Saturday, June 9, 2012

Vacation 2012, #14: Stockholm

(At the dock. The ship is close in for tendering, and will move further out during the day to enable ferries to come and go.)

Stockholm. Well, not really Stockholm.

Here is one of the issues facing a person who uses a cruise ship as a means of seeing new places. The ship is basically a hotel that moves from place to place letting you see numerous places without having to drag your bags and pack and unpack. (And bringing your food along, don't forget.) This is fabulously handy. But the nature of this kind of travel is that you're always on the move. Cities come and go in a rush without nearly enough time to get to know a place. And especially if you're like me in being a teetotaler and not being very adventurous with food, this leaves you with limited means of getting inside a place. You just have to spend time, and on a cruise it's the one thing you don't have, unless, like our Caribbean cruises, you visit again and again.

Not to complain; we're incredibly lucky to get even a glimpse of all these fantastic places. But it's a limitation that must be grappled with. We're aware of this limitation, of course, which is partly why we've always used cruising as a mid-winter vegetative vacation and tended to do more strenuous, immersion vacations in the summer. This is the first time we've cruised in summer, and it's our first cruise in Europe (Europe has always struck me as a place to see on foot or by train). And we told ourselves in advance that this would be a fact-gathering tour, a chance to see these cities very briefly and decide which, if any, warranted a further look at a later date.

And it has proven very useful for exactly that. Copenhagen: cool, and worth more time; Berlin: definitely in need of more time; Talinn, very cool but a day is probably enough; St. Petersburg: needs more time and a Russia visa, which may or may not be in the cards; Helsinki: cool, but a day is probably fine.

Stockholm posed its own dilemma. For a couple of reasons, our port of call for Stockholm on this cruise was not actually Stockholm, but an hour's ride South in the little port town of Nynäshamn (there was talk of some seasonal restrictions on Stockholm's harbor, plus there was an issue with getting from Stockholm proper all the way back to Amsterdam in the 48 hours allotted). Also, this was the one day of the entire cruise where we could not tie up at a pier, and so tendering operations were in effect (more on that in the next, and final, post). They naturally reserved the first hour's tenders for customers of the officially-sanctioned shore excursions, so by the time the tenders were available for those of us not on a tour it was about 9:30 AM. Susan and I were both pretty walked-out from the previous week, and going into town on our own would mean half an hour on the tender, a 15 minute walk to the train station, a 75 minute train ride into the city. That puts us at about noon. We would need to catch a 2:30 PM train back to Nynäshamn at the latest to make the 4:30 PM all-aboard, and we decided this was just too damn much riding for two hours' walking in a major city. So we opted out and spent a few hours walking around the little port city.

It's actually a really beautiful place, one that reminds me of Minnesota, and especially the rocky parts of Lake Superior's North Shore. I can see why so many Swedes picked this part of the US to move to (though to look around now Sweden looks to be a very happy and functional and prosperous place, and I wonder what conditions prevailed 100 or so years ago to make so many emigrate). But the downside of this is that we did not see anything of one of the premier destinations of the cruise: Stockholm. I suspect this place would be at least as interesting as Copenhagen, and perhaps more so. It's situated on a bunch of islands, and has quite an ancient history. Plus it's one of the world's style capitals. So I suspect there will be a trip somewhere in our future to encompass more time in fabulous Amsterdam, and a stretch of days in Copenhagen and Stockholm, and maybe on to a week in Berlin.  We'll see.

(Brilliant, simple idea: since cruise people want to go to town, follow the line to the train station!)

(Neither very protective nor private. Keeps the snow off, I guess.)

(Nice little high-speed train station.)

(Very nice small boat marina.)

(Alas, time to go. The ship is further out now.)

Next: a two-day run back to Amsterdam, wrap-up and homeward bound.

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