We missed our morning appointment with Ylva, our bright and bubbly little tour guide. “Don’t worry,” she said when I apologised for our tardiness. “I’ve still got 10 fingers and 10 toes.”
But she had taken the day off work especially, so it was mean of us, but unavoidable, as I have not felt so ill for a long time. I seriously thought I was going to throw up in the train – the underground has this way of throwing moving shapes at your impaired vision, and there’s not enough fresh air to compensate. Everyone said it was cold but I was GLAD it was cold! It took the edge off my more immediate physical concerns. And provided some much-needed fresh air.
As it eventuated, once we (Robert, me and Rolf) had found Ylva it was lunch time. In every respect the Swedes are so much more earthy than any other cultural group I know; they are to a man fit and healthy (looking, anyway), they walk everywhere and they eat the most fantastic stuff. Even so, I could only pick at the edges of a plate of delicious salad that included cottage cheese and salmon, and lots of fabulous healthy salad veggies.
I think the cottage cheese went down, but I forfeited on most of the smoked salmon (almost my favourite thing) and felt that the lettuce would probably play havoc with the remains of my insides; but at least I could look at it without too severe a reaction. Progress.
Our guides, Rolf, Ylva and Anders, took us to the Vasa museum, one of the most extraordinary experiences to be had anywhere. A brand new fantastic warship was launched near the site of the museum (at the royal palace, actually) in around 1672 and sank in all its glory on its maiden voyage of 1500m – right next to where they have now built the museum. It lay there for nearly 300 years and was re-found in 1959, eventually refloated in a massive operation, and conserved over a period of about 40 years, an enormous undertaking. But it was pretty well intact – albeit somewhat misshapen and haphazard, which required years of jigsaw-puzzle-type activity – and a most amazing time machine.
The result is simply marvellous, a marvel in the true sense of the word. We spent hours there looking at this magnificent vessel from below, above and in the middle. It was a Swedish time capsule and spoke volumes about their rich heritage.