Overnight ship: Stockholm to Helsinki

After our lovely last morning in Stockholm, it was time to make our way to Finland for the last leg of our trip. So we found the most economical way to travel was by sea. This trip was very last minute so the flights were very expensive to Helsinki. Marco was also really excited to take his first overnight ship. It was also less stressful then flying because we didn’t have to go through customs and Octavia didn’t have to be constrained with a seat belt. We just took a 20 minute cab ride to the Värtahamnen port from Södermalm and boarded the boat.


We did looked at a few different travelling ship company before deciding on the Tallink Silja Line. We found this one within our budget and had good facilities on the ship. We took the luxurious cruise line, Silja Symphony, which deparates daily between Stockholm and Helsinki. We booked the B Class cabin, which wasn’t the pretty cabin, but we only used it for sleep. I would of prefered a window, but it was only one morning on this entire trip that I had wake up in complete darkness. They do offer quite nice rooms though if you prefer to wake up with the sunlight and want more room to walk around. This cabin it cost 204 Euro, which was a bargin compared to the flight prices at this time.

So the first thing we did was go up to the Sun deck. It was nice and breezy up here, but wasn’t exactly luxurious, as the tables were pretty dirty. We did order a couple of drinks and let Octavia play a bit. She got to meet the Harry the seal and there were some active toys to play with.

Next I wanted to check out all the shopping on the Prominade that we originally walked through (deck 7). There wasn’t that many stores, but they had everything you could need and plenty of souvieurs. Just below there is a large tax free superstore (deck 6), that was more like an airport store. We came across these crazy plant people who were striking poses and O got some photos with them. Back up on the prominade there was a clown, who was pretty entertaining as well.

We didn’t end up getting any snack before dinner. We were actually booked in for the grandbuffet for dinner and breakfast. This cost 38.50 Euro each for dinner and 23 Euro each for breakfast. Octavia was free since she was under 5 years. When booking we thought this would be better since the restaurants would be quite expensive to purchase three meals. However, the website didn’t have menus for the cheaper food stores and cafes. We didn’t even know their would be other options. So if you prefer to save a little and avoid the crowds you can always visit them instead. I just don’t know if you can book into the buffet if you change your mind on the day.

Next we explored the Silja Land on deck 5. This is only for kids and their parents. Octavia had so much fun down here. It gave us a chance to relax and chat.

By this stage the ship had started moving so these are some of the views from the window.

Later on we made our way to the Grand Buffet for a 7:30 dinner. It was not where near as calm as these photos seem. It was craziness when we first arrived. It was as if the passengers had never seen food before. We even noticed quite a few passenger were removed from their tables, after sitting on the wrong ones, possibly get a table sooner then their booking.

There was so much food. Hot, cold, ethnic, savoury and sweet. I tried many of the Scandiavian foods and found that I really love herring. There was a dedicated kids buffet that had fried foods and meatballs I tried to steer O away from that but it didn’t talk long for her to notice it too. The deserts were also nice and petit. We returned the next morning for breakfast, but I wasn’t as impressed with the spread.

After breakfast we packed our suitcases and stood out on the balcony to enjoy the views as we entered into the port of Helsinki. This is actually the perfect spot if you want to make a quick exit on arrival.

So I wasn’t that excited to travel by ship, since it took alot more time then flying. However, it an experience and I think it was alot more fun if you travelling with a child. It ended up being a lot cheaper then flying and the accomodation was also included. So I can recommend this mode of travel and I hope this post was helpful if you are considering ship. We now have 10 more days go in Finland and a day trip in Tallin, Estonia.

Stockholm: Scandi perfection (day 3)

On our last day in Stockholm was really only a half day because we were booked to take a ship to Helsinki for the last leg of our trip. So we stuck close to our apartment in Södermalm. It was nice though because we got to see a bit more of this neighbourhood which is very hip. There are endless amounts of bakery cafes and funky stores. I would definetely love to stay in this part of Stockholm again, if only for the amazing pastries.

So for breakfast we visited one of the most exquisited bakeries I’ve ever seen, Robin Delselius Bakery. Robin Delselius is a third generation baker of 30 years experience. He learned his craft from his mother and would first open this bakery in Södermalm and later open two more locations in Stockholm and a summer cafe, Stavsnäs Vinterhamn in Värmdö with his mother. Robin Delselius Bakery offers an amazing array of savory and sweet pasteries, breads, cookies, pancakes, overnight oats, sandwiches, salads, wraps, coffees and smoothies (to name a few). The gorgeous decor complements the delictable offerings, which makes it a must-do place to breakfast or brunch or lunch!

Octavia ordered a custard filled Solbulle. I would prefer she start the day with something healthier, but it was hard to denie her something that looked that yum. Marco and I shared a Pain au Chocolat and a ham and cheese toast sandwich with a bonus healthy salad. You can tell by the pictures that it was all pretty fantastic. The oat milk cappuccinos were also really great and prefectly balanced.

After breakfast I walked Octavia and Marco to a Park Nytorget, so that I could wander the back streets of Södermalm. This park is a hidden oasis, with its bright flowers, perfectly manicured grass, fountains and colourful playground equipment for little ones. It is adjacent to many cafes, so it attracts alot of families.

After dropping the kids off I wondered around the streets, window shopping at bakery cafes and quirky stores. Since it was a weekend not all the stores were open, but the ones that were had some really interesting stuff. My last stop was Åhléns Department store. These more mainstream stores did have some sales, so I was able to get some reaosnably priced clothes and trickets.

Well thats my last day in Stockholm. In my next post I will take you on a boat and oversea to Helsinki.

Swedish Historical Museum (day 2)

After visiting the Swedish Royal Palace and having a quick lunch in Gamla Stan, we made our way to the Swedish Historical Museum. It is located north-east from Gamla Stan, in the neighbourhood of Östermalm. It’s relatively close to the centre of Stockholm, so you can easily walk or catch a tram there.

The Swedish Historical Museum offers a great presentation of Sweden, from pre-history to the present. Exhibitions often change, which makes this museum interesting for both tourist and locals. Another thing that makes this museum very attractive is that it has free entry and is very much family friendly. Their opening hours do vary, depending on the time of year, but generally they are open 6-7 days. You can hire Audio Guides in a variety of languages (also available on Smart phones) for a small fee.

The exhibition that we were most intereseted in seeing today was the Vikings/Vikingar. This exhibition tells the story of the peoples who lived in Sweden between AD800 and AD1050. These people were not all Vikings who travelled across the sea to pillage neighbouring lands. Rather these early Scandavians were farmers and hunters. Some the highlights of this show that we would see is the girl from Birka, the female chief from Öland and the landowner from Vendel.

After reading the text on what this exhibition was about we passed by wall with series of printed artworks that personified the pre-Swedish culture, and a piece called Lapidarium, which are fragments of rune stones. this museum has the largest collection of runestone fragments and we did see quite a few runestones while we were here.

Wealthy farmers and aristocrats often had rune stones and picture stones raised in their memory. They were made by speical stone-cutters and were painted in strong colours. Picture stones have mostly been limited to the Götland island.

Unna’s rune stone, which was raised for the memory of Unna’s son Östen, who passed away while in his christening robes. It is from Torsätra and is almost 1000 years old. Raising rune stones was the traditional way early Scandivians remembered their loved ones. In Sweden there about 2,500 and most are from Uppland province. First two stones in series of stones below (from the left) are from Götland. The third Runestone from Torsätra (runestone) in Uppland and was raised in memory of a Swedish king’s tribute collectors who fell ill and died during a trip to Gotland. It reads “Skule and Folke have raised this stone in memory of their brother Husbjörn, he became ill when taking teaxes on Gotland“. The little black and red runstone is from a church in Resmo, Öland island and is a modern interpreation of how it may looked. It reads “Ina had the stone raised in memory of Sveina her husband.” The last picture depicts a stone lid from a coffin from Husaby in Vastergotland, in memory of Styrbjörn.

These two display cases present Arab Silver and Otto’s treasure. There have been over 1000 Viking Age silver hoards discovered in Sweden. The largest ever found weighed over 6 kg and it was from Sigsarve, gotland island. It contained jewellery (whole or hacked) and 1382coins (mostly Islamic). Otto’s treasure or Vårby treasure was discovered by Otto Ludvig Jonsson in 1871. He found it Södermanland, unders a stone in Vårby. It was buried by a wealthy family in the mid-10th century and was probably placed their as a sacrifice for the gods or hidden for the future. It contains jewellery, belt fittings and beads and a few items are from the East.

The picture below is of the Magnate from Vendel. His body was dressed in his most expensive clothing, surrounded by very important objects and buried in a ship would would travel to the kingdom of the dead. He was from a powerful clan in Uppland and this family lived on a large estate. The display case contains many of the items that were in his ship. They include well-made items for self grooming and weapons, which highlight his wealth and role as war leader.

These Implements of Death demonstrate the kinds of weaponry used in war and feuds. Spears and axes were comon weapons, whereas swords were held by higher status and often had their own names.

The Princess from Birka was buried in a timber burial chamber and its contents demonstrates that she an high-ranking professional warrior or at the very least woman that held high status in Viking society. Her grave contained objects for self groming, jewelerry a knife, whetstones, whalebone board to press linen and Thor’s hammer ring.

Alcohol was very much part of the Viking Age and the most popular were mead and ale. The picture stone from Tängelgårda, Gotland island. It depicts two men battling around a large vessel, which may be refering the story of Oden stealing mead from the giant Suttung. The display case contains Funnel glasses, Persian bowls, glass game pieces and a small mirror. These items were typically used by arsticrates and drinking was an imporant aspect of aristocratic lifestyle.

In this exhibition, I didn’t see any objects from the Sami culture, but there were a couple of wall text explaing who they were. The Sami were a semi-nomadic tribe of peoples that occupated Northern Scandinavia and are known for their reindeer husbandry. They did trade with the Vikings and their religioun was quite similar to the Norse mythology.

Off in a corner in the exhibition was a quiet area for children. Here you could read books and listen to a story (Swedish/English) using headphones. It was a nice break for Octavia who wasn’t very excited about museum artifacts and text.

Årby boat is a burial boat from Årby in Uppland and is the best-preserved Viking-Age boat from Sweden. Although the grave had already been robbed of jewellery and weapons, the was still some objects and skeltons inside. It was found in wet clay, which preserved the wood and objects quiet well.The body of a man or woman would have been place on a bed of grass and it would have been covered with parts of a cart, oars and wooden planks. Inside the boat their were food bowls, wooden spoon and game board. Outside the boat, a 6 year old stallion and dog were found, which would have been sacrified for the voyage. The horse was hit in the head and decapitated and the dog given a fatal blow to the back of the head. The dog was slim like a greyhound and had a small rope lead with it.

This is an amazing replica of the Birka girl and her grave. The museum was able to replicate her using her cranium to assume what she would have looked like. They wouldn’t know the colour of her eyes and hair, but they do know that the Birka Market was visited from peoples all over Europe. She was only able six at her time of death and she was place in a wooden coffin next to the Birka castle around 1200 years ago. This was probably my favourite thing to see at this exhibit. I just wish there was more text about her.

These display cases contain jewellery, dress accessories, the keys held by the ladies of the house and combs owned by men and women.

These are replicas of typical clothing of people during the Viking age.

This ship is a model of the Gokstad ship and is 1:6 scale to the original from Norway. You can actually see this ship Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. It is an example of the how well built Viking ships were. The Viking built several different types of ships, depending on their use. Some were more suitable for shallow and coastal waters and others for were for the deep sea. The real Gokstad ship was dated to 895AD, 24 metres and was designed as a seagoing ship.

This large model is of the Viking Age Town of Birka, which is situated on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. The model is 1:30 and depicts the town at around 800AD. It was pretty amazing to watch the town go from day to night and it was very well done and detailed.

This picture stone is from Tängelgårda, in the north of island of Gotland and was made duing the Iron age. This stone depicts Odin as the God of war and death. He was also a god of creation, poetry, widsom and a master of Seiðr. It also shows Sleipner (shapeshifter), who was owned by Odin and travelled the world; and human warriors travelling as a band.

The Ruler of Öland was a woman and she was buried in regal splendor and surrounded by powerful cultic implements. Her grave was found in Kopingsvik, on the island of Öland. There was an old Norse female cult leader, Völur, who was known for her skills of predicting the future and her name meant staff carrier. This woman was buried with a staff and it is believed that she could actually be Völur. The staff is made of iron and browns and it has a small house on the top of it. This staff demonstrates that she was a cult leader and an aristocrat from a wealthy clan. She was wrapped in a bear skin burned in a ship with a man and then the man was buried with his own rich gravegoods in a nearby grave. Her grave also contains a bronze dish from Western Europe, a jug from Persia, runic plates to protect against evil or disease.

The illustration below depicts a 300 year old aristrocratic grave mound, which had a Christian monument rebuilt on top of it. This Christian grave was found in Valsta, Uppland and is from the early 12th century. The three crossed stone coffins were use to emphasis the change from heathen to Christian beliefs. The smaller illustration shows a 10th century grave of a 20-year-old woman. Since she was not cremated, it is though that she was buried within the Christian belief. However, she was buried with Tor’s hammer ring, which suggest she may not of held Christian believes. The rune stone depicts two figures walking through a doorway holding a cross. On the back of this stone, it is written “Nikulaus had the stone erected in memory of Syhsa his father”. Nikulaus is a Christian name, so it maybe illustration Nikulaus’s father entering the gates of heaven.

This last photo is from the inside looking out into the museum’s central courtyard. This museum is quite expansive and if I had more time before closing I would of loved to see more of the exhibitions.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of what the Swedish History Museum has to offer. Have you visited this musem, what did you think?

Swedish Royal Palace (day 2)

On day two of our visit to Stockholm spent a few hours at the Swedish
Royal Palace (Kungliga slotten). It still remains as the offical residents fo the royal family and is one of the largest palaces in Europe. It is located in the oldest part of the city Gamla stan.

Within the palace there are three splendid museums that are opened all year around. These are the Royal Apartments, the Treasury and the Museum Tre Kronor. However, during the summer season from May to September, the Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities is also open. There are palace tours, which you can pay for in addition to the entry price. However, audio guides are also available, free of charge.

On our visit we saw the Royal Apartments, Museum Tre Kronor and
Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities. We probably spent the most time in the apartments and in combination with the Tre Kronor is very much worth the visit. We paid about 160SEK for these three museums, which at the time was about 24AUD.

I hope you enjoy a sneak peak through the Swedish Royal Palace!


The Royal Apartments

When we first arrived we purchased our tickets from one of the adjacent curved builds that are adjacent to the palace within the Outer Courtyard. I was concerned before visiting the palace that we would have to purchase tickets prior to our visit. However, after emailing and getting a response, I was able to purchase the tickets on the day without much wait. The toilets on the other hand had a long line. I don’t remember seeing toilets as we went along our visit, so perhaps its best to get that over with at the begining of the visit.

The Apartment of the Order of Chivalry

We first began our tour of the Royal Apartments by going left and walking through the Apartment of the Orders of Chivalry. These have been open since 1993 and display the Swedish Award System and Royal Orders of the Knighthood. We walked through three session halls, which included the the Order of Vasa, the Order of the Northern Star, the Order of Sword and the Order of the Seraphim. The fourth room was a meeting hall for the Chapter of the Royal Orders. These rooms were modernised in 1866-67, by architect Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander.

The Hall of the State

The last room we came to before entering a grand foyer, was the Hall of the State. This room was used by the King from 1755 to 1975 to open the Parliment every year. It was designed by architect Carl Hårleman. Unfortuntely it was going through restorations, so it wasn’t as grand with the scafolding. Before going onto the Bernadotte Apatments, I cam across this marble sculpture, The Wave and the Beach. It was made by Theodor Lundberg in 1898.

The Bernadotte Apartments

These apartments were often used by the King for cermonial audices, presenting medals and meetings with his advisory council. The furnishings are from the 1730s and 40s. It was resided in by King Adolf Fredik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika, as later by Oskar II and Queen Sofia.

From the begining of our tour of the Bernadotte Apartments we were able to hire free audio guides, which are available in English and Swedish. I found these really helpful to explain exactly what I was seeing and give more meaning to the history of the furnishings, decorations, achitect and purpose of these rooms.

The Guardroom was originally used to house the lifeguards, who protected the monarch. In the centre of the room there are items referincing the rule of Queen Lovisa and Karl XV. Along the wall there is a painting of the corinationa of Karl XIV John in Stockholm Cathedral in 1818, painted by Per Krafft the Younger in 1924. There is also a wall clock over the fireplace dates back to 1750.

The Pillared Hall was originally used by King Adolf Fredrik as a dining room. The ceiling was painted in 1730 by the Italian artist Alessandro Ferretti and it depicts Mother Svea (Swedish personified) and the seasons. This room was moderned in the 1780s by Gustav III, under the architect Jean Baptiste Masreliez. It included the overdoors and statues of Venus and Apollino by Johan Tobias Sergel.

The Victoria Drawing Room has been re-decorated many times, but this present interior was designed in the 1860s by Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander. the crystal chandeliers were from Vienna, the oval tables from Munich the procelian cabinets were gifts from Napoleon. The most recent edition were the busts of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, which were made by Italian artist, Giancarlo Buratti. One of my favourite pieces was gold clock, depicting the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

The West Octagonal Cabinet is a small corner room, which dates from the 1730s and is in the Rococo style. The decorative wall carvings are by Jean Bourguignon and the phorphyry urns were made by Älvdalen porphyry around 1830.

Oskar II’s Writing Room were able to be seen behind clear screens. The current interior is from 1870s and includes some modern innovations, including electric lighting and a telephone, which was conneted in 1883-4.

I don’t remember what the name of this hallway, but it is had over 40 paintings of the royal family, as well as silver, busts and another interesting clock.

The Breakfast Room was furnished for Oskar II and Queen Sofia in 1873-1874. It has carved rococo panels and a silver chandelier (gift for the silver jubilee 1897), with a crown supported by cupids. This was another room we could not enter.

The East Octagonal Cabinet is larger to the western cabinet. It was used for King Carl XVI to hold formal audiences and private converstaions.

Possibly the most modern room in the palace is Carl XVI Gustaf’s Jubilee Room. It was designed by Åke Axelsson and was offical opened in 2001. It showcases Swedish materials and craftmanship and the theme is a Swedish summer’s day. It is used in conjunction with the East Octagonal Cabinet for formal audiences.

Perhaps my favourite room in the house is Lovrisa Ulrika’s Audience Chamber. It was designed by Jean Eric Rehn for Adolf Fredrik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika in 1754. I just love the tapestries, gold throne and the painting of birds above the door.

Lovisa Ulrika’s Antechamber is another beautiful room. Someting that stood out to me straight away was the Madonna and Child by Piero di Cosimo and the spider webbed ceiling decorations.

Lovisa Ulrika’s Dining Room is another beauty, was restored to the 18th century style in the 1950s and is today sued for large receptions and offical meetings. Jean-Baptiste Oudry painted the paintings over the doors reprent wind, water, earth and fire; as well as the large deer-hunting scene.

The Guardroom is slightly more modern room, which depicts portraits of the Swedish royals during the 20th century.

We then made our way up the outer hallway, which was similar style to the hall we arrived from.

We then entered another Guardroom. It depicts members of the Palatinate dynasty, Queen Kristina from the House of Vasa and Karl X Gustav. There are also small portraits of other famous Swedes from 16th-18th century. The mosaic table was a gift from the Pope Pius IX in 1870s and the large malachinte empire urns were gifts from Russian Tsar Nicholas I.

The Empire Salon was originally Duke Fredrik Adolf’s antechamber, but is now a salon. The chairs and softs are in Swedish Empire style, made for Prince Osker I and Josefina for their wedding in 1823.

The Margereta Room was a room with quite low hanging ceiling. However, it is known for the artwork painted by Crown Princess Margareta, first consort of Gustaf VI Adolf. It is joined the Inner Salon, which is in Pompeian style and was inspired by the archelogical finds of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Just through the doors is the Inner Bedchamber, which was originally used by Fredrik Adolf’s valet. Today it is often used by visiting heads of state, if they don’t wish to use the Great Bedchamber.

The Great Bedchamber is today sued as a guest apartment, just as it originally used when Prince Fredrik Adolf resided here. It has been restored to its original colours and contains original antique furnishings.

The Meleager Salon is today used for offical gifts and orders of chivalry for state visits. The tapestries depict the tragic classic tale of Prince Meleager and were made in Brussels for Ulrika Eleonora’s dowry in 1680.

The State Apartments

At this point we entered a hall, which took us to the State Apartments. These are used by the King and Queen when they are entertaining guests, gala banquets, cabinet meetings and offical ceremonites. It was previously used by Gustav III and Karl XIV Johan for residential purposes.

The First Guardroom was used in the 18th century to house the royal miltary guards. It has baroque furniture, typcial of the era. In the cabinets there is 18th century European procelain from Meissen, which was just gorgeous.

The following room is another Guardroom, whic hwas used by the body guards to protect the monarch, during Gustav III and Karl XIV resign. There are marble statues of Swedish kings, as well as more cabinets with ordiments and diaramas. The older Tre Kronor Castle was destroyed in May 1697 by fire, but this is how it would have looked before that. Later we will visit the Tre Kronor Castle in the bowels of the palace.

The Council Chamber is another splendid room which is used a few times a year for Cabinet meetings. It has the most enormous chandeliers and yellow and blue explosed panels were designed by Axel Nyström in 1826.

The Audience Chamber was originally meant to be a state bedchamber, but was instead used as a room for Gustav III to hold audiences. The exquisite ceiling was painted by Jacques Foucquet and René Chauveau around 1700. In the centre there is the lovers, Venus and Mars.

Gustav III’s State Bedchamber was used a sthe bedchamber and where Gustav III held reception during his morning toilette. He actually died in the room, after being shot by masked ball in the opera house in 1792. The ceiling was also painted by Jacques Foucquet and René Chauveau and depicts the upbringing of Karl XII.

Perhaps the most exquisite room in the palace is Karl XI’s Gallery. It is designed in Swedish baroque. It is often used for banquets and long tables are placed in the centre, seating 170 guests. It was inspired by the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and each window corresponds with the mirror on the adjacent wall.

The next room we came across was Sofia Magdalena’s State Bedchamber, furnished by Jean Eric Rehn in 1770s. The ceiling depicts Mother Svea and females of the four continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

The Don Quixote Room was perhaps more beautiful exciting in the last room. It has tapestries adorning the walls, telling the story of Don Quixote and were made in Paris.

The last room we saw in the State Apartments was The White Sea. This room is so gorgeous, colourful and airy. It is used as a large salon, when banquets are held in Karl XI’s Gallery. It has oak parquet floor and beatiful ceiling paintings by Domenico Francia and Guillaume-Thomas Raphael Taraval.

So that was the end our our visit to the Royal Apartments. At this point we gave back our audio guides and moved on to the next part of our visit.


Museum Tre Kronor

The next part of our visit was visiting the Museum Tre Kronor, which is underneath the Royal Palace. Here you can see some of the original parts of the castle and learn about the fire of 1697, which ravaged the palace.

The fire was originally started in the Hall of State attic and five people were immediately including the Chief Fire Watcher and his assistants. All were released except the Chief and two assistant, who were sentenced to death. The King decided to communte the sentence to running the gandet seven times and six years hard labour. This punishment had the prisoner running between two lines of solders and beaten with sticks. Only one of the assistants survived this punishment.

Its not all doom and gloom down here. There are also reproduced historical costumes, which would have been worn by people living between 1250 and 1697. There are also items saved by the fire, like Queen Dowager Hedvig Elenora desk. Archaelogical discoveries have been made, which found animal skeletons, which would have been on the menu. Octavia had fun dressing as a little soldier too.