The old city stop off was near the port. A medieval colorful city with a
crafts/trinkets market going in the main square even though it was a Wednesday. Not sure if it was a holiday or just a matter of the tourist part of town and summer catering to tourists. They were doing a good business so it was paying off whatever the cause.
We went into a lovely
old church near the main square that was intimate, whitewashed and held ancient well used pews. Nothing fancy and they were putting up songbook numbers for a service later. Another church more of a grand cathedral had been turned into a museum that was mostly
empty but had the Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) panel paintings that remain from the medieval
times by an unknown artist. Death in skeletal form but different costumes "danced" with people in all different walks of life and all different ages. It was an odd panel the full length of one of the chapels and had apparently been larger at one time.
We mostly wandered and shopped. The city was very colorful. and while
medieval very different looking than what I might expect. Perhaps it was all the yellow paint and the ornate carvings on buildings that surprised me.
We got blueberry
ice cream and lingonberry sorbet on the way back on purpose choosing something we hadn't seen elsewhere. It was just right
and no stress kind of day. Perhaps we should have been more into the history but I
just didn't have the energy. Linen goods (ie my sweater and a tablecloth) and Russian style paintings, dolls, hats etc
seemed to be the things to buy.
We took a 10 euro shuttle to and from the center from the port which was a good move.
it was a very boutique store city that looks like it'd be fun to do
home decorating shopping in but I didn't what with flying with suitcases and walking around a city all day.
We walked down to a market along the
water that had people selling fruit, Finnish meals on paper plates, and
homemade goods. This was really delightful and while I'm sure kept up for tourists felt like locals were there too. We talked to girls who tried to get us to buy Spanish
blueberries that were on sale which is funny since we traveling away from Spain. My man bought a winter hat from a lady who
knitted it. The market had lots of heavy winter linens and knifes. I'm guessing summer is short there.
We walked on to an Orthodox church that was colorfull and then to what
seemed to be the main square. It was dominated by an enormous Finnish Evangelical Lutheran
Cathedral inside and outside it was airy and light gray indoors. The
massive steps created a seating area to listen to the music festival and for the seagulls to swoop down to try to steal whatever you were eating. It was a local festival of music and crafts and food. The significant other being the brave eater that he is bought a
paper bowl of minirit (sp?) a little white fried fish you eat whole (head, fins, tale) with a sort
of hollandaise sauce drizzled on too if you wished. I think it is like
smelt. Fried with a cornmeal type batter or something coarser anyway
than the fried boquerones version in Spain. A band did some folk music and
folk dancing going while we sat on the steps.
We shopped the little booths and I bought a little ceramic dish from
the artist. I got in a long line for some pastry looking things and
asked the ladies ahead of me what I was in line for! They explained it
was a traditional pastry of rice, a savory thing. One lady remembered
her grandmother making them. I didn't catch the name. They wanted to
know all about my trip and were delightful to talk to. A rock band
started then which they confirmed were singing in Finnish but were "too
loud". The pastry was artistically folded dough around a middle of rice
mush then it was fried, and then it appeared to be rolled in melted butter. It was tasty
but not a dramatic flavor. It made me think of survival food that needed to
fill you up. While I was eating it, I got pooped on by a seagull. Someone told me that is good luck.
We walked about a mile to the Gamla Stan "remarkably preserved" Old
Town. It was windy, cold (in June!) with small pretty streets and loads of shops but not all open
since it was Sunday.
Lots of ice cream shops making their waffle cones and it smelled so good. Lots of artsy boutiques again and fun felted hats and
paintings and such. We had to get money at an ATM as they are EU but not
on the Euro. Kroners. It is really hard to estimate how much you need of currency when you are only there for a few hours. Every place took credit cards too.
We ended up wandering into the royal palace in the Gamla Stan and went in for 150K
each, not a cheap ticket but you do get to see a lot of rooms. Most of
the upholstered furniture is covered with ticking type covers, probably for protection, so the impression is not as
grand as it could be. It felt like a much more subdued palace especially after Russia. It had gone thru
several phases of people, royals actually living in it and what is now
a cabinet meeting room was once a royal dining room. A modern room done in 1998 for the king's jubilee was all retro and
1950s expensive looking. The palace was just more used and somehow friendlier than the big
shiny palaces though there were some lovely rooms. The white sea room
and a dining room based on the Versailles mirror room were some of the blinged rooms. Parts of the palace had a little
of an early American feel to me probably because it was moved into in
1740 or thereabouts.
A military band started playing while we were
inside which was interesting and there were still ceremonies going
when we came out and we imagined what if it was for you all that
ceremony. The Swedes wore imposing military pickle hats at least ceremonially. It
was and interesting changing of the guard.
We had a huge slice of apple strudel from a quaint coffee
shop that the prince and or his wife had been to - at least I think
that's why they can display the photograph but not sure... then we got
ice cream. What decadence. We took advantage of our time away from the ship to eat random local things rather than try to squeeze in another meal. We used the stairs on the 10 story ship a lot and the weight gain for me was only 2 pounds (1 kilo) whew!