Stockholm: From Copenhagen to Finland
Copenhagen to Finland, via Stockholm
A fascinating bridge links Denmark and Sweden across the Øresund Sound, it vanishes under the water as a tunnel only to reappear on a spit of land half way across to sweep over the final half to Sweden.
The Øresund Bridge turns into a tunnel for the first stretch to Copenhagen to allow big ships to pass, it looks amazing from the air!
I didn’t really need the excuse of an exciting bridge to take the overland route – or in this case the overwater route – but it made the journey more interesting.
My aim had always been, if I’m honest, to get to Finland (without flying). By taking the train to Stockholm, I would be getting nearer and I could decide my onward travel there. Three days later, I found myself boarding a Viking Line ferry to Turku, Finland was in sight!
Anyway, back to Copenhagen. I’d thoroughly enjoyed my time here but it was time to move on. I booked train tickets on the Swedish Railways website and printed them out at the SJ machine in Copenhagen Station.
There is a fast, smart ICE train that goes direct to Stockholm, I chose the cheaper option and changed trains at Malmö.
It was an early start, I trudged along a dark, deserted Strøget to the station, then became completely confused as to what platform I needed as Malmö wasn’t the final destination. I was pointed to the Gotëborg (Gothenburg) train. It turned out to be the same train I’d taken to Helsingør the previous day to see Hamlet’s Castle.
The train entered a tunnel and then the next thing I knew, we were passing over the Øresund Bridge. If I hadn’t seen the photos I would never had known we were travelling under the sound at the beginning: it may be an engineering marvel but it was rather undramatic to experience on the train!
I had twenty minutes at Malmö, just enough time to grab some Swedish Krona from a cash machine before my new stead arrived.
This train was long, I found my carriage only to discover I my seat was in a cabin which looked perfectly cosy for a December morning ride across Sweden.
For much of the journey I shared the cabin with a Swedish girl who crashed out on the opposite seat minutes after we set off.
The carriage had WiFi and I curled up with my phone and indulged in some Pinterest, wrote my journal and gazed across the Swedish countryside for the five-hour journey. The scenery reminded me somewhat of Siberia: forests, lightly dusted with snow, and occasionally lakes. The wooden houses are colourfully painted.
The cabin filled up as we got nearer to Stockholm, it hadn’t been as warm as I’d hoped but once there were six or seven of us snuggled in it felt much cosier. The train passed through industrial towns, from the sparse forests the factories and chimneys were a harsh contrast.
It was early afternoon when I arrived yet it was already beginning to get dark by the time I’d walked to the hostel. Even in the dark Stockholm looked beautiful, I ventured over the Gamla Stan that evening and got a good feed at Herman’s Hermitage, a popular vegetarian restaurant.
Gamla Stan – the old city – is very attractive, and full of tourists: an early morning stroll is advised if you want those cobbled streets to yourself. At the heart of Gamla Stan there was a Christmas market huddled in Stortorget, the old town square, it looked very festive.
In my three days in Stockholm I walked a lot, camera in hand. From the photogenic waterside, to Gamla Stan and south to the shops in Södermalm, I sure put some wear on my DMs.
One of the first places I visited was the Vasa Museum which houses the recovered 17th Century Royal ship The Vasa. This huge, magnificent boat sank into the harbour on its maiden voyage in 1628 where it lay submerged in mud and silt until the 1950’s when it was brought back to dry land.
Amazingly the oak ship was well-preserved by the brackish waters of the Baltic Sea, the low oxygen and low salt levels helped to prevent decay, as too did Stockholm’s waste which was dumped into the harbour further lowering the oxygen.
Now the boat is housed in a purpose-built museum where it is a constant battle to slow the decay now the wood is exposed to air and humidity.
It’s an excellent museum, there are displays about the construction of the ship and possible reasons why it sank. You can come face to face with a few of the people on the boat: a number of skeletons were discovered on board and a few have been ‘reconstructed’. Nearly all of them had bad teeth. These characters bring the Vasa to life.
When is originally set sail the Vasa wasn’t a dark brown boat, it was covered in brightly painted figures and decorative pieces: you can see examples in the photo in the gallery above. It must have looked fantastic as it set off, only to devastatingly disappear into harbour soon after.
One of the most striking things about the Vasa is that it looks so familiar. It took me a while then I realised, this ancient ship looks a lot like the Flying Dutchman from the Pirates of the Caribbean series! Can you see the similarity?
The Vasa Museum is a must-see.
Skansen is Sweden’s open air heritage museum, and it’s pretty darn good!
After checking the website I chose to visit on a cold December Saturday, with the promise of an old-fashioned Christmas market as an added bonus.
The museum shows how Swedish people have lived over the centuries: there is a town with authentic houses, shops, factories and workshops which have been fitted out as they would have been in the past.
Skansen is an entirely interactive experience, the characters ‘living’ and working in the buildings are happy to chat, and you can buy produce in many of the stores and workshops.
In the old pharmacy the lady pharmacist explained all of her tinctures and herbs to me, letting me smell them: liquorice was widely used, as was opium. I went through to the next room where the male pharmacist was making pills, he was extremely chatty and informative. He revealed had been a pharmacist for real and he remembered making pills in the exact same way: rolling the pill dough into a thin sausage and rolling it on a ridged board to produce small beads that he then flattened.
I also got chatting to the engraver, a young man who really was an engraver – there’s no acting going on here! – and we talked about how the craft was dying out due to modern technology and computers, not that they can do what a skilled hand can do.
I had to queue to enter the bakery, it was very popular, I bought a gingerbread reindeer to nibble on as I walked around. To further fuel me, I also bought a Lussebullar (Lucia Saffron Bun) from a stall on the Christmas market, its cheery saffron yellowness lured me in.
In the village hall two ladies in colourful old-time dress were playing key fiddles (nyckelharpa), a traditional Swedish instrument that’s a bit like a fiddle with keys that’s played with a bow. They played old folk songs and I stayed for a while listening to it, mostly because it sounded wonderful and they were very good, but also because it was lovely and warm in there.
Walking through the Finnish Settlement, I stopped for a moment to get something from my bag and realised a little bird had flitted onto the post right next to me and was looking at me inquisitively!
I held out my hand and he hovered over it, this tiny ball of feathers wanted food! I had some sliced cheese in my bag and I broke some up onto my palm, held it up and before I knew it I had a small flock of great tits and blue tits perching on my fingers to grab a fat-rich snack. It was a Disney moment, there was no-one to witness it and, alas, no one to take a photo!
In an older bakery two women were making traditional flatbread: tunnbröd (thin bread). It originated in the north, where it is very dry and it used to be made with barley flour as that is all that would grow up there. Nowadays, the tunnbröd is made with a blend of flours as well as spices and yeast (yes, I asked a ton of questions!).
I watched, transfixed, as one of the women rolled the dough out into a very thin disk using a large, ridged rolling pin. She then used a knobbly one to pierce tiny holes over the surface so it wouldn’t inflate in the oven. It was so thin it rippled as air caught underneath it. Dusting off any excess flour, she then transferred the disc to the flour of the stone oven using a wooden paddle. The oven was super hot and the bread soon crisped up, she removed it and broke it into shards which she then handed it out for people to try, spread with a little fresh butter: It was absolutely delicious!
Skansen also has a zoo showcasing mainly Scandinavian animals, I had a brief walk around and watched the seals being fed.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, Skansen is a great place to learn a bit about Swedish history and culture.
I had considered staying a few more days in Stockholm but the hostel was fully booked so I decided to head to Finland instead, as was my (sort of) original plan. I booked a berth in a shared, 4 bed economy cabin on the overnight Viking Lines ferry to Turku. For ease I took the charter bus to the terminal from the central bus station.
The ticket was pretty inexpensive (€38 I think); you never know who you’re going to be confined with, I knew they’d be female as I’d checked that box on the booking form but that was it. I needn’t have worried I was bunked up with two amazing girls!
I probably would be ending this post with photos of the cabin and the Amorella (the ship) but right from the off I was engrossed in conversation: I didn’t take any pictures!
Jenni was a young Finn studying in Sweden and the absolutely lovely Jennifer is a Swedish girl living in Finland! Jennifer writes a gorgeous blog (in Swedish, but that’s what google translate is for, right!), you should definitely check it out, she’s even featured me!
The journey was fairly smooth, my bunk was comfortable and the company was great. We were rudely awoken by our cabin door being opened and a cheery Good morning was wished us in both Swedish and Finnish. What the hell? I checked my phone, it was 5.30 am!
Ah, yes, a new time zone! An hour forward: 6.30 seemed a little more respectable.
We had arrived into Turku!
By Rachel A Davis