Baltic Cruise: Stockholm

July 10, 2014

Sailing in and out of Stockholm was the best scenery of our cruise.  Both sides of the narrow shipping channel are lined with islands (24,000 total in the Stockholm archipelago), some barren bits of rock home only to seabirds; others with dense forests, summer cottages, and ramshackle lighthouses; and a few with small towns and queues of cars waiting for the ferry.

Stockholm itself is spread across several islands, connected by bridges and ferries.  It was one of the most spread-out cities we visited, and since we had a fairly short time in port, it's a city on my short list of places to revisit.

The Food:

  • We did most of our Stockholm eating at Skansen, an open air folk museum with a plethora of dining options ranging from hamburger stands to fine Nordic cuisine.  We went the middle route and opted for the Skansen Terrassen cafeteria, which offers a small selection of entrees and sandwiches and has a lovely outdoor seating area overlooking Stockholm Harbor.  Since we were in Sweden, Mike tried traditional meatballs, gravy, and mashed potatoes, which were served with the same pleasantly tart whole ligonberry sauce we encountered in Helsinki.  I ordered the vegetarian option, a wheat berry salad with feta.  Although it may not have been traditionally Swedish, it was wonderfully fresh and light, with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a side of rye crispbread.
  • One of the historic buildings in Skansen is a bakery from the 1800s, where you can buy period pastries from a costumed worker (the only thing out of historical context is the discreetly positioned credit card reader).  To my delight, my cinnamon roll was also flavored with cardamom, a spice combination that was so delicious I'm going to incorporate it into my own baking.

Other Stockholm Tips:

  • The warship Vasa is perhaps one of the greatest engineering blunders in history: 1,500 meters into its 1628 maiden voyage, it tipped over in Stockholm Harbor and sank to the bottom.  In 1961, it was salvaged and is now housed in the Vasa Museum.  Besides the restored ship (which is 98 percent original), the museum has informative exhibits in Swedish and English about a wide range of topics, including the history of the ship, the salvage effort, a sailor's life in the 17th century, forensic reconstructions based on skeletons found in the wreckage, and the ongoing preservation effort.  The 20-minute introductory video is a good way to start your visit, since it provides an appreciation for the amount of work that went into the salvage and restoration of the ship.
  • My favorite Stockholm sight was Skansen, an open air folk museum with over 150 historic buildings spread over 75 acres.  The buildings, which have been transplanted from all over Sweden, include farmsteads, a windmill, a post office, and several stores representing eras from the 1700s to the 1930s.  There is also a small zoo featuring Nordic animals, historic reenactors, and demonstrations of various handicrafts, like pottery and glass blowing.  Most of the signs describing the buildings are in Swedish and English, and the reenactors we encountered were fluent in English as well.  After several days of high-powered sightseeing, it was rejuvenating to stroll around without any particular purpose, watching some very happy brown bears, bison, and a wolverine frolic and learning a bit about daily life throughout Sweden's history.
  • We had anticipated that the Vasa Museum, Skansen, and transit time would take up all of our day, but we ended up with an extra hour and a half.  Since we are Rick Steves groupies, we spent an hour doing his self-guided walking tour through Stockholm's Old Town, Gamla Stan.  It was a great way to see a bit of historic Stockholm that we wouldn't have discovered on our own, with a walk down an almost-empty, picturesque medieval lane only a block from the tourist main drag.  We even had enough time to spend our last Swedish kroner on a waffle bowl of ice cream.

Since Stockholm was the final port stop of our cruise, it’s time for me to get back to my blog’s regularly scheduled summer programming of recipes that use up an abundance of CSA zucchini and reviews of Twin Cities restaurants with great patios.  Thanks to everyone who’s been following along with my travel log and for your encouragement online and off—I’m hoping that there will be a lot more travel writing in my future.