Scandinavia 2013:
Day 6 - Stockholm, Sweden


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Scandinavia 2013: [Day 1 - Oslo] [Day 2 - Oslo] [Day 3 - Copenhagen] [Day 4 - Vilnius] [Day 5 - Stockholm] [Day 6 - Stockholm] [Day 7 - Umeå] [Day 8 - Umeå] [Day 9 - Umeå]

Thursday, November 7, 2013: Once again, we passed on the hotel breakfast because we had plans at the Nordic Sea Hotel around the corner. Why?
Because it has the ICEBAR by ICEHOTEL, that's why!
Oooh, there it is, visible from the lobby!
We were there for our 8:00 AM breakfast reservation. First stop: the coat room where we put on the by-now-familiar cape and gloves.
Shall we?
Yes, let's! Cha-ching -- that's our fourth Icebar, including the ones in Tokyo, London, and ...
... the mothership itself: the Icebar in the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, shown here on the ice map. Sadly, the one in Oslo closed a month before our visit so we'll never get that one.
Orchy joined us, of course. His very first international visit was to the Ice Hotel 10 years earlier, so we couldn't leave him at home.
We had the whole place to ourselves, so we got to take photos of everything. The general theme was the Ice Hotel and how it gets built.
Here are some fun facts with creative use of fonts for the numbers.
This would be a cozy little corner to spend time in if you didn't have the entire bar to yourselves. There was a similar nook on the other side of the bar.
More art.
This sculpture is a giant representation of an Icebar cocktail served in the iconic square ice glasses.
You know, these iconic square ice glasses. Every one of these used to be part of the Torne River.
The bar lights are made of ice, too, of course.
After a while, our breakfast arrived. After explaining what everything was, the server was nice enough to take our photo for us.
Here's a little context on where our breakfast was served -- on a cocktail table made of ice.
Skol! We toasted with berry juice.
Breakfast was (left to right) a pancake stack with strawberries, frozen yogurt with cornflake crunch, and a smoked trout sandwich. It was tasty, but wow, that frozen yogurt was really, really frozen.
After we finished, we had some fun with our glasses by sliding them down the built in ice chute. Helpful tip: make sure someone is ready to catch it when it starts to slide across the bar.
When we were done, we put away our capes, paid our bill at the front desk, and admired the hotel artwork, including this cool photograph of King Carl Gustav.
Next, we did a little panicking as we realized our Stockholm Cards were gone, so we went to the tourist office and got the bad news that we couldn't replace them. But we got good news that there is a tram that goes from Sergels Torg to Djurgården, a little fact that is not mentioned on Stockholm's public transit website. So, we bought tram tickets and headed to Sergels Torg, passing the beautiful Åhléns City sign.
We found the tram stop (or more accurately, the end point of the tram tracks) on the east side of Sergels Torg and hopped aboard just as it was departing.
Seven minutes later, we were on the island of Djurgården, passing the Nordic Museum again.
We were headed for Skansen. Due to the Stockholm Card loss, we arrived an hour later than we planned, plus we had to pay admission, but we were still excited about our visit.
First stop: the escalator that goes through the hill.
Next stop: the top of the hill. We have one hour -- let's see this place!
We read somewhere that Skansen is Stockholm's only zoo, so we decided to see some animals. We started in the farm area of the park where these pigs were having a nice afternoon in the sun.
It was feeding time for these sheep.
Skansen contains buildings and structures from different periods in Sweden's history, including this road milestone from 1737.
This adorable little building is the Soldier's Cottage, dating from the mid-1800s.
More animals! We saw a wolverine ...
... a wolf, ...
... a lynx, ...
... and, no kidding, actual European bison, the very animal we had never heard of until two days earlier in Lithuania.
Here's a teeny, tiny horse.
The bears were great fun to watch. Keep an eye on the guy in the tree trunk. He's going, ...
... going, ...
... gone.
From this side of Skansen, there's a great view of the Kaknäs TV tower across the water.
Finally! We got a decent photo of these beautiful birds that we had seen in Norway and Denmark.
Sweden and the majestic moose: forever linked in our hearts, courtesy of our beloved Kristina and of Monty Python. ("Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasti.")
Here are some cute little chickens ...
... and a random selection of farm animals.
This is the Bredabick Tower. There are dozens of buildings in Skansen so you could spend days here, but we had no time for that.
We did have time for this though. It was a goal of this trip to get a photo of Debbie on this Dala horse and that goal was achieved. Yes!
Squirrel!
Scenic stuff, huh?
Here's a rune stone. Awesome.
Pretty peacock.
Lovely glass house.
Nice view. Time to run!
We had a noon date with destiny.
Or more accurately, with ABBA The Museum. It opened five months earlier in May 2013 so it was still very shiny and new.
Debbie used to identify with Agnetha when she was younger, but Frida seemed like the correct choice for this photo. This was one of two photo opportunities in front of the museum.
At 12:00 PM sharp, the 12:00 ticket holders were let into the museum staging area. We stored our coats and belongings in the coat room, then went downstairs to this waiting area. Groups were let into the museum one by one, and we stayed back until the crowds left in order to get this perfect shot of the welcoming lights. Then, we went into the theater and watched a short two-minute film designed to work us up into an ABBA frenzy, with 5-second snippets of all of our favorite songs.
From the theater, we were released into the actual museum. The first section was devoted to individual displays of Bjorn's, Benny's, Frida's, and Agnetha's solo careers prior to forming ABBA. Here is Agnetha's display.
Around the corner was a full wall featuring this famous photo from their Greatest Hits album with a matching green park bench to sit on.
To the left was Frida and Benny's story of how they met and fell in love, ...
... with Bjorn and Agnetha's story on the right.
Here's a collage of stories and photos from their very early days as a group.
"Ring Ring" was their big breakthrough song. It placed third in Melodifestivalen in 1973 ...
... but they came back in 1974 with "Waterloo" and won both Melodifestivalen and Eurovision by a landslide.
And they did it wearing these clothes.
This display recreates one of the rooms in the island cabin where B&B composed many of ABBA's songs.
Off to the side of this reproduction of their recording studio, you could see people in small recording booths singing along to their favorite ABBA song. The museum had many interactive features that you could participate in and then download your performance later. We are convinced that the dude on the left was making that version of "Chiquitita" his very own.
This was a display on the extravagant costumes the band wore. We had rented audioguides and they were well worth the extra money to hear all four band members personally tell us stories about each display.
Here's a representation of a dressing room back stage on tour.
What's this? A sticker from Chess? Yes, that was a nice touch for fans of Bjorn and Benny's later creations.
Debbie was a big ABBA fan when she was a teen, but she only ever purchased their records. Apparently, there were many other purchasing options back then.
This little activity was great fun. You pick your song, you get on stage, then you perform that song with projected avatars of the band as they dance and sing. We happened upon it just as a group of 30-something guys were cheering on their friend ...
... and recording every minute of it. To their credit, a second friend went up next. A crowd gathered and we all cheered after both performances.
ABBA fans will lose their minds over this awesome display, ...
... and Debbie was no exception. Of course, she had to recreate the Arrival album cover and it was thrilling.
This display reproduced Agnetha's home after her divorce from Bjorn. The photo out the window is of their daughter and the audio recording consisted of Bjorn explaining his feelings as he composed "Slipping Through My Fingers." It was very moving.
Enough emotional stuff. It's time to take The Quiz! Debbie tried the easy level and the medium level, then was too ashamed by her score to try the hard level. But it was so much fun!
Speaking of fun, check out this display!
Albums and singles from many different countries were mixed in with gold records awarded to the group.
And oh! The costumes!
Here are the women's kimono outfits for their Japanese tours.
Next stop: the disco. The floor lit up and the monitors played ABBA videos.
We stayed for a couple of songs and strangely enough, Tom was in no hurry to leave during this particular video.
This exhibit represented "Mamma Mia!" the musical, ...
... and "Mamma Mia!" the movie. The exit from the museum is the moonlit wooden pathway that Sophie and Sky walk away on at the end of the show.
The exit of the museum lets out at the entrance to the Swedish Music Hall of Fame. We spent a little time looking for bands we knew and found quite a few. Finding a short video of a very young Carola from 1983 was a highlight.
Next, a long stroll through the gift shop ended with a purchase of only a couple of refrigerator magnets. As awesome as ABBA is, Debbie still doesn't need the merchandise. We got out of there 10 minutes before the restaurant at the Hotel Hasselback was going to close, so our planned lunch there was out of the question.
Fortunately, there was a fast food option right around the corner: Big Shark Restaurant.
We had gyros, or as they're called everywhere in Scandinavia: kebabs. This was not the first time we had seen it, but it was the first time we got a photo of the random men's names printed on Coca-Cola Light labels. These labels featured Mikael and Niklas. We have no idea why. (Update: names on Coke bottles showed up in the US a half-year later and it all made sense.)
Refreshed, we walked along the waterfront to our next Djurgården stop: ...
... the Vasa Museum. The building was specifically designed to resemble a ship.
And here is the actual ship itself. Like the Fram in Norway, it's not possible to do it justice. The backstory on this ship is that it sank in Stockholm harbor 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628.
She remained underwater for over 400 years until work began in 1957 to raise her to the surface. She was successfully raised in 1961 and work began on restoring her that still continues today.
The museum does not allow access on or inside the ship, but bright work lamps inside give a glimpse into the work being done.
Here's a view from the aft, ...
... with a look at the amazing carvings along the back.
It is by studying these carvings that researchers were able to determine ...
... how she would have looked while freshly painted, as shown on this scale model.
There was a corner with computers set up where you could set up your own version of the Vasa -- how much ballast to use, how much cargo and ammunition you'd take, etc.
When you're ready, you take your ship out on her maiden voyage and await the verdict. Here's is the King's assessment of Tom's configuration: "Your ship is both clumsy and slow, and will blow over when the wind increases. As if the shame were not enough, the ship's firing power does not live up to the expectations of our noble regent. The King is furious. The best thing would be to flee the country, if you still want to keep your head on your shoulders."
Here is the Vasa's foresail, in remarkably great shape for being underwater for 400+ years.
It wasn't really intact, as this closeup shows, and it must have taken years to piece together, but it was still recognizable as a sail.
This model shows a cross-section of what the ship would have looked like when it was at sail. You know, all 20 minutes that it was at sail.
The most moving part of the museum were the skeletons of people found onboard or on the ocean floor next to the Vasa. Plaques explained what scientists were able to learn about each person from the clues their skeletons contained.
We passed another hot dog stand as we headed to the tram stop, but we did not buy hot dogs.
No, we were there for the glögg, previously consumed by us only in our own kitchen every Christmas day.
It was nice to have a cup served in the region responsible for the tasty beverage and we appreciated the warmth as we waited for the tram in front of the Nordic Museum.
We got off the tram at its endpoint at Sergels Torg and headed to Åhléns. We were able to reach it easily from the underground level.
After a little browsing in the housewares section, we headed downstairs to the grocery store. Look! It's Lutfisk! Spelled Lutefisk (Lut-a-fisk) in Norwegian, it's one syllable shorter here in Sweden: Lut-fisk.
Of course we'd find Västerbotten cheese in the cheese section. We have to drive one state over to buy it at IKEA, but the Swedes can buy it everywhere. Lucky.
We bought a whole grocery basket of food for less than a single entree would cost us at any Stockholm restaurant and we had ourselves a little picnic in our hotel room. We bought Coca-Cola Light, an ost & skinka sandwich, some rolls and skagenröra (shrimp salad), two Kinder eggs (forbidden in the US and therefore irresistible to us when we travel), plus "American" caviar (Americans eat caviar? I don't think so).
After dinner, Tom took a bath in the first and only bathtub we encountered on our trip. That's a happy boy right there.

Here's the view of the hotel atrium from our room at night. We went to sleep early because we had to get up early in the morning.

Day 7 >


Scandinavia 2013: [Day 1 - Oslo] [Day 2 - Oslo] [Day 3 - Copenhagen] [Day 4 - Vilnius] [Day 5 - Stockholm] [Day 6 - Stockholm] [Day 7 - Umeå] [Day 8 - Umeå] [Day 9 - Umeå]

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