It was a gorgeous evening on our last night at Hedesunda. Families sat outside around their tents and campervans, enjoying the last of the evening sunshine. We watched with interest at what appears to be the national Swedish game, at least for those who are camping. It will come as no surprise to hear that it involves wood. It stands to reason that in a country with so many trees, their favourite outdoor pastime is a game involving throwing chunks of wood at other chunks of wood. They seem to set out a matrix with pieces of what looks like four by four, rested on the ground. They then throw other slightly larger pieces of wood at the framework, trying to knock them down. It seemed incredibly complicated, but managed to occupy entire families for what seemed like hours.
After observing the onsite recreation, we walked to the beach, and enjoyed a very pleasant meal at the restaurant next to the camping ground.
Perhaps spurred on by our bottle of wine, we then set about solar eclipse hunting. Despite wall to wall sunshine all day, within about thirty minutes of the designated time for viewing, a large bank of cloud welled up. We walked along he road outside the campsite for about a mile, trying to find a break in the clouds. But to no avail – despite tramping through woods to the shoreline, sadly there was no moon to be found. We retreated back to the campsite, where, remarkably, one family were still playing the stick game!
This morning, we set off for Stockholm. The weather remained hot, despite the promise of rain. At one point on the drive, we hit a short-lived torrential shower, but then back to sunshine as we drove into the city.
Having checked into our hotel, we set off to explore. First we walked the short distance to Gamla Stan, the old quarter of Stockholm, with it’s pretty ochre coloured buildings and labyrinth of narrow alleyways. It is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe, and as a result, heaving with tourists. We stopped for a coffee, and did a bit of people watching. We observed a family with two little boys, and clearly another babe on the way, as they negotiated ice-creams with the two little children. Unwisely, they opted for chocolate cones, which within moments had completely engulfed the two little boys in chocolate ice-cream. As the mother removed the cone from the youngest’s hand, whilst she tried to wipe some of the ice-cream from his clothes and face, he threw himself onto the cobbled street in a raging temper tantrum. Oh! How we remember those days! We did wonder to ourselves whether the third child would be another boy – I feel there should be some sort of special award to parents who survive three boys!
Duly refreshed, we headed off to explore the city. After a wander through Gamla Stan, we then opted to buy a hop on / hop off boat ticket, which enabled us to hop between the islands which make up the core of Stockholm. We alighted at the island which is home to the Vasa Museum, one of the most popular attractions in Stockholm, which had also been recommended to us by several friends.
The museum houses the Swedish warship, the Vasa, which in 1628 sank on it’s maiden voyage, having only sailed 1,300 metres from where it was launched. It lay at the bottom of Stockholm harbour for 333 years, until in 1961 it was salvaged after a major operation to raise the wreck. The ships guns had previously been salvaged in the 1660s using an incredibly rudimentary diving bell. The ship was raised virtually intact, and initially was housed in a large warehouse where restorative work was carried out on the timbers. Then in 1990, it was moved to the purpose built museum building, and has become a major attraction. The mystery as to why the Vasa sank was quite easily explained. Essentially, it was top heavy. The majority of it’s weight sat on it’s upper decks, where the hull was at it’s thickest, and where two decks of heavy guns sat. There was not enough ballast in the bottom of the ship to compensate for this, the ship requiring a much broader hull to accommodate more stones. On it’s maiden voyage, the gun hatches were left open, to show off the armaments, and when a gust of wind tilted the boat to port, water streamed in through the open hatches, and completely destabilised the ship. It quickly rolled over and sank, within clear sight of the harbour.
The restored ship was indeed a spectacular sight to behold. One couldn’t help think as we walked around the displays, that if more attention had been spent on the engineering, rather than all the adornments, such as elaborate carvings and figure heads, then maybe this disaster could have been averted.
After the museum, we caught a boat back to the other side of the city, although the walk from the jetty to our hotel nearly exhausted us in the oppressive heat. When we arrived back at our hotel, we were both dripping in sweat and looking like belisha beacons. After showering, we cooled off with a drink in the very hip Sky Terrace Bar on the roof of the hotel, and then went out for supper.
There seems to be no respite in the heat, despite forecasts of thunderstorms, which didn’t materialise. It has been a long time since we have been in a city, and had forgotten how frenetic and air-less they can be. We hope for a cooler day tomorrow.
P.S. Be careful of what you wish for! As I prepare to post this, we have both been awakened by the most enormous clap of thunder and torrential rain! Photos are alluding me at present – to follow.