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Stockholm Part II
Story written by Rick Archer

The first part of my day was now over. At 10 am, a bus had taken us from the ship (#1) to our Rooftop Tour (#2).  Then from 11 am to 12:30 pm, our tour guide Eva had led us on a winding path through Gamla Stan.  I wrote about this in Part I.

As we pick up Part II of our story, Eva has just dropped  us off at Slottsbacken Square next to the Royal Palace (#3).  Slottsbacken Square is full of taxis and tour buses.

At this point, I began a 30 minute search for Marla.  Seeing all those buses and tour guides, I assumed this was the drop-off I was supposed to meet her at.

This is the left side of the Royal Palace.  Do you see the orange flags to my left?  I am standing next to a museum named Kungliga Myntkabinettet.  Eva suggested this would be an excellent place for us to eat lunch.  Jan, Melissa and I agreed we would go find Marla, then eat here.

Eva said this area is called the Royal Parking Lot because this is where all the tour buses drop off the tourists.  That remark definitely helped get me in trouble.  Back on the ship, a ship staff member said the bus pick-up area was near the Royal Palace.  I decided this must be it.

Just then the Palace Guard came by.  How impressive is that?  What a great backdrop for a family photograph!! 

As it turned out, these guys were off duty.  They were leaving.  A new set of Guards had just taken their place over in front of the Royal Palace.

As I circled the Square looking for Marla, I noticed an interesting sculpture on the Palace Wall.  I think our modern attitude of giving the girl a choice in the matter is a major improvement.

Everywhere I looked there was another cruise bus to reinforce my mistaken opinion that this area was the main pick-up point.  You can see the Storkyrkan Cathedral and Clock Tower in the background.

Although I would later realize I was wrong, this picture helps show why I assumed that this was the major cruise bus drop-off point.  This is a Royal Caribbean group waiting to be picked up.

My group was 20.  As you can see, Group 21 from Royal Caribbean was waiting for the next bus.   Since Marla's group was earlier than mine, I wondered if this meant Marla's group had already been picked up here.

These military men are clearing the way for the horses.  Right behind me, a new group of the Royal Guard is busy going through their paces.

Here you can see the new shift of the Royal Guard  thrill the crowd with their maneuvers in the courtyard at the front of the Palace

More cruise buses, but no Marla.  You see those clouds?  Bad Omen.
I knew if I didn't find Marla, I was in big trouble.  I kept looking.

Marla and I had agreed to look for one another till 1 pm.  The clock tower overlooking the square made it clear it was now quarter till one.

Wherever I looked in the Square, I saw signs of Royal Caribbean presence, but I couldn't understand why I couldn't find Marla.   I decided to ask this tour guide from Royal Caribbean for help.   I showed him the ship's own map and asked if he knew where the main pickup point was.

He pointed to the big gray star next to Arsenalsgatan.  I asked where that was.  He shrugged and said he had no idea; this was his first trip to Stockholm.  So I flagged down a Swedish passerby who looked at the map.  This guy said he had never heard of "Arsenalsgatan".

I was disgusted. If a ship tour guide and a Swedish guy can't tell me where the pick-up point is, then how the heck am I supposed to find it?   Besides, it was now 1 pm.  Even if I kept looking,  Marla would probably be gone when I got there.  At that point, I threw in the towel.

Jan and Melissa had been tagging along as I roamed the parking lot and the Royal Palace surroundings.  I told them that I was ending our search.  We walked back through the parking lot and went to that museum Eva had told us about for lunch.

Melissa, Jan, and I ate lunch at the Kungliga Myntkabinettet.  Apparently this fancy title stands for the King's Coin Museum.

Kungliga Slottet stands for Royal Palace.  To find our eating place, look for the Red 1 on the map.  Slottsbacken was the the parking lot where we saw the soldiers on the horses ride by at the end of their shift.

The new Royal Guard had been performing at Yttre Borggarden, Swedish for Castle Garden, at the front of the Palace.  

As Jan, Melissa and I talked about it, we agreed Eva had taken our group on quite a walk through the streets of Gamla Stan.  I could have passed on the Roof Walking, but our day in Gamla Stan had been nothing short of cosmic.   I loved walking around the cobblestoned streets of Gamla Stan and getting a feel for what a medieval town must have felt like. 

Of course I should admit I am a big fan of the Texas Renaissance Festival as well.  I love any chance to transport back in time to see the costumes and buildings from another era.  Gamla Stan had been a welcome opportunity to pass through a time warp and go back many centuries.

As we ate, I continued to wonder what had happened to Marla.  Little did I know, but at this very moment Marla was waiting for me about half a mile away.  She watched with growing disappointment as one empty Royal Caribbean bus after another came by her spot. 

As it turned out, yes, my parking lot was a major drop-off point for the shuttles to and from the ship, but there was another stop after mine.  That's where Marla had been waiting.   When I got back to the ship, she said her waiting point was at the Royal Swedish Opera.   I stared at Marla, then I stared at the map again.  There was no mention on the map of any "Royal Swedish Opera".  What about "Arsenalsgatan"?   Marla said she had no idea what that stood for.

After I returned to Houston, I had to go to MapQuest for Stockholm just to figure out what "Arsenalsgatan" was.  If you compare the maps, you will see that Royal Caribbean's map is very misleading.  I initially assumed their gray star meant the pick-up point was in front of Berzeli Park (Letter A in the left side map below).  It wasn't till Marla explained it to me that I realized the star had nothing to do with "Arsenalsgatan".  That's when I realized the correct pick-up point was in front of or next to the Royal Swedish Opera (red star) about five blocks away. 

Of course it might have helped if Royal Caribbean had simply put "Royal Swedish Opera" on their gray map instead of some street called "Arsenalsgatan" that no one had ever heard of.

However, I take the blame.  I had wasted a lot of time to begin with by relying on Eva's word.  I suppose I could have asked some of the other Royal Caribbean guides in the area if they knew of a different pickup point.  Instead I waited too long.  By the time I realized my mistake, I looked at the clock and assumed I had missed her. 

I felt guilty because I know how important our long walks are to Marla.  But this was one walk she would miss out on. 


The Long Walk Begins

Starting from the Museum where we had lunch, our Long Walk to Skeppsholmen Island began at 2 pm.  First we passed the Royal Palace, then we crossed two consecutive bridges connecting a small island to the mainland.  The second red star above marks where Marla had likely been waiting.   The third red star on the island marks where we decided to begin heading back at 3 pm.  The fourth red star marks where the ship was docked.  We got there at 4:15 pm.

#1: The first stop on our Long Walk took place in front of the Royal Palace.  Here we were greeted with another display by the Royal Guard.  However this time they were on foot. 

Naturally we had to take a couple snapshots.  Here Jan and Melissa stand before the entrance to the Royal Palace.  I am sure Aggies everywhere are proud to see their colors and logo made it all the way to Sweden.

#1: As it turned out, the Royal Palace is greatly elevated.  I was able to look down on the square below us and take some pictures.  Do you see the crowd below?  They were watching some street performers.

You can barely see the stairs.  Just below the man taking the picture are the stairs that would take us down to cross the bridge.

That building is Sweden's Parliament House.

Down below we met someone engaged in a street theater magic act.

After the street theater, we crossed a canal.

Next we walked through this passage next to Parliament.

Now we walked past Parliament.

On the other side of Parliament we found a second bridge.  That open area to the right on the street ahead is the likely spot where Marla had waited. 

 #2  As we crossed the bridge, I realized Parliament might be on an island of its own.  Sure enough, the map revealed that Helgeandsholmen is a small island in central Stockholm that connects Gamla Stan to Norrmalm, a central Swedish business district.

At this point, we are about to head to our right onto a street named Stromgatan on our way to that island named Skeppsholmen

#3: As we walked along Stromgatan, we passed a large parking lot on our left.  I didn't pay much attention.  Not only did I not know this was the parking lot of the Royal Opera House, I didn't know its significance.  I had no idea this was the other RCCL shuttle bus pick-up point.

#4: After walking another 100 yards or so, we began to pass the front of the Royal Opera House.  The red star below marks the parking lot.

Using Google Earth for reference, we can now see that the parking lot (#3) came first, then the Royal Opera House (#4), then a city park (#5).

The red star marks the parking lot and the gray star marks the Royal Caribbean shuttle point.  Looking at this map, I don't know if the pickup point was on the street, on the pier, at the Opera House or in the park. 

Now we are passing the Swedish Royal Opera House.  Here's the deal: Marla said her pickup point was swarming with buses.   I didn't see a single tour bus in any of my pictures.  Oh well.  I may never figure it out.

This is Strombron Bridge.  We would later use this bridge on our way back as we returned to the ship. 

We would walk along the water until we reached Skeppsholmen island.  This was a very lovely walkway.

This is Kungsträdgården, i.e. the King's Park, #5 on my Google map above.

The building on the right is the Grand Hotel.  At first I had a typical senior moment.  I remembered that there was a movie named Grand Hotel.  Then I remembered the star was Greta Garbo.  Then I remembered Garbo was Swedish.  Voila!  That must be the hotel the movie was based on!!  Except that Wikipedia said the Grand Hotel was in Berlin.  Oops.

Apparently this Grand Hotel is just as important.  The publicity says "the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm has been home to celebrities, high-profile events and everyday bon-vivants since 1874. Situated in the best waterfront location imaginable, the hotel overlooks the Royal Palace and Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town."

As you can see, it was now 2:34 in the afternoon as we walk along the water's edge.

I understand that the lighting makes this statue nearly impossible to make out.  I will add that even with proper lighting I had trouble figuring it out.  Let me help.  This is a man looking away from the camera with an eagle on top of his head.  The eagle's giant wings are spread wide.

Apparently we were walking along the high rent district.  The Internet says that KAK is the headquarters building of the Royal Swedish Automobile Club named "KAK".  Lovely building.

A water taxi bargains with a tourist for a ride in the bay.

The bay is 200 yards apart at this point.

That ship is called the "af Chapman".  I will write about it later.

#6: We have now arrived at the bridge that will take us to  Skeppsholmen island.

The view across the bay.  Our ship is docked over there somewhere.

As I cross the bridge, here is what the left side looks like.

#7.  It is no surprise that Melissa turned her head to stare at the creatures.  They were created by one of the leading feminists of her day during the Sixties with the idea of sharing female archetypes.   I called this one "Lady Gaga singing".

These colorful sculptures are part of #7 Moderna Museet, an art museum located in the very center of the island.  This is the island where they were thinking of relocating the Nobel Museum.


Niki de Saint Phalle and her husband, fellow artist Jean Tinguely

Since I knew you would ask, those fascinating sculptures were created by the French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002).  I guess I should admit I was just as curious as anyone else.  I couldn't wait to research it.

Among other things, Saint Phalle was a French sculptor, painter, and film maker.  Born to wealth, Saint Phalle was a rebel from the get-go.  For example, Saint Phalle was enrolled by her parents at the prestigious Brearley School in New York City, but she was dismissed for painting fig leaves red on the school's statuary.

Saint Phalle was a feminist long before the term even became fashionable.  She rejected the staid, conservative values of her family, which dictated domestic roles for wives and particular rules of conduct. Her parents and relatives took a dim view of her desire to live by her own code.  However, after marrying young and becoming a mother, she found herself living the same bourgeois lifestyle that she had attempted to reject. The internal conflict caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown. As a form of therapy, she was urged to pursue her painting.

Thanks to her good looks, Saint Phalle was able to support herself as a model.  She appeared on the cover of Life magazine and French Vogue. While in Paris on a modeling assignment, she was introduced to Hugh Weiss an American painter. Weiss became both her friend and mentor. He encouraged her to continue painting in her self-taught style.

Saint Phalle subsequently moved to Deià, Majorca, Spain. While in Spain, she became deeply affected by the work of Antonio Gaudí

Gaudí's influence opened many previously unimagined possibilities for Saint Phalle, especially with regard to the use of unusual materials and objets-trouvés as structural elements in sculpture and architecture.

Saint Phalle was particularly struck by Gaudí's "Park Güell" which persuaded her to create her own garden-based artwork combining both artistic and natural elements (see picture)

In 1966, Saint Phalle collaborated with fellow artist Jean Tinguely on a large-scale sculpture installation, "hon-en katedral" ("she cathedral") for Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden. During the project, the two fell in love. In 1971, de Saint Phalle and Tinguely married.

(Rick's Note: Antonio Gaudi is a fascinating man. I wrote a story about him as a result of my Barcelona 2009 cruise.  Please take a look!)


As we crossed the island, we noticed water up ahead.  We were about to reach our turn-around point.

#8.  We have now reached the far end of Skeppsholmen island.
We wanted to keep pretty close tabs on the time, but Jan's phone had died and I didn't have a watch.  At this point, I asked a fellow tourist what time it was.  He said 3 pm.  This was our turnaround time. 

Since we started our walk at 2 pm, we said wherever we were at 3 pm, we would turn around and head back.  Theoretically, we should be able to return to our starting point at the Coin Museum by 4 pm. 

We had a 4:30 pm deadline.  Assuming we would get back to our starting point around 4 pm, we calculated we would have 30 minutes to do the home stretch from Gamla Stan to the ship.   Since we had been told it was a 15 minute walk from where we ate in Gamla Stan to the ship, we figured 15 minutes was our margin for error.

As it turned out, our calculations were perfect.  We reached the ship at 4:12 pm.

Before we left, we stared for a while at the enticing Stockholm-Tivoli amusement park.  Then we stared at our ship.  Jan said, "Let's swim!" 

Actually an even more clever idea would have been to hire a passing water taxi.  The ship was less than a mile away.  We would back in ten minutes that way. 
But we didn't care.  We were enjoying the beautiful weather and the fun of exploring.  However, now it was time to get serious about the long walk home.
We had three miles to cover and 90 minutes to do it.  No problem.  Since I walk three miles at Memorial Park in 45 minutes, I liked our odds.

#9 Almost immediately a very tempting detour presented itself.  Across this bridge, Kastellhomen Island was calling to us.   Did we have enough time?  In retrospect, yes, we did, but at the time we did not know the ship was only 3 miles away.  What if it was 6 miles away? 

One of the great dilemmas Marla and I face on every trip is the issue of "Time".  I tend to push it to the limit while Marla is more cautious.

That has made for a few heated discussions.  One time in Rome I barely made the ship.  That scared the heck out of me.  If you want to read a serious cruise horror story, visit Lost in Rome.  You will laugh your pants off, but I experienced a level of terror I never want to feel again!

With memories of Rome dancing in my head and memories of recently losing my Passport, I didn't feel like gambling.   We skipped the island.

My attitude about Travel is this: I am 62. I have worked all my life in order to be able to afford to do things when I am old and retired.  Two years ago I retired.  Suddenly my body played a cruel trick on me - my thyroid fell apart and my knees ached so badly I had to quit playing basketball.

The old joke played in my head - "Youth is wasted on the young."  When you are young, you have energy, but no money.  When you are old, you have money, but no energy.  It isn't fair, is it?  

Sure, I know the argument.  Don't trust Social Security.  Save every penny.  But my attitude is that if I wait too long, I may not be able to move around so well.  I say go for it.  Life is for living.  Travel while you can.

I saw a really pretty ship.  Its name was "af Chapman".  I checked it out on the Internet.  This ship serves as a youth hostel!!  How cool is that?  In fact, you can see some young people walking aboard.  It turns out the ship is a permanent fixture at Skeppsholmen Island.

"The STF Hostel af Chapman is located on the island of Skeppsholmen in Stockholm. The Chapman sailing ship has recently been renovated from keel to mast, and is one of city’s most famous landmarks."

See what you discover when you go walking around? 

Time to cross the bridge again.  The af Chapman is in the background.  This island was way too cool.  I am glad we went to explore it.

This is the National Museum.  It is obviously undergoing restoration.

That is the Strombrom Bridge in the background.  In a minute we will be crossing it to get back to Gamla Stan.

Here are people in line to take the water tour.  I bet that's fun!  I think that is what Marla and Velma did in the morning.

#10  Oh no, not those two again!  They will do anything for another picture. 

By the way, notice the National Museum in the background.  We passed that place just minutes ago.  I guess we made a giant U-Turn in a very short time.

If you study the map below, you will see that #6 National Museum and #10 are directly across the water from each other.

As I was walking along, this gorgeous couple appeared out of nowhere.  I asked, "Did you guys just get married?"  They smiled and nodded.   Then I begged them for a picture.  They were kind enough to indulge me.

I can't imagine what they were doing out there.  I saw no entourage.

By coincidence, I snapped the picture just a few yards from the Museum restaurant where we had lunch at 1 pm near the Royal Palace.

As we walked along #10 Skeppsbron Street, I was getting tired of all the traffic. Just at that moment, I noticed a narrow alley way on my right.
I quickly recognized this alley as a connector to Gamla Stan

Aha!  All this exploring had given me an idea. I suggested to the girls we take this narrow alley into Gamla Stan and return to the ship along our favorite street Osterlangg.  So now we traveled Osterlangg in reverse.

Unfortunately, Osterlangg came to an end and we were forced to go outside to face the reality of traffic on Skeppsbron, the main drag.

We crossed the street and took a look.  That last cruise ship in the picture is ours.  I estimated we had a mile and a quarter to cover. 

Before we left, I had to say my goodbyes.  First I took one last picture of Gamla Stan.  We sure had fun walking through there.

Then I took a picture of the af Chapman ship and Skeppsholmen Island.  This long walk had been quite an adventure! 

I wasn't super-worried about the time, but I smiled when I saw what time it was.  It was 3:45.  No problem.  I assumed we could make a mile in 45 minutes.

The walk back to the ship was ultra safe.  No cars to dodge and no bicycles either.  Stockholm isn't anywhere near the bike city that Copenhagen was.  I could not get over how accessible the ship was to the heart of the city.  Stockholm is definitely a tourist's paradise. 

In addition to this awesome walkway, there were cabs to use as well as the shuttle buses (assuming you could find the pickup point)

Jan confided to me that Melissa was very worried about missing the ship.  I could have been a creep and scared her to death, but I was in a good mood, so I said we had plenty of time.  However Melissa didn't believe me.  Her mother trained her too well not to listen to certain men.

I heard a faint scream from somewhere in the distance.  I looked up and saw Tivoli Stockholm across the water.  I could not believe a scream could carry so far!  That place was almost half a mile away.

I had no idea what this was.  I thought it was a big butt.  To my great irritation, Jan figured it out immediately.  She identified an ear.  Once I saw the ear, then I saw the eye and the nose and the mouth. 

The red arrow marks the spot on Skeppsholmen Island where I stood 75 minutes earlier to snap a picture of the cruise ship.

We got back at 4:12 pm.   Actually we would have been back sooner, but we briefly entered a shop in Gamla Stan.  So I say it is possible to do our entire walk from the ship to the island and back in two hours.

A Review of the Day's Activities

There you have it.  We were at the rooftop (#1) from 10 am till 11 am.  We walked through Gamla Stan from 11 am till 12:30.  I spent 30 minutes wandering around the Royal Palace (#2) looking for Marla, but gave up at 1 pm.

The three of us had lunch at the Museum (#2) from 1-2 pm.  We started on our Long Walk at 2 pm and made the outer edge of Skeppsholmen Island (#3) at 3 pm. 

We made it back to Gamla Stan at 3:45 pm and we made the ship at 4:12 pm.

Long day, but well worth it.  Stockholm is truly a wonderful place for any tourist to visit.


So What Happened to Marla??

When I returned to the ship, I soon discovered that Marla was bitterly disappointed.  Her psyche was badly bruised by our missed connection.  It's one thing to miss out on a great adventure, but it is doubly tough to accept the disappointment knowing your husband had the time of his life.  Marla didn't blame me, but, well, let's just say that as I write this story, it has been a month and Marla still has energy on Stockholm. 

I will say that Marla did manage to regain her smile later in the trip.  You can see her grinning like a Cheshire cat at the famous Peterhof in St. Petersburg, Russia.  So, as tragedies go, Marla did manage to rebound. 

As it turned out, Marla had an adventure of her own.  She and Velma embarked on a water tour that took them upriver several miles to the east (back towards the Baltic). 

To her wonderment, Marla viewed the River Oaks of Stockholm.  She gasped at all the beautiful homes.  Then she gasped at something even more wonderful than the homes themselves... Marla had just discovered the best walking trail she had ever seen in her life.

Was this a good thing?  Well, not exactly.  Marla had just seen the finest walking trail of all time... but she was stuck inside the boat.  The inability to appreciate the trail was ultimately just one more giant exercise in frustration in a very long, very bad day.   However, fortunately for the rest of us, Marla did take pictures.

So let's take a look at the most beautiful walking trail EVER!

The Greeks have a story about Odysseus and the Sirens.  Any man who heard the Sirens sing would be driven to madness and crash his boat upon the rocks in his desire to get closer to them.   So Odysseus plugged the ears of all his men who did the rowing and had them lash him to the main mast.  Sure enough, the beauty of the Siren's song nearly drove Odysseus insane with desire.

I think that's how Marla felt about that stunning walkway.  If I know Marla, she's going to find a way to get us back to Stockholm sooner or later... probably sooner. 

Marla has too much energy on this place to stay away.

I hope you have enjoyed sharing my story about Sweden.

Rick Archer
September 2012

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