Blog 19 Stockholm
This blog takes us from Stockholm to the islands and rocks of the archipelago where we spent a couple of weeks before thinking about laying up Talisman at the end of this trip.
Stockholm shares with Venice the attractive characteristic of being built on a number of islands. Bridges connect most of them and ferries, water taxis, tour boats and water bus services run non stop at nail biting speed between them. There are three main sea routes through the fjords, thousand islands and rocks to reach the city - we took the wonderful Southerly route know as The Baggensstæket which winds for about 5 miles through the most stunning scenery where a few narrow and shallow passages have been cut to join adjacent waterways with some very smart houses peering through dense woodland or hanging to high cliffs on either side. Finally you enter a wide expanse of sea with the city islands ahead - cruise ships, old sailing boats and craft of every imaginable variety line the waterfronts in vivid displays of colour and form against a backdrop of grand buildings and spires glisten gold and copper green. It really is most impressive, one of the finest harbours I have seen and not unlike Sydney in natural beauty.
Moored in the Wasahamn marina right in the centre of the city and next door to the Vasa museum which is one experience I think you should have before you die. The Vasa being a brand new ( in 1628 ) Royal war ship, the pride of the Swedish fleet which sank as soon as it was launched. The near fresh water, soft mud and ironically 300 years of dumping rubbish into the harbour preserved the ship until it was raised in 1961. Without going on too much, it is in astonishing condition - in fact 98% original and whatever has been replaced has been done so that you can clearly see it is new - whatever you have seen in this nature before there is, in my view, absolutely nothing to match it - if you go, do allow about four hours, all the text is in English and the way the museum is set out is imaginative and outstanding, you will be amazed.
It has been a merciless 30 degrees plus since being here, the quays and parks are lined with sun worshipping Swedes and groups of musicians and actors put on strange public performances each day. We took the ferry to Skeppholmen island opposite the marina to visit the Modern Art Museum and the Swedish Architect and Design centre so now feel a little more cultured for a while - did like the big Dali but wouldn't know where to put it if they gave it to me.
As the day began to cool we cycled 5 minutes to Prince Eugene's lovely garden and house on high ground overlooking the harbour - fantastic location and extremely good sculpture strewn around the garden, several which I could find a place for - e.g. beautiful young girl with a tiny frog - or the Rodin, I don't mind - you choose.
Our French sailing friend came to see us yesterday, they had been held up just North of here. We had met them last year and sailed quite a bit together and now they have decided to come back here to Stockholm to stay for the Winter - even freeze in the ice - no problem, they have it all worked out but they still have to tell Pirate the cat. We will certainly be sailing together again next year.
On to Vaxholm, unique in island character and a great holiday spot for the city people, it has a lovely tiny North harbour with quaint original wooden houses - they were wooden so that they could be set on fire if the Russians came - or any invader. The town is the last line of defence for Stockholm and has a fort which has been destroyed several time then rebuilt but no-one has ever got through. I liked the story which told of the stern attacking German Field Marshal von Moltke it is said he only laughed twice in his life, once in 1881 when he saw the Vaxholm fort he was about to demolish and then when his Mother in Law died. The harbour town has a Mediterranean feel - believable today with the heat and crowds milling the outside bars in the evening light with a great gig from a talented duo, watching the children dance was a hoot. It is now 10:30pm and the temperature has reached comfort level, the sea is flat calm and there are no stars because the sky is too light. Out to a natural harbour tomorrow to swim and cool down.
The archipelago natural harbours are all different, yet all the same, they are recognised natural pools, fjords or bays formed by the rocks and islands with good weather protection where you can anchor or tie up to a rock or tree for an overnight stay and use the facilities which are often provided and maintained, all at no cost. The rocks are sometimes almost cliff face and sometimes almost flat - a learning process of landing and mooring is definitely rapidly learnt - like how slippery all the rocks are when wet and often the natural gradient is just steep enough to make your footing slip back easily. To describe them all is impossible, so let me tell you how it was on one evening at one harbour.
It is 7.30 in the evening, We are swinging at anchor along with eight other yachts and one motor boat in a natural harbour fjord out in the Stockholm archipelago. It is just under a mile long and a third of a mile wide and most of us are laying nearer to the tiny hamlet at its head where a handful of traditional red painted wooden cottages are scattered over the rocks and through the trees, those closest to the waters edge have wooden docks with a moored boat alongside or a sauna hut or somewhere to sit in the evening and worship the Sun. It is drinks and nibbles now - time to soak in the tranquillity which descends every evening, the wind dies and the water becomes glassy, like a silent still lake. The sun shines through a milky veil after the thunderstorm earlier today - but the colours have come back. Long stretches of fine tall reeds of pale green and ochre line the waters edge and occasional massive bedrock breaks through like huge grey whales trying to slip back into the water and behind, a coloured backdrop of broadleaf trees mixed with conifers rise and fall, describing the profile of the rocky land.
There are the noises of children shrieking and laughing from the water learning to row in two small rubber dinghies, others are swimming with their parents from the yachts, and beyond, young men are diving from a jetty with all the bravado they can muster. Astern, a volleyball match is in progress somewhere behind the trees, the game is punctuated by spontaneous cheers and applause until at 8:20 pm the group of young men and women come down to a jetty where their motor boats are moored and as a team unceremoniously jump into the water to swim.
Now, the evening is cooling. A frog starts to croak in the distance, a muffled ripple of laughter from the volleyball players in the trees, the children all on their respective yachts where the Swedish flags hang almost motionless from the stern. The boats swing silently in response to the slightest breath, turning slowly like the hands of a clock, then returning to their original direction. A fish has started feeding a few metres away and there is a plop as he breaks the surface to take a fly - and then again, once more. The farther yachts now stand white against the dark conifers silhouetted by the setting sun and the water back there is like delicately hammered silver with pale streaks of gold. It is hypnotic and mesmerizing and so peaceful.