It burns your lips!

The other reason to love the Museum was the wonderful climate control – 18c and 40% humidity! Outside it was still 34c and many people were jumping into the big fountain at Karlaplan.

The cooling fountain at Karlaplan

Our choice of museums to visit seemed to be based around where we might be coolest! The Nordiska Museum is a monumental granite building of British Museum proportions! We thought that must be a cool place but even that had heated up and the walls were warm to the touch. The museum covered ‘modern’ Sweden – basically everything since Gustav Vasa and the Stockholm Bloodbath to the present day!

Nordiska Museum

A huge Gustav Vasa watching over us!

We then tried the Royal Palace, which was also warm. We remarked on the terrible security as an elderly man in a blazer and straw hat stepped across a low rope barrier and tried to open a door to get into the private apartments but he clearly did not know the passcode, then after trying several other doors without success he ended up hammering on the door to be let in – clearly a madman and we hurried past. It was only later when we reached the portraits of the current Royal family that realised that the madman bore a striking resemblance to the King!

The Royal Palace

The long gallery

The throne with quite a bit of scaffolding behind it!

However this was not the only mistaken identity today, I mistook a urinal for a sentry box……fortunately it was not the other way round but I did cause a bit of alarm to someone exiting the ‘box’ as I snapped away with my camera!

Sentry Box

Urinal be careful not to confuse them!

The next place we visited, it’s name escapes me now but was originally going to be the underground car park for the parliament building but while they were excavating it they discovered the Viking origins of Stockholm and after many years of debate, the cars lost and history won and it was a really interesting place to visit. It also had a large sign outside saying ‘come on in, 18c inside’! So clearly an essential place to visit on our tour of ‘cooler Stockholm ‘. One exhibit was the first example they found of the latest advance in Viking boat technology – the squared off stern as opposed to the pointy stern!

18 c inside the Medeltidsmuseum was a great selling point

Latest Viking technology!

We also visited the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath in the Gamla Stan. The square itself probably would not have looked much different than it did in 1520. The Bloodbath was the catalyst that created Sweden as an independent country. It’s effects have shaped much of the country that we have seen this summer.

Site of the Stockholm Bloodbath

Gamla Stan

In essence, after much fighting and the death of their leader, Sten Sture, revolting Swedish nobles sued for peace with King Christian of Denmark and swore allegiance to him provided Swedish law would upheld. Christian naturally said ‘yes’ and that ‘of course bygones would be bygones’ and that ‘he would bury the hatchet’ – except he did not tell them where he would bury it! So he invited all the Swedish nobility to Stockholm for 3 days of feasting and a bit of ‘getting to know you better time’ to mark his coronation. He then promptly imprisoned them and not messing about, over the next few days executed about 100 of them for heresy in the square. This did not go down well with Swedes generally. It might have worked to keep dissenters in their place except Gustav (Eriksson) Vasa refused to go as he wisely did not trust Christian having been imprisoned by him in Denmark and by all accounts did not enjoy the experience. His father and brother did go, with unhappy results. Gustav Vasa then became a bit of a rallying point for resistance and by 1523 he was the first King of Sweden….. and the rest is history!

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