March 2020 - Hej Sverige (Sweden)
Updated: Nov 22, 2022
I've never travelled overnight on a boat/ship before and was curious how I'd like it. The 'ferry' left Tallinn at 6pm and arrived in Stockholm at 10am the next morning. I paid extra for a cabin with a window, there's something about staring out to sea from your bed, it's worth paying for and less claustrophobic than being in the bowels of the boat.
These ferries are called 'cruise ferries' because they have many of the features of a cruise: night club, restaurants, bars, supermarket, sauna, etc. I watched an excellent Estonian band in the StarLight Bar but felt for them as it was very poorly attended during this trip, maybe it's normal at this time of year, I wasn't sure. I also spent some time out on deck during the night. I knew it would be dark but both the sea and sky were truly pitch black, impossible to tell where the horizon was! It was also very peaceful as the sea was calm. While the cabin was definitely comfortable enough, my sleep was average due to a draft. Apparently we stopped at an island along the route at 4am to load/unload, I barely noticed.
It was ironic that my Airbnb in Stockholm was to have a bathroom smaller than the one on the ferry. In fact it was barely bigger than an airplane toilet. Sitting on the toilet had to be done sideways with the door open because the sink would otherwise be in the way. Showering was done either sitting on the toilet or standing at the sink. You could only laugh at the experience, it really was extraordinary and I paid top dollar for this - welcome to Scandinavia. The kitchen was also unbelievably small. The unit was well located though, close-ish to the centre of Stockholm.
It's fair to say I rate Stockholm highly. The grand, coloured buildings in the centre are very nice, in fact the old centre (known as Gamla Stan) is possibly the nicest I've seen anywhere in a large city. There's also few cars, lots of bikes and it seems really clean as well as hyper modern in parts.
One thing that I specifically came to Stockholm for was the metro system and it's mind blowing architecture. It is simply superb and has some of the most unique architecture anywhere in the world. The metro is so unique that I spent a good half day taking photos at the more interesting stations, despite the spread of Corona now well underway. Only photos can explain what it's like.
Another highlight here was the Vasa Muesum, which contains the single largest recovered and preserved object in the world. It's a ship that sunk in Stockholm's harbour in 1628 only minutes into it's maiden voyage, caused by a design error. It is a wooden ship that weighs 400 tonnes and had 450 men. It was hauled up about 60 years ago and they spent something like 18 years spraying a wax on the wood to preserve it. It's enormous and has so much detail as it was supposed to be the pride of the Swedish Empire. When they raised the ship, the sailors' shoes, hair and brains were still intact, preserved by the seawater. It really is a must-see in Stockholm, there's nothing like it.
From Stockholm I took a high-speed train across Sweden to the west coast and the city of Gothenburg. Here I had booked an Airbnb away from the centre due to cost. A short bus ride across the river and I moved into a very homely apartment. It was so homely because it was actually where the host (an elderly Serbian lady) lives; she goes to stay with her daughter during bookings.
I never knew it but Gothenburg was founded and designed by the Dutch. There was something familiar about its layout that's for sure. Nowadays it's a major port, home to Volvo and also has a huge Middle Eastern and African population. There's a funky district called Haga with old coloured wooden houses, excellent cafes and nearby is the hilltop fortress that serves a good Swedish waffle with cloudberry (?) jam.
The city centre also has an indoor market that is different to most as it's really upmarket. People were sitting at classy stands drinking wine and eating expensive seafood. I chose a more 'working class' venue and ordered a 'working class' meal of smoked mackerel (i.e. not the salmon) and beer (i.e. not wine). That night I came back to town to get some night shots of the reflections in the canals and some street photography.
My final day in Gothenburg was marked by gale force winds, rain and 6c. A combination you feel. For some reason I chose this weather to walk to a random set of lakes I'd spotted on Google Maps near my Airbnb. It was actually a good walk around two small lakes in a typically Swedish forest; really noticed how fresh the air is in this part of the world. No photos of note from there due to the conditions!
From here it was yet another long distance bus trip, to Olso in Norway...
And some remaining photos... all of Stockholm.