The youth hostel where we stayed was great. It's a former prison on a lovely green island right in the center of Stockholm and the hotel rooms are the old cells. Karin and I shared a room, and the boys shared one in a different wing. We girls got the one with the bathroom and shower, in the more modern section of the prison. It was just renovated (again) to add the bathrooms and our room was fresh and clearly designed for comfort, with great little design touches to remind you where you were: the mirror looked like a guillotine. There were copies of old police gazettes and prisoners call sheets on the underside of the top bunk and steel shutters on the surprisingly large windows. The cells were actually wider than I expected. I could touch fingertips to both sides of the cells at Alcatraz, but here the width was at least another foot. We even had a flat screen TV mounted up in one corner.
Anders and Martin's cell, however, had much more of that old-time prison cell feeling with utilitarian steel bunkbeds, lockers and a little table with one steel chair. Martin thought it was highly unfair that our cell was so much nicer, so the kids switched off halfway through our stay. We stopped at the grocery store and bought breakfast fixings to use in the guest kitchen, to save a little money. We had great luck with the weather: it was chilly, but the sun was shining the first 3 days and even though the last day was cloudy and rained a bit, overall we thought we really lucked out for April in Sweden!
After we dropped our stuff off at the hostel, we got a recommendation for a sushi place from the reception desk and headed back out only to find that all the sushi places in Stockholm are apparently closed on Mondays, so we ended up at a Chinese restaurant and then went to Gamla Stan to walk around the old town at night. Anders showed the kids where he stood guard 2 days during his military service at the palace years ago.
We went to Vasa Museum the first full day, and toured the royal ship that was raised from Stockholm harbor after it tipped over and sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. In the afternoon we walked all over Skansen, but since the season hasn't started yet, there wasn't much to see except for the Nordic animals. There were a couple of blue herons or cranes of some sort that were stealing fish from the otters and while Anders was watching, one of the cranes was attacked, pulled underwater and killed by the otters who then proceeded to nonchalantly dine on it while its mate stood forlornly in the next enclosure over, casting confused glances over to where it obviously expected it to appear from.
On day 2 we stopped and visited Katarina Hissen, with views over central Stockholm, then visited the Royal Palace, toured the Armoury and the Treasury and saw the Changing of the Guards. The long line for the royal apartments deterred us, though, so we walked around Gamla Stan and went to Ben & Jerry's for ice cream before heading to Aquaria for the afternoon. In the evening, after much badgering, we gave in and found a movie theater and took the kids to see Monsters vs Aliens. The kids loved it; Anders and I thought it was pretty stupid, though it had some funny moments and lines.
The 3rd day was all museum: first a long train ride north of the city to the National Natural History Museum with its IMAX theater. Some of the exhibits were dusty, creaky with age and in desperate need of renovation. Others were brilliantly done, obviously newer and very well thought-out. Unfortunately, the 2 shows the kids most wanted to see at the IMAX Cosmonova theater were already sold out by the time we got there, so we had to settle for a space show which felt rather dated. The afternoon was spent at the Technical Museum, where the kids went on a egg hunt. I confess I was expecting more of a hands-on science museum, but it was exactly what the name implied: a museum of technical history which a huge machine hall, exhibits on the space program, the telephone and printing, and inventions by women. Up on the top floor was finally a children's area that DID have the hands-on stuff that I had thought we'd find and we had a fun couple of hours there. The museum closed at 8, and by 7 p.m. we were ready to go, so we walked over to Kaknästornet and up to the 30th floor for the panoramic view of the city and archipelago.
On Thursday, we got up super early, ate breakfast, cleaned the rooms, checked out and took the commuter train to Södertälje, 40 minutes south of Stockholm, where we spent the entire day at Tom Tits Experiment—FINALLY the hands-on children's science museum that we had hoped for. It was AWESOME. 4 floors of all kinds of things for kids and adults alike to try out and play with and so on. By the time we left at 3 p.m. to catch the express train back to Lund, we were all completely saturated with everything we'd seen during the day and we didn't even get to the outside park which was still closed to visitors until summer!
All in all, a good trip, if a bit too busy for a really relaxing vacation. :) We didn't even make it to Junibacken and Gröna Lund, the amusement park, was still closed for the season!
Karin in front of our Cell 130
Martin reading in the cell room window
Side view of the Vasa
Animal watching at Skansen—we were petting goats and laughing at their antics
View from Katarina Hissen
Stortorget in Stockholm—We sat on the curb in the sunshine, eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream cones and people-watching
Butterfly exhibit at Aquaria
BIGGEST UGHIEST BIRTHDAY WISHES to thistimearound, a bouquet of them to kissekat and bright belated ones to reebert!