Sweden 2015. VI: Driving from Stockholm to Öland

Driving on National Road 23/34, Kinda Municipality, Östergötland Län, Sweden

Our major destinations on this journey were Stockholm, isle of Öland, Copenhagen, Bohuslän, and Uppsala. So, Öland was going to be our first stop after Stockholm. Or actually the second one; we were going to drive 300 km, then stop overnight in a motel, and then drive the remaining 180 km or so. This map explains it:

A: Stockholm; B: The motel; C: Öland Bridge

The motel, named Föllingen Hotell, is located in the village of Pinnarp, near the small town of Kisa, Kinda Municipality, Östergötland Län (län is Swedish traditional name for county). As you can see on the map, our route could be a mostly coastal one, along the E4 and E22 routes, but this motel was the cheapest accomodation we found more or less along the way, hence the inland detour.

Continue reading “Sweden 2015. VI: Driving from Stockholm to Öland”

Sweden 2015. V: Stockholm: A walk from Skeppsholmen to Kungsholmen

Riddarholmen Island, Central Stockholm, Sweden

This is a map of our walk around Stockholm:

We set out from Vasa Museum on Djurgården, took a ferry to Skeppsholmen, walked through Gamla Stan (Old Town) and Riddarholmen to Kungsholmen, and then took a metro train back to where we left our car in the morning.

Continue reading “Sweden 2015. V: Stockholm: A walk from Skeppsholmen to Kungsholmen”

Sweden 2015. IV: Vasa Museum

A painting of Vasa, a Swedish warship built in 1628, which sunk immediately upon launching; salvaged 333 years later, in 1961, and now exhibited in Vasa Ship Museum in Stockholm, Sweden

Vasa Ship Museum (Vasamuseet) is one of the best known museums of Djurgården. As its name suggests, it is basically built around one single exhibit: Vasa ship.

Some history is in order, now. Sweden in the 17th century was a major European power. At the peak of its growth, it ruled over territories which are now known as Finland, Estonia, Latvia, parts of Russian Republic of Karelia and Russian Leningrad Oblast, and some territories in Germany (Bremen-Verden) and Poland (Pomerania). During this period, Sweden also finalized its own borders, annexing Scania, Öland, Jämtland, and some other territories. Russia in particular had a lot of wars with Sweden in 17th and 18th centuries.

King Gustav II Adolf the Great ruled Sweden in 1611-1632, and he is now known as one of the greatest military commanders Sweden ever had; he is even considered “the father of modern warfare”, and he was greatly admired by Napoleon himself. He was the one who recognized that the Swedish Navy had to be modernized in order to be competitive. At the time, boarding was considered to be how naval battles are won. Gustav Adolf however loved artillery, and ordered construction of new warships, heavily armed with cannons. Which turned out to be a really great idea, except for that minor Vasa mishap. Vasa was to be the first of these ships with two cannon decks, and to become the flagship of the Swedish Navy. Thus, it was laid down in 1626, at the shipyard on Blasieholmen (just off the Old Town of Stockholm, now built-up and connected to the mainland).

Continue reading “Sweden 2015. IV: Vasa Museum”

Sweden 2015. III: Djurgården

Lions in front of the Nordic Museum on the island of Djurgården, Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is also the largest city of the Nordic countries overall, with population of 920,000 (2.2 million metropolitan area). It also happens to be my favorite (large) city in the world, so far. Last year, we visited Stockholm and explored its Old Town (Gamlastan), and some of its Norrmalm and Södermalm districts, so this time we chose something different, deciding to start with the island of Djurgården.

Djurgården (Swed. Game Park) is an island in the eastern part of Stockholm, home to many parks and museums, including Vasa Ship museum, Skansen open-air museum, Junibacken the museum of Astrid Lindgren, Gröna Lund the amusement park, and many others. Historically, it indeed used to be a Royal game park, which transformed to its present state towards the second half of the 19th century. There are bridges to Djurgården, and a very short ferry line connecting it to the Stockholm Old Town.

We arrived to Stockholm at 6:30 local time, which is way too early for pretty much anything, and decided to drive to Djurgården and walk around for a while until some museum opens. We had plans for Skansen and Vasa Ship museum, but ended up visiting only the latter.

Continue reading “Sweden 2015. III: Djurgården”

Sweden 2015. II: Viking Grace Turku-Stockholm ferry

Crossing the Baltic Sea on the Viking Grace cruiseferry

In the first part, we drove from St. Petersburg to Turku (600 km), and after a short walk around Turku, got to the Viking Line ferry terminal.

The Baltic Sea boasts an extremely lively system of sea ferries. Probably no other sea in the world matches it in that respect. The main routes are Helsinki-Tallinn, Helsinki-Stockholm, and Turku-Stockholm. There are ferries to the Åland Isles, halfway between Finland and Sweden, and Finland-Sweden ferries usually make a stop at Åland anyway (this is apparently required for them to operate tax-free shops onboard). There is also a Stockholm-Riga route, some routes from Finland to Poland and Germany, Vaasa-Umeå route (Finland-Sweden but much farther in the north), St. Petersburg-Helsinki, St. Petersburg-Helsinki-Stockholm-Tallinn, and probably some others. Still, Helsinki-Tallinn and Turku-Stockholm are by far the most important ones.

Most ferries on these routes are operated by only two companies, Viking Line and Tallink-Silja. I’m not sure if there is any significant difference; so far I only had experience with Viking Line. The ferries themselves are huge, and are properly called cruiseferries. Apart from basic passage, optionally with any car or RV or even a semi truck, they offer cabins, including some luxurious ones, bars and restaurants, tax-free shops (mostly with cosmetics and jewelry), spas, nightclubs, and so on. In fact you can actually just book a round trip cruise, without actually setting a foot down at your destination, just so you can drink twice as much. Yes people actually do that, largely because of cheap booze. There is even a stereotype of “drunken Finns falling asleep right in the corridors” although I didn’t actually witness anything to that degree.

Even if you actually just want to drive from Finland to Sweden, the ferry is the only reasonable option. You could drive all the way around the Baltic Sea up north, of course. That would be 1800 km from Turku to Stockholm. That’s two days of driving, and the gas alone would cost you more than a ferry ticket. The scenery would not be particularly exciting as well, not on the Finnish side at least.

So, we were interested in an overnight passage from Turku to Stockholm (and back, eight days later), for three people with a regular-sized car. This cost us €495, with a return trip. This included breakfasts, both for direct and return trip, and a dinner in all-you-can-eat buffet, for direct trip only (although we ended up buying it on the return trip anyway). It would have been €342 without any meals. Could have been even cheaper if we picked a cabin without a window for the direct trip. By the time you get to your cabin you’re generally too drunk to enjoy the scenery anyway. The price seems reasonable enough. In fact most of long-distance ferries on other routes I considered for possible travels seem to cost significantly more.

Continue reading “Sweden 2015. II: Viking Grace Turku-Stockholm ferry”

Sweden 2015. I: The road to the Baltic Sea and the city of Turku

Suomen Joutsen, museum ship and formerly a Finnish Navy training ship, moored in Aura river, Turku, Finland

Continue reading “Sweden 2015. I: The road to the Baltic Sea and the city of Turku”

Sweden 2015

In the July of 2015, me, my girlfriend Olga, and our friend, whose name is also Olga, planned a road trip across Sweden. Sweden was not our first option (the original idea was Germany), and this was not going to be our first visit there; in 2014, we made a short but intense road trip to Flåm, Norway from Finland on a rental car. This time, I actually had my own car in a reasonable shape, and so we chose Sweden (with a little bit of Denmark) as a nice and reachable destination.

In hindsight, our itinerary, which had been pretty much entirely plotted by me, was not the best one. Too much driving and not enough staying in one place for a while to enjoy it. This however was somewhat rectified in the second half of our journey. Overall, we certainly saw a lot and enjoyed it very much, and this is a short account of our trip, in fourteen parts (and believe me I really tried to make this short!).

Continue reading “Sweden 2015”