Monday, June 29, 2009
June 17 - Today we went to an Ice Bar in downtown Stockholm. What an experience. We had to don heavy coats with hoods and put on insulated gloves. We went into the bar where the walls, tables, bar, seats, and sculptures were all made of ice. We were served Vodka with passion fruit juice in cups that were…ice. How unique and the Vodka drinks tasted like wonderful fruit juices. Yum.
So much of down town seems to be dedicated to or surrounds Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize. We saw where the banquet was held each year.
Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite was instrumental in building roads and by-ways through the Scandinavian countries. There are many tunnels in Stockholm and the tunnels are thanks to Nobel’s invention. Each of the Scandinavian countries were full of canals and reminded me a bit of Venice.
Stockholm is situated on 14 islands so there are also many bridges. Fifty bridges connect Stockholm!
One difficult situation for us was the inability to make out the names on so many buildings and places like bathrooms and drugstores and groceries, etc. The names are just so different than anything we have seen and the words just don't look pronounceable.
I thought it was cool that in Stockholm, artists and writers got the apartments by the sea because it is believed that they will get more inspiration there. I mean, what a beautiful thing to be taken seriously and treated so well as an artist and writer.
Lutheran is the official religion of not only Sweden but also the other Scandinavian countries we visited. The second denomination was the Orthodox church. We were able to see several beautiful churches of both denomination. We went to one church that was carved out of huge rock. This is a functioning Lutheran Church today.
There was one hotel in Stockholm that you can stay at that used to be a jail. They still have cells and for a price, you can go into the cell stay for the night. We weren’t even tempted. LOL
The Royal family lives on Queen’s Island and the Queen’s daughter, Victoria, will marry next June. That is going to be an incredible event and we saw the church where she will be married. Should be fun to see the event next year. The Queen has lost some satisfaction with the monarchy points when she asked the Swedes to help pay for the wedding. We saw the changing of the guard there and I was awe struck at these young men and their jobs.
It only takes a few minutes to marry in Sweden and only seconds to get a divorce. You don't have to have a good reason, just that you don't want to be married any longer. Fewer people get married in Sweden per capita then Americans but the divorce rate for those that do marry is considerably lower. Same sex marriage is legal here.
We were there for the holiday, Midsummer. Everyone celebrates by cooking out and drinking. All the stores and many businesses were closed. We were told that there are so few summer days that they are celebrated heartily with food and drink.
The outfit for women seemed to be long blouses or dresses and black tights with boots. It was cold and rainy there so add to that coats and umbrellas of every description.
Doctor visits and hospitalizations are free there but dentist is not free and in fact they are VERY expensive. A lot of Swedes go without dental care. The Swedes pay 33% in taxes and closer to 60% if they are rich.
Back to the dance lessons. We have two a day when we are at sea. Dancing is hard work and that's even if you are just taking a stab at it. We tried not to stand out in our ineptitude but were never successful in that endeavor. We stuck out like sore thumbs but we got all the kudos we needed from Kay, Alan, and the rest of the group to keep at it and feel good if we learned one step each day. Kay and Alan have taught dancing for maybe 20 years and it shows. They are not only wonderful dancers but good teachers as well. We had fun doing the line dances even if it was a waltz line dance at the end of the lesson. I think the waltz was my favorite as a matter of fact. The most fun was watching the others dance at events and when Kay and Alan danced the whole dance floor stopped to watch. They were amazing. I can't imagine being able to dance so well. I have a better idea of how much practice and work it is to be that good.
Before our first formal night on the ship, we had drinks in Kay and Alan's room. It turned out that the drink was champagne and they drank a toast to Bill and me for our 39th wedding anniversary. We had ran into Kay and Alan that morning decorating our door with wedding bells. That night at dinner was incredible. We had champagne and a wonderful chocolate cake for everyone at the three tables that we took up. What a memory. We felt so fortunate to be there to celebrate these years together and we couldn't have found better people to celebrate with. They gave us a Lenox candy rose bowl that is just beautiful and we will cherish it as a momento of that time.
Bill and I were amazed by the similarities in looks of the three sisters that were there. Kay has five sisters, one passed away not long ago. I have five brothers and one passed away a couple of years ago. Here is a photo of the three sisters that were on the cruise looking gorgeous on formal night.
I admitted before we ever started the cruise that the thought of being on a ship made us wince after our one experience with cruise ships; “the cruise from hell”. Well, if that was hell then we just experienced heaven. What fun. Advantage of cruises: you take your hotel with you. You don’t have to carry your suitcase into each country, you leave it and go back to your bed each night on the ship. You just relax, enjoy your family and new friends, go to sleep at night and wake up to a new country, a new adventure. That’s not even considering the way you are totally pampered. We are still worried about our reentry into the real world where we don’t eat gourmet dinners each night and where our bed and room are not cleaned up for us each time we leave it. What an experience that was 180 degree change from our first experience. The obvious difference to us was going with Kay and Alan and meeting some more of Tom's family and getting to know them all better. Add to that fact was the meeting of so many of Kay and Alan's friends on board as well. Knowing someone on the ship or going with someone is definitely a help but going with these people was a total treat for both of us.