We flew into Stockholm on Wednesday with heavy luggage full of sleeping bags and camping chairs and dried food and endless other bits and pieces. It was a thrill to be off on another great road trip, but first a bit of tourism in Stockholm.
We spent yesterday walking through the old town; where soldiers in blue and white uniforms with chrome spiked helmets changed the guard at the Royal Palace, with much strutting and moving people out of the way.
Why is it that everyone else’s soldiers in ceremonial garb look like extras in a film set in a banana republic? Ours wear bearskins piled on their heads like fur eggwarmers so I’m not trying to look down my nose, but it does seem that whoever designs these costumes was either having a laugh or was more flamboyant than they appeared when they got the job. Anyway the music oompahd very satisfactorily and the guard was changed and we all turned pink in the sunshine.
On then through the old city with its grand and well scrubbed buildings lining narrow alleyways. Stockholm has a tremendous calm about it. People don’t rush or raise their voices. Its as if everyone has just been given the day off and has decided to take it easy.
The high spot of our day of tourism was probably the Vasa Museet – the museum housing a mighty seventeenth century warship – the Vasa. It had been launched with some fanfare in 1628 and got to the mouth of Stockholm harbour where, penants flying and canon proudly displayed, it promptly sank with the loss of thirty three hands. Apparently it had been designed in a way that left it too top-heavy. It lay on the seabed until the early nineteen sixties when a very determined salvage expert re-discovered it and set about raising it. It was ninety eight percent complete and in extraordinarily good condition. They actually floated it back into a dock, complete with many of
its contents. There were even sails folded in cupboards. The museum is low-lit and on entering, the ship suddenly appears from the gloom like a phantom. It is, in short, stunning with fascinating displays all around about the people on the boat – with models of some of them reconstructed from their skeletons. Their diet was clearly appalling and most had problems as a result. All seemed to have suffered from more or less constant toothache. We spent a good three hours there with Tom rushing from one part to the next completely enthralled. And looming over us at all times was this vast ghostly vessel with its seven hundred carved heads looking mournfully down.
In the evening we took a metro and a tram to the quiet neighbourhood where our friends Peter and Ginna live. They were neighbours in Washington and returned home a few months ago. Tom immediately made for their piano while we made for glasses of wine and catching up before a superb dinner. It was such a nice evening – thank you both – and I do hope you come and stay with us in London.