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Sunday, June 17, 2007, in Saltsjöbaden, near Stockholm

Hi everyone. It’s pouring rain here today, and we’re just hanging out on the boat, hoping it will clear up enough for us to go outside and do something. On the plus side, there’s nothing here to do. Happy Father’s Day to all.

Last Sunday, we were spending the day in Visby, taking a walking tour of the walls surrounding the town. These walls have about forty towers, and were built beginning in the 12th century. The wall was originally built at about six meters (less than 20 feet) high. Visby (actually the whole island of Gotland) was from time to time its own country, but like all islands, it was strategically important and often the target of diplomacy or attacks. In 1288, there was a civil war between the citizens of Visby, helped out by the Germans, against the people of the countryside of Visby, helped out by knights from Estonia. That inspired the town to expand the walls and raise the height to 11 meters (about 35 feet) in the early 14th century. They added more towers, including what’s known as the Maiden’s Tower. The legend is that the daughter of a local goldsmith was walled up alive when she betrayed the town to her love, the Danish king. In any case, the most interesting thing about the walls is that the most fortified part of them faces inland, not the sea. After all, that’s where the danger was.

In the evening, we went to a concert in the local cathedral. There were two a cappella groups, one of adults and the other a youth group, and they switched back and forth, singing hymns by Mendelssohn, Benjamin Britton, and several Swedish composers. The cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the acoustics were fantastic. A cappella, of course, means in the chapel” and that’s where this type of music is expected to be performed. The sounds reverberated all over the place. The only part that was a little odd was at the end of the performance, when the entire ensemble sang two gospel hymns, Deep River”, and “Wade in the Water”. There’s something a little hard to accept about watching leggy blondes all harmonizing a bunch of spirituals, sort of like listening to rap music adapted for Musak.

Our next destination was Nynäshamn, where we expected to have some warranty work done on the boat, arranged by the builder. Nynäshamn isn’t listed anywhere in my Lonely Planet guide, except for a tiny reference as a port in the section about ferries. We’d expected to sail on a long day with light winds, but there wasnt enough wind to do that. But we got in late enough to anchor out instead of head right into port, because we had arrived at the southernmost part of the archipelago that surrounds Stockholm. Stockholm itself is made up of fourteen islands, but that’s a later story. Anyway, we anchored out, surrounded by little islands with summer homes sprinkled on them. It’s amazing how much this part of Sweden looks like Maine, which made Art very happy, as keeping our boat in Europe makes Maine a little hard to visit.

In the morning, we traveled the short distance to Nynäshamn. There isn’t much to report about this town. At the head of our dock was a fish smokery, and the smell was heady and delicious. Inside, among the many smoked delicacies were a bunch of lox wings. Who knew?

The town was small and there wasnt much there to visit, and the boatyard that was supposed to see us there preferred that we continue on to where we are now, so we only stayed a day or so and moved here to Saltsjöbaden.

This marina is the home of the KSSS. Though that sounds like a subversive organization, it’s actually the Royal Swedish Yacht Club. So it’s as if were in some marina in Newport, Rhode Island. Furthermore, the marina is on the waterfront of a hotel called the Grand Hotel, and it’s indeed grand. It’s a shame it primarily caters to conferences; it doesn’t even serve lunch. But the hotel itself is fun to see. It’s historic, inaugurated by King Oscar II in 1893. Events such as the signing of a labor agreement in 1938, meetings of OPEC, EFTA and the Palme Commission, and peace negotiations between Finland and the Soviet Union have taken place here. Visitors have included Henry Kissinger, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and the Shah of Iran.

Yesterday, we took the train to Stockholm proper. We won’t do serious touring of the place until we come back at the end of July. But we wanted to check out the marina facilities, to see if they are more convenient or more enjoyable than where we are now (as we’re a half-hour away by train here). Turns out that the marinas in town aren’t much more convenient and aren’t as protected as this one. Our conclusion is that the best place for us to stay when we come back is probably here.

But we spent many hours in town. Most days, the weather has been pretty good, especially when it’s sunny out, and yesterday was one of them. We had coffee in a square near the docks and took a walking tour recommended by my guidebook. We don’t really need anything, but somehow we managed to fill up my backpack and several other bags with stuff for the boat. It’s actually pretty strange when we visit big cities. There are Americans everywhere, primarily from the cruise ships that line the harbor, we think. Stockholm is surprisingly a tourist town, and it’s dismaying to see shops or menus that simply don’t have a single word that isn’t in English. But the architecture of the place is just lovely to look at, and there are bridges and glorious vistas all over the place. By the end of the day, we estimated that we’d walked about ten miles, and we were just exhausted, especially carrying around all the stuff we’d acquired. So we were delighted to get back to the boat.

And even today, we’d considered sailing into the Stockholm archipelago, or going back to Stockholm, or taking the train to a mall with a big supermarket. But the weather was terrible all morning, and we’ll be somewhere that a market is more convenient by the end of the day tomorrow. So we’re content to sit around on the boat, catching up on the things we’ve left behind due to the persistently nice weather we’ve enjoyed for most of the last few weeks.

Hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day and a great week. If you get a chance, please write and let us know how you’re doing.

Love, Karen and Art