After rising at a reasonable hour, we began to explore this splendid Scandinavian city. The City Lodge, where we had spent the night, was very close to the Central Station and not at all far from the older part of the city. Built on fourteen islands, connected by a plethora of bridges, there are certainly plenty of sights to enjoy. Some streets are fairly narrow and what with their painted buildings make the old part of the city a delight to explore.
|Shanae pausing whilst passing through one of the city's narrow streets|
|A family giving thanks to God for their food in stained glass|
|Stockholm City Hall|
On arrival we noticed that there was a rather long queue to negotiate passport control before boarding the boat. A quick word with a friendly face enabled us to bypass this queue in light of being British (at least things were working the way they ought to). On reaching the Princess Anastasia, however, things ceased to work the way they should - this was, after all, a Russian vessel.
Our first contact with all things Russian was the luggage scanning device. My small rucksack made it through OK, despite there being a pair of nail-clippers inside, but my large backpack was not so lucky. There was an evident increase of excitement among the officials which I was to come to learn was rarely a good thing. I wondered at first whether they had detected my opened jar of Marmite and began to consider spending three weeks without it, or maybe it was the PG Tips!
With a degree of enthusiasm reserved for moments like these, the official pointed to his screen and murmured something in Russian which I found myself quite unable to understand. The image on the screen was of a coiled device at one end of my pack which I instinctively recognised to be the water-heater I had been recommended to bring (one can only live so long without tea). I tried to explain that it was a water heater but he made it abundantly clear that it was to be removed at all cost.
|A view of Stockholm across the water|
Once I had been at least temporarily relieved of this dangerous piece of equipment, we made our way to our cabin which was not as expected. We had been expecting to be in different cabins, sharing with a number of other passengers of similar gender, and I had conjured up pictures of rowdy, drunken sea-lubbers singing Baltic sea shanties through the night, interspersed with relentless sessions of Nordic snoring. Little could have been further from what had been arranged for us. They had instead effectively upgraded us to a two-bunk cabin all of our own - and it looked luxurious by comparison.
|The Princess Anastasia|
Opting for the Coffee and Cake restaurant, we feasted on meatballs and mash which seemed to vaguely resemble what might be considered to be a local dish. It became clear that most of the passengers were indeed Russian, likely half way through their cruise from St Petersburg - Helsinki - Stockholm - Tallinn and back home again. It also became apparent that even when on holiday it was customary not to smile a great deal.
|The incredible violinist at our spectacular show|