The morning came very early on my second day in Stockholm, not because I was ready to wake up, but because there were no blinds in the room. But that’s okay. The amazingly expensive hostel I was in came complete with a breakfast so I was able to go downstairs and have a nice, healthy meal of meat and bread and cheese and hardboiled eggs before going off to activate my Stockholm Card. My first stop was going to be the water ferry to take me across to this island where there were a number of museums I wanted to checkout. See, Stockholm is built on a number of islands, I think it’s 13 that make up the primary city, and there are water busses and taxis to get across easily. And My card is supposed to give me access… except not to the one nearby. It does give me free rides, but only from a certain spot and that spot was a hell of a walk from where I was, so I paid to get across.
First stop, a place called The Aquaria. I know, what a surprise, huh? But this place seemed kinda cool so in I went. It was set up
in different climate zones, so the first section was an Amazon Rainforest. There was a back porch set and huge catfish swimming around, and piranha which they claimed weren’t as dangerous as people made them out to be but I choose not to believe them since the image of a hundred of the little buggers reducing a cow to bones in seconds is just way to cool to be false. The next section
was more of a dirty water education thing, where they had built a sewer you could climb down into and see how pollution affects things. Overall, it was small, but nice. This was the thing I was going to learn about Stockholm museums (and I saw a lot of them, I was determined to get my money’s worth out of that little card) is that they are all fairly small, so you can see a lot of them and they don’t really wear you out.
Of course, now that I’ve said that, my next stop was the Vasa Museum. The Vasa, not to be confused with Vaasa, was a state of the art battleship back in the 1600s which sank about 20 minutes into its maiden voyage. It sat on the bottom of the Stockholm harbor where, for some reason they explained a dozen times and I still didn’t quite get, it didn’t rot. So in the 60s they raised the thing, nearly intact, and threw it (carefully) into a
museum. It’s like when they used to have the Spruce Goose in Long Beach and it was just there and the majesty of it was almost overwhelming. When you walked into this museum and turned the corner after paying (which I didn’t do, I just flashed my card haha), the ship was just there. Huge and powerful and stuck in time. It really is hard to describe. The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s like when you see a whale in the ocean for the first time and you realize just how impressive it truly is. I literally stopped where I was and just stared. For a good ten minutes, I was riveted, just taking it in.
I know I keep joking about being a pirate but seeing this ship really puts you there, you can smell the salt and sweat (okay, not that much sweat, it did only sail for twenty minutes). And the museum surrounding it not only covers the ship and its history, but a lot of information on the times it sailed as well. It was only one room, but it was a big room. I was there for a few hours and still didn’t see it all.
From there, I went to Junibacken, which is a museum in honor of Astrid Lindgren, who wrote Pippi Longstocking. Except she wrote so much more than that! I had no idea. Like when you first find out Ian Fleming also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This lady was remarkable. I definitely want to get more of her stories when I get back. Anyway, this museum has two parts, the first is a kids area, with giant playthings and set pieces a la Pippi and the other part is a ride like storybookland through Lindgren’s different tales. I will say, not knowing what it
was when I went in, I felt kinda creepy surrounded by parents and all these little kids and here I was, a middle aged guy on my own. Like that circus place in Bratislava (only that place was worse).
By this point, I was starving so I tried to find food. Not so easy. But since I knew where I was
headed, I just pointed myself in that direction and struck out. I did make a stop or two to climb aboard a museum ship and check out an amusement park, but eventually, food was found. Then it was off to Skansen, the open air museum.
The idea behind Skansen is that it’s a huge park and they’ve recreated an old village inside, complete with craftsman and period costumes and the like (the girl in the 16th century dress, high tops and cell phone made laugh). They also have a zoo, an aquarium (which really isn’t an aquarium – more on that in a minute) a concert venue and a lot of green areas. It’s a spectacular area to visit, one of the most popular in Stockholm. And of course, it was included with my card. So I walked in and tried to decipher a map which, really, was no good at all. Here’s the secret to Europe (but don’t tell anyone): Everything is closer than you think it is but further than you want it to be. It’s like walking between hotels on the Strip in Vegas. You’d swear it’s just right there, but then, no, it’s a lot further away. Wait. It’s the complete opposite of that. Never mind, forget I said anything. Anyway, back to the map. I had it in my pocket and the place looked absolutely huge and overwhelming (thankfully, I’d eaten). So, naturally, I decided to go with my comfort zone and hit the thing I wanted to see first – That’s right, the Aquarium.
Thing with the Aquarium in Skansen is that it has an extra fee attached to it. Just paying to get into the park doesn’t cover you.
Since I’d already seen an Aquarium earlier in the day, I was ready to just bypass it – but then I discovered it was included with my card (I’m starting to love this card!). And I’ll tell you, it would have been a huge mistake to miss this place. Remember how I said it wasn’t really an Aquarium? It’s not. It’s more like a roadside attraction zoo on steroids. First thing you see when you walk in is the Ring Tailed Lemur exhibit. This ain’t your Helsinki Zoo here, no siree. I walk in and immediately, I’m face to face with a Lemur. I mean he’s right there! I immediately grab some poor kid to take my
picture before they realize this critter has escaped and is running wild. And then I realize… they know. In fact, I was walking right through the middle of the lemur’s habitat. They were walking on the stairs, hanging out on the railings, following you on the platform. You were in their space. It was amazing! I stayed in there longer than any other exhibit (well…almost, but we’re getting to that) and just watched them play.
There were times when I’d have staring contests and times when they’d ignore me. Then there was the one who thought it was great fun to lick himself on the stairs. The families nearby did a lot of covering their children’s eyes.
Moving on from there was an assortment of weird little (and not so little) creatures. There were alligators and spiders, naked mole rats and turtles. They also had the oddest sense of humor when
it came to their displays. There was a desert landscape with a rattlesnake and a skeletal hand. There was a huge dirt enclosure for chipmunks (and the only reason I’m not mocking the same way I mocked Finland is because these little guys were tough. Check out this fight):
And then there were the meerkats. Okay, meercats are just cool in general. We’ve all wondered about Meerkat Manor, right. Could a documentary/soap opera on the lives of Savannah-Based (Africa, not Georgia) rodents really be that interesting? You betcha! I stood for longer than I was with the lemurs and watched a group of these guys take care of a baby who was prone on the rocks. They would each take turns coming over, checking in, making sure the little guy didn’t fall into a crevice (and if he started to, they’d grab him and spin him
around so he’d be safe). At the end, the baby crawled into someone’s lap and then two others joined in and the three completely covered the sleeping Katlet. Cutest thing ever!
When I left the animals, I walked around the rest of the park. I saw the glass blower and passed the old bindery (which was closed, but I took pictures anyway). There was a small zoo there as well, but I didn’t see a lot of animals. By this time, it was getting late and I was tired. I headed back to the hostel where I was invited to join Elinor, her sister and some friends for Mama Mia (the film).
At first I wasn’t going to go, instead I was going to stay home and write, but then I realized my new mantra (which I actually clarified the next night at dinner, but that will be in a different post, I’m sure) which is “Don’t let the writing get in the way of the experience.” So I went. The movie was fine (we’re not going to talk about Pierce Brosnan’s singing) but the best part was going to the candy store beforehand and picking out a bagful of what my friend Malin calls “Sneeze Candy.” It looks like American candy, but it’s not (It’s snot? I don’t think that’s what she means, but you guys would never forgive me if I let the joke slide). What it was, though, was a surprise in every mouthful. I’d reach into my bag in the middle of the movie, grab what I thought was chocolate but instead was a weird flavored thing. Or the chocolate which should have had a nice creamy center and instead was filled with something disgusting (and don’t worry Bailey and Riley, I have a feeling I’m gonna bring some Swedish candy home for you guys!).
After the movie we went out for a quick drink at this great little outdoor pub which overlooked the harbor, but we made it a relatively early night. I still had many places on my card left to see.