Wednesday 30 July 2019 – Sunday 11 August 2019 Dortmund (Germany)- Seevetal- Aarup (Denmark)- Torup (Sweden)– Granna- Dyvik- Stockholm
We have decided to drive up to Stockholm, to catch up with Ian’s brother Andrew in the Stockholm Archipelago area and then spend a few days investigating Stockholm before moving on. As a result, we drove and stopped over at free camping spots for the next five days before arriving in Stockholm.
We arrived at Dortmund, and parked next to a very friendly Australian couple, Mark and Hilary from Noosa Heads who have been travelling Europe for 14 months and heading home tomorrow. Our stop over at Dortmund in the carpark of the Hymer dealership was an excellent one, as it enabled us to complete all our services.
We then headed on our next section of the journey and stayed in a beautiful park with a stream outside a restaurant on the outskirts of Hamburg in Seevetal, Germany. Another excellent stopover.
In the morning, we continued our journey passing through the border control of Denmark and stopped for the night in Aarup, on the island of Funen in a carpark attached to the supermarket.
On Friday morning, we continued on our trip to reach Sweden by passing over a body of water known as Store Bealt via a very impressive, but expensive toll bridge. Unfortunately, it is the only way to travel by road from Funen to Zealand in Denmark.
Continuing on, we travelled through a tunnel just past Kobenhavn, (Copenhagen) and across another impressive, even more expensive toll bridge over the body of water known as Oresund at Malmo to finally enter Sweden!
After arriving in Sweden, we were waved through the border control and continued to our campsite for the night at Torup near Malmo. This appears to be the fastest and only way to travel by road to Sweden, but our first glimpse of the country it appears to be worth the expense.
Approximately 15 kilometres east of Malmö is our campsite at Torup. It is in a scenic picnic area with table and chairs and BBQs surrounded by woodland with walking paths, a pond with ducks and a café. There were lots of motorhomes camped up for the night. Torup Castle completed around 1540, one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Sweden is just across the road. Another beautiful free camping place.
We set off for our next motorhome stop at Granna on our way to destination Stockholm. This free camping place is a beautiful park with picnic tables and chairs and facilities and across the road a restaurant with a gorgeous view overlooking Vattern, the second largest lake by surface area in Sweden and viewed on a map,is shaped like a finger.
Leaving our lovely camp stop we drove to our layover for visiting Stockholm to the grounds of the Dyvik Marina twenty minutes outside Stockholm. The grounds are very secluded alongside an inlet of the Baltic Sea. We once again, met up with Andrew and Mitzi and their daughter Jade and her husband Alex, who are staying with friends, Hans and Maja, on the archipelago island of Ålön.
Hans and Maja invited us to their house on the island for dinner and picked us up in their boat. Before landing they drove around the island of Ålön. The scenery is spectacular with islands of all shapes and sizes covered with trees, houses and little inlets. Every house has their own jetty with a boat shed along the water’s edge.
Before dinner we picked wild blue berries and went for a walk along a track through a section of the island where we saw three varieties of wild berries and various other fruit trees growing. Ålön is a lovely, peaceful place with about 40 houses spread around the wooded island. Every house on the island has a hand painted name plaque for their home which is painted and sculptured by an artist living on the island.
Dinner was fantastic followed by a homemade blueberry crumble using the wild blueberries just picked that day. As the sun was setting, we reluctantly said goodbye and returned across the water to our motorhome. Swedish people certainly are very friendly and know how to cook. Before leaving we were invited to a picnic and day trip around the Archipelago Islands by Hans and Maja.
Early in the morning we were picked up by Hans and Maja in their boat and driven to Ålön. After catching up with other friends Marianna and Teis who were also visiting Maja and Hans from Norway, our party of ten headed to the pier to catch the ferry.
We cruised around and through the Archipelago islands to the island of Rödlöga where we stopped for a picnic. On our walk through the island we picked wild blueberries and raspberries which would have to be the sweetest one’s ever. Marianna and Alex were brave or foolish enough to go for a swim which they said was cold at first but soon warmed up. This did not entice us to join them though.
It is a very tranquil part of the world where one could sit for hours. Unfortunately, we had to leave to catch the boat for our return trip. Halfway through we changed ferries for the dinner ferry and had a lovely meal on board before returning to Ålön. We returned to Maja and Hans’ house before reluctantly heading home again to our motorhome parked on the marina.
There are nearly 30 000 islands, islets and rocks which make up the Archipelago. The group of islands with their rugged nature blending with wooded islands, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, interspersed with red and white houses are a spectacular sight. It was a fantastic trip, great food, good company and the weather was perfect.
From the Marina it is a ten-minute drive into Åkersberga where we parked the motorhome in a free parking area. From here we caught the train to Universitetet and then the tunnelbanan (metro) into Gamla Stan, the Old Town, founded in 1252 and one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centres in Europe. All up it took us just over 1 hour.
Our first port of call was the tourist office to obtain a map of Stockholm and advice of where and what to see.
- Hotorgshallen Market which has a variety of fresh produce and eateries where we had a lovely lunch. Outside there is also fresh fruit and vegetable stalls as well as variety stalls.
- Norrbro Bridge, Stockholm’s only existing bridge with stone vaulting built in 1807 which connects Norrmalm to Gamla Stan over the Norrström river.
- Gustav Adolfs torg is a square at the entrance to Norrbro bridge on the Norrmalm side named for King Gustav Adolf II who founded the Swedish Empire in 1611 during the era of the Thirty Years’ War which turned out to be fatal for the king. On each of the corners of the square there are grand buildings:
- Kungliga Operan, the National Swedish Opera House built at the request of King Gustav III in 1782.
- Arvfurstens Palats is a place built for Princess Sophia Albertina by her brother King Gustav III
- Royal Palace (back facade) is the main royal palace in Sweden where the office of the King and the other royal family members are located even though, nowadays, their official residence is just outside of Stockholm at Drottningholm Palace.
- Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s Old Town with its narrow winding cobblestone streets and buildings in so many different shades of gold and bright colours.
This enabled us to gain an understanding of the layout of Stockholm for our visits over the next four days and the places we wanted to see.
Free Walking Tour of Gamla Stan
After a short introduction of the history of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden which includes 14 islands and more than 70 bridges we walked through the cobbled stone streets of the compact island of Gamla Stan, the city’s old town.
The places we visited:
Prästgatan (Priest Street), so called because this is where many priests from the Stockholm Cathedral and the German Church lived. In the wall on the corner of Prästgatan and Kåkbrinken Street is a rune stone from 1100. A rune stone is a raised stone with runic inscription, a tradition which began in the 4th century by Germanic people, including Norse Vikings. They are often memorials to dead men. Sweden has the most rune stones of any country.
Helvetesgränd (Alley of Hell), is the north part of Prästgatan street which in medieval times was a place of disgrace suitable for suicides and criminals, and where the city executioner lived. The role of the executioner wasn’t a chosen profession, but a punishment. Criminals were given the option of the executioner or death by beheading. If they chose the role of executioner, they had their ears removed, to prevent them from hearing the screams of the condemned. The city executioner’s skin was burned with the engraving of the city preventing them from fleeing Stockholm. The shortest time an executioner was appointed was 2 hours before they were beheaded. Not sure I think the option of being the executioner was a good one, as sooner or later you still met the same fate, just delaying the inevitable or prolonging the agony!
Tyska Kyrkan (German Church) is named for standing on the centre of a neighbourhood that in the Middle Ages was dominated by Germans. It was originally built in the 14th century as a guild house for the German merchants of the Hansa. During the 16th century the guild house was converted into a church dedicated to St Gertrude.
Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Alley of Mårten Trotzig) is the narrowest street in Stockholm measuring 90cm wide. It is named after the merchant and burgher Mårten Trotzig who bought two joined properties on the German section of Prästgatan in 1597. Apparently, he removed a wall and made two separate properties to make an alley so he could get to his place of work, which was at the rear of his house instead of walking the block. He constructed it this width because he didn’t want it to become a public thoroughfare and it remained a well-hidden secret until hundreds of years later. Now it is the most visited and hash tagged site in the whole of Stockholm!
Järntorget (‘The Iron Square’) is where iron was weighed and traded and where the rubbish and human waste was deposited awaiting ships to arrive and take it away. Unfortunately, the ships didn’t come often, and the waste built up and over time the sediment, refuse and human waste compacted into land and later houses were built on it. The walls of the houses here lean because the compacted earth over time settled causing cracks.
The yellow building on the corner of the Järntorget (‘The Iron Square’) is Södra Bankohuset (the old Bank of Stockholm) building trading from 1675 to 1905 making it the oldest bank in the world! The covered bridge passing over the alley was added when the northern bank building was enlarged in 1880. Apparently, Sweden is planning on going completely cashless by the year 2030. We actually noticed that a lot of places only accept card payments whilst we have been travelling around Stockholm, very interesting!
Also, in Järntorget is Sundbergs Konditori the oldest surviving café in Stockholm opening in 1785.
Just across from the café, is a bronze statue of Evert Taube one of Sweden’s most respected musicians, not counting ABBA. He is wearing a beret and looking at the sun through his sunglasses with sheets of music in his hands directly on the cobbled stone street. They presented him this way to show that he was ‘a man of the people’. Swedish people believe that everyone is equal and therefore none is treated differently regardless of stature. This is reflected in every encounter we have had with Swedish people. They are extremely hospitable and only too willing to offer help.
Den Gylden Freden (the Golden Peace) is a restaurant owned by the Swedish Academy, which selects the Nobel Prize for literature. The guide went on to explain that this restaurant is not only one of the most expensive restaurants in Stockholm but is also the oldest restaurant in the world. Ian and I both looked at each other because we had recently been in Madrid and there was a restaurant called Botin which has a copy of the Guinness Record in its window stating it is the oldest continuous restaurant in the world dating back to 1735. We bought this up with the guide and she pointed out that it is closed on Sundays and this could be the reason why it is the oldest (they have paintings on their wall dating back to 1722) but not necessarily the oldest continuous restaurant. Something to ponder!
Saint George and the Dragon statue is a bronze statue in a Köpmantorget Square and was placed here to remind people of the battle at Brunkeberg in 1471, where the Danish were chased from Stockholm. According to the legend, Saint George slayed the dragon (which represents Denmark), which threatened to devour the king’s daughter.
Royal Palace (front entrance) is one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms. The palace was built in the early to mid-1700s on the site of the original castle, Tre Kronor, which was destroyed in a fire in 1697.
Storkyrkan Church is the oldest church in Gamla Stan and is located in the same square as the Royal Palace. Inside is where the original wooden version of George and the Dragon statue is held.
Stortorget is the oldest public square in Stockholm. Nowadays it is very picturesque surrounded by colourful buildings and cafes, but this square, hides a bloody and violent history. In 1520, Sweden was effectively a nation divided by two factions, one who favoured a union between Scandinavian countries Denmark, Sweden and Norway and the other who advocated for Swedish independence. Denmark’s King Christian II launched an invasion into Sweden to maintain the union between the nations and succeeded. Christian then summoned key Swedish leaders to a private banquet at the palace, held them captives and two days later sentenced them to death for heresy. On the November 9 and 10th November 1520 at least 82 lives were lost to the hand of the executioner and this has been remembered in history as the ‘Stockholm Bloodbath’.
This act gave him the title of Kristian Tyrann, Christian the Tyrant. Unfortunately for the king, the slaughter had quite the opposite effect as desired. One nobleman was left alive, because he was not able to attend the “peace talks.” His name was Gustav Vasa, and he was the son of one of the murdered nobles. He managed to rally the people of Sweden during a two-year trek through the country, amassing a large army that he then used to win back the country and defeat Christian the Tyrant. Despite all his friends being killed and having to wage a war, it worked out pretty well for Gustav, he was the last surviving noble, so he got to become the first King of Sweden! This day is still remembered as the day of Swedish independence.
Not much later, the buildings around the Gamla Stan town square were rebuilt, and one of them, house number 20 (the red one), became a monument to the fallen. Ribbinska huset (House of Ribbing) was first built around 1479, but the white stones on the facade were added in 1628. Some say they symbolize the decapitated heads of the 82 people who were killed that day by the Danish king.
This is where our walking tour ended. It was a fantastic introduction to Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm.
Museums we visited in Stockholm:
The Nobel Museum
This museum showcases information about the Nobel Prize and Nobel prize-winners as well as information about the founder of the prize, Alfred Nobel (1833-1896). There is also a permanent display of items donated by Nobel Laureates along with personal life stories. The present temporary exhibition is the life story of Martin Luther King Jnr.
Before we started our investigation of the museum, we went on a 30-minute guided tour of the museum which was included in the admission price. This was a great way to start as it gave an overview of each section and the wishes of Alfred Nobel according to his Last Will and Testament.
We then moved through the museum through the various areas:
- the 2018 Nobel Laureates in each of the 6 categories (physics, chemistry, psychology and medicine, peace, economics but not literature as they didn’t award a prize in 2018 because of controversial circumstances but will award two this year; one for 2018 and one for 2019).
- a carousel hanging from the ceiling with information and picture of each Laureate which constantly revolves around in random order.
- an interactive display of all the Laureates throughout the decades where you can look up information on their life, work and prize they won.
- a digital copy of the Last Will and Testament of Alfred Nobel
- pictures of committee members and information about the selection process
- theatre with short films on 36 Nobel Laureates and the path leading up to achievements
- a display of the ceremony, certificate (which is hand painted and different for every Laureate), medals and the banquet
- gallery of donated items by Laureates which helped in their achievements
From this guided tour some of the interesting facts which we had no knowledge of:
- the latest category, Economic Sciences was not mentioned in Nobel’s will and was introduced in 1968 in memory of him and is called, Prize in Economics.
- the Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo and the Laureate receives their award from the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the presence of King Harald V of Norway at the same as the Prize Award Ceremony is taking place in Stockholm, Sweden and is televised live at the event in Stockholm.
- the annual Prize Award Ceremony is held on 10 December, the anniversary of Nobel’s death and each recipient gives lectures in the days prior to the award ceremony and also visits schools. That must be really exciting for the children!
- to be eligible to be a Laureate you have to be living
- every certificate given to a Laureate is unique in design and artwork
- in the Nobel café there are numbered chairs at the tables signed underneath by past Laureates. There is a list which informs you of the chair and its Laureate. We turned over 47 which is Barack Obama.
At present there is a temporary exhibition of Martin Luther King Jnr which was a bonus. What an inspirational person.
We spent many hours walking through this incredible place. It would have to be one of our top ten museums we have visited.
The Vasa Museum is a maritime museum on the island of Djurgården. The museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628.
We went on an English guided tour, which is included in the admission price to gain an understanding of the history of the Vasa and the layout of the museum. It took 30 minutes and was excellent. The guide explained that one of Sweden’s greatest tradegies has ultimatetly turned into triumph with 1.5 million people visitng the museum each year.
The Vasa was a Swedish warship built during the early 17th century. The construction of the warship was commissioned by the King of Sweden, Gustav Adolf II, with the intention to increase the military capacity of his country. Although the Vasa was anticipated to be one of the most commanding ships of its time, it was ironically not sunk by enemy guns, but by a gust of wind which caused the ship to take on water through its open gun hulls. Even more embarrassing was the fact that the Vasa sunk about 1 kilometre into its journey on the harbour of Stockholm in full view of the city’s residents who came to watch the spectacle.
In the years following the disaster, several unsuccessful attempts were made to raise the ship from the seabed. During the 1660s, a team of divers, using an early type of diving bell, succeeded in salvaging the ships cannons. The Vasa was then left until the 1950s when it was relocated and in 1961 was successfully raised from the sea.
The construction of the new building began on and around the dry dock of the old naval yard. The Vasa was towed into the flooded dry dock under the new building in December 1987, which is a feat in itself. The building built around the dry dock is huge and unrecognisable until you go outside and see the water underneath a section of the museum. A very ingenious design.
Inside the museum the ship can be seen from six levels, from her keel to the very top of the stern castle. Around the ship are numerous exhibits and models depicting the construction, sinking, location and recovery of the ship. There are also exhibits that expand on the history of Sweden in the 17th century, providing background information for why the ship was built. A movie theatre shows a film on the recovery of the Vasa, which is excellent.
Walking round you get an idea of what life may have been like for the men on the ship (had they got much further), the clothes the sailors wore, the ship rules, cooking methods and even the medical supplies on board. The one thing we could not get over was how well preserved everything had been kept under the water after all these years. Seeing the displays of the findings from the disaster is quite incredible to think that the clothes and shoes belong to someone who was on board the boat all those hundreds of years ago. A very informative museum where many hours can be spent.
We caught a ferry from the docks next to Gröna Lund amusement park, known for its thrill rides, to Skeppsholmen island
where we visited the Moderna Museet to see the exhibits of works by Picasso, Dali, Matisse and other works of modern art. This museum is free, very well set out and is in a lovely section of parkland on the island. Unfortunately, Dali’s works are not on display at this point in time as they are currently renovating the centre, but we did see the works of Picasso and Henri Matisse and some very interesting modern works of art.
In the 1970s workers were excavating this area to build a car park for Parliament House, when they discovered parts of a medieval city wall. So instead of building a car park, they built a museum. Inside this museum, you can visit the old city wall as well as several interactive exhibits about life in medieval Stockholm, all for free. We decided to purchase an audio guide which explained each of the areas which turned out to be excellent. There is also extra information on the boards scattered throughout to explain the different sections. It is an interesting museum and gives an idea of what life would have been like in medieval times.
Birka Vikingastaden (Birka- The Viking City)
Birka is a World Heritage site founded in the 8th century on Björkö island in Lake Mälaren, 30 kilometres west of Stockholm. It was founded around AD 750 and for the first time a settlement with town like characteristics grew up and flourished for more than 200 years and then abandoned around AD 975 because it had lost its importance. We caught a boat from City Hall which took two hours to cruise through the stunning islands of Lake Mälaren before arriving at Birka.
Birka’s museum illustrates the elaborate trading networks of Viking Scandinavia and the influence on the subsequent history of Europe and its inhabitants based on archaeological findings. There are displays, replicas of the town and boats of the time and archaeological findings. It is captivating to think that from archaeological investigations and findings that scientists can study and interpret what life was like back in the 750s and bring all the information together to retell history.
We went on a guided tour of the ancient fields and grave sites. The guide, dressed in Viking clothes, explained the history of the village, its people and the grave sites. As we walked through the area he explained the three types of graves, most of which have been plundered, which depended on the status of the deceased. The graves are either a mound (nothing of value in the grave), a sunken mound in the middle (items of value we found on the top of the deceased and taken) and a mound which is in two sections (items of great value were found and taken). We found this very interesting.
Further along we came to a hill where the fort surrounded by high walls was once located. The villagers lived outside the fort and when under attack they ran to the fort for protection. The village where they lived is now called The Black Earth (because the village was burnt to the ground 3 times and the soil is black in colour) and is covered in grass where sheep graze.
On top of the hill is the Monument of Ansgar, (a monk who preached and converted people to Christianity) which was raised in 1834 to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Saint Ansgar’s arrival in Birka.
Another area on the island is the Viking village and harbour which is a reconstruction of buildings from the Viking Age. Between the houses are small streets and passages leading down to the harbour. This gives a good understanding of how the houses were built, the material used and the standard of living.
After 3 ½ hours on the island we returned on the boat to the marina at City Hall. The outing was a lovely way to finish off our visit to Stockholm and the Archipelago islands.
I cannot put into words just how much I fell in love with the very picturesque city of Stockholm, the ferries and sightseeing boats shuttling passengers between islands but most of all its friendly hospitable residents who go out of their way to make you feel welcome. The Archipelago area of 30 000 islands, of which we only saw a glimpse, is a sight to behold. This would not have been possible without Hans and Maja who became our own personal tourist guides and showed us hospitality at its best. We are extremely lucky to call them our friends.
On Sunday we farewelled Hans and Maja and Andrew and Mitzi at the marina and headed to Sigtuna.