One of the more endearing things about Australia is that they can have a laugh about themselves. Let’s briefly look at the mystery of Harold Holt. Mr Holt was the 17th Prime Minister of Australia, from January 1966-December 1967. His term ended when he disappeared while swimming off a Victorian beach and presumed drowned. How did Australia decide to honor one of its leaders? With the Harold Holt Swim Centre, a memorial in the form of a public swimming pool in Melbourne.
What is Sweden’s equivalent? I’ll nominate the Vasa. When construction was complete, it was one of the most powerful warships in the world, with two decks of heavy cannons. On its maiden voyage out of Stockholm in August 1628, a strong breeze caused the ship to lean once, then twice, then take on water through the open gun ports, then sink, in full view of hundreds of spectators. It had sailed less than one mile in total. Now they want to show it off in one of the most popular attractions in Stockholm.
I woke up eager to start my first full day in Stockholm. I am rarely able to sleep on airplanes (ha!). My temporary roommate was also awake, as he was on business with an early flight (a common reason for spending the night at Jumbo Stay). We caught the free bus back to the terminal, where I picked up my Stockholm Card, one of those tourist cards that gets you free entry to loads of museums and free public transport (except for the Arlanda Express). I found a pretty good online discount for the card, where my discounted 5-day price came down to nearly the normal 3-day price. The free public transport route from Arlanda airport to downtown Stockholm included a bus (583 Märsta) to the train station in Märsta, then train to Stockholm Central Station. It takes about an hour, vs the 20-minute Arlanda Express (which costs around US$40 extra). It was still early morning, so I was willing to take the slow and free route, plus I might not even be able to check into the hotel this early.
Luckily for me, I am allowed to check in before noon. I drop off my stuff and head back out for lunch and to buy a local SIM card for data and phone calls, followed by a long walk to the Vasamuseet. I saw a McDonald’s in Central Station, and thought that would be a fun way to celebrate my arrival in Stockholm. What you see on the tray is what I received. In the US, you would probably receive a more generous portion of fries, but I didn’t care that much. After that was a stop at a Pressbyrån in the Gallerian mall to pick up a SIM card. I went with Comviq’s Amigos Pay-as-you-go plan, as I thought it would be the best value, I paid 50SEK (US$7.50) for the SIM card, and that credit was applied to the account for usage (data and international calls) and topped up with another 50SEK (the minimum top up) for overages, should I need it, as the initial amounts of data and minutes seemed almost exactly what I expected I would use.
1.7km later, I arrive at the Vasa Museum and gain free entry with the Stockholm Card, but just missed the English-language short film. No big deal, the next showing is in Spanish with English subtitles, which is perfectly acceptable. I walk around for an hour, slotting the film into that period of time while I wait for the English-language guided tour. After the tour, I wander back to the other floors myself, then it’s time to leave. It’s around 4:30pm and lightly snowing, but at this time of year, many museums close around 5pm at the latest, which means I can only see this one attraction today. I’ll have to hope I can fit at least two places per day to maximize the stuff I see and use of the tourist card.
I figured I may as well wander through Gamla Stan, as I pass by on the way back to the hotel. I should find dinner soon. I find the Nobel Museum (whose square looks neat when it is empty and wintry-lit) and Royal Palace, I’ll come back during the day to actually go inside (hooray free entry). This small island has the expected Old World, European-esque cobblestone streets on narrow roads with basic, single color buildings.
No food here, I don’t mean they don’t have any, I mean there wasn’t anything I wanted, either for mood or budget. I ended up in a cafe in the Gallerian Mall in the city center. I ordered the spaghetti bolognese with a slice of blueberry cheesecake. The pasta dish was awesomely better than expected (good size and tasty), it was just right. The cheesecake, however, must have been old as the sides were dry and gummy. Not enough to ruin the meal or the day.
I like walking in downtown areas of cities at night. The lighting choices are often interesting. I don’t do enough night walking, though obviously only if it feels safe. If you are wondering where I have felt the least safe at night, it wasn’t Rome. Check out that shot of Central Station, my hotel, the adjacent convention center, and the top of the tower of City Hall.
I used the word “expected” four times in this post (this is five). You probably don’t care.