Pancakes for breakfast this morning, courtesy of the supermarket trip yesterday so the kids were happy! I'd arranged for the inspection to happen at 10am so we got packed up and I cleaned the hut as requested using flash wipes and vacuuming. It was looking spic and span, but when the 'cleaner' came she insisted that there was dirt and articles on the floor under the couches and by the bathroom. I was not impressed as the place was certainly in the same condition if not better than we'd found it. She made jason get down and sweep under the furniture and sure enough what turns up but old contact lenses. Obviously not ours. Sheesh - she's onto a good wicket. Employed as a cleaner but not having to do any cleaning! I said at reception that if I was going to have to do extra cleaning they should reduce the prices!
We left Uppsala bound for Stockholm, only an hour or so away. Didn't know what to expect and just needed to kill some time before the ferry in the evening. Looked through the trusty LP and decided to go to Skansen. Driving through Stockholm I was uber impressed. A proper, BIG city; very cosmopolitan; lovely harbours and waterways; gorgeous classical and stately buildings; trams and bicycles. So so pretty. And the people! A very good-looking bunch. And very fashionable with unique and groovy clothes styles.
Thanks to ms TT we emerged near Skansen and after only moderate arguing found a park! Now how to describe Skansen? A cross between a fun park and an educational experience, it's the worlds first open air museum, sprawled over a large hill near Djurgarden - a large park. Although it's close to the city it's on another island separated by a bridge and feels a world away. Founded by Artur Hazelius in 1891 it's got traditional buildings mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries brought from all over Sweden and set up to represent a scaled down version of the country. E.g, buildings from the south are at the bottom of the park, buildings from the north at the top. It has farms, mills, mines, traditional Sami camps, towns with shops and trades, a church and school, fairgrounds and native animals. We loved poking around all the traditional shops in town like the pottery, glassblowers (where you could watch them working), pharmacy and bakers. We got some delicious Swedish pastries from there - fresh out of the oven. Wandering the premises and in many of the buildings they had traditionally dressed people who could give more information about each place.
We rode the funicular up to the top and picnicked on a grassy lawn near a farm. Afterwards we found the childrens animals, including goats that they could pet, rabbits and guinea pigs. Outside the rabbit enclosure there was a large plastic box half filled with dummies, every color imaginable. There were also dummies hanging from a chain strung around the box. Emily was asking what it was, and I wondered if it was some kind of art installation. A Swedish lady overheard our confusion and explained that it's an old Swedish story that children are supposed to give their dummies to the rabbits at Skansen. Many children come here to put their dummies in the box. What a great idea! We were joking that we wished you could leave thumbs as well!
Among the native animals we saw reindeer (I never knew their antlers were fuzzy), elk (huge), and brown bears. We walked downhill past the church, English manor and schoolhouse where em was allowed to sit at a desk and write on a slate. She was most amazed that they used to use real rabbits feet as erasers!
At the fairground, the girls had their first try of candy floss and went on some rides. I did the swings which always makes me feel young and carefree! Nothing like swinging your legs mid-air! The girls favorite was some dodgem cars but with vans painted as emergency vehicles. Em went in the police van and Meg in the ambulance. After inserting coins directly into the vans, they were able to press on the accelerator and careen around aiming for each other! Meg wasn't so good at the steering so Jason was rushing around directing her, pulling em away from the edge, separating the vehicles after each collision and desperately trying to stay out of their way! The girls were hysterical with laughter and it was great fun to watch.
After finally leaving Skansen late in the afternoon we took the tram on a rather unsuccessful trip to the city looking for an Internet cafe, before returning and heading to the ferry terminal.
After loading onto the ferry, you have to leave the car and take the lift up to the floors with cabins on. We were waiting in the small lift lobby when our noses alerted us to the arrival of an incredibly ripe smell. On the heels of this came a most degenerate and odd couple. In their late thirties, the man was slim with bedraggled long blonde hair, disheveled and baggy clothes and an unassuming posture. The female was even worse. She had long unruly bleached hair, matted and untidy. A thick featured face slashed with bright lipstick and streaks of rouge. What was once a white shirt did not quite meet over a rotund belly. A bandage from fingers to forearm was brown and caked with dirt. Bare and hairy legs ended in filthy, calloused feet with the most horrendous opaque nails. This odd couple were holding a plastic carrier with a small, noisy dog inside, and three other dogs on leads. There was a long haired collie and an Alsatian, both about waist height, and another even bigger wolfhound. We weren't sure if the stench came from the dogs or the people! I couldn't believe that these dogs were even allowed on the boat, let alone that thu were waiting for the lift!
Jason decided to walk up with the girls, leaving me with felix and the bags. When the lift finally came, there were 5 people plus felix and those dogs squeezed in. Unfortunately they got out on our floor and just outside the lift two of the dogs started snarling and attacking each other. Their owners had no control and I was really scared for felix. As soon as I found our cabin I was telling Jason but then the couple and their pack of hounds came past and the dogs were still fighting! They were staying about half the ship length down our corridor and the smell pervaded everything. Funny how smell can evoke such strong emotions for me, almost like physical memories. This had a real impact and has made me feel unsafe, cross and scared on this boat.
Apparently we lose an hour on this crossing so will try to get some sleep.