“Interior of the Helsinki-Stockholm Ferry”
Actually the adventure in Sweden had already begun right after I departed from Russia. I came to Stockholm via Helsinki from Saint Petersburg with train and then with ferry. My friends Emre, Meyzi and Ayça were supposed to arrive the next day. I could have left my bicycle in Helsinki, but I needed it to present during the press meetings in Sweden. So, my bicycle also came with me.
Since I arrived two days earlier I had to find a place to stay. Maggy, Ayca’s former co-worker invited me to her flat. I accepted it with a great pleasure. It is very comfortable to pedal in Sweden. There are bicycle roads everywhere and not only that also roads for horses a different kind of fantasy.
Are you bored? Then you may ride your horse on the most crowded street. Did your horse eliminate? It doesn’t matter! Just leave it, as it is. But, don’t ever pedal on a horse road. J Anyway, I arrived at Maggy and Michale (Mike)’s house strolling through under- and overpasses. By the way, it is possible to track all the bicycle roads in Finland and Sweden on google map. You can choose your destination and follow the shortest bicycle road tracked on google map, as I did.
Maggy welcomed me at the entrance of the building. Even we hugged each other (Maggy is Irish with a nice English accent which I liked very much). As I was about to unload my bags, Maggy said: “Gurkan, don’t worry. Just come as you are, your bicycle will come through together with the bags”. Well, it might come through but how come I carry the bicycle two stories?” She called the lift and said “leave your bags as they are”. Oh my!. Which apartment’s lift would be that big to carry an unloaded bicycle? Well, as the lift came I got the answer. What the hell is this?
Since there are so many people riding bicycle, the lifts are designed accordingly. Furthermore, these lifts are also suitable for wheel chairs. The lift buttons are placed horizontal and not perpendicular. Also, the width of the doors is designed taken these features into account. Mike gave me some additional interesting information during our conversations. For example, touring with bicycle was very popular in Sweden during 1970s and the end of 1980s. Meanwhile, it is difficult to find touring equipment in the Swedish bicycle stores. Furthermore, they do believe that the world is not safe enough for such kind of traveling anymore (and they are right). The people toured at that time became worldwide experienced. In this country there are bicycle roads and of course one might need to take his/her bicycle up to his flat. As a result, lifts were designed to meet such requirements. I carried my bicycle till the bedroom without removing my bags from the holders.
That evening Mike cooked excellently, as well all the evenings I stayed with them. Of course when you stay for 15 days you are not a guest anymore so that you should share the kitchen costs, help cleaning and washing dishes. Even, if there is a pet like lovely Sputnik, you should take him out from time to time.
Let me mention another detail. There are 8 flats in each apartment within a block. Each flat has a small storage room together with a common shelter. It is interesting that in a country which hasn’t been involved in a single war since 200 years that the shelters are ready to use. Coming back to the case of laundry, the flats share a common laundry at the basement. At the wall hangs a schedule chart for each flat. Maggi had reserved a half day for me before I arrived. From 09:00 am till 01:30 pm the laundry belongs to me. People don’t keep a washing machine at their homes. There are industrial type washing machines in the basement of each apartment block. You save energy in this way.
I even washed my sleeping bag and dried within one hour J
After the arrival of Ayca, Emre and Meyzi we began to travel around. Meyzi brought simit (ring shaped bread covered with sesame seeds) from Turkey. I had really missed their taste. Emrah who was following me from Turkey sent me handmade pekmez (grape molasses) to Moscow. At the very cold weather, I drank two sucks whenever I burned out all my energy and then continued. Once I drank almost half of the bottle which made me burn up all the way through. I salute Emrah from here. Ayca brought me also new bottles of pekmez.
Besides the Stockholm photos I shot with my camera, the ones from Mike’s camera can be found from this link.
The first thought of all four of us was “Buddy, what an expensive city this is”. Since I had already hung around on the streets of Helsinki before arriving Stockholm, I knew how empty and silent this city was. Coming from Istanbul and on top of it also during winter, it is difficult to see anybody on the street. A survey conducted among the Scandinavian countries showed that the capital Stockholm the most visited touristic destination. The old town Gamla-Stan, Vasa museum, the archipelago of the city with the bridges connecting the tiny islands, street shops, nice cafes where you can drink a cup of coffee when you get tired… I must admit that the historical dwellings of the old town are beautiful but the restaurants and the souvenir shops destroy the ambiance of it.
Mentioning old cities, Kashgar (Kashi) in China, Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan come to my mind. These are the cities that can be regarded really as old. You should mind yourself when someone mentions an old city. Four of us went to a restaurant in the old city. We paid 300 TL (162 USD) for a menu of hamburgers and French fries.
The most expensive countries in Europe are first Norway, second Sweden and then Finland and Denmark. Even Stockholm is regarded as the Venice of north and the capital of Swedish monarchy, I wouldn’t visit this city if it hadn’t been on my route. Well, is there any occasion I would say that it was worth coming to this city? Yes, there is. Even, one might visit this city just for that: The Vasa Museum
Well, I don’t know where to start to tell about this museum. I always try to stop to visit ancient cities and museums during my tours. I stay for hours at every spot, search and read a lot about those places. I entered this museum at 12:30 pm and went out at 05:00 pm. If the announcement “we are closing” hadn’t come I would stay till midnight in this museum. This museum is one of the world’s foremost man-made highlights.
In order not to harm Vasa it is quite dark inside. To take a photo one needs professional cameras and suitable lenses. Fortunately, Mike shared his photos J
The royal ship Vasa was the most heavily armed and most fabulously ornate wooden warship ever built upon request of Swedish King at that time. This great Swedish warship sank after sailing only 1300 m after leaving the shipyard. The vessel was forced onto its port side by a gust of wind which caused water to rush in the lower gun deck leading to sink. Although, it was built by the best shipwrights at that time, a combination of factors as the king demanding that his measurements for the second gun deck be followed; the recalculation of these measurements ordered by the king not fitting into the vessel of which timber had already been cut; the vessel being top-heavy let the disaster come. Since no expense and time was spared, the loss of Vasa became a national embarrassment for the Swedish navy and the royalty. Therefore, Vasa was seldom if ever mentioned in Swedish histories after its loss in 1628. Then, after about 300 years Anders Franzen located Vasa in 1956 after several years of searching the archieves and the harbor. In 1961 the vessel was salvaged which was temporarily housed in a structure called Vasavarvet (The Vasa Shipyard) and then at 1988 moved to the custom-built Vasa Museum at Galarvarvet just near the place where the ship was built. This 385 years old vessel is the biggest ship salvaged in almost intact form which is presented in a museum.
Well, one might ask why the vessel didn’t break into pieces being laid down for so many years in the salty water. The Baltic Sea is a brackish inland sea which receives flow from fresh water from approximately two-hundred rivers. As a result of this, the shores of all the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea get ice-covered during winter. The ice thickness reaches about 70 cm in some places. The salinity of Baltic Sea with abundant freshwater runoff from the surrounding land is about one third of that of the ocean water. The Vasa due to low salinity, lack of bacteria and coldness of the water was naturally preserved during those years.
Since the salvage of the vessel Vasa in 1961, 52 years had passed. You can follow the chronology of the events that happened till present. My mouth went o shape and I said:”Wow, this museum is breathing”. The pieces of Vasa were brought together. The artifacts and remains found are exhibited. The remains of skeletons were placed in a separate section. 3D research was conducted on the skulls and their faces were reconstructed. The wax figures of the skeletons were reconstructed using high technology (you could even see the sweat running on their face. Say uncle!). There is a small room where books and writings were placed presenting the Scandinavian language spoken in 17th century (now nobody can speak and understand that language). You can listen to the speeches at the shore at that time. It is not possible to visit the interior of the vessel, but you can feel yourself as if being in the vessel in the reconstruction mimicking the vessel. In the movie theatre you can watch the story of Vasa which sounds on real time with all the light and sound effects. Now comes the highlight: Since the vessel started to decompose after a while it was placed in the museum, the air conditioning and lightening construction was redesigned. The environment of the vessel is kept moist during summer time. The whole vessel was treated with polyethylene glycol which replaced every single water drop found in the wood. Researches which still are continuing on the wood the vessel was made of, on chemical preservation techniques and many other archeological subjects opened a new insight to the scientific world.
That’s it. Even, just to visit this museum is worth to come to Stockholm! Entering the museum at 10:30 am, you would stay till evening. The entrance fee is 150 Kr (42 TL).
You already know that I hold presentations at the universities and colleges in the countries I travel. I also held some presentations in Stockholm but had forgotten to ask for the photos shot by the attendants. Hehehehe. Therefore, I don’t possess any photos together with those students. Furthermore, our Stockholm Embassy arranged an interview with the foreign and Turkish press at the Sports museum. I would like to thank to our ambassador Zergun Koruturk once more from here. Our president Abdullah Gul had visited Sweden 6 days after I injured myself. I could talk to him for 19 seconds in front of the hotel where he stayed. The speech followed a course as such:
– You have chosen a cold period to travel around.
– I would anyway encounter every type of weather conditions during my 7 years of voyage Mr. President.
– Do you have any request?
– No sir. Thank you very much.
– Bon voyage
The National Sports Museum is another spot of must-to-do. You can see the history of sports of Sweden starting from the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm to today’s stars, the fascination of sports but also its downsides. There is a sports laboratory for the children where training equipments of their size for athleticism, mountaineering and bicycle sports are placed. I also trained in the running field and climbing section just for a while J
Recently I watched a news spot at NTV: “during the visit of our president to Sweden, Swedish teenagers sang o song having the same melody of our Youth Anthem”. There weren’t any other details mentioned in the news. How do they know the melody of our Anthem or vice versa? Selim Sırrı Tarcan a Turkish educator, sports official and politician studied between 1909-1911 in Royal Swedish Military Academy physical education and gymnastics. He studied the Swedish education and field training applications in order to promote Turkish sports. During a performance, he liked the melody of a Swedish folk music played. He brought the score of this song to Turkey which became the Youth Anthem in 1917 with Turkish lyrics. This is the story of the news on NTV. Meanwhile, I got informed about a PhD thesis conducted by a research fellow in Turkey together with the director of this Sports Museum. Within the frame of this research, 12 of the letters written by Selim Sırrı Tarcan were found in the home of an old Swedish lady. What is written in those letters? What type of studies had he undertaken on individual sports branches? The research fellow knows.
During my visit of this museum, while looking at the photos of the Olympic Games at 1912, I recognized the Turkish flag. We had taken part in the games with two athletes at that time.
“From the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm”
After spending a couple of days in Stockholm we went all together to Kiruna the famous city in northern Sweden. Two happenings caught my attention as we were flying with SAS Airways. The first was the ages of the stewardesses, +40. The second, the chief pilot was a woman flying the Boeing 737. Afterwards, I saw that there were 2 women and one man crew in the cockpit. I took a fancy to this.
I real reason that we came to Kiruna was to observe the Nordic lights and also to see the famous Ice Hotel. After leaving the airport, we went directly to the Ice Hotel. Since the cost for one night was 800 TL, we didn’t prefer to stay there. Hheehehe. As we came to the hotel we were told that it costs 85 TL to visit the hotel. That was too much for me spending 3 months in the cold staying in a tent, so didn’t see the interior of the hotel. What was inside: A room with sleeping bags placed on animal hide, a bar and a couples corridors. Some artworks made of ice. So I didn’t pay for that, but what was outside? A church and a convention hall made of ice, ice sculptures. Another bar, a depot where the spare ice blocks are stored and afterwards are used for the construction of Ice Hotel and an atelier where the ice blocks are shaped.
Visiting Kiruna made me aware that I would definitely be able to pedal to the Arctic Circle from Finland. The weather is not as cold as that it was in Russia. Furthermore, the roads are suitable to pedal on, even in this season.
We waited till it got dark and went to an agency in the hope to observe Nordic lights at that evening. Now that we shall see the Nordic lights, we decided to observe while on dog sledges. Since we were here, we did it. J But, to be able to observe the Nordic lights is really a matter of luck. I couldn’t observe them here and not in northern Finland where I pedaled for so many days with my bicycle. I asked the people in Finland: “Would I be able to observe the Nordic lights here?” “Yes, previous years, you could observe frequently, but this year it happened rarely.” Neither in Sweden nor in Finland could I observe Nordic lights. The next chance to catch the Nordic lights is Alaska. I won’t move before seeing those lights, anyhow. J By the way, you need to make reservation at tourism agency for dog sledges, snowmobile or mine visit ahead, otherwise you won’t find an empty seat or wait for the seats to be occupied.
By the way, in Kiruna situated within the Arctic Circle, there is a Pizza restaurant of which the owner is a Turk from Konya. The pizza was quite delicious which I would advise you to stop by. Oh yeah, also to run into Turks on the way back was another surprise. I was not able meet them in Stockholm since I hadn’t got their phone numbers. Maybe, they read this article and send me a message J
My friends returned to Turkey and I to Finland. Thereafter, I pedaled to Pitea in Sweden. The rest was already mentioned in my previous article. Now I feel myself quite well. A took a rest and made some changes on my equipments. Next week, I will depart to go initially to Oslo the capital of Norway and from there to Copenhagen with ferry. Afterwards, I really don’t know which direction I will take J
I would whisper to Black Thunder: “Gee up, let’s see where we will be going….”