One of our final EU trips before we moved back to SA was to Stockholm, Sweden in July. Bronwyn, my younger sister, was visiting from Cape Town so we decided to visit somewhere with her that was nearby.

Flying to Stockholm is really cheap from Helsinki- about €60 for a return flight! We flew with Norwegian airlines. And it takes hardly any time at all to get there- less that an hour. You can also catch a ferry which I hear is a wonderful experience as you go through the Finnish archipelago. We didn’t have the time for that but it would have definitely been a cultural experience for Bronwyn to see the drunken revellers that would have accompanied that mode of transport.

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From Arlanda airport, we caught a bus directly to Uppsala. Pete’s colleague Bert who has been with him on Marion Island doing research lives in Uppsala. We showed him around on 2 consecutive rainy days in Cape Town a few years ago and had heard a lot about his yacht so we were keen to see it for ourselves. Uppsala is also a pretty interesting place in its own right as one of the oldest towns in Sweden – since 1164 it has been ecclesiastical centre of the country.

We were met at the bus stop by Bert and his lovely girlfriend Celia. We dropped off our kit at his home- a wooden house (a relevant fact later on in our tale…). One of our first stops was Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) which has 3 ancient burial mounds or barrows.  We then went for lunch at a new restaurant along the Fyris River. Then we said goodbye to Celia who was heading off to see some family and got a tour of the town from Bert. We went to the castle/ fort and the Uppsala cathedral.

Later that afternoon, we met Bert’s famous boat- Shaman. It’s a smallish yacht (although I am no expert on what’s small or not…) that he has kitted out so that he can go on long trips. Sweden, like Finland, is full of lakes that are interconnected and has a long coastline and thousands of islands so it’s an ideal place to go wandering around on a boat. On our way to the yacht, we bought some strawberries from a kid selling them on the street and then headed out onto the huge lake. It wasn’t a long trip out but the scenery was so beautiful.

That evening, Bert and Celia made us  a  smoked salmon for dinner. There was nearly catastrophe when Bert’s  new  smoker started to heat the wooden deck and it caught fire. Well, it was spotted early enough so no major damage was caused but there is a nice black mark on his deck to remind him of our visit.

The next day we caught the bus back to Stockholm. We narrowly missed it because it was parked on the opposite side of the station with no obvious signs to guide us to that set of platforms. Picture the 3 of us running as fast as we could with all of our baggage, us 2 girls starting to lag and Pete dashing forward to hold up the bus so that we could make it.

This guy greeted us at the station with his hard helm due to the construction work going on.

This guy greeted us at the station with his hard helm due to the construction work going on.

We had some airbnb acommodation booked but as it was really cheap, it was really far from the city centre so we stuffed our bags into a locker at the central station and hit the city for some sight seeing.

That night we met up with an old friend from Stellenbosch- Maria and her fiance for dinner on Djurgården island. The restaurant was in a lovely location but VERY expensive. After dinner we went for a long walk around the island to see the first of many Swedish royal palaces. It was a little one with a lovely garden. While the sun was setting (after 10pm) a bunch of hot air balloons were taking off. We saw a pair of swans and their cygnets, a giant slug and even a little deer.

The next day we met up with them again and they drove us around the outskirts of Stockholm where we visited about 3 more palaces. One of them had a museum that we could visit showing royal rooms as they were throughout various ages.

On our final day we headed for central Stockholm again to visit some museums. The main one we wanted to visit was the Vaasa museum- home to a 500 year old ship that sunk on its maiden voyage in the harbour. We also went to the Nordiska museum to see some cultural history and artefacts from Sweden.

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And we also went past (but not into) the Abba museum.

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Sweden is lovely. I wish that we had gone their earlier in our time in Finland- it would have been nice to go there again and again…