Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eurotrip 2012 - Day 13 (6/27) - Stockholm and Drottningholm

This morning began much like the day before - I had a similar breakfast and departed around 10. I took the metro to T-Centralen then walked over to Stadshuset (City Hall). I first inquired at the port next door about the boar to Drottningholm, and was told that they leave on the hour. It was 10:30, so I walked over to Stadshuset to look around. I bought a ticket for the 11:15 entrance to the tower, figuring that I could do the 35 minute tour (10 minutes to go up, 15 to look around, and 10 to go down) and still have 10 minutes to catch the noon boat. I took some more pictures of the impressive building and courtyard while waiting (and some Asian women took a picture with me), and then went into the tower at 11:15. They give you the option of taking an elevator halfway up, but encourage anyone who can to walk since the elevator is so small - it holds only 4 or 5 people, and they let 30 people up the tower at a time. I don't think anyone in our group took the elevator. The climb up was probably one of the most interesting that I've had (and I've climbed a few towers in my day) - first it was concrete steps, then a cool sculpture room, then brick steps, then a winding brick ramp, then wooden steps. I stopped so often for pictures that I began to worry whether I would have enough time at the top. The view at the top was equally impressive, and I completed a circuit of pictures quickly enough to head back down a little early.

I (perhaps unnecessarily) hustled over to the boat ticket counter and had a ticket for Drottningholm in hand by 11:50. I boarded the boat a bit after noon and sat through the hour long ride over. After arriving at Drottningholm, I walked over to the castle and bought an entry ticket. I found out that there was an English guided tour at 2, so I walked around the garden for a while then returned for the tour. As with the Royal Palace in Old Town, pictures were not allowed within. After the tour I headed to the boat dock, and was there barely in time for the boat at 3. However, I did not have a ticket, so I decided to go figure out where to buy a ticket for the boat (there was no ticket stand at the dock) at 4 and then perhaps grab some food while I waited. I felt a bit stupid when I found out at a nearby convenience store that I could buy a ticket on the boat...especially since I could still see the boat floating away. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I remembered seeing that Drottningholm could be reached be bus from a metro station. With the help of a kind Swedish couple I got on the bus that went to the Brommaplan metro station. The man was the second person to suggest that I check out the Vasamuseet (a museum about a 17th century Swedish warship that had sunk on its maiden mission and was recovered 300 years later), so I decided to do that instead of one of the other items remaining on my list - it would be more unique to Stockholm than, say, the modern art museum. I didn't actually know where the Vasa museum was but after asking a couple more helpful Swedes I found out (and remembered) that it was next to the Nordic Museum, which I had walked by the day before. I took the metro to Karlaplan again and walked over to the museum, where I lucked into catching the 4:30 English guided tour, then watched the documentary film in the main theater at 5. After looking around a bit more, I left to go catch the same tram as the day before (only further down the line). After taking the tram to T-Centralen I, for some unknown reason (considering how full my big backpack was), went up to check out one of the seemingly 12 H&M stores in the area as well as an Intersport. After (thankfully) not buying anything I took the metro back to the hotel.

I asked a lady at the hotel reception where I could get a nice Swedish meal, and she suggested a restaurant. I walked over to the place, which wasn't exactly close, but found it a bit too expensive for my taste. It did happen to be close to a park where some soccer was being played, so I stopped by that. After watching for a bit I headed back to a restaurant I had initially passed by on the walk. The service was really slow, and when a waiter finally came to take my order he informed me that they were out of meatballs - I immediately left, a bit annoyed. I wandered around trying to find a place that looked like I would have some Swedish meatballs (there are apparently a lot of foreign restaurants in Stockholm), but eventually settled on a bar that had soccer on. When I tried to order the Swedish Hash, I was informed that they were out. Since I was too tired and hungry to leave by this time, I just ordered the lamb sausage instead (which turned out to be pretty good). I finally was able to eat again at 8:30, 10.5 hours after finishing breakfast, then I watched the first half of the Spain/Portugal semifinal match. At halftime I walked back to the hotel, where I watched the rest of the game before turning in.

Observation of the day: The Stockholm T-Bana may not quite match the metro in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but it is still a pretty good system. The trains seem to come pretty frequently (every 4 or 5 minutes) and the area covered seems pretty expansive (it got much closer to Drottningholm than SPb's metro did to Peterhof). The Helsinki metro is nowhere close to any of the others - its 1.5 lines are comparable to the St. Louis Metro link - but at least they have trams.

Bonus observarion: Speaking of trams, the buses in Stockholm sometimes drive in the tram lanes and share the same stops, especially close to the city center.

Bonus observation 2: While we're discussing transportation... Stockholm is a very bicycle friendly city - there are bike lanes pretty much everywhere. If I had more practice and confidence on a bike, it would have been a good idea to rent one and ride it around (as a lady on the flight over had suggested).

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