Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Crown Jewels of Sweden

I guess I have been in Stockholm, Sweden 30-40 times. First it was both football and basketball tournaments as a youngster, then for fun with friends, even before we were 18. That is the magic age when you are allowed to drink alcohol in Finland and Sweden.

The most amusing way - and practically the standard way - is to take a ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm. If you fly, the funny thing is that normally your landing time is earlier than the take off time: 50 minutes flight and 1 hour time difference.

If you take the ferry, they leave from Helsinki at around 5 pm, sails all night and is in Stockholm at 9 am. Then you have the day to enjoy the city, before you head back home at 5 pm. Again, you are in Helsinki at about 9. Good time for you to go home to recover - and for the people who came onboard from Stockholm to enjoy Helsinki.

From the City of Turku at South-Western Finland there are also ferries that depart in the morning and arrive in the evening.

Actually the ferries go via Mariehamn, Åland. It is an island between Finland and Sweden that has managed to keep a tax-free right. That means the shopping onboard can be made more attractive vs Finland and Sweden. This applies particularly to alcohol and tobacco that are heavily taxed in both countries.

Both Helsinki and Stockholm are beautiful cities especially at summer time, but when you have been there several times you always need to come up with something sensible to do. You can always spend the day in the bars but at some point it becomes a bit too long trip if that is your only activity. Even if it is an ice bar.
Or as I learnt from a Swedish colleague, "activity" is actually "activitivity" ;o)

Also your priorities for the trip are a bit different depending if you travel with kids or with a bunch of friends...

When the kids were younger, we went to Junibacken, a playful building around Astrid Lindgren's characters and stories. You can meet there Pippi Longstocking - or Pippi Långstrump / Peppi Pitkätossu, visit her house, sit on her horse Lilla Gubbe, take a ride through her stories and see the characters like Karlsson på Taket / Katto Kassinen and others that I can't even remember. If you are in the city with kids, go and check it out.

At summer time also a cruise in the archipelago is good, or if you wish to get more action, go to the amusement park. These both apply also to Helsinki.
Then of course you have all sorts of museums, also one that has got a ship that had been in the bottom of the sea for 100+ years.

Shopping is always a must at some level, my favorite way to do it is in the small shops while walking through the alleys in the old town. Some shops have stuff you can not get from anywhere else. There is also several fantastic places to stop for a coffee and cinnemon roll - kanellbulla / korvapuusti.

If you are staying over night, it is also a very good option for dinner. Many good places to choose from.

More to come in the next episode, when we go back to the ferry...

PS The crown princess has not called so I guess she has got a Sony-Ericsson phone that has ran out of battery ;o)

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