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Sunday, June 3, 2007, in Karlskrona, Sweden

Hi everyone. We’re in Karlskrona, Sweden, a port city that is the home of the Swedish Navy. What, you didn’t know that there was a Swedish Navy? Well, they’re here.

Last Sunday, we were in Copenhagen, just steps from the Little Mermaid statue. We were about halfway between the cruise ship dock and the statue, so there was a constant stream of pedestrians, many of them American, strolling alongside the boat on their way to the mermaid. Art wonders why this little statue is so captivating. It has no historical interest; it’s only about 100 years old, commissioned and donated to the city by the Carlsberg of beer (and now art/archaeological museum) fame.

Claire and Allison arrived when we expected them, thanks to lots of text messages back and forth. By the time they showed up, the weather had brightened, and we took a walk through the Sunday-quiet pedestrian-only shopping street Strøget and had a casual dinner at a café we’d liked for lunch a few days earlier.

On Monday, we left the boat around lunchtime and visited the Resistance Museum only a few blocks away. Hitler had signed a nonaggression pact with Denmark. Apparently his interpretation of such a treaty was “we’ll sign this pact, so when I come in and occupy your country, you shouldn’t be aggressive." There was a substantial resistance movement in Denmark, including, of course, the exporting of Jews to safer places, like Sweden. One of the remarkable realizations you have when you see a museum like this is that so many people were willing to house and hide and help the Jews, even at their own peril. I was surprised to see a myth shattered, though. Id always thought that King Christian had worn that yellow Star of David through the streets of Copenhagen, but there it was in the museum: it never happened. Well, he’d been a large supporter of the Danish Jews in other ways.

Monday was a holiday (NOT Memorial Day, though), so all of the shops were closed. Europe takes some getting used to because of this. In the US, stores are not only open on Sundays and holidays; they hold big sales to try to entice you to visit on your day off. In Europe, shops are closed a lot. In the Netherlands, we remember that shops were closed Monday mornings. That’s because the people had worked half a day on Saturday. We’re told that in Sweden, shops close days before Christmas. CHRISTMAS! They can’t get anyone to work before Christmas; everyone is home baking cookies and being with their families. Being with their families? Thats what they think the holidays are about?

We moved on to Tivoli, the amusement park that’s always open, at least in the summer. Then we went back to the boat and ate dinner on board.

The next day was Tuesday, and the shops were open. We went back to Strøget, the walking street, and eventually went our separate ways. Art’s and my shopping was directed at electrical fittings and office supplies. How can you make someone accompany you to those places when Hermes and Magasin du Nord are in town?

The next day, Wednesday, was our first chance to get out and sail. It was overcast and chilly, and we bundled up. After about an hour of this, Allison appeared to have the beginning of seasickness. Nobody knows those symptoms better than I do. We put her in the berth in the aft cabin, covered her with an unseemly number of blankets, and left her to rest for the remainder of the trip. She handled that fine and maintained her sense of humor about it. I was surprised, but pleased, that I didn��t get seasick myself.

We landed at Ystad, which is back in Sweden on the southern coast. The coast reminded me of the coast of Denmark I remembered from 2000, because it looked like the Chesapeake rolling green hills, farmland. Now that we were in Sweden, and I thought it looked like Denmark, I couldn’t help remembering that joke about the farmer that lived on the border in Vermont whod just had the land surveyed. The surveyor said to him, “Well, the survey is done, and I have to tell you. This land isn’t actually in Vermont. I've discovered that you’re actually on the New Hampshire side of the border. So you really live in New Hampshire.” To which the farmer replied, “That’s great news. Eh-yep. Now I don’t have to get through any more of those awful Vermont winters.”

Anyway, we were back in Sweden, even though it looked like Denmark. Ystad is a cute town, filled with half-timbered houses (see our Denmark page for an example of one of these.) The old church in town has a real guy who sounds the bell every fifteen minutes from 9:15 PM until 1:00 AM to signify “all is well.” This guy who does it is following the footsteps of his father and his grandfather, who also did it. Apparently, in times past, this job was more hazardous that it sounds. The penalty for falling asleep and missing one of the chimes was beheading.

The next day’s sail was just as long, but there was no wind and we had to motor. Furthermore, it was sunny and almost warm from the time we woke up and left the dock. We arrived late in the afternoon in a place that wasn’t in either of the guidebooks we had on board, the island of Hanö.

There isn’t much to this island, as it turns out. There’s a year-round population of thirty-five, all of whom seemed to be out on the dock watching the ferry come in. The single restaurant in town was closed. Claire, Allison and I walked up to the lighthouse, a walk very much like those we used to take on our sailing trips to New England, though much shorter. The lighthouse is apparently the strongest one in the Baltic Sea. A legend says that a dragon used to fly to Hanö every night. Then the townspeople built the lighthouse. It was so bright that on its first day, the dragon was blinded by the light and fell to the ground. There’s a mark somewhere on Hanö called the dragon’s mark that you can still see.

The next day, we motored to Karlskrona. We selected this town as a place where Claire and Allison could leave us on Sunday for Stockholm by train. Karlskrona was founded when King Karl II decided that Sweden needed a southern naval base to control the Baltic Sea. There were thoughts that this would become the capital of Sweden, which is why its name translates to “Karl’s crown.”

Karlskrona is on the UNESCO World Heritage list of cities as a fine example of late 17th-century European architecture. Indeed, it was a planned community, the Columbia, Maryland of its day.

On our first afternoon in town, we found the train station, per captain’s orders. Claire and Allison decided to buy their tickets for their Sunday trip to Stockholm. This was Friday.

“Sorry, all the Sunday trains are full.” It turns out that Karlskrona has a large commuting population to Stockholm. Furthermore, the ticket office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Yes, the train station ticket office. In a town of 62,000 people. Anyway, they bought tickets for Saturday, giving themselves an extra travel day in Stockholm. On the plus side, this would let them have access to museums and sites on Sunday in Stockholm, as they’re all closed on Mondays. Europe. Wow.

In the morning on Saturday, we walked with them to the train to see them off, and then we headed to the main square and the tourist office. We signed up for an afternoon tour of the shipyard. An outdoor market covered the town square, which was flanked by two churches and several 17th and 18th century buildings, all overseen by the central statue, who I assumed was Karl himself. Then we shopped until early afternoon, when shops close for the rest of the weekend.

The tour took us inside the naval facility. It was to be two hours, but an hour into it, we walked out on the dock that held several Navy ships. There were little whitecaps in the water, and the ships’ lines were strained. We had to clip our caps to our shirts for fear they’d blow away. I could see that Art was getting distracted by the weather and unable to concentrate on the tour. He finally suggested that we go back to the boat and make sure that it was okay. We’d been away from it for seven hours.

Don’t tell anyone, but we crossed the Navy base unescorted while the tour went on by the docks. The boat was fine, as it turned out, but you can’t take chances. I spent the rest of the day and evening doing four loads of laundry at the facilities generously provided by the marina, for free. This isn’t a small task, as the wash cycle for machines appears to be about 2½ hours. Of course, maybe I’d put the clothes in on the slow-cooker cycle. There were manuals all about, but they were all in Swedish or German.

So it’s Sunday again. One option we have is to beg the tourist office to let us finish the tour today. Another is to take the walk recommended by the town. A third is to go see a movie featuring one of Art’s favorite comics, Mr. Bean, complete with Swedish subtitles. We’ll see. This morning, though, we’re devoting to cleaning up the boat and other post-guest activities.

Hope you’re all doing well and you had a great Memorial Day weekend. Please feel free to write, of course. We miss you all.

Love, Karen (and Art)