Stockholm as a tourist

Rounding up our last days in Sweden, we went back to Stockholm to stay with L & L and decided to have our first crack being proper tourists in a Large European City (sorry Norrköping).  We bought a 3-day Stockholm Card, which gives you free travel on public transport and free entry to around 80 different museums and attractions.

There’s different formulas – you can buy a one-day card or up to a five-day card.  Basically the way the maths is going to work is, if you can fit three things into a day, you’re going to save money.  If you can only fit two things in, you’re going to break even.

The crucial part of this formula is Children.  Are the kids going to be up for three attractions a day?  So we pitched it to them, told them they had to commit to 3 a day and they said yes.  Because that’s usually what kids say.  It doesn’t really mean anything.  All they’re really signing up for is a begrudging acceptance that they aren’t allowed to complain too loudly when you’re walking three blocks to Museum number 2, or hurrying them out of Museum number 2 so you can get to Museum number 3 before it shuts.

Anyway, it turns out most of the museums that could look boring are actually pretty cool and have an engaging, intelligent focus on young visitors.  Below is a quick run-down of what we did and how the kids found it.  Meanwhile, treat yourself to a picture of Stortoget, the main square in Gamla Stan which is the old town of Stockholm – around 850 years old in fact.



DAY 1:

I’ll just throw in that we started the day by getting off at Stockholm south station and walking up Mosebacke (a large hill) to get a nice view over all of Stockholm.  Mosebacke’s quite funky too – recommend.  Anyway, on with the Museum Round-Up:

Royal Castle – Treasury

The English tour guide gives you a good potted history of the castle itself, and then shows you the treasury which contains crowns, swords, orbs, sceptres and other shiny things.  That can go on for a bit, but the kids can just drop out of the audience and cruise around the cabinets of shiny things independently.  The highlight is probably Gustav Vasa’s sword which is around 500 years old.  We also learned that no Swedish monarch has had a coronation ceremony since the 1870s.  The reason is when that king died in 1907, Sweden was very poor, struggling to feed its own people, and the king decided an expensive coronation probably wasn’t the best use of public funds.  Since then, no monarch has decided it’s a good use of public funds, and they are crowned in a simple ceremony up there with a Town Hall wedding.  Go Swedes!

Royal Castle – Armoury

Sounds like it’s all going to be swords and armour (yawn), actually there’s all sorts of surprises in here!  The vest that Gustav III was wearing when he was shot in the Royal Theatre in 1792 – complete with bullet hole!  A stuffed horse!  The cuuuuuuute little baby clothes worn by various 20th century Swedish monarchs as children!  A room with dress-up clothes for kids and a throne for them to sit on.  As well as bucket-loads of old swords, guns, halberds, crossbows, etc.

Royal Canal Boat Trip

This is really an excuse to rest the feet, but it’s pretty interesting and on a nice weather day you can see everything from the Royal Theatre (yep, where Gustav III was shot) to the pretty island of Djurgården and out into the larger harbour where you can see that Swedes are really into their boating.

Nobel Museum

Has a really good kids activity sheet, of the “go and find who invented the …” sort of thing.  And if you fill it all in, you get a gold-covered chocolate Nobel medal!  Alright!


DAY 2:

Historical Museum

This is to get your Viking Fix.  Very interesting displays, including how they layout grave sites that have been discovered and the items recovered from them.  Then in the courtyard they had a “meet a Viking” day for kids with a Viking village set up, you could do pottery, make jewellery, story time (in Swedish) and the people stationed at the activities all had interesting stories as well.  We spent ages there, the kids were right into it.  We had to drag them out to get to…


The absolute highlight for me, and I want to go back again.  Skansen says that it is an “outdoor museum”.  Okay.  What it means is that they have recreated old Swedish towns, farms, schools … and it takes a while to dawn on you why it’s so good.  Basically for most Ye Olde Themee Parke places they have knocked up facsimiles of what Ye Olde Buildinges looked like.  At Skansen they are the real deal – actual houses, shops, barns, all picked up and moved on site.  Not just wooden buildings – huge stone mansions that made you wonder how the heck they got it there.  But the overall effect is that it’s convincing, it’s good, you really feel like you have stepped back in time.

And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, there is a zoo dedicated to Nordic animals.  We got to see wolves, elk, owls and best of all – reindeer.  They were quite excellent.  Fairly small, furry, some with ridiculous antlers, you really did want to sneak one out of the park and take it home.

The only negative thing about Skansen was that was where we happened to be when we rang the garage about Car, and learned that its diagnosis was terminal.  That sort of took the gloss of that day a bit, and that’s why I really want to go back to Skansen.  That and the fact I’ve been working on my reindeer disguise…



Vasa Museum

It might be quite good.  Unfortunately the queue to get in looked about 2 hours long.  So, we didn’t.  Instead we caught a bus to …

Technology Museum

The kids could have spent  A L L   D A Y  here because they had a special exhibition on: The History Of Computer Games.  You name it, it was here, everything from Pong to World of Warcraft, Atari consoles, Donkey Kong, even this crazy blue and white game thing we had at home called Earth Invaders.  We literally had to drag them out to carry on to …

SkyView at Globen

South of central Stockholm, the Globen is a multi-sport (ie, ice hockey and maybe something else) arena next door to a shopping centre and FC Hammarby’s brand new stadium with the artificial grass that’s heaps better than AIK’s artificial that goes mouldy… (oops).  Anyways, the Skyview is a small dome that scoots up the side of the bigger dome so you can get a view over Stockholm.  It’s OK – you wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t free on your Stockholm card.  Oh but in the shopping mall downstairs, the little sweetshop in there has the best, biggest and cheapest GB ice creams.  That might be worth the trip out to Globen.


And that’s Hej då from us

Really the last “thing” we did in Sweden is what has been the kids’ favourite activity all along: swimming.   This last swim in the lake at Skogås near L & L’s place.  Apparently this lake freezes over in winter, so we can come back and go skating or ice fishing.

Bye bye!



Here you go, here’s your snaps:


One of the buildings that got, oh, casually picked up and taken to Skansen.  No biggie:


Reindeer!!!  Love them…


Funky outdoor bar and amazing view from Mosebacke:


Molly playing Phoenix at the Technology Museum:


The Technology Museum also has a recreation of a mine.  In the basement.  Obviously.


Skyview at Globen, and the view from Skyview:

IMAG0422 IMAG0436


Backgården and Nyköping

Rewind a bit – we’re in Germany right now, but I’m a bit behind on my “What we saw and did” posts – they’re the ones people like, because they have pictures in them.  So after Öland we had a couple of days in Norrköping, but it was getting pretty crowded with eight of us in P and H’s apartment. And it was, like, 30 degrees in the day and not much less at night, so H decided we should drive about an hour away to her parents’ farm and stay there for the week.

The farm is called Backgården (it’s pronounced “back-Gordon”) and it’s in Södermanland, the region of Sweden north of Norrköping and south of Stockholm. The farm used to do milk – organic since way before it was fashionable – but now H’s parents are scaling back and they have a small herd of beef cattle.

Our family took what used to be a flat for farm workers – that’s it in the right of the picture below:IMAG0354

We spent three days here, swimming in the nearby lakes and just hanging out.



On Wednesday the kids and I did a trip into Nyköping, the major town in Södermanland. Nyköping has a cool little waterfront area, and Wednesday nights is “classic car night” down by the water.


There’s a theme every week, this week it was British cars – dozens of jags, MGs, Lotus, and even a pristine Rolls Royce that used to belong to Winston Churchill. Anyway, here’s a picture of one of the more interesting cars: a Land Rover that looks like a tent landed on its roof:



Back on the farm, on the second-last day, the boys got stuck into finishing a treehouse they had started in the forest near the farm – only about 600-700m from the house actually.  Here are Jack and J preparing a fallen tree:



And here’s one of Molly sitting in the finished product. In fact the kids slept the night in the treehouse! Well, Molly started the night there and lasted about half an hour… but the three boys were there under the tarpaulin until morning.




Then on the last day we went for a walk around the creek that runs through the farm to have a look at the work of the beavers. Check out this stump – it’s one of dozens around the creek where the beavers have gnawed through and tried to get them to fall across the creek. We also saw two otters living in one of the old beaver lodges. Pretty cool!



Adventure time!

News of the demise of Car came halfway through a 3-day tour around the sights of central Stockholm which, despite our transport setback, we really enjoyed. When I get a bit more internetness than Swedish rail’s 200Mb, I’ll do a proper travel post with pictures, and discuss whether the Stockholm Card is good value.

Anyway, we are feeling much more optimistic today, and right now I’m sitting on a train from Stockholm to Karlsruhe in Germany; we only booked it last night at 11:30pm, and now we’re off!!

Our good friends have come to our rescue. L and L in Stockholm have offered to sell Car online, the mechanic said we might get a few hundred dollars for it. I actually have a bit of a “thing” about leaving my mess for others to clean up, particularly cars, so I’m so grateful to the Ls for helping us with that.

Then my friend G, who has family in Germany, has offered her sister’s help to put us up AND find Car II. Her husband knows mechanics and has already some suggestions. And obviously this is part of us heading to Strasbourg anyway.

Joe and I talked about spending, well, unbudgeted money on Car II, or whether we should cut our losses, train to Strasbourg now and look for jobs, then get a car later. But I think we need mobility. What if it doesn’t work out in Strasbourg and we need to move on to Lyon? We have so much gear, we need to be able to chuck it in a car and get moving. And I also need to feel not stuck anywhere. When the car died in Stockholm, we felt stuck. Big time. Gorgeous place to be stuck, but stuck nevertheless.

And it’s a bit different with kids. In London we went quite happily without a car until a month before Jack was born. I want the kids to know we can just get up and go somewhere different without having to walk miles with a backpack – they can do that in their 20s like we did.

So yeah – I still want a car.

And yet here I am on the train as excited as anything! We were trying to book a train for “a couple of days’ time” but there was nothing available. With a bit more furious tapping on his iPad, Joe suddenly showed me a screen and said, “Here. 300 Euros, we go tomorrow morning. Yeah?”

“Far out, tomorrow!

So today we go Stockholm to Copenhagen, change to Hamburg, change to Cologne, and change again to Karlsruhe. We couldn’t get sleepers or couchettes, so it’s just standard Deutsche Bahn hospitality all the way, till 7am tomorrow when we arrive in Karlsruhe. We have three huge backpacks, an enormous suitcase, and another seven support bags.

Oh, also we change at Cologne (with all these bags) at something like 3 in the morning. I have decided not to tell the kids about this. Basically, for our long flight over, I tried to manage their expectations: long flight, lots of bags, jet lag… but they just sort of complain more, really: “and then we’ve STILL go to wait for…” So today we’re going to try an Ignorance is Bliss approach. Oh they will complain! But hopefully only while they’re experiencing a particular inconvenience, not hours beforehand.

How will this trip go? Who knows! What will we do for Molly’s birthday on Monday? No clue!

It’s an adventure, isn’t it?!

Black days

Until now, the worst thing that has happened on this trip is that I had some sort of weird outbreak of acne on my shoulders. Weird. I put it down to different water hardness or whatever. On my first OE, I remember getting a rash from hard water in the first few weeks in London. After a while, I was able to spot newly arrived New Zealanders from their red blotchy faces. True story.

Anyway, everything else so far on this trip has been paradise: sun, swimming, friends, travel – fantastic.

But then we bought our cheap car.

A 1996 2.5L Audi station wagon from a mechanic in Linkoping for SEK 17,000. And, this roughly NZ$3,000 car has done what $3,000 cars can do – unfortunately it’s done it after only a week. We’ve now just paid another $1,700 to get it fixed. And the fix hasn’t worked. We got the phonecall today while we were “enjoying” ourselves at Skansen Museum in Stockholm. It was pretty weird trying to point at the nice exhibits with the kids with your left hand, while your right hand was nursing the enormous financial kick in the guts you’d just had. I really thought the dude could fix it, but we rolled the dice and it just hasn’t worked out.

We are weighing up what to do next, and have a few ideas on the table. But the worst part of all of this is the children, and how this affects their trip – both logistically and emotionally.

We’ve just cancelled going to Legoland on Molly’s birthday. I am gutted. And the hardest part is, I can’t spend the next whatever weeks walking around gutted. The kids didn’t sign up for that. This is where you have to be the adult in this situation. This – this – is hard.

So, avid readers, Real Life has arrived and put my spotty shoulders in perspective.

What will we do?

The most important thing is to work out what we want to do most of all right now. Do we want to say stuff it, and use up our last precious summer time pretending this hasn’t happened, and pay it back later? Do we want to make our move to Strasbourg earlier than we thought, and start seeking the security of jobs and a place to live?

I don’t quite know yet, but I have a few ideas. I’ll keep you posted.