We had a couple of quiet days to catch up on sleep at our friend’s house in Vantaa after the long train trip from Russia.   We drove into Helsinki city on the 10th July and visited the indoor and outdoor markets as well as an Asian shop to get supplies for the van.   We had a lovely Italian meal and then made our way to the Tallink Silja cruise ship which had many more facilities than any other ferry we had used.   The only cabins left were those below the car deck but otherwise it was a very comfortable crossing, stopping firstly at Mariehamn at 4.15am. There was a lot of engine noise as we docked so I decided to go on deck for a while with the other half dozen die hards and photograph the sunrise and have a look at the many islands. The trip took 17hours and we put our watches back an hour on arrival in
Stockholm.   It was a lovely warm,sunny day (we were getting used to these!) as we drove to the campsite 20minutes from town in the suburb of Bromma.   We got the last spaceat the campsite and there were over a hundred vans there and many  nationalities.

Stockholm is a collection of many islands with beautiful views across the water from the hills around Sodermalm island and from some of the 16 other main islands.
There are very good train, bus and ferry services around the islands and the 24 or 72hour pass allows you transport on all of them.
We left the van and caught the train into the city island of sodermalm and then a ferry to Djurgarden to the Vasa museum which took about ten minutes.  It houses the most amazing example of a 17th century ship which was the focus of the museum. In 1628 it had only sailed 1.3 kilometres before sinking in Stockholm harbour on it’s maiden voyage (it was badly designed and top heavy!) with 64 cannons on board.   It lay on the sea bed in Stockholm until 1961 when the mammoth task of salvaging it started. Seventy percent of the ship was intact and the rest lay nearby with very little extra timber needed to repair it.   It was in such good condition and had not rotted because the sea there  had no wood worms to eat the wood.  It was enormous and the most amazing sight.   The museum building
was built around it and it reached up to seven floors in height.
It was a beautiful day and many locals as well as tourists were making the most of the weather and picnicking in the parks and on the various islands. We caught the ferry back to Sodermalm and walked over to Gamla Stan (old town) island where we wandered around the very impressive buildings.
We made our way over to the changing of the guard at 12.15pm which has been a daily event since the fifteen hundreds.  It lasted about half an hour with a great military band playing and a lot of pomp and ceremony. The guards on duty do not have to stand ram rod straight and can look around unlike those of many other countries.  This seemed to make more sense
really if they wanted to notice everything around them.
Stockholm listed three free tours and we decided on two of them. The Soder tour at 2pm with grisly stories of the burning of witches in the 17th century and other interesting ones of life in Stockholm which was quite different from a usual city tour.   We had a break and then caught the metro (tunnelbana)to the old town and joined the 6pm old town tour.
Both were excellent and we met Jess from Perth on the Soder tour. It was nice to meet someone from home.

There was an huge number of tourists in town but with so many different islands to explore it only felt crowded in the old town “Gamla Stan” where the Royal palace was located and where the various tour buses and groups were gathered.
The views from Soder (after climbing many steps) over the Baltic were spectacular especially given the bright sunny day.
Someone said that it was advantageous to go on the free tours as the guides do want a good tip at the end of the tour and they are therefore more enthusiastic and seem to ibe more spontaneous than on a regular guided tour paid for in advance.
Apparently Swedes are the second largest consumer of coffee in the world and judging by the abundance of  cafes this appeared to be correct.   We found Stockholm to be more expensive than Helsinki or Moscow especially the entrance fees to the various museums which were up to 255 Swedish Krone or over $40 per person. We were lucky and  could cook our own meals and take lunch with us so we  just splurged on a couple of coffees a day.
Maurice’s arthritis was playing up the next day so he stayed in the van while I went back into town and out to Djurgarden island to go to the ABBA museum. I was a big fan of their music back in the seventies so I loved it. Their music appealed to many obviously as they were coming up to 400 million record sales!
The map I had bought of Stieg Larsson’s millennium “The girl with the Dragon Tattoo” showing the locations used in the books was not very accurate so I had a long walk after taking the metro two stops too far from where I wanted to be. Just what I needed – more walking!
I bought a coffee from the Mellqvist kaffebar where the author Stieg Larsson visited regularly when his office of the magazine “Expo” where he was editor-in-chief was in the same building. He was a journalist and a leading expert on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi movements. He died at only 50 years of age and his 65 million selling books in 45 languages were only published after his death in 2004.
I made my way to a closer metro station and went back to Van Mauriceson, picked up Maurice and caught the train to Hasselby Strand where we were met by our friend Christian and his children.
It is fun to see the development of the children that we visit on our travels. We were kindly invited to dinner at his parent’s house near one of the many lakes in that area. It was a hot humid day and we had a delicious Swedish meal (seafood on a potato cake, BBQ’d beef and pork with new potatoes and rubbarb and strawberry pie) sitting next to the pool.
On the 14th July we set off for Alingsas just north of Gothenburg to catch up with friends for a couple of days that we last saw two years previously in our first year of travel.   Cajsa let me use her kitchen so I cooked an Italian meal for them one night.   It was a change from cooking in the van. When we do eventually get back to our house in Perth the ktchen will seem huge.

On the 17th July we headed through north throug Sweden to Norway.

It is hard to believe that we have already been traelling for two and a half years nearly after departing Perth on the 1st Apri 2012!

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