old warships and new computer games
11.08.2016 - 30.08.2016 80 °F
I see that yesterday I forgot to mention an important advance in my education. I tasted aquavit (or akvivit, or akevitt) for the first time. Carol and I had agreed that this would be an important thing to do whilst we are in the region of the world that produces the stuff. We recognized that Stockholm might be our last opportunity since the next stop is Helsinki Finland and I won’t be spending much time there (more on that later). So we took our assignment seriously and strode down to the hotel bar, hopped on barstools and requested assistance from the bartender (a fellow named Mark from Boston, as it turns out.) He recommended a particular brand and poured us each a shot. Aquavit is a slightly gold, clear spirit that tastes like vodka infused with caraway. Mark served it cold but told me that “on the rocks” is simply not done, so I acquiesced and accepted the poison as it is done, neat. About 1/2-way through I switched to chardonnay but Carol would not waste good alcohol. I wouldn’t waste GOOD alcohol either but this was something different. Anyway, in the end we completed our assignment and went on to wine for extra credit.
Today we visited the Vasa Museum. I had never heard of it either. It is a giant exhibit of the only fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged. (well, 98% intact) The Vasa is a war ship commissioned by the King of Sweden to his specifications. Unfortunately, he wasn’t much of a ship designer and it was way too top heavy. The thing sank 20 minutes into its maiden voyage and remained at the bottom of the Stockholm Harbor for 333 years. In the 1950’s an archeologist re-found it and choreographed the raising of the thing. It is a beautiful, ornate ship. Giant and stunning.
There are times while travelling when the reminder of your incredible good fortune suddenly stabs you in the heart. For me, it is rarely a matter of what comforts I have, though they are many, to be sure. For me the feeling usually involves an experience that overwhelms me with a sense of gratitude and awe that I am experiencing whatever-it-is. That happened today as I walked around the Vasa. I feel so fortunate that I was able to learn about this piece of history while standing in the same room with the subject. I am a lucky, lucky girl. [It is here that I usually begin my sermon about how travel is so much more valuable than most anything you can buy and that you need to travel while you are physically able to do so. Consider it done.]
The next stop was the Skansen Outdoor Museum which is a lot like the Living History Museum in Oslo, except on a bigger scale, 74 acres to be exact. As you wander through it you encounter the types of farms and homes that existed throughout Sweden over hundreds of years. It was interesting, but mostly it was a beautiful day and it was nice to take a long educational walk.
The last event was an archipelago cruise on a ferry. Again, the weather was beautiful today, but the vessel was crowded and the cruise was too long. There are 30,000 islands that encompass the greater Stockholm archipelago (the city itself has 14) so it is a really beautiful area. But mostly what you see is the fine homes that are built on the water. There was constant narration explaining the sights as we floated along, but the sound system was so bad that it was at least 20 minutes before I figured out that he was narrating in Swedish and English. Three hours of this was boring to me. (no, not because I was jealous). What could I do? Nothing. I was stuck so I made the most of it. I wandered around the boat (where there was room to wander) and enjoyed the weather and the view and tried to control my Type “A” internal ranting (“this is fucking ridiculous!!! I travelled 8500 miles to be stuck on a small boat looking at homes and private docks for three hours??” I could be doing something more productive!!!) When it was finally over, Carol and Fran and I walked back to the hotel rather than boarding the bus. We needed to stretch our legs and I personally did not want to have to smile sweetly and pretend that I’d had another Vasa moment.
This evening we had dinner in the Old Town, which is the island where it all began. Narrow winding cobblestone streets with old buildings and outdoor café after outdoor café. The weather is good tonight so the tables were full of people enjoying the evening. It was colorful, vibrant and fun.
A word on Pokémon Go: Yes I have downloaded the app and yes I enjoy catching Pokémon, I even caught one in Old Town on the way to the restaurant this evening. But the interesting thing is the troops of teens in odd costumes that we encounter roaming the streets of Stockholm, Bergen, Oslo, etc. playing the game. Kinda fun.