To St. Petersburg round the Baltic Cruise - Stockholm

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Stockholm - Capital of Sweden

One approaches Stockholm through the huge penumbra of islands that guard the city. We had picked up a pilot at 0430. Some people got up that early but we did at 6. On the top deck, it was very windy but that was the place to be. We stayed until breakfast at 7 & were still not in the harbour after, so saw the approach to Stockholm. We were moored at the cruise terminal to the North East of the centre.

4 of 20,000 islands

House on an island

A marina near Stockholm

Approaching Stockholm through the islands

Royal Palace

I was escorting an all-day tour to the city (as the entertainers do) & to Sigtuna up North, the first Christian settlement in the country. Our guide was Marie, a petite blonde, which proved to be a problem at our first stop on the Gamla, the old centre, as some of our more petite guests could not see her &, after a short tour round the island, one got lost by attaching herself to the wrong guide. It was only when Marie went out with the guest's halt & lame friend that she was persuaded to come back to our coach, where she had the grace to apologise.

The main square on Gamla

We went up to the Fjallgarten, to the South of the harbour, for a very quick photo pause because of the superb view over the city, slightly obstructed by an over-size cruise ship (what I call a troop ship).

West from Gamla

Gamla from Fjallgarten

Then, through traffic from hell out into the country & up to Sigtuna. We first visited a couple of churches, one a ruin (St Olaf's) but very strongly built, so the christians could escape the pagans.

The ruinous St. Olaf's Church in Sigtuna

The other had a funeral, so we could not go inside: St Mary's & brick built. Their king of the day, Gustavus Vasa forced the reformation on the Swedes, so he could loot the churches to pay for their war of independence, which he had won & the ruin was because he had taken the stone for fortifications. The place had had 7 churches anyway. We saw a Rune Stone, carved with the life story of some, probably disagreeable, hero & erected by his son.

St. Mary's Sigtuna

A Rune Stone

Sigtuna's cute Town Hall

We walked down to the quaint high street, a shop-lined footpath then returned to the coaches to go to lunch. Or we did. Patrick's coach conked out, so we went off, then Leif, our driver, went back for Patrick & his guests. Fortunately, they fixed his coach but a relief was on the way from Stockholm anyway.

Round & about in Sigtuna

Lunch was bacon salad, chicken & chocolate cake, as 'bad' as a cruise ship lunch. During the drive back, I gave a short talk on Franz Berwald, as we had passed the Berwald Hall in Stockholm & even Marie did not know he had been born in 1797.

We went to the Vasa Museum, a ship that had sunk 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628 & had been forgotten after they retrieved the guns but had sunk into the silt & been preserved, so they raised it some 30 years ago, dried it out & there it was, almost perfect. It was Gustavus Adolfus' fault, as he wanted an extra deck of guns, which made it unstable.

The Berwald Hall (picture by Holgar Ellgaard)

The model of the "Vasa"

The "Vasa"

Aspects of the "Vasa"

A cutaway model of the "Vasa", showing the workings of the ship

On the way back to the "Braemar", I gave a short talk on the 30 Years War, as there had been much talk of Gustavus Adolfus but no one knew who he was. Then, dinner, during the end of which we heard live music, so we went out onto the quarter deck to find 4th Dimension doing their thing. I went back for a jacket, as it was getting cold but Avis went to the Neptune Lounge. I bopped with the dozen or so other guests until the kids finished their gig, then joined Avis for
Bob Taylor's comedy show, as good as ever. We went to the Observation Lounge, where there was an easy-listening pianist & had a drink with an Irish couple, Anne & John, which was very interesting. We did not know some things about the Queen's recent visit to Ireland, of which I had approved as a burying of the hatchet. Their President's husband had been to the North & invited the loyalist terrorists to come to Dublin to meet their Queen in Eire, which they did & much improved relations as a result. Apparently, the Queen & President Mary McAlize had bonded during the dedication of a memorial on Messines Ridge tin Flanders, for all the Irishmen of all types who died in World War One. While avoiding political issues, I ended using a useful formula, "Whatever your beliefs or none, we are all Adam's Children", which John thought a good way to end the evening.

The next day, we went as guests on the tour to the Historical Museum. As we were early, I gave the Berwald Talk again & was later thanked for it by guests &, more to the point, by Sandra, the Tours Manager, who's good opinion is important. The Museum has many Viking exhibits, explained by our native guide, Beatrix. We went into the Gold Room, which has paranoid security, apparently built by the man who built Saddam Hussein's bunker (but where is Saddam now?) The Swedes in the Roman times & Dark Ages made gold jewellery very well out of Roman coins, as they have no native gold. Some of the fine workmanship is amazing, given particularly, that they had no magnifying glasses. We all split up & we went up to the textiles & the historical timeline, which makes surprisingly little of the 30 Years War, although I had mentioned to Beatrix that the Swedes had done very well out of it. Then, to the lake behind Gamla, which is higher than the Baltic, so there is a lock.

The West side of the lake behind Gamla

Bus back to the ship in time to make the muster, as the ship left after lunch, which we had in the Thistle Restaurant, as the Palms was packed. As we sailed out, the Braemar Orchestra were on the quarter deck, making a lovely racket & we watched the islands go by.

The Braemar Orchestra. The ladies in glasses & Fred's shirts are my colleagues from the
Show team, normally seen in feathers & sexy costumes but not on the quarter deck.

Islands from the top deck

I was a little late for Patrick's Gdansk talk, as I was discussing computer video editing with a guest. We had a hasty cup of tea with Bob Taylor, Rob Bee, Hilary & Les, the Dance Hosts on the table bagged illegally by the entertainers & went back for Lydia's recital. Back to the cabin for a shower & change into my cowboy gear for the theme night. This time, I have a genuine bootlace tie: my spare climbing boot one. We were waylaid by Sally, who gave us both coaches for tomorrow so we will have to get up at 0630. We ate in the Palms but only about half the men & few women were in Western dress. I was but Avis just had a bandana. I did wonder if Theme Nights were a bit passé. We went to hear the 4th Dimension after dinner, read a bit & crashed out, as Tallinn is in another time zone again, so 0630 there is 0430 in Blighty.

Port 1 - Ijmuiden & Kiel Canal

Port 3 - Tallinn

Port 4 - St. Petersburg

Port 5 - Gdynia

Port 6 - Warnemunde

Port 7 - Copenhagen

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Contact: Ken Baldry at 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 or e-mail him
URL: Last revised 12/6/2011 ©2011 Ken Baldry. All rights reserved.