Day Ten: Mama Mia, Here We Go Again [July 13th, 2018]

Today was our second day in Stockholm. Stockholm is a gorgeous city, I think my number one choice for Baltic living would still be Helsinki, but Sweden is a good second option.

Time for some fun facts about Stockholm. [Again, thanks to the Princess Patter for all of these fun facts I use. I suppose I could use Wikipedia to find out more fun facts, but Princess has these neat port guides for all of our destinations, and they have the perfect overview of the ports we visit].

Stockholm is the capital city of Sweden and was founded in 1252. Some people think it’s one of the most beautiful capital cities in the entire world. I agree it’s beautiful, but there are a lot of other capital cities in this world that I have yet to visit before I can agree or disagree with that statement. Some people refer to it as the “Venice of the North,” but St. Petersburg was also referred to as the same thing, and since I have never visited Venice, I cannot tell you which looks more like Venice, Stockholm or St. Petersburg. Stockholm is made of 14 different islands that lay on the Baltic Sea, as well as Lake Malaren. Aside from consisting of 14 different islands, Stockholm is an archipelago that’s made up of roughly 30,000 islands, rock islets, and peninsulas.  The total area of Stockholm is 2500 square miles, 13% of which is water. One-third of Stockholm is made up of parks and gardens.

The cities daylight varies from more than 18 hours around midsummer to only about 6 hours in late December. Summer months in Stockholm average temperatures around 68 degrees, and December, January, and February are the coldest months of the year with temperatures that dip to 26 degrees. Stockholm also has a permanent ice bar, which is kept at a brisk 23 degrees all year round. The entire interior of the bar, including the glasses, is made of pure, clear ice from the Torne River in northern Sweden. I did not visit the ice bar since I can’t currently drink due to medication I’m on for my infection, but when BFFL Hillary and I plan our big European vacation in 5 years, it will definitely be on my list for things to do and places to visit.

The citizens of Stockholm are called Stockholmers. Sweden has the longest life expectancy of any country in Europe with an average of 80 years. The Stockholmers speak Swedish, but English is also widely spoken. Stockholm has a population of approximately 871, 952 people. The currency is the Swedish Krona [SEK], but I think some places take Euros too. Though honestly, if you’re traveling internationally, the best thing to do is just to use a credit card.

Our excursion this morning was early, as in it started around eight am, so we had to wake up early. As much as I hate waking up early, it was around midnight in Texas, Justin is a night owl, so I was able to call him and chat briefly before we had to meet up for our excursion. For breakfast, I had a yogurt and one of the cheese danishes I swiped from the buffet yesterday, along with a cup of hot chocolate.

Our excursion today was a Canal Cruise. As the Princess Patter puts it: “A cruise along the waterways and canals takes in virtually every venue, including City Hall, Stockholm’s National Museum, and the Royal Palace.” It was a short excursion, only about 2.5 hours. We actually weren’t staying in Stockholm that long today either, the ship was set to disembark around 1:30, therefore I did not get a second chance to get my Stockholm Starbucks mug, or even postcards to mail out, but I do have postcards from Estonia, Russia, and Finland, at least, so my friends will be receiving some international postcards eventually.

Tom and Mike were on the canal cruise with us, and we sat with them. They sat at the row in back of us, I sat by the window, so I could take copious amounts of pictures, and we talked to them throughout the cruise. I like them a lot, they’re nice. Our tour guide for the canal cruise was really good, and she was funny, and had a lot of informative information… For example, did you know that the band ABBA was actually named after a fish company? The company was called Abba Seafood AB, and even though the band’s name derived from the first letter of each member of the band, they actually had to get permission from the Abba Company to use their name before they could officially call themselves ABBA since the fish came first.

Speaking of fish, the Swedish love their seafood. Picked,sweetened herring, which is known as inlagd sill, is the most traditional of all Swedish appetizers, as well as cured or smoked salmon. I did not try any inlagd sill, but apparently it’s a big deal in Sweden, when it comes to food.

The cruise took us to a lot of the major sights throughout Stockholm, and compared to the bus ride that I took yesterday, I really felt like I saw more on the water, and was able to get much better pictures of areas without having my pictures overrun by tour buses, people, cars, and things like that, and it was also really relaxing on the water.

Stockholm, like Helsinki has a lot of islands. There are commuter ferries that go between the islands. Some islands are pretty small, but have some houses and/or restaurants on them, other islands are bigger and have large estates or amusement parks on them. Our guide said that a lot of people have apartments in the city, but also own houses or cottages on other islands, and they spend their holidays at their cottages. Swedish people also get 5 weeks of paid vacation every year, 180 day maternity leave with 80% of your paycheck, and three months of those 180 days [so 90 days], is a paid paternity leave for the father too. I wish we got benefits like that in the United States. But this is a vacation blog, so I won’t go into more detail about my personal thoughts on that.

The canal cruise covered a lot of the major landmarks. We saw the Stockholm City Hall that has a spire featuring the golden Three Crowns. We sailed past the National Museum, which is the most renowned national museum in Stockholm and holds Sweden’s largest collection of art: 16,000 paintings and 30,000 objects of art. We zoomed past the Royal Palace, which was once home to the King of Sweden and is one of the largest royal palaces in Europe with over 600 rooms and several museums, including the Royal Armory, which houses a collection of different items including clothes, horse carriages and more that has belonged to different royalties over the centuries.

We zoomed past the Vasa Museum. The Vasa Museum was built to house the Vasa, which is a 226 foot long warship that sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628.  It was commissioned by King Gustav II Adolf, and it was on the harbor floor for over 330 years before it was discovered. The ship was perfectly preserved thanks to the brackish [which means it has more salinity than fresh water, but not as much seawater, sort of like an estuary] water of the Baltic Sea. Also 12,000 artifacts were also recovered from the bottom of the sea. I did not visit the Vasa Museum, but you hear a lot about it when you read about tourism in Stockholm. The museum sort of looks like an abstract ship from the outside.

On our tour, our guide also pointed out various parts of the city where Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was filmed. Now I sort of want to rewatch the movie, so I can see places and be like “I went there” while watching it. We also got a closer look at  Tivoli Grona Land from the water, and they have some crazy-looking roller coasters and thrill rides that I would love to ride one day. We also saw the Grand Hotel, which apparently, according to our guide, was the first hotel in the world that realized that sheets should be changed after every guest stayed in the room, instead of every few days… I’m not sure how true that is, but thinking about sleeping in somebody else’s dirty sheets in a hotel is greatly disturbing.

There was also some random modern art like sculpture on the water. It’s basically a pipe that shoots out water like a geyser or waterfall, and there’s some sort of creature on it [I thought it looked like a monkey from far away, but it’s actually supposed to be “God”, oops]. It’s actually called Godfather on the Arch of Heaven.  It was completed in 1995 and stands about 18 meters [60 feet] high and shows a naked God balancing at the end of an arch, hanging stars in the sky, that were tossed his way by an angel at the base of the sculpture. The cascading water from the statue is symbolic for life and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit like the water, descends to the Earth and then ascends from the sky in an eternal cycle. [Thanks wikipedia!] The sculpture was cool looking, but just completely and utterly random.

I really enjoyed the canal cruise, it was a really unique, yet relaxing way to see Stockholm, and if you’re ever in Stockholm, I highly recommend a canal cruise. You don’t need to do a Princess Excursion [or any other cruise excursion] to see it, the Hop On Hop Off bus has a boat extension of it that will basically take you to the same sites for 320 SEK [about 36 dollars], which is probably way cheaper than a cruise excursion is.

After the excursion, we went back to our ship. Another Princess ship was in port, as well, the Regal Princess, which is apparently one of my mom’s favorite ships. Since we were leaving port so early, there wasn’t really much else we could do, in fear of missing the ship, and there were a lot of cruise ships in port today, so I’m sure traffic was atrocious. We went back to the room for a bit. I read, and finished another book. I’ve read 10 books on the cruise so far. That’s an average of one a day though really it’s more like 1-2 books every few days depending on what our schedule looks like if I’m being honest. Then we went to lunch.

The buffet was super crowded. The dining room is only open for lunch on sea days or late port days [like tomorrow we’re getting to Latvia around 1:00, so the dining room will be open], so the buffet is really the only option for food except for room service, and most excursions came back at around the same time. We got some food, and ate outside, but we didn’t stay very long, and ended up taking food back to the room just because it was crazy crowded up there and people were rude.

Once we got back to the room, we sat on the porch for a little while to watch as we left Stockholm. As we passed the Regal Princess, our ship, and their ship acknowledged each other with their horns. The Regal’s horn actually plays the Love Boat theme song from the TV show, which was interesting to hear. We could also hear their sail away party from their pool deck and the band that was playing as we passed them.  Shortly after we passed the Regal, the Regal started leaving too. They had a really short port day. They weren’t there yesterday, the Sapphire Princess was, so they probably arrived early in the morning, and then they left around 2 pm or so, so they really didn’t have much time that they spent in Stockholm. As we sailed away, the Regal was trailing us. Really, we were playing hide and seek with them. The Regal is way bigger than the Pacific Princess [ The Regal holds about 3560 passengers and 1346 crew members, the Pacific has 688 passengers and 373 crew members. The Regal has 19 decks and the Pacific has 12 decks] so they kept on being piloted one way and vanishing behind different islands as we left Sweden, and then reappearing, and this went on for probably about 2 hours before the Regal went one way and the Pacific went another. Mom thinks the Regal is probably going to South Hampton for the end of that cruise, and we’re en route to Riga, Latvia.

It was pretty as we left Sweden. It was similar to departing Finland, in a way. There were a lot of little islands, though Sweden had many more islands than Finland had, and it took longer to get out to open waters from Sweden than it did from Finland. It sort of reminded me of Lake George, NY, which is where I spent a lot of summers as a child. Lots of blue water and lots of islands with little houses and things, though obviously Sweden is on a much larger scale than Lake George is.

After awhile I decided to take a nap because I had taken a bendryl because I was itchy again either from the bandages or maybe from healing, and benadryl makes me drowsy, though it does alleviate the itching somewhat, at least. I napped for about 1.5 hours, read a little bit more, then I took a shower, and we went down for dinner around 7:30.

It was regular dinner today as opposed to open seating, so we got to sit with our usual table. The dining room seemed very crowded and loud today. Normally, I can hear everyone at our table fine from where I usually sit, but today there were so many different people talking, and almost every table was filled, which is unusual [a lot of people either go to the buffet, get room service, or go to the fancier restaurants] and the menu today wasn’t anything special, it wasn’t formal night or Italian night or anything, so I’m not sure why there were so many people there today. Anyhow I like it when we’re at our regular table. I like Tom and Mike, and the Scottish couple, who joined our table a week or so ago, aren’t too bad either. They’re not overly friendly or anything, they’re a bit formal and stiff, but they’re nice enough. I like Noel, our waiter, and Gerhard, our junior waiter. Tomorrow is open seating though because we get to Latvia relatively late [1:30 or so] and are leaving relatively late [7:30 or so]. Bleh.

For dinner today, I had a tomato, mozzarella, and basil sandwich with some balsamic vinaigrette dressing as an appetizer, and a chef salad with cheddar cheese, chicken, tomato, ham, hard boiled egg, and ranch dressing as a meal. I am having the same exact thing tomorrow, so there probably won’t be a repeat picture of my meal tomorrow, just a picture of whatever it is I decide to have for desert tomorrow. For desert today, I had this white chocolate mocha cake that my mother was worried had nuts, so she told me to only eat the white chocolate and mocha part, but I tried to separate the sections and it was basically impossible to do without a cross-contamination, so Noel went to ask the pastry chef if it did had nuts, it did not [and I didn’t think it did to begin with, but better to be safe than dead thanks to life-threatening food allergies], once I got the okay to eat it, it was delicious.

I actually left dinner before everyone else did today because the sun was setting as I was eating desert, and I’ve made it a habit to photograph every single sunset and I didn’t want to miss it. I said goodnight to everyone, stopped by the bar, where Josh gave me my usual cranberry juice nightcap, and raced to the room. The sun was basically down when I got to the room, but the sky was still pretty. The sunset seemed to come really early today compared to other days. We had to set out clocks forward today before we get to Latvia [so technically it’s 12:32 am right now, not the 11:32 pm it says on my cell phone], so I wonder if maybe we crossed a time-zone before the sunset, which made it seem like it set earlier than usual. Who knows, but at least I still got my photograph.

As mentioned above, we get to Latvia around 1:30 or so tomorrow afternoon, and we leave Latvia around 7:30 pm or so. We’re doing an easy tour of Latvia, which just means a bus tour with scenic stops at popular tourist attractions like we did in both St. Petersburg and Helsinki. Though I am excited about seeing Latvia because my dad’s family comes from Latvia, so part of my heritage is from there. Hopefully they’ll also be a souvenir stand nearby wherever we docked, or somewhere on the tour [in St. Petersburg, our bathroom stop was at a huge souvenir store] so I can get some postcards and/or magnets. We docked so far from the actual city in Stockholm, that there was no easy way to get souvenirs in Sweden, hopefully that won’t be the case in Riga.

And that as they said it that.

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