A whirlwind tour of Stockholm, other things of interest

Greetings! We just finished cruising through the vast, winding archipelago of islands (is that redundant?) that protect Stockholm, Sweden from the Baltic Sea. We sailed at 1:00 pm today due to concerns for the tides in Dover on Thursday when we arrive to disembark; an alternative explanation that we have heard is that Disney Cruise Lines is concerned about having enough time to turn the ship around for the next cruise if we are delayed by rough seas in the North Sea.

Anyway, we had our last shore excursion today, which included a tour of the city and plenty of time at the Vasa ship museum. Stockholm is a beautiful place, scattered across many hilly islands, and full of historic old buildings sitting next to new architectural marvels. The Crown Princess of Sweden was married two days ago in a celebration that rivaled the marriage of Prince Charles to the late Princess Diana in Great Britain many years ago; the city was still full of decorations in honor of this event.

The Vasa museum opened in 1990 to showcase the restored Swedish warship Vasa. This tremendous oak-hulled war ship, over 226 feet long and displacing 1210 tons and covered with elaborate carvings, was commissioned by King Gustavus II Adolphus in 1625. When construction was completed in 1628, the Vasa left on its maiden voyage into Stockholm harbor and promptly capsized and sank into the depths of the harbor (obviously not a good thing with thousands of people watching). The ship design was too top-heavy with huge sails and guns and the ballast was not adequate for even light wind loads. An inquiry was held but no liability could be determined, so the Vasa vanished into history. Now we fast forward to the 1950s: An engineer named Anders Franzen, who was an expert on sunken vessels in the Baltic Sea, searched for the Vasa for many years and was successful in raising the vehicle to the surface in 1961. Over the next twenty years the ship was painstakingly restored and moved into the museum. The Baltic Sea is brackish water (low salt content), so sunken ships are remarkably preserved. The Vasa and its museum were definitely worth seeing!

Steve didn’t mention it in his writeup for Helsinki yesterday, but I really enjoyed seeing a little part of the ancestral home of my Mom’s family. My great-grandparents on my Mom’s side of the family were immigrants to America from Finland, settling in the upper peninsula of Michigan. My great-grandfather actually traveled to Colorado in the early 1900’s to work at the Tomboy silver mine in Telluride, then returned to the UP. He never learned to speak much English. I felt a little sad visiting Helsinki & the nearby countryside yesterday because I miss my Mom, who passed away in early 2007. She visited Finland twice with my Dad.

One other interesting experience from last evening: the Mouse was followed by two different Russian subs! The first sub was off the starboard side around 6:00 pm; the second emerged on the same side of the ship around 11:00 pm (near sunset); both were accompanied by a support vessel. Maybe they wanted Mickey Mouse merchandise or wanted to join the pirates party.

We will send photos soon. The Internet is HORRIBLE today, so please have patience. We had dinner in Palo tonight (the adults-only specialty restaurant); it was an awesome experience!! We both had the beef tenderloin, which was cooked to perfection. I’m stuffed…

We’ll send updates tomorrow on our day at sea.

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