09.02.2010 - 09.02.2010
Today was our last day to dock and explore a new city/country. Our tour was scheduled to leave after nine, so we had a leisurely breakfast and then joined the tour group.
Our guide was chatty and funny; she played off of the centuries old rivalry with Denmark with banter back and forth with some Danes on the bus. The history of each Scandinavian countries is intertwined with the others and while they've been at peace with one another for many years, the age-old competitive spirit lives on.
We toured around the city for some time viewing important buildings and landmarks. Stockholm inhabits 14 different islands, so we went over and back on many bridges. Once again, we noticed an architecture here common to the style we had seen in Copenhagen, St. Petersburg and Helsinki. The are many ornate, gilded buildings; many large, rectangular palaces; and many colorful row houses.
Our guide let the bus stop twice in order for us to take pictures of the harbor, the city skyline, government buildings, and the royal family's palace.
The last stop on the tour was at the Vasa Museum to see the Vasa, a ship built in 1628 that sank in the Stockholm harbor. Two interesting stories make this ship notable. The first is that King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden commissioned this ship to be built as the most ornate and imposing ship of its time. Having been at war for nearly 30 years, he wanted a war ship that would intimidate his foes. The ship was built and it was magnificent; more than 1000 oak trees were cut down in order to build it. It had an array of 64 cannon on three decks. The rear of the ship was decorated with many carved figures and symbols, almost an art gallery on its own. Once it was finished, the ship set sail into a Stockholm harbor and it had gone little more than half a mile when a gust of wind hit the sails, the ship tilted over on its side, water poured into the lower gun ports, and it sank to the bottom of the harbor in less than 15 minutes. Fifty people were drowned.
The second story involves the recovery of the ship 330 years later. An interested citizen of Stockholm located the sunken ship in the bay and successfully refloated the old ship. Because of the brackish (semi-salt, semi-fresh water) around Stockholm, the ship had not rotted or been damaged by shipworms. The entire ship is now on display at the Vasa Museum, a building that was erected around it. We could have spent more than the one hour we were allowed there to see all of the displays and exhibits about the ship.
The tour's end brought back to our ship's dock by 1:00. Lunch was still being served, followed by some R & R in the ship's sun and pool room. Dinner was at six, followed by a game of cards and the evening show—a musical/dance performance with a disco theme. After that, dreamland.