Breakfast at the Raddison was generous and good, and in the Swedish style. Beyond the beautiful arched windows of the restaurant, the Jumbo Stay (a B-747 converted into a hotel) lay on its knoll across the street like a whale the tide had left.
For my first solo adventure, I took the commuter train from the airport to Stockholm to go to the Vasa Museum. Getting on the train was simple, and it was really nice. The stops were displayed on a readout at the end of each car. And Stockholm Central was the end of the line, so even I couldn’t get lost.
At the next stop, two men who knew each other joined me in my group of four facing seats. At the following stop, two more of their friends got on. One sat across the aisle. I got up and told them they needed to sit all together. I’m not sure they understood the words, but they got it and were happy. I moved up a car.
A young mother with two kids took the group of seats across from me. She tried to make them move, I guessed because of wrappers and an empty bottle. But they came back, and she picked up the litter and disappeared it somehow. They talked incessantly to her, and she talked back. I could see that an existence with such company exclusively might drive a woman mad. But she carried on as if she were used to it.
Outside Central Station, I had trouble getting oriented. It was overcast and snowing wetly. I cast back and forth, came upon a river, and figured out from that clue and my map that I was walking the wrong way. About a mile west, I found the bridge to Djurgarden, the island where the museum is located.
A line extended far out of the museum. An Indian man ahead of me had a woman with him and a baby carriage. He asked me whether I spoke English, and was delighted that I did. He wanted to know whether I saw any signs saying where to purchase tickets. “No; but this looks like a ticket line to me,” I told him. And it was.
We proceeded thru three sets of doors; I’m guessing that this was to prevent outside air from coming into contact with the ship. We emerged at the ship’s bow. About half a dozen museum floors were centered about the ship, which sat in an elaborate steel and wood cradle.
It was a large ship for the time, about 50 meters long as I recall, with two gun decks, places for more cannon on the main deck, and a tall sterncastle consisting of four or five incrementally higher decks up to the poopdeck. Its hull was round like a tub, other than the flat stern, which was richly carved with statues and gingerbread.
I went into a side theater and watched a movie about the raising of the ship in 1965. Then I joined onto a guided tour in English; it was fascinating. The shipbuilders had never built a ship with two gun decks before, so the design was experimental; it proved to be too narrow and top heavy. Worse, it wasn’t fully ballasted, due to concern that this would bring the lower gun-ports too close to the water. Women and children were included among the sailors’ families invited for the 1628 maiden voyage. (Sweden seemed to be about 60 years behind the English state of the art of shipbuilding.) With all gun-ports open, it sailed for an hour before catching a gust of wind broadside. This admitted water into the gun-ports (which, had they only been closed, might have saved the ship). Because the ballast (consisting of rocks) was partially loaded and loose, it shifted to one side; and this along with the water that had come on board capsized the ship. About 50 people were killed. A trial ensued to fix the blame. But the captain had gone down with his ship, and so automatically was an honorable man. The builder fled the country, eventually returning under an assumed name.
Parts of the ship that rotted away had been recreated (95% of the hull is said to be original). In addition, replicas of parts of the ship were arranged where visitors could see and touch them, from wooden statues to part of the upper gun deck. A small-scale replica of the entire ship was also on view; it was beautiful.
After three hours, I thought I’d better start back. I walked up Riddangatan to circumvent a number of construction sites I’d detoured around on my way out on Hammgatan, the main drag. This led me past the Army Museum, which I couldn’t resist going into despite the late hour. It was a fascinating account of the Swedish Army’s equipment and actions since the 1500s, complimenting the Vasa period nicely, and I could only skim thru it.
After a guilty hour, I proceeded up Riddangatan, stopping at the hotel we’d stayed in two weeks ago to ask for advice about catching a train to Sky City. All I needed, I was told, was the Arlanda-Uppsala train.
A few blocks further on I saw people sitting in a shop window and eating; it was the Panini Internationale. I went in and ordered a chicken wrap. The manager told me that if I wasn’t going to have coffee I should at least make a note of the place and come back tomorrow, because it was the best place to get coffee in Stockholm. So I ordered a decaf latte.
He said he wanted to go on a trip too, and wondered how long it would take to see America. I didn’t know what to answer. “What are you interested in?” I asked.
“Entertainment. And beer,” he replied.
I suggested he spend two weeks in the San Francisco area. “How about Chicago?” He said. I thought that would probably be good too, tho I admitted I didn’t actually know anything about Chicago!
A few blocks further east, I found Central Station. It looks unimpressive from the outside, but that’s because it’s nearly all underground. Inside it was immense. It would take hours just to explore this place.
I found a ticket counter, but the two agents were talking to people with a great many questions. So I found a vending computer and bought a ticket on the 1800 run to Arlanda. Relieved, I turned to the departures board to get the gate number. There was no 1800 train to Arlanda.
I headed back to the human agents, and showed my ticket to one of them. “Oh, this is a bus ticket,” he explained. Silly me, buying a ticket in a train station and assuming it was a train ticket!
Well, it was getting late, and I didn’t want any more hassle; so I resolved to use the ticket. He gave me directions to the bus terminal next-door. It was on a smaller scale than the train station, but still bigger than some airports I’ve seen.
I found my bus without trouble. It was very nice, and almost empty. It took me directly to the airport; and from there the shuttle to the hotel was easy meat.