Tuesday July 27th
Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is situated on the country`s east coast on the estuary where Lake Mälaren joins the Baltic Sea. It occupies 14 islands which are connected by over 50 bridges and is often referred to as “The Venice of the North”.
The earliest mention of Stockholm in writing dates back to 1252.
Sweden rose as a major European power in the 17th century and Stockholm became its capital in 1634.
The population of Stockholm is over 2 million and the currency is the Swedish Krona.
Courtesy of the extra hour in bed due to the time change, I awoke very early at around 5.45 am and looking out of the patio window I saw that the ship was moving very slowly past islands covered in vegetation.
Leaping out of bed to wash and get dressed, I then made a dash onto deck 10 so as not to miss the entry into port. It was only then that I found out that we were still miles away from Stockholm and we were not expected to dock until 7.30 am!
The early morning sunlight did make for some half decent photos though!
Following breakfast at Topsider`s we met Doug, Michelle & Dani at the Walt Disney Theatre to assemble for our “City Hall, Royal Palace & Old Town” tour which began at 8.15 am.
We passed through the terminal building at the dockside where Abba music was playing over the pa system…ok it`s Tuesday, it must be Sweden!
Outside the building we met our guide and then it was on the bus and away on our tour.
As we drove through the city I noticed how relatively traffic free the city was and the guide explained several facts about her city. One that sticks in mind is that there are hot water pipes beneath many of the main streets in order to keep them ice free during the winter thanks to the geo thermal energy that the Swede`s have recovered. Again, just as we had seen in St. Petersburg, everywhere seemed spotlessly clean and tidy.
Our first stop was at the City Hall and our guide did not hide the fact that she rated this place even higher than the palace that we were to visit later in the tour.
It is in fact a magnificent brick building that was built between 1911-1923 and is the location of many state banquets and other functions.
One of the rooms we entered [The Golden Hall] is decorated with over 18 million pieces of glass and gold and is a fantastic piece of craftsmanship.
Outside the building we met up with again our “personal ship photographer” [Warwick] who took several shots of us all with a panoramic view of the river behind, along with a few “quirky” ones of my DW and I as by now he knew that we would be up for it!
We then drove through the city for a brief photo stop at a high location where we had a good panoramic view of most of Stockholm and on the way again I had to contend with taking the occasional photo out of the window of the moving bus!
From here we went to the Old Town where we disembarked the bus that had parked right outside the Royal Palace to begin our walking tour.
The Old Town area was planned in the Middle Ages and contains antiquated buildings, cobblestoned streets and narrow alleys.
The main square had outdoor cafés and to one side is the Stockholm Cathedral where a mass was currently taking place so we had to return later for a visit inside.
It was therefore off to the Royal Palace where we walked through many of the rooms that are open to the public.
To be honest this was something of a let down after the magnificent palace we visited in St. Petersburg. It somehow seemed very dark and dingy in places and my DW was itching to get the dusters out to give the place a darned good spring clean!
Photography [even without the use of flash] was not permitted inside the palace which was a shame, but nevertheless our guide did a great job in passing on some detailed information about the place.
One of the oddest things she told us was when we walked through one of the old queen’s bedrooms from centuries ago. Apparently, members of the aristocracy assembled here as she gave birth in order to verify that the offspring was of genuine royal heritage!
As mass was now over, we were then led into the Cathedral that we had passed earlier.
This magnificent building has its foundations in the 13th century and was the location of the marriage of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath on 19 June 1976.
The huge vaulted building contains many artefacts including a silver altar that was donated in 1650 and the pulpit which dates from 1700.
By the exit is the “Parhelion Painting” which dates from the 1630`s and depicts a light phenomenon that occurred over Stockholm in 1535.
On leaving the Cathedral we then took a position adjacent to the Royal Palace to view the “Changing of the Guard” ceremony which was due to take place in a few minutes time.
Compared to the ritual that is carried out elsewhere at similar venues though, this event also did not live up to the hype, however we can at least say that we saw it!
I then had to contend with taking even more photos through the window of the bus as we made our way back to the ship.
Inside the terminal is a small shop which was like a magnet for those last minute souvenir buyers [ourselves included], and after which we passed through Immigration where oddly we had to show our passports before boarding the ship at around 1.00 pm.
After lunch on deck 9, we went onto deck 10 to soak up the sun before we set sail at 3.00 pm. This was 90 minutes earlier than our original scheduled port departure time due to the need to catch the high tide in order to avoid the risk of “bottoming out”.
Throughout the long exit through the archipelago, the pilot gave us a running commentary over the pa system, explaining all about the countless islands that we passed and the buildings therein which was very informative.
It was in fact well over 2 hours before we were finally in open seas.
Tonight we all went to the Walt Disney Theatre before dinner to view another new show entitled “The Dream Goes On” which told the story of Walt Disney from his early beginnings from “Steamboat Willie” up to the present day. This was an excellent show and full of nostalgia.
After the show I had an idea regarding our plans for 2011, and as I wouldn`t be calling at some ridiculous time in the US, I rang Tom [catrancher] to see if his cruise dates were “cast in stone” as our friends from LA had said that it was a great shame that we could not be all together on the “Dream” next year.
The great news is that Tom was ok to change his “Dream” plans to sail 5 days later than planned, so it will be fantastic now that we can all combine our reservations to ensure that we are on the same dining plan.
Armed with this, I went down to see Jocelyn at the Cruise Booking desk who rearranged our reservations, assuring me that no costs would be involved in making the changes to our future sailing plans, so we are now “all set”.
Following dinner at Lumiere`s and the obligatory stint in Sessions, we retired to bed at around 11.30 pm.
Tomorrow, a well earned rest from touring/sightseeing as it will be another day at sea.