Combination Lock

One of the exhibits in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm showed a combination lock for a chest, recovered when the ship was salvaged. This picture shows the inside of the chest, so that you can see the mechanism.


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Vasa Museum – Stockholm

In 1626 King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden commissioned a warship that was to be the pride of his fleet and secure his dominance of the Baltic Sea. The ship was completed in 1628 and on her maiden voyage sailed less than a mile before she began to list and then, promptly capsized and sank. The bronze cannons were salvaged, but then the ship was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered and salvaged in 1961. The brackish waters near Stockholm, combined with low oxygen levels, in part due to pollution, meant that the ship was amazingly well preserved. So much so, that after extensive preservation work, a museum was built around the ship. The ship is almost fully intact and provides unique insight into 17th century ship building. Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of the museum.

The lighter colored wood in this picture is restored, but all the dark wood is original. It gives you a sense of just how complete it is.

Cannon ports

The Vasa had two cannon decks as well as a third set of cannons on the top deck. This made it top heavy and may have contributed to its sinking. The lower cannon ports were also very close to the waterline, which didn’t help.

Elaborate decorations

You can see people in the lower left on this picture. They give you a sense of scale.

If you are in Stockholm, I highly recommend a visit to the Vasa Museum. Plan on making it a day.

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More Cherry Blossoms

When we were in Budapest the cherry blossoms were at their peak, perhaps even a day or two past peak. The ground was beginning to be covered with “drifts” of fallen petals. A week later, the cherry blossoms in Stockholm weren’t quite as far along (not surprising, given how much further north it is). But they were still beautiful.

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Stockholm Central Station

On the sidewalk, just outside of Stockholm Central Station, we spotted a pair of ducks, calmly sleeping on the sidewalk in a very small puddle of water. I know that Stockholm is a pedestrian friendly city, but this may be going a bit too far. Or maybe not…

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I’m Not Making This Up

We are back home now, but over the next week I want to continue posting a few random observations about our trip. I’ll begin with the Swedish Krona (SEK). Perhaps you’re wondering what the Krona looks like or what denominations are in circulation? Unfortunately I can’t help you because I never saw any. Not once. And if you were unfortunate enough to have exchanged currency at the airport, you’d have trouble finding anywhere to spend it. Physical currency attracts the same level of curiosity that a 45 RPM record would here – and it’s almost as difficult to use. You think I’m joking? I took this picture at a public toilet that charged 10 SEK (about one dollar) to use. If you look closely you will see that there isn’t a coin slot to pay, but a pad to tap your credit card.

Public washroom in Stockholm

The other thing you’ll notice is that the Swedes have neatly sidestepped the whole bathroom gender issue that gets some people all worked up these days. Build single person washrooms that are gender neutral. Who knew it could be so easy?

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A Walk in the Park

It was another lovely spring day in Stockholm, so we went for a long walk (10 km) along the waterfront and through a few parks, all within the city limits. For the first part of the walk we had water on one side, and impressive old buildings on the other.

Along the waterfront

And then we were into parks. This is just one of the parks we walked through today. There are a number of large parks within Stockholm city limits. You can’t see any people in this picture, but there were many people outside enjoying the weather. On the city streets it was even worse – it was wall to wall people.

Parkland within the city

One of the parks was dedicated to sculptures. Here is one example.

And then, it was back to the city.

Tomorrow will be cooler, so we will be visiting a museum.

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It was a lovely sunny day, with the temperature near 20 Celsius. Apparently this is the first really nice day of spring this year, and it felt like the sunshine brought everyone out onto the street. We used the day to just walk around outside and take in the city. We started by walking over the bridge into the old city.

And then we just wandered, taking in the architecture.

We headed south into Sodermalm, eventually ending up on a hilltop providing lovely views of Stockholm. The warm weather, and sensible liquor licensing laws, brought people up onto the hill where many groups were enjoying chatting with friends while sharing a glass of Prosecco. Very civilized.

Views of Stockholm

More walking is planned for Saturday, as it will be sunny again. Sunday won’t be quite as nice, so that will likely be a day for museums.

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Travel Day

Yesterday was a travel day, flying from Budapest to Stockholm. The experience nicely illustrates why I don’t entirely miss traveling for business. If things can go wrong, they will go wrong. And of course, they obviously can go wrong. But in the end, you muddle through and it more of less works out – as long as you remain calm.

Shortly before landing in Stockholm

We had a tight connection through Frankfurt. Our plane was delayed coming into Budapest, so we were delayed getting away. That changed a tight connection into a very tight connection, but we were assured we were okay. We would be met at the gate by an agent who would expedite our transfer to our next flight. And it almost worked too. But it appears our late arrival meant our scheduled gate wasn’t available, and we were sent to a “non-Schengen” gate. Why is that significant? We’ll, if we de-planed using a jetway, we would need to clear customs, which is definitely not the way to make a quick connection. So a bus took us to a Schengen gate … after everyone was off the plane. And even with all the confusion, we almost made it. As we were being shuttled to Lufthansa customer service, we came within 10 meters of our plane … just close enough to wave as it was pulling away. Then things got interesting. I received a notice that we had been rebooked … for the next day … with a 7:00 AM departure … which meant having to be up before 4:00 AM. That was the low point of the day. But it turned out the human agent (rather than the automated booking program) could put us on a 4:00 PM flight the same day, which had us in Stockholm in time for dinner.

The view while walking to dinner

So in the end, everything worked out. We are looking forward to the next few days in Stockholm.

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Quite a Hike

We had a tour of the castle on the Buda side on Sunday, but that time we took a bus to the base of the hill. Today we decided to walk from our hotel, then climb up the steps to the castle complex. All told, we walked about 10 km, so we felt we earned our wine with dinner. The first interesting sight we saw along the way was a church with a tiled roof. It wasn’t the tiled roof that made it stand out, but the fact that it was a Protestant church. I think it was the first one we’ve seen on this trip.

Protestant Church – with yet another tiled roof

When we got to the top of the hill we spotted a restaurant in the Fisherman’s Bastion. It had lovely views over the river and a window table that was just coming free. We took it and had a lovely lunch overlooking the Danube.

Lunch With a View

After lunch we walked around the outside of the castle complex. On Sunday we stayed mainly in the central area, but once you get a little off the beaten path you find interesting details. We’ve seen many tiled roofs this week, but most of them have been on churches. This wasn’t – I think it was the archives. But it was very beautiful, no matter what it was.

Half of the walk around the castle complex is planted in cherry trees, and they are in full bloom now. In this case our timing was perfect.

Cherry Blossoms

The petals are beginning to fall, coating the ground with something that looks a little like snow or hail, but is far more pleasant. I definitely prefer this.

And then we headed down the hill to the Danube. This picture gives you a sense of how far down we had to come – and how far up we had to go to get there in the first place. If you zoom in on this picture, near the statue on the top of the walls you can see tiny people. That is where we were 20 minutes earlier.

As we headed back to the Pest side of the city, we spotted a monument that we’d first seen at breakfast as we sailed into Budapest. It was the perfect angle, almost making it look as if the saint (it has to be a saint, right?) was summoning the heavens…

It’s a good final image of Budapest. Tomorrow we fly to Stockholm.

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A Quiet Day in Budapest

We took it easy today, mostly just walking around Budapest and enjoying the lovely spring weather. We began by heading up towards Hero’s Square. Along the way, we came across this, which certainly qualifies as an interesting use for a car.

An Unusual Flower Planter

After arriving at the Hero’s Square, we started walking down the boulevard heading toward the Danube. We stopped for a delightful light lunch, sitting outside in the sunshine. Lunch was delicious, and the price was amazingly reasonable. After lunch, we continued walking toward the Danube, eventually passing by the Terror Museum. It appears that the name is designed to be seen from the air.

We decided against spending the afternoon in the museum (you really need to be in the right frame of mind for that), but we did look at the installations in front of the museum. One was a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Continuing down the street, we came across many statues, most of them with swords. Here is a fairly typical one.

The buildings seem to have a mix of architectural styles that can only be described as “eclectic”. Here are two examples near each other, along the boulevard, that give a sense of what I mean.

On our way back to the hotel we walked through St. Stephen’s Square. I could show you a picture of the cathedral, but … a cathedral is just a cathedral. But the decorative paving stones in front of the cathedral were far more interesting (to me) so I’ll show those instead.

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