P and I headed up north (well northerner-north) to see Stockholm. Our first view of Sweden looked a lot like Maine. Rainy pine forests surrounded the rural airport we flew into. During our 1.5 hour bus ride to the city center, the scenery reminded us surprisingly of the US. We saw 7-11s, huge highways, pine forests, and super-malls complete with big box stores and parking lots for the masses. When we finally got to the Hauptbahnhof, our destination, it was 11 at night and raining. We missed the clear signage that exists in Germany. We were grateful that we could find an ATM to get some money (Sweden is not on the Euro!).
The next day, the weather was no better :( We headed out to explore the old city, "Gamla Stan." It was still rainy and cold, so we ducked into souvenir shops too. There were so many moose motifs everywhere! Who knew? Pretty old city:
The first site we saw was the Riddarholmen church, where Swedish monarchs (including the famous Gustavus Adolphus) are buried.
From there we decided to see the Vasa Musem. The Vasa incident was the product of the king's inability to listen to science. Convinced that his boat had to be the biggest and best and have a little more gold and a few more cannons, he ignored his royal scientists' warnings that the ballast couldn't support such extravagance. They were right, like scientists often are, and the Vasa sank just 300 meters into her maiden voyage. Brackish water (the type that surrounds the islands of Stockholm) apparently preserves wood from rot, and 300 years later, in the 1960s, the Vasa was salvaged. Divers tunneled under the almost completely intact boat with steel cables several inches thick. It was then hoisted and dragged to its present location, where the museum stands.
While the ship itself was well-preserved, the bright paint adorning it was not. The restoration efforts included replicas of the original carvings, in full color.
Unable to face the weather outside, we opted for an (enclosed) boat ride around the main old city sights. It was cozy and warm, and the announcer was very informative.
Then we headed back to our hostel for our pajamas, card games, and a dinner of sandwiches. Thankfully Swedish is relatively easy for German-speakers to read ;)