Malmö - Andrew - 2001
Stockholm - Andrew, Jacqui, her Mum and friends - 2014
Visby - Andrew, Jacqui, her Mum and friends - 2014
Sweden is one of Europe's largest countries, and despite it's reputation as a bit of a backwater these days, was once one of Europe's great powers - it was, after all, a Swedish Army that besieged Prague in the early 17th century.
Today Sweden is regarded as one of the greenest countries of the World and has one of the highest of living standards. Like Finland it is split down the middle with the north being taken up by Lapland and the south by lakes and a flatter landscape.
The capital, Stockholm, stands on the Baltic coast on the east of the country; other cities such as Göteburg and Malmö are also on the coast - fitting for one of the homes of the Vikings of old.
Malmö - Andrew - 2001
My trip to Malmö started in Copenhagen across the other side of the Øresund, the stretch of water which separates Denmark and Sweden and is the only entrance into the Baltic Sea. Over the centuries this stretch of water has been strategically hugely important, it has also proved a cultural barrier - the Danes are influenced by the neighbours to the South on "continental" Europe, whilst the Swedes are far more pure Scandinavians - blue eyes and blonde hair are the standard here!
I crossed the Øresund on my outward journey on a hydrofoil ferry. My hope had been to take some impressive pictures of the mighty Øresund Bridge (all 7,845 metres of it!). Unfortunately almost immediately (just as we passed the Amalienborg Palace) I was told that you were not allowed to stand outside on this boat - because it was a 'fast boat and too many people have fallen off the back of it'. Reluctantly I came inside and had to take my pictures of the wind farm in the Øresund and the Bridge (which was admittedly indistinct in the less than sunny weather) through a barrier of dirty glass.
When the boat pulled into Malmö harbour the sun had come out and it was quite warm - so it seemed to be Sunny Sweden and Damp Denmark! Considering I was going from one EU country to another I was surprised when the customs people not only asked me to turn out everything that was in my bag (cameras, films, etc.) but also asked me why I was visiting their country. This is the first time since Russia that I've been searched going through customs (I wasn't even searched coming back from Amsterdam!).
The tourist information is just next to the ferry terminal (and the railway station for that matter) so it was the first place I stopped. I was quite pleased I did as it was just about the only place in Malmö to buy any souvenirs - surprising in a place that has arrived firmly on the tourist map since the BIG BRIDGE opened.
My immediate target in Malmö was, perhaps inevitably, Malmö Castle, which lays on the edge of town. On the way to it I got quite lost and was wandering through some fairly abandoned looking industrial back streets before finally finding my way back into tourist land and arriving at the Castle, known as the Malmöhus, which houses one of several Museums around the attractive Slottsparken.
The Castle itself is a very odd looking building, made up of one long brick range (built in the 16th Century) connecting two large squat drum towers which are crowned with conical roofs and look more like grain silos than bits of a Castle. The whole is surrounded by a wide moat which, on my visit, contained a great number of frogs (or toads) calling out loudly for a mate - heard but not seen as I couldn't spot one of them no matter how hard I tried.
I crossed the drawbridge over the moat and entered the Castle but I was disappointed to find that the Museum it contains was shut because it was Monday, this in spite of it being a national holiday in Sweden. So all I could do was take a few more pictures and wander off into the Slottsparken.
To read more about Malmö Castle, see Castles of Europe pages.
The Slottsparken is a large "English style" city park with lakes and woodland walks, with the added attractions of a Dutch-type windmill and part of the canal which surrounds the whole of Malmö old town running through it. On a hot day like this some of the shade afforded by the trees in Slottsparken was quite welcome. Eventually I wandered to the edge of the park, which is quite large, and headed in the direction that I assumed to be toward the old town (Gamla Staden). After a while I began to suspect something was amiss, either the old town wasn't that old or I was heading in the wrong direction. I tried to locate myself on the map and eventually did - I was walking inland, totally the wrong way. So I headed off into the back streets of downtown Malmö and eventually found myself on Gustav Adolfs Torg, a rather scruffy square on the edge of the old town.
Back on track I headed into the very centre of Gamla Staden which centres around two squares, inventively known as "big" and "little". I headed first for what I thought would be the less impressive Lilla Torg (the little square). This was very beautiful indeed. On two sides were ancient half-timbered buildings containing cafés and curio shops, the other two sides of the square were larger, grander buildings from the late 19th century which were still very beautiful. All this around a small cobbled square.
I have to admit I found Lilla Torg to be one of the most beautiful places I had yet to see in Scandinavia and would say it is worth visiting Malmö just to see it. Around three sides of the square there are street cafés and restaurants. I was hungry by this point so I began perusing menus. I selected one of the places and sat down waiting to be served. However, after about 15 minutes I gave up and decided to try one of the others. In the end I had a very nice vegetable korma in the somewhat unlikely surroundings of a beautiful Scandinavian town square!
Thus sated I bade farewell to Lilla Torg and crossed into the Stortorget (Big Square) which is dominated by the massive Rådhuset (Town Hall) with it's very decorative and showy front. In front of it sits a most attractive fountain. Immediately behind the Rådhuset is Malmö's main church, St. Petri, which alas was swaddled very effectively in the ever-present scaffolding (the bane of every photographer's life surely!?). A short distance from the Stortorget you reach the Caroli Church, an interesting looking church which appears to be mostly made of copper, although in truth the upper part of the church is wood painted light green to match the patinated spire. I didn't realise until later that there is another church with a very similar look but an altogether more unusual hexagonal shape known as St Pauli which unfortunately I only go to see from a distance. It seems that this "green" look might be a Malmö speciality!
It was about four o'clock by this point and I didn't want to leave Malmö just yet, so I wandered back to Stortorget and had coffee and a rather expensive cream cake at a Konditorei there watching the people sitting around the big square enjoying the warm afternoon.
After a while I headed back towards the harbour and railway station and then was delighted to stumble across a boat trip which I hadn't been aware existed beforehand. I was lucky, the last trip of the day was about to depart. The trip started by heading out into the modern harbour, past the neat little lighthouse and the vast dock crane of the Kockums (no sniggers please) company, which was the largest in Europe, but is now virtually unused (much to the obvious irritation of our guide).
From there you turn into the dock area with the usual selection of boats and warehouses. After this you turn left into the canal system, passing by Malmö Castle and into the Slottsparken. Here you get to see some superb views of the leafy green park with - by this point - many people making the most of the sunny afternoon. You exit the park and begin to circle the old town, it is only on the boat trip that you appreciate that Malmö is completely encircled by the canal because without back tracking you arrive back where you started. From this part of the trip I caught a glimpse of St. Pauli Church and saw the massive Policehus, apparently a very controversial construction as it dominates one corner of the canal system.
Having completed the boat trip I was then happy to head for the station, feeling that I'd done Malmö some justice (although sadly most of the Museums were shut).
The reason for taking the train back to Copenhagen rather than the boat I came over on? Well, having seen the Øresund Bridge from the boat I simply had to actually go over it didn't I?! I had hoped that the train might offer some nice views of the Bridge as it approached but sadly it didn't. Still it was quite a thrill crossing this wonderful piece of modern architecture. It just goes to prove that modern need not mean ugly - something the planners of some of London's modern buildings might want to take note of. The Øresund Bridge is quite odd because it starts off as a tunnel from the Swedish side, it then goes up onto the Bridge part before apparently disappearing into the water two thirds of the way across! In fact it goes back into another tunnel on a small island in the middle of the Øresund before eventually emerging again when you reach Copenhagen's airport.
I arrived back in Copenhagen keen to make the most of my last afternoon on a trip which had proven to be very enjoyable indeed.
Stockholm - Andrew, Jacqui, her Mum and friends - 2014
The third day of the cruise was at sea – so naturally it was sunny – and then the next day was to be at Stockholm, Sweden. We had been told that the approach into Stockholm is one of the best in the world; through the famous Stockholm Archipelago.
So I woke a bit earlier than usual and before breakfast ventured up on deck to experience something of this approach.
Once again I was greeted by rain. This time it seemed a little more determined than it had been in Copenhagen.
The slow wending journey through the thousands of little islands that form the archipelago is indeed magical, even in these damp and grey conditions. It must be truly magical on a sunny day with all the little tumbledown coloured houses meeting the sea.
I stayed on deck as long as hyperthermia would allow me and then retreated back to the cabin to wash and get ready for breakfast. By the time breakfast had come we were docked in Stockholm. One of our Band of Eight decided to stay aboard this day and so we became a Band of Seven for Stockholm.
The rain had not only not stopped but showed every sign of increasing as we paid for our Hop-on Hop-off bus around Stockholm. The idea was to visit the Vasa Ship Museum and then Gamla Stan, the old town.
And so we were off again, reaching the centre of Stockholm very quickly as the Ship had docked just a short distance away. I attempted to take some pictures of the old town as we passed through the very wet windows and, although atmospheric, the pictures are not exactly clear.
The bus then stopped at the Vasa Museum stop and we headed towards the vast brown hanger-like structure which houses the ship. But then we hit the queue and the cost of visiting and the rain began to dig in like it was in for the long game. After some debate we decided to forgo the Vasa Museum in favour of the nearby Nordiska Museum.
Inside we were greeted by the monumental statue of King Gustav Vasa before having a wander around some of the Museum’s exhibits.
We were particularly drawn to the exhibits of household items and fashion; all of which were presented very well and also offered some spectacular views of the main hall of the Museum.
We had decided, though, not to spend all day in the Museum and to brave the rain and head to Gamla Stan.
At this point our plans began to go a bit wobbly. The first bus we met up with said we couldn’t get on, so we had to wait for the next … in the pouring rain. That bus then decided it needed to drive a long long way out of the town centre to the other Cruise Terminal. The traffic was terrible and the trip took a massive chunk out of our day.
The rain continued to lash down as we finally headed back towards the City Centre, but we spent a long time in traffic in the shopping areas of the City, allowing only brief glimpses of some of the landmarks such as the Town Hall.
By the time we had spent all our day in traffic jams it was too late to get out at Gamla Stan to see the Old Town and the Royal Palace. All aboard was at 4:30 and time was getting short.
Thus, I had to content myself with pictures snatched through the windows of the coach whose ultra-slow progress continued to drain away what little time we had left. The one thing that helped was that the rain had briefly left off and so the views were slightly clearer.
All in all by the time we reached back to the Ship we were all a bit fed up and frustrated with our experience in Stockholm. We had spent hours on the bus peering through the rain at places we didn’t have time to see. It looked like a nice place, but after this day it felt like we hadn’t visited it at all.
Back at the Brilliance of the Seas I had to make the best of it and so I went to the top deck to take some pictures looking back towards Gamla Stan and the City Centre. These are by far the best pictures I got of Stockholm and, indeed, some of them are very nice indeed.
The day in Stockholm had been, not exactly disastrous, but very frustrating and unfulfilling. Our time had been limited, but the weather, traffic and the horribly slow bus driver had all conspired in the end to stop us doing anything beyond visiting the Nordiska Museum.
And so we left Stockholm and Sweden with a vague feeling of discontent and the hope that Finland and Helsinki would bring us satisfaction…
Go to Sweden - Page Two
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