Let’s start with a travel tip. I’m always a little leery of package schemes and deals aimed at visitors, but the Stockholm Card is the exception and a great deal. This is a real godsend, which, if you keep busy, offers significant savings. It is also hugely convenient to not have to dig for cash or use a credit card everywhere you go. Besides giving you free passage on all of Stockholm’s public transportation you also get free access to over 75 major museums and major historical sites.
Stockholm is a big and busy city, not big and busy in an otherworldly sense like Hong Kong, New York or London. There are no skyscrapers and the church spires are still the tallest structures in town. There are no giant cloverleaf overpasses like arteries in some huge beast, but Stockholm is spread out over 14 islands with a complex overlapping transport system that incorporates ferries, buses, trams, subways, bridges, walkways and roads that tie the whole thing together.
Gamla Stan, or “Old Town”, is our favorite part of the city. It is situated on the island of Stadsholmen and is one huge warren of narrow medieval streets and heritage sites. The Royal Palace, museums and 17th century churches are just steps from each other. The entire atmosphere is of a bygone era.
Stortorget was the site of the old Stock Exchange is now a lively square in the heart of the old town but in 1520 it was the site of the Stockholm Bloodbath when the Danish King tricked the Swedish Regent and beheaded more then 80 Swedish noblemen in this very square.
The Hotorget Flea Market
No trip would be complete without a flea market. The square at Hotorget is a flower and produce market all week but every Sunday it transforms to a great little second hand market. Just try to keep Wendi away. I dare you.
Sinking Expectations or The Very Short Voyage of the Vasa
When the Vasa was designed by two Dutch brothers in 1628 it was the largest and most heavily armed war ship in the world. With this vessel the Swedes hoped to strike fear in their enemies and control all trade on the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately, there was no engineering, as we know it, at the time and all construction was essentially done by trial and error. The massive ship proved to be just a whisper too tall and slightly too narrow. It was a lovely sunny day on August 10th in 1628 when the Vasa set out on it’s maiden voyage. In a slight breeze it listed a little to starboard, took in water through the gun ports and sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbor where it lay until being rediscovered in 330 feet of water in 1956. After a complex salvage operation and a 17 year conservation project the Vasa now sits proudly in it’s own especially designed museum.