Archipelago cruise and Fotografiska

After the ferry docked in Nynäshamn and driving for about an hour we arrived in Stockholm and located our hotel on Södermalm. The NoFo hotel was lovely and had an excellent wine bar and terrace. I can warmly recommend this hotel housed in a building from 1780 that was originally built as a brewery. The rooms have different designs depending on what floor you are, the themes are Scandinavian design, La belle époque, Uptown classics and Industrial vintage. We stayed at a Scandinavia design room and the only minuses were that there was no aircon, which could be a problem in hotter weather and the storage for clothing was very limited, which would become annoying if staying for more than a couple of days. The breakfast was also lovely.

La belle époque floor
Room numbers on the Scandinavian design floor
The courtyard with terrace

Since we have visited Stockholm several times before I had looked for something new to do and we landed on an archipelago cruise. I had bought the tickets online and after breakfast we headed to the place where the cruise would start. We bought our tickets through Get Your Guide for a 2.5-hour sightseeing tour with a live tour guide. The ships used are old cruise ships from 1906 and 1931. In order to get good seats on deck you should arrive early as there was already a short line when we arrived some half hour before departure and the line grew exponentially as we waited to board the ship. The route was beautiful, and we saw several of the islands outside Stockholm while listening to interesting stories about the history of the islands. When the cruise was over, we headed to lunch and then walked around the upscale shopping streets like Biblioteksgatan and Birger Jarlsgatan. I actually ended up buying a new handbag from the sale at Michael Kors, I seem to always be able to justify why I need a new bag if I find one I really like. After a refreshing afternoon coffee, we headed back to the hotel. Before dinner (which I will tell more about in a separate post) we had a drink at the hotel wine bar.

Old mill, Kvarnen Tre Kronor from 1898 in Stockholm that has been converted into apartments
There were plenty of boats out this Saturday
The archipelago is full of lovely villas
Old customs house
Crane giraffe
We came across a royal horse guard while roaming the streets
Cocktail at the hotel’s terrace

For our second day in Stockholm we had decided to visit Fotografiska, a museum of contemporary photography. I have wanted to visit this museum for years but never managed a visit until now. The museum was definitely worth a visit and as a lover of photography, I know I will come back to see other exhibitions in the future. Fotografiska also opened a new museum in Tallinn in summer 2019 and I can’t wait to visit it. Fotografiska is also currently planning new locations in London and New York City so in future, there will be a chance to visit these locations as well. After spending a few hours at Fotografiska we set out to explore some of Stockholm’s malls. This time we didn’t end up buying anything. Before dinner we again took advantage of the wine bar at the hotel. The next morning, it was time to head back to Finland with the ferry. We had a great vacation on Gotland and in Stockholm with loads to see, good food and nice weather. Next we will head to Florida for Christmas.

Katarina kyrka (Church of Catherine) in Stockholm’s Söder.
On our way to Fotografiska
Fotorgrafiska had some amazing photographs

Visby – a cozy little town chock-full of history

As I mentioned in a previous post, this summer we headed to Sweden and Gotland. First, we drove to Turku and hopped on the evening ferry to Stockholm. Viking Grace and Oscar á la carte offered a tasty dinner and a good night’s sleep. The ferry arrived in Stockholm early on Monday morning and we steered our car towards Nynäshamn, where we would catch the ferry to Gotland. We had several hours to kill in Nynäshamn before our scheduled departure, so we walked around the town center, drove along the coast line and had a lovely lunch in the harbor at Nynäs Rökeri. The ferry trip with Destination Gotland’s ferry to Visby took 3½ hours. Once we arrived in Visby we checked into our hotel, Clarion Hotel Wisby. I had originally booked a standard double room but later decided to upgrade to a superior double as the standard room seemed very small, and once I saw our room, I was happy I made the upgrade. The hotel is situated in a building where a hotel has been run within these walls since the mid-1800s and includes a carefully restored medieval alley and columns dating back to the 1200s. We stayed in the new part of the hotel opened in 2013 and had a lovely sea view. I must give props to the reception staff for thinking on their feet. When I was checking in and asked about parking, I was told that there was no parking available as it needed to be pre-booked. I had reserved parking and actually had an e-mail exchange about this with the hotel, but there had been some mix-up and they had not reserved a spot for us. This was solved by giving us the space of the hotel manager who was on vacation. After getting settled we headed out to have a first look at Visby and find a place for dinner. As most restaurants were full of people, we ended up at a pub called Black Sheep Arms. The pub was nice enough, but the food was nothing special.

Starter of Scallops, apple and fennel in Oscar á la carte
Main: Smoked and confited fjord salmon with new potatoes,
lemon hollandaise and seasonal vegetables
Our hotel, Clarion Wisby
Hotel lobby
One of two breakfast rooms
Our room
Sunset from our hotel room

The Hanseatic city of Visby is the best-preserved medieval city in Scandinavia and since 1995, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. The earliest history of Visby is uncertain, but it is known to have been a center of merchandise around 900 AD. It was inhabited as early as the Stone Age, probably because of the access to fresh water and a natural harbor. In 1361, Gotland was conquered by Valdemar IV of Denmark. In 1409, the island of Gotland was sold to Queen Margaret of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As of 1470, the Hanseatic League rescinded Visby’s status as a Hanseatic town. Gotland was again taken into Sweden’s possession in 1645, by the Treaty of Brömsebro, after 300 years of Danish rule.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, which was good and of normal Scandinavian standard. Then, we headed out to explore the town. We decided to start by walking along the old town wall which is 3.4 km long and encircles the town center. The work on the ring wall was likely begun in the 12th century. Around 1300, it was rebuilt to reach its current height, acquiring the characteristic towers, although some towers were not constructed until the 15th century. While walking along the wall, we saw numerous old houses. The walk took us a few hours and then we explored some of the shops. After lunch we continued exploring the town (I will make a separate post about the food we ate). Eventually we returned to the hotel to put our feet up for a while and freshen up for dinner. Around dinner time we headed back out and explored some of the church ruins in Visby to work up an appetite. After dinner we retuned to the hotel to plan our adventures for the next day. Just as we entered the hotel it started pouring down, so we had excellent timing. As Visby is quite small, one day was plenty for exploring the town, so the following day we decided to head to other parts of Gotland.

View from one of the towers in the town wall
The wall has several hollow towers
A recently tarred old house
The barrier blocks are in the from of sheep
Visby Cathedral was officially opened in 1225
Inside Visby Cathedral
Gate to the cathedral
One of several church ruins
Another church ruin
Sunset from our room after a rain storm

Nothing was rotten in the state of Denmark

I had some vacation days that I had to use before the end of April and as hubby had enough frequent flyer points to get us two return flights within the Nordic countries we decided to take a short vacation in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We arrived early on Sunday morning, took the train into town, dropped off our bags at the hotel (The Square/) and headed out to explore the surroundings. We decided to walk to Rundetaarn or the Round Tower. The tower was inaugurated in 1642 making it the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. It is most noted for its equestrian staircase, a 7.5-turn helical corridor leading to the platform at the top at 34.8 meters above ground, and for the expansive views which it affords over Copenhagen. By the time we got back to street level we were hungry so we decided to go get something to eat. A place I wanted to visit called Paludan Bogcafé was a couple a blocks away so that’s where we headed for brunch. Paludan combines the traditional bookstore with a functioning eatery and it was a really cool place, plus the food was good.

Inside Rundetaarn
My delicious goat cheese sandwich for brunch
Hubby’s ham and mushroom omelet
Inside Paludan Bogcafé

Next we wandered around for a couple of hours and stopped for a beer at The Taphouse. The place offers 61 beers on tap and the selection may actually change during the day. After enjoying our beers it was time to head to the gathering point for a walking tour we had pre-booked with Viator. It was a 2.5 hour guided food tour during which we would visit five different food/drink stops and learn about food history and culture from our guide. We were a group of 10 people plus the guide. The tour started with a traditional Danish hotdog in Rådhuspladsen or City Hall Square. The Danish hotdog is served with apple ketchup, mustard, remoulade, chopped onions, fried onions, and crisp, sweet pickles. The sausage or pølse is distinguished by a very bright red color and called Røde Pølse (red sausage). I really enjoyed the hotdog. Then we actually went to The Taphouse that we had visited just before the tour and had a little beer tasting of two beers and tried to guess which of the 61 beers we were tasting.

The city hall
Rådhuspladsen
The Danish hotdog
Our merry tour group at The Taphouse

Next we walked to a restaurant called Godtfolk where we were served smørrebrød and some more beer. Smørrebrød is an open-faced sandwich that usually consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (rugbrød), a dense, dark brown bread, topped with commercial or homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads, and garnishes. The smørrebrød we were served was a shrimp and egg one and it was super delicious. Our next and final stop of the tour was Torvehallerne. The history of TorvehallerneKBH dates back to 1889, when Grønttorvet (greens market) was established at Israels Plads. Grønttorvet closed in 1958, and only in 2011 when Torvehallerne opened did Copenhagen again have a fixed marketplace in the middle of the city. Torvehallerne is a marketplace that offers Danish delicacies, local vegetables, fresh fish and meat, chocolates, baked goods, pizza, etc. Torvehallerne consists of more than 80 shops located in two buildings and an outdoor stall area in between the buildings. We had a look around the “savory” building and then got to taste the local fishcake with some remoulade sauce, which was quite nice. To finish off we strolled through the “sweets” building and ended with a small dessert, flødebolle, which is a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat with a marzipan biscuit base. This was not to my liking as I do not like marzipan. All in all, the food tour was a great experience and good value for money.

Shrimp & egg smørrebrød
Flower stall at Torvehallerne
Produce stand

After the tour finished we made our way back to the hotel and got our room. We unpacked and took it easy for a couple of hours. As the food tour was quite substantial we did not need a big dinner so we headed around the corner from the hotel and ended up at a place called Rosie McGee’s and had some pub grub. The food was nothing to write home about and the place in itself was quite an experience.

Second post on Copenhagen will include, e.g. a canal cruise and a visit to Tivoli Gardens.