06/14/2014 - 06/14/2014 60 °F
I tossed and turned all night, waking up alternating between dripping sweat and shivering cold. I had hoped that the sleep would improve my symptoms and didn’t feel too bad when I woke up. We headed downstairs for what looked like a great breakfast buffet, but as soon as I smelled the food I knew that eating would be a struggle. I could have had salmon, eggs and bacon for breakfast, but could only manage about a bite of salmon and the equivalent of maybe one egg. I even missed out on this vinyl album-shaped dry bread disk that seems popular in Sweden. No bueno.
I was achier than an old man and moving quite slowly. After being awake for a half hour or so it became clear that today would be much worse than yesterday. Tommy had to head to the train station to get to the airport and get home in time for Dad’s Day. We found out that checkout wasn’t until noon, so I decided that I would walk with him to the train station, then come back and nap for an hour and a half before trying to start my day. I slipped a Father’s Day card in his suitcase before we left and then was able to send him off with my carry on bag…just me and my backpack for the next 10 days! It was sad to see him go and to know that I would miss a Father’s Day pool party with the family tomorrow. I went back to the hotel, set an alarm for 11:45am and immediately crashed. When I woke up, I quickly scanned through Frommer’s to see what there was to do in Sweden. There was a changing of the guard at the palace at noon and I knew it wasn’t far of a walk, so I figured that would be a good way to start the day.
The ceremony was actually quite impressive. There was the typical marching and pomp and circumstance, but the best part was the marching? band that came in on horseback. They all have to learn to play their instruments with one hand and also how to ride a horse with one hand, the exception being the drummer, who must learn to control the horse with just his feet!
Guards have been on watch at this palace since 1523, which is just mind-boggling.
After the changing of the guard, on Arthur’s recommendation, I decided to head for Stockholm’s top museum, the Vasa Museum. While joining the mass exodus from the palace, I saw a little steel drum-type band
AND this sweet stroller, cobblestone-edition with little baby shocks!
The Vasa museum was quite a hike from Gamla Stan. It was a bit chilly but a great day for a walk in the sunshine. Unfortunately, I was feeling lethargic and every muscle in my body ached as if I had run a marathon yesterday. I wasn’t moving too fast and had to stop to sit down several times. I felt like I was 85. The scenery was beautiful though. I was almost exclusively walking down the promenades on the edge of the water until finally getting to the Vasa Museum.
The Vasa was built in Stockholm, but never made it too far, sinking in 32 meters of water in the Stockholm shipping channel on August 10th, 1628. It is believed that it was built too tall and narrow and didn’t have enough stability. For centuries, Stockholm’s waste was dumped directly into the water. Ironically, this created a low oxygen environment that killed the fishies, but preserved Vasa because the fungi and bacteria that decompose the wood couldn’t survive either. Additionally, the many shipwrecks of the Baltic Sea tend to be well preserved due to the uniquely low salinity of the water, which will not support “shipworms,” the mollusks that eat wood when it is submerged in saltwater.
The vasa was sunk under mud and clay that came up to the lower gun deck. In 1957, to raise her, Navy divers had to go down to drill underneath her in half-hour shifts because the water was so cold at that depth. After they had dug 3 tunnels and passed two 6 inch steel cables through each tunnel, they we able to begin to raise what was (underestimated to be) 700 ton behemoth. It was finally brought out of the water to dry in 1961. For those doing the math, that means 333 years under water. It took 9 years for Vasa to dry. During that time, it lost 500 tons of water weight. They also pioneered several new methods for preserving this kind of wood.
In addition to the facts about the boat itself, the museum catalogued some interesting stories of what some of the 133 people who died when Vasa sunk may have looked like (using reconstructions of their skeletons) and what the life of a sailor was like in the 16th century.
According to Arthur’s “What to do in one day in Stockholm,” I had already checked out the Vasa museum as well and evening wandering Gamla Stan with Tommy last night. The only thing left was to visit the Skansen, Sweden’s open air museum. By now it was 5pm, but Arthur said Skansen was open until 10pm, so I thought that I had somehow managed to fit it all in despite a late start and a slow pace. I laughed comparing how much I usually cram into a day of traveling compared to the level of activity recommended in the book. Skansen was on the same island as Vasa and it wasn’t too bad of a walk. When I got there, however, I saw that although the park itself was open until 10pm, many of the attractions closed down around 5pm and since the price was steep, I decided I would rather get the full experience tomorrow. As I embarked on the long trek back to Gamla Stan, I realized that since lunch around noon yesterday it had been 30 hours and the only food I had consumed was probably 100 calories worth of scrambled egg and salmon at breakfast. That didn’t seem too sustainable so I stopped at this quaint little restaurant to attempt to eat. I tried to find something that would be as bland as possible for my stomach and settled on salad with ham and cheese. With the laid back, family atmosphere of the place, I was astounded when the salad came back looking this pretty.
As pretty as it was, I had to force myself to eat it. In a normal sitting, it would probably take me 3 of these salads to get filled up and I would have all three plates cleaned in 20 minutes flat. But instead, I sat at this restaurant for 45 minutes willing myself through every bite. As I left the restaurant, I decided that it would probably be a good idea to find out where I was sleeping tonight. I had planned to go back to the lobby of the Victory Hotel to use their wifi, but Gamla stan was a good 2-3 mile walk from Djurgarden (the island that Vasa and Skansen are on), despite being barely a quarter mile as the crow flies. I saw on my map a mall that advertised free wifi, so I walked there instead. It turns out that this must be a popular time to visit Stockholm. According to booking.com, 98% of the available rooms in all of Stockholm were filled (in comparison, it’s about 50% in the other cities I’m visiting). Since there was slim pickings and hotels are already expensive here, I decided to expand my search to hostels. I can sleep through anything, so hostel sleeping doesn’t phase me, plus I enjoy the vibe at most hostels, with lots of fellow travelers that are mostly friendly and welcoming. You can even pick up some advice on what things are must sees in that city or even some stories of other great places they have been (this can be dangerous, because as soon as you think you’ve seen enough of a country or region, you’ll hear a story that you can’t help but mentally add to your list of future destinations). Anyways, I found a cheap hostel, the “City Hostel” and it was pretty close not only to the mall, but closer to tomorrow’s activities than Gamla Stan. So for about $50, my problem was solved and I headed over there. The hostel had some neat security features. Not only was there a door code, but the door handle to each individual dorm room had its own keypad built in.
As I walked in, as soon as I wondered whether I was getting too old for this, I was shown to my room and opened the door to see the only other roommate currently in our room who had to be 35 easy. Top bunk! Luckily, there is a pretty good sized rail to keep me from making the 5 foot plunge to the floor. I sat in bed and booked a place for tomorrow night. Nothing wrong with this hostel, but it wasn’t anything special and I really wanted to get a chance to sleep on a boat (since that didn’t work out last time around), so I booked a room at the Anedin Hostel, which is a Hostel-boat on the shores of Gamla Stan, which will give me an excuse to explore it’s streets one last time tomorrow night. I plugged in my phone and computer for charging, put them under my pillow, took a few minutes to plan my day tomorrow and zonked out.