Despite all the big booboos we encountered coming here, Stockholm remains my favorite of all cities this trip.
Our tour guide Nicklaus greets us this morning by giving us a brief introduction of Sweden. It is the country of the midnight sun (there are times when the nights are as bright as day), it is the 3rd biggest country in Europe, it has a population of about 10 million people, etc. etc. etc…
He also mentions something about not asking Swedish people where their mushrooms are. Apparently, fungi are very big things in Sweden. Swedish families go on mushroom-picking trips every year and it is a big deal for them to keep their favorite hunting spots top secret. If they tell you, they’d have to kill you. So remember, do NOT ask.
I wish our guide took us mushroom-hunting this morning. It would have been swell to feast on chanterelles for brunch.
Instead, he takes us to Stockholm City Hall. Yawn.
Where's your mushrooms, Nicklaus? Where???
The Vasa is a Swedish warship built in 1626. The 69-meter ship is a thing of extreme beauty, my jaw drops at my very first sight of it. Unfortunately, beauty is all there is to the ship. Vasa was built top-heavy and had insufficient ballast. Despite an obvious lack of stability in port, King Gustavus Adolphus allowed her to set sail in August 1628 as he was impatient to see her join the Baltic fleet in the Thirty Years' War. He also gave instructions to load 100 more canons than the ship can take, and so less than a nautical mile into her maiden voyage, the beautiful Vasa foundered at her first encounter with a wind stronger than a breeze. It’s tragic.
Like most warships at the time, Vasa was heavily decorated with sculptures intended to glorify the monarch and taunt the enemy. The 500-something sculptures carved out
of oak, pine and linden added considerably to Vasa’s weight, thereby hampering its maneuverability.
After lunch we travel about 70km north of Stockholm to Uppsala, the ecclesiastical center of Sweden. That is our tour bus with free wifi connection (iloveit!!!), and towering over it is Gustavianum, the former main building of Uppsala University
The Uppsala Cathedral is the tallest church in all of Scandinavia. It is so tall you can see it from almost all parts of town. And it is so tall that taking a photo of the façade requires a lot of strenuous kneeling, squatting and back-bending. Ouch.
We are given some free time to walk around the city center and experience Uppsala. Here are some of the sights I love:
Aside from the set dinner arranged for us, we order an additional plate of cannelloni with ricotta, mushrooms and truffle. There is no taste of truffle but the richness and creaminess just hits the spot.
After dinner, we refuse to go back to the hotel with the rest of the tour group. We stay on and explore the streets of Gamla Stan on our own.
From Gamla stan, we walk to the city center and we pass by…
Do you know that education is Sweden is free? Yes, all levels from kindergarten to university. Social welfare pays out 6,000-7,000/month to the unemployed. Medicare is free. Pregnant women get 480 days maternity leave. They can choose to share this with their husbands.