Today the ship docked in the Swedish resort of Nynashamn. We were tendered to shore then took a bus for the half hour or so it takes to get to Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden. The city of Uppsala became the home of Sweden’s first archbishop in 1164, when the commercial towns of Birka and Sigtuna were already well established. Their success grew out of their protected position along the shores of Lake Malaren, with its slender access to the Baltic Sea. It was only a matter of time until that constricted waterway became a vibrant metropolis in its own right. About 1250, a fortified town on a single island was recorded; it was the Gamla Stan (Old Town) of modern Stockholm.
Modern Stockholm is known as the Venice of the North, since it is built across 14 distinct islands, linked by boats and bridges. It is a truly beautiful city, which boasts ma ny parks and splendid panoramas. Since the Swedes have not been at war since Napoleon’s time, they have been spared the sort of wholesale destruction that other European cities have suffered. By the same standard, the Swedes are renowned for their philanthropy and humanitarian activity whenever strong neutrals can make a difference.
The first stop on our tour was City Hall. The Stradshuser is the seat of Stockholm’s city government. This fortress-like structure boasts a cupola topped with the three golden crowns of historic Sweden. The Blue Hall is the site of the banquet honoring the year’s Nobel laureates.
A visit to the Royal Palace included the Royal Armory. The Palace is a stately 608-room palace on the waterfront that was built during the 18th century. A former royal residence—the King lives at his country estate of Drottningholm—the palace is used for state occasions, such as the forthcoming wedding of the princess that will take place here on June 13, 2015. The Royal Armory is an award-winning museum situated in the vaults beneath the Royal Palace. On display are costumes from coronations and royal weddings, weapons and armor.
Next we visited the Gamla Stan, or Old Town, with its charming cobble-stone walkways, cafes, bars, ice cream shops, boutiques, and an espresso house. We had lunch at the Bishop’s Arms, which consisted of Swedish meatballs. The Gamla Stan boasts buildings dating back to 15th century through the 19th century.
Our final stop was the Vasa Museum, whose centerpiece is the 17th century warship Vasa. The oldest fully preserved ship in the world, the Vasa was built as the flagship of the Swedish navy but lasted only 23 minutes before sinking on her maiden voyage. Found again in 1956, she was raised and preserved using the most modern technology.