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Michael’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 20 May 2006

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

MapEntry 34 - Tour Section 1: Copenhagen & Sweden (16th - 19th May)

The first morning of tour started rather well with a bus tour of the city. Immediately it was apparent that we were on a professionally run tour, with huge amounts of information being provided by our tour guide - finally!

Our first stop was at Amalieorg Palace, a palace built by the people. The original palace was destroyed by fire, and the land remained empty for many years till Frederik V decided to build a new palace, but they didn't have the required money. Instead, he offered the land to the four wealthiest families in Denmark, with the proviso that they build 4 identical 'palaces' that face
towards each other in the style of Vatican Square. Not long after they were completed, the royal family took control of the palaces as their own! Frederik even completed the Vatican City look alike by building the Frederikskirke in the model of St. Peter's Basilica. One of the 4 palaces is still used as the home
of the Danish queen, and another was made famous as the place where Princess Mary and Prince Frederik pashed on the balcony after their wedding infront of a packed square of adoring public.

From there we Headed by bus up to the Little Mermaid statue, which in itself was rather crap. On the way though, we passed Gefion Fountain that is much more impressive. It shows a mum, from Sweden, with four oxen, that were formerly her sons. It is said she was given all the land she could plough in one night with
her 4 sons/oxen, and that this land was picked up and flung into the sea, forming the island of Zealand, Denmark, leaving behind Lake Gefion.

At the Little Mermaid statue, people were queued waiting for a photo, then I climbed on to the rock, passes behind her and Clint climbed up and sat on her other side. The lines of Asian tourists waiting for their pictures all started snapping their cameras at us, as if it was the best, and most original, idea of all time... Which probably couldn't be further from the truth. Next stop was the Carlsberg Brewery for the museum tour, and beer tasting. Great
idea at 1130am on the first proper day on tour! Inside the had plenty of information on the history of the company, as well as fermentation techniques etc.

As you have seen, they also had a huge collection of beer bottles through the company's history. The have over 16,000 bottles in their collection. How many they had on display is difficult to judge because of the language barrier. It was written that there are 13,000+ in the exhibition, but elsewhere a sign mention a number just above 10,000? Either way, there was a lot of beer!

Up at the bar we had our two free beer, and tried getting tokens from other people not wanting both of theirs. In the end I had my Pilsner, and a couple boutique beers, Jacobson Saaz Blonde, which is pretty tasty.

Slightly tipsier, the tour splint, and Clint & I headed for lunch, before making our way with Matt to the Resistance Museum, detailing the German occupation of Denmark during WWII. There was a lot of interesting stuff in there, including an Enigma coding machine, plenty of clothing and weapons, war propaganda and
other interesting items. One of the best though was a modified German tank that was commandeered by Danish generals at the end of the war, and driven from Germany to Copenhagen with the words 'Free Denmark' written on the front of it, so everyone knew the war was over.

From there we headed to Rosenborg Slot, a castle like palace, complete with its own moat! Unfortunately it shut at 4pm, the same time that we were kicked out of the resistance museum because it was shutting. We headed back to the main part of town, looking for the Copenhagen casino, in the Radisson Hotel, for a couple quick hands of blackjack to get rid of the end of the of my Danish Kronner. Unfortunately, there are two Radisson Hotels in Copenhagen, and it was the other one with the casino... Maybe we'll hit it on our last night of tour? From there we headed back to the hostel to cook our dinner, and again it was a pretty quiet night.

The following morning, we headed off for Sweden. After about an hour driving we arrived in Helsingor, to catch the ferry to Helsingborg in Sweden.

The port in Denmark is right next to Helsingor Castle, the setting for the Shakespeare story of Hamlet, despite never having personally been there. A few hours on and we stopped for lunch at a 'shopping center'. As if in a gesture of welcoming us to Sweden, the 'shopping center' was really more literally the biggest IKEA I had ever seen, with a couple extra shops thrown on
the side!

We make it to our accomodation late in the day, which is a caravan park about 25 minutes from Stockholm. We all climbed into our small cabins and set up camp. Spaghetti for dinner, and then we all played the introduction game, everyone standing up and talking a bit about themselves. It went well, even if most people didn't (and maybe still don't) believe that I'm an aerospace engineer. That might also have to do with me saying that I was a dolphin trainer after the "Oh, so you're a rocket scientist? That don't impress me much" line, just to keep em guessing. In the days that followed, I also became a travel writer, documentary maker and professional mini-golf player!

The main surprise was John (Lennon) the only Pom bloke, and one of just 3 Poms, saying that he hates Aussies, and chose to go to Scandinavia to get away from 'all the f--king Aussies'. Interesting way to make friends when of the 46 on tour, 36 are Aussies, as well as the bus driver and tour guide!

The sun went down at about 10pm, and we continued to polish off a few more drinks and called it a night some time after midnight for our early start the following day. It was pretty clear that this tour wasn't gonna be the monster piss-up type that happen in europe.

Friday morning we headed in to Stockholm and took a tour of the Town Hall, which is also the home of the Nobel Prize banquet, with 1,300 guests. The town hall also houses the Sweden parliament, and has some incredibly decorated rooms.

From there we wanderd around the old town, Gamal Stan, and caught the over-hyped changing of the guard. Finally the skies cleareed and the drizzle stopped. We headed to the Vasa museum, a museum that was built around a viking ship.

Quick history lesson: The ship was built by the vikings as the greatest war ship ever. It was 69m long, had 450 people on board and 64 cannons. It sunk on it's maiden voyage because the 120 tonnes of ballast wasn't enough to stop it from rolling over when the wind hit the sails. 350years later, it was located, and a salvage mission was attempted to lift the ship out of the water. The ship rose,was floated into a channel in the harbour, and then the museum was Built around it and the ship restored. It is an icredible site when you walk in the door, so big, so old looking, and the museum is full of info, including 9 of the skeletons found during the ships restoration.

We headed back to central Stockholm and wandered around the streets. Outside of the fact that every second girl on the street was a 10 (even if they were smoking) it really could have been the streets of Melbourne. Some interesting points though: For such an incredible beautiful population, they have more fast foods than there is in Melbourne, but they are all so thin - and the birds
working the counter at Maccas are drop dead gorgeous.

There is only one brand of grog store, run by the government, and it is incredibly expensive. To make it worse, the beer is capped at 3.5% alcohol. We went in on Friday avo, and the place was packed, and there must have been between 100-150 people already lined up waiting to pay!

We headed to the Felix bar and restraunt for the most appalling dinner of all time. For about $45aus, we got one beer, and a small buffet of food to eat on lounges, with some people using coffee tables, others having to eat off their knees, and more standing up. The food was local fare, and neither the raw
salmon or pickled herring went down well. I stuck mainly to the Swedish meatballs.

From there we headed to the Stockholm Absolut Ice-bar.

The drinks were delicious, and the bar really wasn't that cold as long as you weren't touching the ice. To try and drink from an ice cup was rediculously freezing if you weren't wearing gloves. The drinks stayed incredibly cold, and for those that enjoy chewing ice at the end of your drink, this cup is entirely
edible. Also, your tongue won't get stuck to the cup, or the walls for that matter. They only let 38 people in at once so the body heat doesn't melt the ice, and only let you in for 20 minutes before kicking you out.

An even quiter night at camp, but the new ipod speakers that Matt bought got cracked out and we had a few people around on our cabins balcony for a night cap or two.

Yesterdy we made it to our camp in Norway... more to follow soon (well, not so soon, whenever we get a chance really....)