3 weeks in Sweden

Old Aug 23rd, 2018, 05:33 AM
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3 weeks in Sweden

Three Weeks in Sweden- June 2018

On Monday, June 11, my husband and I flew from NY to Stockholm for a 3 week trip. Once we landed, our baggage came quickly and, in the terminal, we found the information counter where we bought our tickets for the Arlanda Express. We took the elevator down to the track and got on the train which was waiting there. There was an area to put our luggage. The trip to Centralstation was fast and easy. To connect to our hotel, the Radisson Blu Waterfront, we had to follow the signs in the main hall of the station up an escalator to the Waterfront Congress Center and go outside and the hotel was right in front of us. Normally, I would have preferred to stay in a smaller hotel with more character but there was a huge doctors’ conference in Stockholm and most of the hotels were booked for at least part of our one week stay. But we turned out to be extremely happy with this hotel. The location was perfect for walking or taking public transportation. The staff was excellent, friendly and extremely helpful with suggestions, making reservations and information. The breakfast buffet (we paid for a junior suite including breakfast) was extensive and delicious.

Our room was not ready when we arrived at about 8:30am, so we left our luggage with the hotel, got a map of Stockholm and headed out. The weather was lovely as it was for our entire trip. We started by walking to Riddaholmen and took in the views of the City Hall from behind the church. We had to wait until the church opened at 10am and then we bought a combo ticket which included the Royal Palace (the ticket was good for 7 days). There was some construction work going on in the church (and all over Stockholm) so some areas were cut off but we were able to see all the royal burials (don’t miss looking down into the crypt). We continued walking to Gamla Stan and our first stop was Stortorget and it was more crowded with tour groups than any other place in Stockholm. We skipped the Nobelmuseet. We went to the bakery attached to the Grillska Huset which had lots of goodies to choose from and some seats and a very friendly staff who explained all the items to us. We chose a cardamom bun and a piece of Princess cake and a cup of coffee and all were delicious. We noticed on our trip that coffee was almost always served in small cups rather than mugs. The staff at the bakery gave us the code to use the bathroom next door at the Grillska Huset restaurant. We walked over to the Royal Palace, entered the inner courtyard and visited the lovely Chapel which was free. We then walked back to the outer courtyard to get our places behind the ropes to see the Changing of the Guard. By 11:45am it was getting filled up for the 12:15 start. It was worth seeing (although not as impressive as, for example, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace). Because the sun was getting hot, we didn’t stay for the entire concert by the band on horseback which came after the changing of the guard. We then followed a walking tour of Gamla Stan I had in my notes. We started outside the Palace to see the view of the harbor and then walked across to the churchyard of the Finnish Church to see the tiny Iron Boy statue and to sit on one of the benches enjoying the shade. Coming out of the churchyard, we turned left onto Tradgardsgatan and then came out onto Kopmangatan and walked this street end to end noting the various colored houses and emerged on Kopmantorget with its statue of St. George slaying the dragon (a replica of the one in the cathedral). At the Storkyrkan (Cathedral) we picked up an English flier and paid the senior entrance fee. The churchyard was supposed to be lovely but it was filled with construction equipment. We then wandered Prastgatan, the oldest street in Stockholm which was a lovely walk contrasted with Vasterlanggaten which was filled with touristy shops and the tourists to go with them. On Prastgatan we found it interesting to look for those houses with the flaming gold-phoenixes which alerted fire fighters to those houses where the owners had paid their fire insurance and which could, therefore, be saved during one of the many fires which plagued the city. Everyone was looking for Martens Trotzigs (the narrowest street in Stockholm and located near the southern end of Vasterlanggaten near #81). It turned out to be just a narrow staircase (everyone was coming down ) and then a small passage covered with graffiti. At the corner of Kakbrinken, there is a cannon barrel on the corner and a Viking-age rune stone in the wall. The German church (Tyska Kyrkan) now charged an entry fee and it didn’t seem worth it. Continuing on our walking tour, we came out through the churchyard and went right onto Svartmangatan and continued along Osterlanggatan to Jarntorget with a statue of Evert Taube, a famous troubadour of traditional Swedish music. We continued down to the Slussen area which was a huge construction site and so we reversed and walked up Vasterlanggatan and past the Parliament buildings (we decided not to take a tour), across the water and turned right to the next bridge, Norrbro, and went downstairs to the entrance to the free Medeltidsmuseet (Museum of Medieval Stockholm). The museum was not that large and it was very interesting explaining how Stockholm grew from a medieval village to a major city. Everything was described in English. It was a lovely walk back to the hotel passing the Opera House and walking along Drottninggatan pedestrian street. We had dinner reservations at Bistro Bestick which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. The staff was very friendly and the food was really wonderful. Our appetizers were an asparagus dish (it was asparagus season) and a scallop dish. For our main courses we had meatballs (I fell in love with these and ordered them 4-5 times during our trip to Sweden) and Arctic char. They served little loaves of dark bread and excellent butter. We were too full for dessert (the portions were generous). It was a pleasant walk back to the hotel and sleep. One thing we noticed pretty quickly in Stockholm and which turned out to be true throughout our trip to Sweden is that free wifi was not as widely available as in other European countries. For example, in Ireland and the Netherlands (our two most recent trips before Sweden), every restaurant, café, tourist site, museum, etc. had free wife. Those places that did have it in Sweden, often required a password and the wifi was often not reliable.

The weather the next day was sunny. The breakfast buffet was very extensive, fresh and delicious. There was plenty of seating and the servers kept the tables clean. We walked down to the Slussen area and followed the sign (only one and easy to miss) for the Djurgardsfarjan (ferry to Djurgarden) and bought our senior tickets for the lovely and quick (10 minute ride). When we landed, we walked up the street, turned right and then crossed the major road to visit Skansen. The senior price was SEK175 which was more than the website had said. We took the escalator up and, using the map they gave us, wandered the park going in a clockwise direction. We spent about 3 hours there. We were surprised at the number of buildings which were not open. Also, most of the stalls on the main square which were supposed to sell food and crafts were closed. However, it was very interesting to visit the buildings that were open and to talk to the guides who were happy to tell their stories and answer questions. Everyone spoke perfect English. Skansen was also the Stockholm zoo and that was the one section of the park that was very disappointing. There were very few animals, they were often hard to see and we felt that we should have just skipped that area. We stopped in a lovely little café for coffee (again in a very small china cup) and a very tasty piece of almond pie. On exiting Skansen (the weather had gotten cloudy), we turned left on the street outside the park and walked to Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde by following the sign at the turnoff for Waldemarsudde. We paid a senior price and wandered the beautiful rooms of the first floor. The rooms are just as they were when Prins Eugen lived here including all the beautiful flowers and plants. There was a wonderful collection of art throughout the rooms. The gallery section had a very interesting exhibit of the works of a Swedish artist and there were English descriptions throughout. The upper floor of the building was closed because they were preparing to open a second exhibit later in the week which we did not get a chance to see. We then walked back to the road and took a right continuing along to visit Thielska Galleriet. We passed some beautiful large homes along the way. The walk took about 40 minutes which was longer than we thought it would take and we felt that the Gallery was definitely not worth the long walk nor the entry fee. The art collection was interesting but it didn’t take that long to see and there were no English descriptions. I had read about the beautiful setting of this gallery but the only view was of lots of trees and a very large house. There was no view of the water. There were a few statues in the garden in the back. We started back walking along the path that ran along the water. The weather became a bit drizzly but we just put on our rain jackets and continued along our way. At a certain point, we had to get back on the main road which we followed to the Djurgardsbron, the bridge connecting Djurgarden to the mainland. There were lots of benches along this main road so we could sit and just watch the world going by. We continued over the bridge and then a left on Strandvagen and walked along this lovely route with boats on one side and beautiful elegant buildings on the other. Our dinner reservation was at Wedholms Fisk which I had read was the best fish restaurant in Stockholm and it did not disappoint. The staff (it seemed to be all women) was very warm and friendly and the service was excellent. Diners were dressed in everything from jeans and t-shirts to jackets and the dining room had a lovely open but elegant atmosphere. The basket of rolls, bread, flat bread and butters was delicious. We shared an appetizer because the portions were very generous and our server suggested that was a good idea. Our appetizer had scallops in a champagne sauce (this sauce was one of their specialties) with white asparagus and salad. Our main courses were grilled salmon with basil champagne sauce and grilled monkfish with pine nut butter. Everything, even the rice and potatoes, were delicious. We ordered a passion fruit trio for dessert and that was just ok. The whole experience was wonderful. Right outside the restaurant was the Raul Wallenberg memorial and, around the corner, was the Great Synagogue with the Holocaust Memorial (the latter was behind a locked fence so we couldn’t get close). We walked back to the hotel along Hamngatan Street which was the shopping zone. That area also was a major construction zone including the area of Sergels Torg.

Woke up to nice weather. We went to Central Station to the information desk on the main concourse and bought two 24-hour senior passes and took the T-bana to Ropsten, went outside that station and took the bus from there one stop to Torsviks Torg to go to Millesgarden (the stops were announced on the bus). From the bus stop, we turned right and walked 1 block and then left up the hill following the signs to Millesgarden. They had wife and an app you could sign up for to access the audio guide but our wifi kept going in and out and the app didn’t add very much information so we gave up on it. We visited the house/studio and the three terraces and spent about 2 hours here. The sculptures and the setting were beautiful. It was very easy going back to Centralstation where we did our own subway station tour. We would get on a train in the last car, get off at the interesting station and walk through it to the front and then get on the next train at the front, go to the next interesting station and get off and walk through the station to the rear and just continue in that way. On the blue line we visited Radhuset, Fridhemsplan, Stashagen, Vastra Skogen, Solna Centrum, Nackrosen and Hallonbergen. The stations on the green line were not as interesting. On the red line we liked Stadion and Universitet. We also checked out Kungstradgarden on our way to dinner and then we walked along the water and over the bridge to Skeppsholmen and and a bit along the water on that island. The weather was gorgeous. Our dinner reservation was at Verandan at The Grand Hotel to experience smorgasbord. The restaurant was lovely and we were given a table at the window so we could watch Stockholm going by. The service was excellent. Our waiter took us over to the food and explained the order of eating and what dish went with what. We started with about 6 different types of herring which were superb. We moved on to the smoked fishes, the cold fish and vegetables, the cold meats and then the hot dishes and finished with the desserts. The food was delicious and we went back for seconds of the items we particularly liked. It was a wonderful dinner. I had read somewhere that it was impossible to find decaf coffee in Sweden (which was the only kind of coffee my husband can drink) but that was not been accurate and this restaurant served delicious decaf with our desserts. Since we had the transit passes, we took the T-bana back to our hotel.

The next day was gorgeous perfect weather. A member of the staff of our hotel had helped us order tickets for the 9:30am Stromma Cinderella boat to Sandhamn. I was up in the air about which island in the archipelago to visit and Sebastian, at our hotel, recommended we go to Sandhamn and that turned out to be a great suggestion. The berth for the boat was on the far side of the Grand Hotel and we used our transit pass for the final time (just fyi, inspectors checked our tickets three different times). If you wanted seats outside on the boat, you had to arrive at least ½ hour before departure. The boat was very nice and comfortable and I was surprised at the number of stops we made on the way out. People on the boat were very friendly and the trip was very enjoyable. Sandhamn was the last stop. We walked towards the Varshus (the inn) and continued a bit farther to the Sandhamns Bageriet where we bought a cardomon bun (not very good) and a chocolate ball (very good and fudgy). We spent a lot of time wandering along the gravel streets among the lovely wooden cottages. Then we walked along the waterfront (there was a very clean and free WC along here) and, after the skyway connecting the big red hotel to the modern annex, we veered right uphill and, after the crest of the hill, on the left was a flat expanse of rock called Dansberget with views of the Baltic. The weather and the views were so wonderful, we just sat and enjoyed it all. Later we walked back to the harbor again and sat relaxing until our boat was ready to board. We were supposed to dock in Stockholm at 5pm but we came in a bit late. A walk from the dock to Gamla Stan brought us to our restaurant for that evening, Fem Sma Hus, where we had a reservation. This was a lovely restaurant consisting of 5 small rooms underneath 5 townhouses and each one decorated with antiques. The manager came by to tell us about the history of the restaurant. The traditional breads and butters were delicious. The food was delicious traditional Swedish food (our appetizer was toast skagen and our mains were meatballs and reindeer filet mignon) and we finished by sharing a dessert of apple tart. It was a very enjoyable evening and we ended with a very pleasant walk back to the hotel.

Frida, at the front desk of the hotel, had helped us purchase tickets for the 10am boat to Drottningholm Palace. We got to the boat at 9:30 (it leaves from right next to the City Hall) and there was already a line to board. The boat was very crowded and ended up being standing room only. We started off sitting outside in the back of the boat but it got too warm and too crowded so we moved to the front of the boat where, although we had to stand, it was less crowded and less hot and we saw a lovely view of the palace as we approached from the water. We got off, turned left and followed the signs to the ticket office which was inside the palace and up one flight. They did not have any senior prices. We bought tickets for the Palace, the Palace English tour at 10:30, the Kino Slott and the Court Theater and then we had to go over to the Theater Shop to sign up for the 2pm English tour of the Court Theater. The tour of the Palace was very worthwhile and the guide told many interesting stories. After the tour, we went through the rooms again and also visited rooms which were not on the tour. We walked around the back of the Palace and walked through the gardens and then, in the center of the gardens, we turned left to the Kino Slott where they had a free audio guide which gave a lot of information. The tour of the Court Theater (which lasted about 35 minutes and was the only way to see the inside of the building) was very interesting and it was a fascinating building. We decided to take the boat back to the city and we bought our tickets as we boarded. The return trip was much less crowded and the weather had become cloudy and chillier. Our restaurant reservation this evening was at Bar Nombre on Odengaten (it got such good reviews on tripadvisor, we had to try it) so we had the opportunity to walk through areas of the city we hadn’t been in before. The restaurant was not large. The service was excellent and very friendly. Our waiter, Oskar, was wonderful. First they brought us two pieces of buttered toasted bread with garlic, parsley and Monchego cheese. It was so delicious we ordered another portion. The portions were generous so Oskar suggested we share an appetizer (we got the red prawns with grilled lettuce and chorizo sauce) and we each ordered a main course (a vegetarian dish with grilled cauliflower, golden beets and other grains and nuts and cheese and a tuna with vegetables and green sauce). The food was incredibly delicious! My husband had two glasses of Spanish wines recommended by Oskar and we went home with the names to try to find those wines in NY. Dessert was, believe it or not, thin slices of eggplant with a coating served over salted caramel ice cream and crumbled brownie. It was amazing! It was a great meal and a wonderful experience (and probably our favorite of the whole trip) and we wished we had a restaurant like this here at home. We slowly walked back to our hotel.

Another sunny day so we headed to City Hall and arrived at 9:15am to get on the 9:30am English tour which was very good. The 50 minute tour was required and there were senior prices. We were not interested in climbing the tower but we did spend time on the terrace by the lake with its lovely views. We decided to spend some of this beautiful day wandering the island of Sodermalm. Because of all the construction throughout the city, we had to walk over to Gamla Stan and then head south. We got a bit confused because of all the construction in the Slussen area but we finally found our way to Katarina Kyrka which was closed but it was a pretty church from the outside. We followed information I had in my notes and headed east on Master Mikaels Gata and then stopped at a little park overlooking the city. We then walked to Fjallgatan and all the way to the end of this street for another view of the city. This area of Stockholm has many small wooden houses which have been restored and you get an idea of what Stockholm used to look like. Stigbergsgatan also had some lovely small wooden cottages. Walking past Katarina Kyrka took us to Mosbacke Torg and we walked through the archway to the right of the theater up to the Terrass which had another view. Our next stop was the Royal Palace in Gamla Stan where we bought tickets to the 1:30 tour of the Royal Apartments which was worthwhile. We visited the Bernadotte Apartments on our own since they were not part of the tour. The Royal Treasury was very small but worth checking out. Part of the Royal Armory was closed but we saw the exhibit of royal coaches. A walk across to Hamngatan, a popular shopping area, brought us to the Hallwylska Museet. This museum, which was a private home built in 1898, was free and a hidden gem of the city. When we came out of the museum (it wasn’t large so it did not take very long), we sat and relaxed in the nearby square until it started to rain. Our dinner reservation was at Kryp In, serving traditional Swedish food in Gamla Stan, and they were able to take us early. Our appetizers were roasted cauliflower soup and a herring platter. The dark Swedish bread they served was really good. Our main courses were cured salmon with dill and little potatoes in a creamy sauce and a fish and vegetable stew in a tomato/fish broth. All the food was very good. The rain had stopped so our walk back to the hotel was pleasant.

The next morning, we went to Centralstation and bought 2 senior tickets and then went up the escalator following the signs for the buses and took bus #69 (which got very crowded quickly) to the Nordiska Museum stop and followed the signs to the Vasa Museum. We arrived at about 9:45am and the museum was still quite empty with no lines. By 10:30am it was getting crowded. We took the 10am English tour which was very worthwhile and interesting. Then we started on the top floor and worked our way down looking at all the exhibits on both sides of the ship (everything is fully explained in English). We finished with the movie having spent about 4 hours in this extremely interesting museum. We then walked a short way to the Nordiska Museet and stayed there until 5:30pm. The exhibits were very interesting and everything was described in English. We especially enjoyed the exhibits about life in the 1950s, Swedish traditions, folk art, Sapmi about Sami life and Homes and Interiors. We certainly learned a lot about Swedish life during our time visiting this museum. By the time we left the building, the weather had cleared and we walked to Ostermalmstorg wandering the temporary Saluhall and checking out the various vendors and the goodies they sell. Our reservation for dinner was at Lisa Elmqvist which occupied a corner of the temporary food hall. Our appetizers were cured salmon with salad and potato chips and toast skagen. Our mains were a fried perch served over a creamy mushroom sauce and a fish soup with lots of fish and shellfish and vegetables. All the food was very good. Another lovely walk back to our hotel and we packed up to leave Stockholm the next morning.

We took at taxi back to Arlanda Airport to pick up our rental car because the taxi could take us directly to the Hertz rental car facility. We rented through Auto Europe since we had always had an excellent experience with them. The rental process went very smoothly. We used our GPS to take us to Linkoping and the Swedish Air Force Museum which was free and which my husband, in particular, enjoyed. Everything was explained in English. The exhibits covered the history of Sweden’s Air Force with many planes, an exhibit on the Cold War (some of this exhibit was not translated into English but there were cards in each room giving further information) and a very interesting exhibit about a Swedish plane which was shot down by the Russians and which was finally recovered from the sea. It took another 3 hours to reach our destination for the next few days, Kalmar and the Clarion Hotel Packhuset. There was a large parking lot outside the hotel which we were allowed to use so long as we displayed a permit which we obtained from the front desk (we paid for the parking when we checked out of the hotel). Our room was on the first floor with a small balcony overlooking the harbor. The only negative was the lack of drawers so we couldn’t fully unpack our suitcases. Also, like the Radisson in Stockholm, there was no way to stop the water draining from the sink in the bathroom so we were not able to wash out some clothes. Otherwise the room was spacious and comfortable. Our room rate included breakfast, sweets in the afternoon and dinner each night (which was a wonderful feature for us since we were in Kalmar over Midsummer and most restaurants were closed those evenings). The night we arrived we had dinner at the hotel since we had no idea what time we would be arriving in Kalmar and the hotel said we did not need to make a reservation for dinner. Dinner included a variety of breads, a green salad, bean salad, carrot salad, a soup and main course which was fish with vegetables but no dessert. The food was surprisingly good and we were very thankful to have this option. Just a short walk from the hotel was a COOP market and my husband bought some chocolate bars for dessert so he was happy.

Breakfast was very good with a nice variety of items. We decided to drive to the island of Oland today because rain was forecast for the next day. It was very easy to reach the bridge to Oland and drive over it where we headed north on Rt. 136. We saw (and my husband photographed) many of the windmills that you see all over the island. He also stopped to photograph the lovely church in Rapplinge where I understand the royal family worships when they are on the island. We continued north and followed the signs to Borgholm Slott and we walked around the outside of the castle ruin on the paths which were easy to follow. I couldn’t find any information that suggested it was worth paying the entrance fee for this site. We skipped the Solliden Palace gardens since we are not that interested in gardens. Next on my list was the Kalla Kyrka which I knew would not be open (it opened at the end of June) but the building was encased in scaffolding so we continued on north looking for Byrums raukar which was a limestone pillar formation formed by the eroding action of the seas. We followed the directions and signs and kept looking for pillars of stone rising from the sea. Finally we asked a man walking and he told us that the parking lot for the raukar was back in the direction we’d come from. We drove back, parked in the lot on the side of the sea and then walked out to the right as we faced the sea. It turned out we were standing on top of the formations which were not that spectacular, but, if you are here already, then take a look. On our way to head back south on the island, we stopped at Trollskagen which was supposed to have windswept twisted trees. We started the hike but the trail would have been longer than we wanted to do (over 3 miles) especially since the weather had become overcast and a bit threatening. Checking this place out online later, it didn’t look as though we missed something special although it was popular with Swedes (we were the only non-Swedes on the trail). We also stopped at the parking area for the Neptuni Akrar which was an interesting area by the sea and my husband spent time photographing this area. As we drove south, we stopped at Gardslosa Kyrka which was supposed to be the best preserved medieval church on the island. The church was lovely from the outside and the inside had very interesting murals. Continuing down the road, we came to a grouping of red windmills and then, further down the road, a grouping of green windmills. None of the windmills we saw were open. At this point, it was getting to be late in the afternoon, so we decided to save visiting the southern part of the island for another day and we headed back to our hotel which served coffee, tea and an afternoon snack (today’s was a delicious cake) which we ate sitting outside on the hotel’s patio overlooking the harbor. Our dinner reservation was at Grona Stugan which was about a 7 minute walk from our hotel. We were seated in a glassed-in patio. The service was very friendly. We shared a tuna tacos appetizer and that was really delicious. The bread was focaccia served with parmesan cream which was yummy. My husband ordered a very good if messy burger and fries (the Swedes seem to be in love with hamburgers) and I had grilled tuna which was very good. Portions were generous as they were throughout Sweden.

Thursday was a cloudy day and our day to see Kalmar. We walked towards the castle through Stadsparken which was a very pretty park (we skipped the art museum located here). We wandered among the streets of the old town including Vasterlanggatan, Gamla Kingsgatan and into the Gamla Kyrkogarden (the old churchyard). We reached the castle in time for the 11:30am English tour (there were only 2 English tours each day). The tour was included with the tickets which we bought inside the shop. The tour lasted about 1 hour and added to our enjoyment of our visit. Throughout some of the rooms of the castle was a very interesting temporary exhibit with working models of DaVinci inventions. After the tour, we went back through the rooms we had already seen plus some rooms which had not been included on the tour. We also walked the ramparts as the rain began. The Kalmar Lans Museum was our next stop to see the excellent exhibit dealing with the royal ship Kronan, a 17th century warship which was shipwrecked and which still sits on the bottom of the Baltic Sea just off Oland. This exhibit was well signed in English. We had coffee and a pastry in the café on the top floor of the museum and then we left because the museum was closing early at 4pm because of the Midsummer holiday. We wandered the town and then, because it started raining quite hard, we went back to the hotel. Many restaurants in Kalmar were closed because of the Midsummer holiday so we ate dinner at the hotel which was enjoyable.

Friday was Midsummer Eve day and a holiday in Sweden and everything was closed. After breakfast, we drove back to Oland and headed to the southern section of the island. The weather was gorgeous with perfect temperatures, blue skies and just enough clouds to make my husband’s photos look wonderful. Temperatures were in the mid-60s. The limestone landscape of the southern part of the island was covered by soil and plants but not trees. We drove to Eketorps Borg which was officially closed for the holiday but the doors were open so we and others went inside and walked all around (the buildings were closed). The southern tip of the island was a nature preserve. The buildings here were also closed although, luckily, the WC was open (important when you reach your mid-60s like we had). There were some lovely views in this area. There was a lovely church in the village of Nasby with a simple interior with a lot of folk art carving. Near the village of Gettlinge, there was a sign for Gettlinge Gravfalt and we parked in a pullout on the road and crossed to read the interpretive panel. There was a windmill and two ship-shaped burials right next to the road. The rest of the area was very overgrown and, except for a few rocks poking up here and there, there was nothing to be seen. That was disappointing. Since the weather was so gorgeous, we decided to drive to Pataholm, which I read about in my research as being a cute and charming small village not far from Kalmar. As we approached the village, we noticed cars parked along both sides of the road so we grabbed a parking spot and took the short walk into the village. It turned out that they were in the middle of a Midsummer celebration and so we joined in. There was a maypole and tables and benches set up. There was singing and dancing and then games for the kids. Some people were in traditional dress. It was over by about 4pm when we walked around the very tiny village and then headed back to our hotel. Dinner was quite crowded at the hotel probably because nothing else was open because of the holiday.

We checked out of our hotel and got on the road to Gothenburg. On the east coast of Sweden, everyone kept telling us that it would be rainy and chilly on the west coast but, during this summer of crazy weather, we continued to have beautiful weather for the rest of our trip. Our destination was the Hotel Pigalle and parking in the nearby Nordstan shopping center. Gothenburg was undergoing major construction for a high-speed train line to Stockholm and many of the roads our GPS tried to take us on were ripped up or closed. Finally, we saw the shopping center and managed to get there and park the car. Our hotel was about two blocks from the shopping center. The staff of the hotel was wonderful and very helpful. Our room was huge and very comfortable with a very large bathroom. The location was very convenient both for walking and the tram lines. Today was Midsummer Day so many sights in the city were not open. One that was open was the Maritiman Museum, a floating museum which consisted of approximately 13 boats along the harbor. I found this museum boring but my husband enjoyed visiting the destroyer. There were English descriptions throughout. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we walked around the city and headed over to the Kungsportsplatsen and bought senior-priced tickets for the Padden boat tour which was fun and gave us good views of the city and information about the various sights. After the tour, we walked down Avenyn which was a very wide street lined with cafes and restaurants. Many restaurants in the city were closed for the holiday but not in this area. The staff at our hotel had given us a 20% discount coupon for the restaurant Bellora located at their sister hotel. The service was very good and friendly. First they brought us bread, olive oil and radishes. We shared a very good pizza which was made with very little sauce with a hunk of mozzarella in the middle of the pie. Our main courses were a pasta and a salmon tartare. As we walked back to our hotel, we passed a huge screen set up showing the World Cup. Sweden was playing Germany and it was fun to watch the game with the crowds until Sweden lost.

I am still dreaming of the breakfasts at the Hotel Pigalle which were served upstairs in their lovely restaurant space. The food was delicious (especially the lamb sausages) and there were lots to choose from. We started off the day at the Stadsmuseum buying a senior combo ticket to also use later in the day at the art museum. This was a very interesting museum with exhibits about the Vikings and the history of Gothenburg which were well explained in English. We walked to Gustav Adolfs Torg where we could see the famous statue but all the buildings on the square were covered and under restoration. It was a lovely walk down Avenyn to Gotaplatsen and a visit to the Konstmuseum spending most of our time on the 5th and 6th floors. We also checked out the small photography-related exhibit in the Hasselblad Center which was included in the entrance fee. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we strolled the city along the canal and through the Tradgardsforeningen park which was smaller and not as appealing as I expected it to be from various descriptions I had read. We continued walking off the calories from breakfast by walking to the Haga district. A choir rehearsal was going on the in church so we sat and listened for a while. Most of the stores along Haga Nygatan were closed because it was a Sunday and a holiday weekend but window shopping was fun (and cheaper). We continued through the Vasastan district to our dinner at Smaka where we received a warm welcome and very good service. Our appetizers were a herring platter and a dish with asparagus with brown butter, cheese and a fried egg. The breads and butters (one was mixed with caviar) were delicious. Our main courses were a gnocci vegetarian dish and the meatballs and all were really good. An enjoyable walk back to the hotel helped walk off some of the calories.

Monday, June 25 was another beautiful day. After our difficulty getting to the parking at the shopping center the day we arrived, we decided to leave the car where it was and take public transportation to the Volvo Museum. We bought a 1-day ticket (no senior prices in Gothenburg) and took a tram from the major hub right next to our hotel and then changed to a bus. It was a very easy trip since all the stops were announced both audibly and visually. The museum was not huge but it was interesting and all the information was in both Swedish and English and they had a senior discount. Since we had the full-day transit passes, after the museum, we headed back to the city and switched to tram #11 which we took to the end of the line, Saltholmen where we jumped on the 2:05 ferry to the island of Branno in the Gothenburg archipelago. The journey took about 20 minutes and was not exceptionally scenic although pleasant. I had picked up from the tourist information office a booklet about the archipelago which was very helpful because it included a map of Branno. When we disembarked, we headed to the right and then followed the footprints printed on the ground (this was the direction most people headed) and turned right near the store and the church and followed that road up and then through the forest and it then turned into a gravel road. The scenery was pretty but not spectacular in any way. Reaching the entrance to the nature preserve island of Galtero, we went through the gate and followed the trail marked by blue and white circles. We decided, later, that we should have just gone a bit down this trail and then turned back because the trail ended up being a very long loop, not easy often walking on planks of wood through mud and sheep dung and with no scenic payoff. We were thrilled when we finally got back to the gate and walked back to the dock for the pleasant ride back to the mainland. Taking advantage of our transit passes, we traveled to Vasaplatsen where we had dinner reservations at Restaurang Vi Viet. We arrived about ½ hour early but they were happy to seat us. The service was excellent and very friendly even though the restaurant was full and busy. We ordered two appetizers (mango salad and a beef sandwich) and two main courses (shrimp red curry and chicken stir fry). All the food was well presented in generous portions and very fresh and delicious. Their homemade lemonade was really good and refreshing. We decided to use the transit pass to go back to the hotel where we packed to leave the next morning.

Tuesday was another beautiful day and, after checking out of the hotel, we found driving out of Gothenburg so much easier than driving into the city. We headed to Koon where we parked the car in the lot on the right-hand side as you head towards the harbor. There was a machine in the parking lot which indicated that you had to have a particular app which we tried to install with no success so we left a note on our dashboard that we had tried to pay for the parking and gave our cell number and email. Later in the day, someone told us that there was a different machine on the other side of the parking lot that we could have used to pay for the parking but we had no idea it was there. No one ever contacted us. In the convenience store at the harbor, we bought round-trip tickets for the ferry to Marstrand. The entire ride took about 2-3 minutes. The weather here was sunny and warm in the mid-80s. We stopped in the tourist information on Marstrand and picked up a map of the island and first walked along the harbor from end to end checking out the cafes, restaurants, shops and boats. Buildings on the island were white or pastel which was a change from the dark red color you see in the rest of Sweden. We ambled up to the Carlstens Fastning and purchased a guidebook in English but, even with the book, we got confused about where to go and how to get there. We wandered around the fortress and found the secret passage, saw the various cells and other rooms and courtyards but found it a bit frustrating. We even had trouble finding the exit and had to ask for help. We walked a bit around the island, had an ice cream and took the ferry back. Our next stop was the island of Tjorn and the Pilane Gravfalt which was a site with Iron Age mounds, stone circles etc. and, in summer, it was turned into a sculpture park. They gave us a sheet which listed the 14 sculptures ending up on the hill with a huge head sculpture. We could not see the Iron Age sites. I don’t know if that was because they were overgrown or in a different area from where we were. The outdoor sculptures were interesting and my husband enjoyed photographing them. On to our hotel for one night, Slipens Hotell & Pensionat, Fiskebackskil but first we went a bit farther to the village of Grundsund, 10 minutes from Fiskebackskil, where we found a parking spot and walked along the quayside. Our hotel in Fiskebackskil overlooked the marina and we had to check in at the restaurant called Brygghuset (followed the signs) (our hotel room was in a separate building). The room was small but comfortable with a small but very nice bathroom. I had made a dinner reservation at the hotel which turned out to be at the restaurant, Brygghuset. It was a lovely and comfortable space with warm and very friendly service. The breads were delicious served with two Swedish specialties one with sun-dried tomatoes and one was tiny chopped potatoes and other ingredients in a creamy sauce. For appetizers we had a scallop and asparagus dish and a fish/mussel soup. Our main courses were the halibut special and a mixed fish dish. Everything was delicious! After dinner we walked through the village catching the beautiful late light along the quay and walked through the small lanes admiring the lovely homes mostly painted white or light colors with beautifully carved porches and verandas.

The breakfast, which was served in the Brygghuset space, was excellent. We checked out of the hotel and drove to Fjallbacka, followed signs to Centrum and parked in a lot on the right below the church which gave us four free hours so long as you displayed a parking disc or note that stated when you arrived. It was a lovely day and we walked up 1 block, crossed the road and then walked down the hill, turned left and, on the left was the park with the bust of Ingrid Bergman who spent her summers here. This was also the entrance, through the arch marked Kungsklyftan, to the walk through the gorge and up the wooden staircases to the top of Vetteberget. The first part of the climb was up wooden steps which was simple. Then you had to scramble over rocks to the area where there were four boulders suspended over your head. After you passed the boulders, there was a set of wooden stairs to the top of the Vetteberget with beautiful views of the islands, the surrounding areas and the village and marina. After coming down the stairs from the top, we went to the left for a much easier way down without having to do any scrambling. We walked out on the docks of the marina to take some photos and talked with some people who had come over from Norway in their boats. After picking up our car (there were convenient WCs in the parking lot) we drove a short distance to Vitlycke to see the famous rock carvings. We started with the exhibits in the museum which were very good at explaining the site and everything was also in English. We crossed the road to see the Vitlycke Rock (or Panel) which was more understandable having seen the museum first. There was some controversy because the rock carvings have been painted red to make them easier to see and study. In the rear of the museum, we visited the Bronze Age farm with some reconstructed houses. We still had a long drive ahead of us to the Dalarna region and our next hotel, so we left after seeing the main panel (there are a number of other rock carvings in the area). The ride to Tallberg took about 6 hours. We stopped off in the town of Filipstad and had pizza at a restaurant called La Strada which was located right as we came off the highway. The staff was very nice and the pizza was very good. In Tallberg, we stayed at the Akerblads Gastgiveri Hotell & Spa for the next 4 nights. Our room was called a mini junior suite with the emphasis on the word “mini” and the rooms pictured online all look much larger than the room we had. We were at the top of a flight of stairs and there was no air conditioning (opening the windows when we came back in the evening cooled the room off well so we didn’t feel the lack of the a/c except for the first evening when there was some sort of party going on until at least midnight and the noise disturbed our ability to sleep). The suite consisted of a very small living room, a very small bedroom with not much room for more than a bed and small desk and a small bathroom with a shower. Our room was in one of the guesthouses not in the main house. The setting of the hotel is very pretty and there is a short walk down to the lake.

Thursday, June 28, we started the final days of our trip. This hotel was very busy but we seemed to be among the few non-Swedes here. The breakfast had choices but the quality was definitely not as high as at our previous hotels. I had made an 11am reservation for the English tour at the Carl Larsson house in Sundborn and our GPS got us there with no problem. The tour was very interesting and the house interior was really lovely (which frustrated my husband since no photos were allowed). From here we drove to the Falun mine. We started in the visitor center where we picked up tickets for our reserved spots on the 1:30 English tour and where they charged us 20SEK for parking. We walked partway around the Great Pit but, because of tall chain-link-type fencing all around, it wasn’t that easy to see or photograph the area. We then went part-way through the museum which was very interesting. The woman at the museum suggested we leave our backpacks in the lockers at the museum while we took the mine tour and that was a great idea. I had read that the mine can be very muddy and that the mud can stain your shoes red. We wanted to avoid that and, before we left home, we were trying to find some cheap rubber overshoes we could use when my brother, the doctor, offered to give us the cloth overshoes doctors wear in the operating room. Those worked perfectly and we just tossed them at the end of the tour and our shoes stayed clean. The tour was really interesting. After the tour, we finished our visit to the museum. We drove a short way to the free Dalarna Museum (there was an inexpensive outdoor parking area right in front of the museum and our American credit card worked fine in the machine which had instructions in English). Some of the exhibits had English explanations while the exhibits dealing with the Dalarna horses, clothing and paintings had little booklets with very limited English descriptions. The museum was very interesting and we learned a lot about the region and its folk art. One block away was New Mumbai Indian restaurant where we had dinner. The food was very good and the portions very generous. The house special salad was particularly good with a cumin flavored dressing. Some of the main dishes were prepared a bit differently from the way we are used to but they were really good and it is always fun to try new preparations. It rained the rest of the evening which cooled off the temperatures.

The next day the weather almost felt like fall with a chilly, breezy, sunny day and we even needed a light sweater. We drove to Mora and parked in the lot across from the Zorn complex (we paid using a machine which accepted our credit card). We walked down the road to the Vasaloppsmuseet which told the story of the world’s biggest and longest cross-country ski race which ended right outside the museum entrance. The museum was one large room downstairs in the building and there was no English information at all. It was free so, if you are in Mora, it was worth a short stop if only to see the old black and white movies and the side-by-side comparison of old and new equipment. Our 11:30am English tour of the Zorn house was about to start and we needed to go back to the Museum building to pick up our tickets and we bought a combo ticket with the museum. Again, no photos were allowed in the house. The tour was very interesting, the house fascinating and our guide was particularly good. Then we spent time going through the museum which was very interesting with lots of information in English about Zorn and about each displayed work. After all that culture, a snack was calling to us so we went into the local Wayne’s Coffee which was a Swedish chain we had seen throughout the country. We tried, with no success, to discover why a Swedish coffee shop was called Wayne’s but they made very good coffee and baked goods (they also sell food). Nusna, the home of the Dalarna horse, was our next stop. We visited both businesses which make the authentic horses (they are right across the street from one another) and you could watch them make the horses in the exhibits they had set up. We purchased a small blue horse from Grannas Olsson. On the way back to our hotel, we parked in the town of Rattvik right near the train station to walk out on Scandinavia’s longest wooden pier that ran into the lake from just behind the train station. It was a pleasant walk (although very windy) but nothing more than that. Our final stop of the day was in Leksand and we found parking in the lot just past the library. We walked along the path and reached Hembygdsgard, the open-air museum which was free and always open and consisted of about 24 old buildings grouped around a maypole. There were signs on each building in Swedish and English. All the buildings were locked so there was no entry. We walked over to the Leksands Kyrka with an interesting belltower, onion dome and beautiful churchyard. Surprisingly, the church was open and it was beautiful inside. Wan Pen’s Thai was where we ended up for dinner. The servers were very nice and helpful because the menu was only in Swedish. We had spring rolls, red curry with chicken and Pad Thai with pork and the portions were generous and the food very good. After arriving back at the hotel, we walked down to the lakeside which was very pleasant.

Saturday, June 30 was another gorgeous day. After breakfast, we drove up to Holens Gammelgard in Tallberg which I had read was supposed to have workshops selling traditional crafts but all we found were a few old locked buildings and a closed café. I don’t know whether there are shops at some other time of the year but there was no indication of anything. We decided to drive to the Orsa Rovdjurspark wildlife reserve. We paid the senior price which was 250SEK which was pricey. We followed the instructions of the staff so we ended up coming down the hill at the end rather than climbing up the hill at the start. There were not a lot of animals and sometimes it was hard to see them (such as the tigers) but we enjoyed watching the polar bears and brown bears including 3 cubs playing and wrestling. We watched them feeding the two leopards but they quickly grabbed the food and then went out of sight. There was lots of information about all the animals in both Swedish and English and we learned a lot but, considering the high entry fee, it was a bit disappointing. Dinner was at Bella Pizza in Rattvik which was very good. We ordered a salad which turned out to be made of greens, corn, tomato and tiny shrimp which was large and very tasty. We shared a very good family sized pizza. Tonight was packing time again.

After breakfast, we got on the road for our last day traveling in Sweden. Our first destination was Skokloster Slott. We knew we would just miss the noon English tour which we did since we arrived at about 12:45 after a more than 3 hour trip from Tallberg. We decided to join a Swedish tour and they gave us some notes in English but they were limited. Luckily, there was another couple on the tour from the U.S. with a man who had been their foreign exchange student and he very generously translated a lot of what the guide was saying. I think they sold an English guidebook which we should have bought. I would recommend trying to get to the castle in time for one of the English tours but, if you cannot, do not skip the castle because the interior was amazing. Also note that there are areas you could only see if you are on one of the guided tours and they were definitely worth seeing. What I also found amazing was that the castle did not have any electricity. One of the guides told us that they are open very limited hours during the winter and have to use flashlights and the guides are dressed head to toe in down rather than the historical costumes they wore during the summer. Our final stop on our three week trip was Sigtuna. I had read a lot about this town and it was recommended in all the guidebooks but we were disappointed. We found parking easily on the road into town across from the Mariakyrkan and then we walked into the center of town. We visited the town hall, the church ruins, searched for the various rune stones, strolled Storagatan and walked along the lake. Maybe we would have been more impressed if we had visited early in our trip rather than at the end. We stopped at Valvet Bistro and Café for an enjoyable dinner with very friendly service.

Returning the rental car to Hertz was simple and we took the Hertz shuttle bus to Sky City at the airport where we checked in for one night at the Clarion Hotel Arlanda Airport. The hotel was extremely convenient since we could just walk to the terminal the next morning after having a very good breakfast with many choices including made-to-order omelets. We still had most of the cash we had taken out of an ATM when we first arrived in Stockholm 3 weeks ago and we thought we would use it to pay part of our hotel bill but, like so many places in Sweden, the hotel was cash free so we had to just exchange the bills we still had when we got to the airline terminal.

It was a very enjoyable trip with wonderful weather, excellent food, very friendly people.
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