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Norway, Sweden part V: Stockholm

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2007

From Bergen, my husband, Don, and I took the train back to Oslo, Norway. We planned to spend the night in Oslo. Nevertheless, when we talked to the Scan-Rail information clerk, we learned that many trains were cancelled because of Easter week. We took the night train to Stockholm, Sweden.

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We arrived unwashed in Stockholm at 7 a.m. We waited 2½ hours for Hotel Centrum to open. We wanted information about the ancient island of Gotland. Hotel Centrum only made hotel reservations and sent us to Gotland City Tourist Information. Within 15 minutes, we had ferry tickets and reservations in a Best Western two days hence.

Before we left Juneau, we knew we had to visit Gotland. Lonely Planet praises the island: "Gotland, the largest of the Baltic islands, is also one of the most historical regions in Sweden, with almost 100 medieval churches and an untold number of prehistoric sites."

NORWAY

Bergen: The Oslo-Bergen train trip is "billed as one of the most spectacular rail journeys on Earth." A must-see is Bergen's Hanseatic Museum. Eat lunch or dinner at the Dickens Restaurant and enjoy breakfast at the Bergen railway station's café, which is 100 years old.

Fredrikstad: Take the ferry across the river to this 18th and 19th century town. Wander around old town Fredrikstad and eat a traditional Norwegian meal at the Major-Stuen Restaurant.

Oslo: Oslo has many museums worth visiting: Nobel Peace Center, Viking Ship Museum, Norwegian Folk Museum and Kon-Tiki Museum. Don't miss Munch's various versions of the "Scream" in the National Gallery. The café's green marble room is incredibly beautiful. Don't miss the Norwegian Resistance Museum; you will be drained by the horror.

SWEDEN

Sigtuna: Sweden's oldest town was founded in A.D. 980. More than 150 runic stones have been found in the area. Most of the runic stones in the town have translations in Swedish and English. Walk around town and find runic stones and the ruins of 10 churches. Visit St. Mary's Church.

Gothenburg: See Stadsmuseum's (City Museum) exhibits of prehistory and the stone, bronze and iron ages, as well as parts of a Viking ship. Eat a traditional Swedish lunch in the museum's restaurant, the Barrique Wine Bar. Take the ferry to Klippan and admire the 18th century sailors' cottages and St. Bergittas Chapel. Return to Gothenburg and enjoy an evening meal at the City Pub.

Stockholm: The capital is built on islands. Don't miss the Vasa Museum that was built to accommodate the ship that sank on its maiden voyage before it got out of the harbor in 1628. At the National Museum, the royal palace's tours and museums and the Stockholm Cathedral's massive statue "St. George Killing the Dragon." Wander into the city's old town. Eat at Zum Franziskaner, Stockholm's oldest restaurant, which has been serving meals since 1421.

Uppsala: The campus of Uppsala University was founded in 1477. The Uppsala University Museum features a preserved 17th century anatomical theater and Carl Linnaeus' large folio books of plant classification. Linnaeus' house and gardens are maintained and open to visitors. Nobel Peace laureates Nathan Soderblom and Emanuel Swedenborg are buried in the Uppsala Cathedral. Former U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold is honored in the Chapel of Peace.

Visby Gotland: Visby is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage town. On this Baltic island are 100 medieval churches and an "untold" number of prehistoric sites. Walk outside and inside the 13th century walls. Admire the walls and the walls' 40 towers. Visit the Cathedral of St. Marie. Eat at the Lindgarden Restaurant and O'Leary's Irish Pub decorated with Boston sports teams collectibles and Kennedy family collectibles.

We returned to the train station and Hotel Centrum, and within five minutes, we were booked into the Hotel Reisen located in the old town. Most of the hotels offered special fares because most of the Swedes also were taking their Easter holiday at the ski resorts or country cabins.

The Hotel Reisen is in an upscale neighborhood several blocks from the king's castle. The interior of the hotel is luxurious with thick carpets, plush chairs and sofas, wood paneling and art.

After we took showers and hung a bit of laundry on the heated towel racks, we enjoyed lunch at the Zum Franziskaner, the oldest restaurant in Stockholm. The restaurant began serving meals in 1421! The restaurant has five dining rooms, an extensive beer stein collection, murals on the walls, paneled booths and original Arts and Crafts lights and lamps.

We ordered from the traditional Swedish menu. Don had country sausage with creamed potatoes and a beer. I enjoyed the Wiener schnitzel with fresh peas and fried potatoes and a glass of wine.

When I paid for the meal our waiter who was not fluent in English became very excited when he saw "Alaska Airlines" on my credit card. He asked many questions about Alaska.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel and I put on my woolly long johns. Stockholm is built on islands and the wind blowing over the harbors and inlets was cold in April. We wandered in the Gamla Stan (the old town) and the lanes. Outside one of the flats (apartments), a resident had pulled up three cobblestones and planted a wee Easter garden of daffodils and crocuses with two miniature resin chickens and a brown bunny. We toured the Stockholm Cathedral, which has an incredible and massive 15th century statue, "St. George Killing the Dragon."

In the evening, we ate large chicken caesar salads in the pub at Reisen Hotel. The restaurant was closed for Easter. The pub was beautifully decorated in red, black, blue and white. The art on the brick and paneled walls featured blue, white and red Chinese exported china and Chinese kimonos as well as a drawing of an emperor and empress.

The next morning, we enjoyed a large delicious breakfast buffet. Unlike most of our buffet breakfasts, the tables were set with silverware, napkins and cups and saucers. Instead of busing our own dishes, the waitresses and waiters cleared our dishes as we finished a course, and they poured more coffee and tea.

Don's goal for the morning was to find and visit the Armemuseum (army museum). We walked a mile to the museum. The gate was locked. A small sign was set back too far to read except for the words "Easter Hours." We could not read the dates or times.

We finally found a museum that was open. The Medelhavsmuseet (Mediterranean Antiquities) was open. We spent about an hour looking at Egyptian, Greek, Cypriot and Roman artifacts. The mummified cat seemed to be the favorite artifact. The Good Friday visitors, however, only saw photos of the cute cat mummy because the mummy is kept in a controlled environment. I was rather depressed by this museum because I personally believe that all artifacts taken or stolen from other countries should be returned to their country of origin.

From the museum, we walked to the Gamla Stan and I enjoyed a lunch of beef stuffed with cucumbers and sour cream. Don reported that his hamburger was the best he ever ate. Hamburgers are popular in Scandinavia and Europe.

After lunch, we wandered around the Gamla Stan. We returned to the Reisen Hotel and I took a couple photos of the hotel. Only then did I notice for the first time the five-star plaque near the entry door. We definitely received a special fare from the Reisen Hotel.

When we walked inside to reception, I also noticed that Pippi Longstocking books were for sale. One of my sisters has loved Pippi Longstocking stories since grade school.

When I paid for the book for my sister, the desk clerk told me about Selma Lagerlof, another Swedish children's author whose portrait is on the 20 konor bill and featured on the other side of the bill is the main character, Nils, riding on the back of a gander.

The elementary schools use "The Wonderful Adventures of Nils" to teach Swedish geography. I love the fact that a children's author is featured on Swedish money.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.



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