Vasa Ship Carvings, at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Scandinavian Travels 2016: Sweden

Since childhood, I had dreamed of visiting the Scandinavian countries. I had hiked throughout Norway, visited a former exchange student and his family in Denmark, and toured with a small international group in Finland, and now I was headed to Sweden. The daylight is long in this part of the world, and it was beautiful summer weather. I took an overnight ferry from Helsinki, Finland to Stockholm, Sweden.

After a few hours of sleep in my cabin, I headed for the deck to view spectacular scenery as we sailed along the coast of Sweden on the Baltic Sea. We sailed slowly, very close to shore. I saw islands, many of them with no inhabitants, and there were only granite rock and evergreen trees on some of the more protected ones. There were white houses, lighthouses, and an occasional fishing village. The ferry trip was a great way to enter Sweden for the first time.

We sailed into Stockholm, a bustling port, by late morning. I went to my hotel to drop my bags and then to a bank exchange for Swedish kroners. Sweden is a member of the European Union but opted to keep their own currency.

Stockholm is a city made up of islands. A good way to see the city is on the Hop On-Hop Off system. It includes buses, trams, and boats. It is well organized, easy to use, and runs daily, with long hours.

My young granddaughters had visited Europe the previous summer, and their recommendation spurred me on to my first destination. One of their most favorite “likes” was the ABBA Museum in Stockholm. I boarded a harbor boat and in only a few minutes was docked a block from the ABBA Museum. The Museum is modern, lively, and encourages participation, such as in the recording booths to try out your own voice.

It all began for the group of four: Freda, Björn, Benny, and Agnetha in 1974 when they won the Euro Vision Song Contest with their song, “Waterloo.” They created “Dancing Queen” and “Ma Ma Mia,” and in 10 short years made music history along with Miche, their producer. At that time, there was nothing in the world like winning the Euro Vision Song Contest. I could see why my granddaughter chose a Halloween costume that year as one of the ABBA girls.

Madelyn Given poses as one of the famous ABBA group!

The famous ABBA group…or wait, is that Madelyn hiding there?

After the ABBA Museum, I went to the Vasa Museum. On August 10, 1628, Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage, but sadly she sank and never left the outer harbor. It was one of the grandest, most splendidly decorated ships with carved figures to ever set sail. In 1961, after 333 years under the sea, the Vasa was salvaged. It is 98 percent original and one of the only ships in the world that has been found intact from this era. The museum building was constructed around the ship.

I toured a few other islands that day, becoming familiar with the city of Stockholm. The weather was sunny and warm, and Stockholm is a safe city for walking. Wherever I went, whether in city parks or different parts of the city, places were clean, filled with friendly people and interesting architecture, and there were lots of cafes to stop and take a break. I was enjoying Sweden.

(posted February 21, 2017)