Sunday, June 29, 2014

Drottningholm and the Middle Ages

We decided to visit Drottningholm Palace early, before the big tourist rush, which meant we needed to be at the palace at the crack of 10:00!  We got there, by subway and bus, just in time to join an English tour, and we were very lucky.  The tour guide was extremely good, knowledgable and funny.  The tour took about an hour, and we learned a bit of history of the royal families of Sweden.  Very complicated.  The interior of the palace has a fair amount of illusion built in.  The walls are painted to look like finest Italian marble, and there are painted scenes to look like rooms and windows beyond the actual walls, all intended to give the impression of a much bigger and more expensive building. It's pretty big and impressive anyway.  After the tour we walked through the gardens, had coffee near the Chinese outbuilding, and then headed back.  One neat aspect of one of the buildings in the Chinese compound is a dining room, which is a standalone building with glass on all sides so the public could observe the royals while eating.  A main feature of the building is a table which is completely prepared for dinner in a room underneath the dining room, then elevated up to the diners, so the royals could dine without the presence of servants.  A very large dumb waiter !  
We returned to downtown Stockholm, had a grillad korv (fancy hotdog) at the NK takeout, then went to the Middle Ages Museum, which tells the story of Stockholm in the period of about 1200 to 1500.  It is a very good museum, literally entirely underground, with vaulted ceilings, sections of the original city wall still in place.  Then time for a rest before dinner at Herman's, a vegetarian buffet, where we stuffed ourselves with all kinds of spicy, tasty veggie dishes.  Now back to the hotel to recover.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We're in Stockholm

We arrived on Stockholm last evening, found our hotel, dumped our bags, and hustled to the Fotographiska museum.  Had a quick dinner at the museum (9:00 pm, good light, fresh air, beautiful view of the city) then spent an hour and a half looking at some fantastic photography by Sebastiao Salgado (all black and white, lots of penguins and glaciers),then they closed the museum at 11:00pm.  It was still somewhat light as we walked back to the hotel.  Today we split up, Becky going to the Royal Palace tour for a refresher, and I went to the botanic gardens at Bergianska, and then a walk to Christina's mother's former apartment and back to the hotel.  After a short nap, we went to the Stockholm City Museum, which is right next to our hotel, spent another hour and a half seeing history of Stockholm from about 900 AD.  When they closed the museum at 5:00, we went to a restaurant near Östermalm , got à table on the sidewalk, and had à VERY nice dinner.  A very good day in Stockholm.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Leaving Arholma

We hiked the other half of the island this morning, through dense forest, and then to the coast where there is a canon battery installed in 1968 as defense in the cold war.  Great views to the open sea from the top of the rocks.  


We left Finnhamn on the two hour boat ride to Vaxholm.  The day was bright and sunny and the trip was beautiful.  In Vaxholm we went to the local bakery to try their cardamom rolls, which were very good, though Becky still thinks the ones on Utö are the best.  we then got on the boat to Arholma, which is a 4 hour ride through many little island, stops at a number of tiny harbors.  We got to Kapellskär, unloaded some passengers, and the captain announced that we had some engine trouble, which they were going to fix.  We were delayed by about 30 minutes, but since our stop was the last, it really did not matter.  We got toArholma about 2:30 and headed off to our hostel.  The hostel is in an old farm, which is still very rustic on the exterior, but very nicely converted on the inside (IKEA style) .  The woman who runs it was extremely nice and friendly, and made suggestions about hiking and about dinner.  We went to see the old church, the lookout tower, the harbor, and then the restored old farm further south on the island.  Becky even got to throw sticks for the dogs to retrieve at the farm.  Had dinner at about the only place that serves dinner.  I had Fiskgryta "fish stew" and Becky had Linsbollar "vegetarian balls", both of which were very good.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Leaving Finnhamn

We have had two beautiful days at Finnhamn, with sun, relative warmth, and nice hiking.  The island is really just a huge granite boulder with slowly accumulated soil.  Lots of lichen on the rock, pines that start in the cracks of the rock, and grasses where the soil has accumulated in the depressions.  The island is protected and administered by the Archipelago Foundation.  They run the youth hostel, maintain the area, and arrange for farming organically on a small scale.  The farming is intended to be self-sustaining, and provide an opportunity for visitors to see life similar to what it was earlier.  
Over the two days, we were able to hike nearly all the trails, and each time we came to a lookout spot, we could see islands scattered as far as we could see.  The flowers were prime, but no mushrooms yet, and no berries yet. Today we are taking the ferries to the furthest north port, Arholma.  The trip will take about 6 hours, so lots of time to look, snooze, read, and write.