Notes from Puzzle Palace

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Finland and Sweden

 Just when you thought we were done with Scandinavia, we get 4 more days in Finland and Sweden.

27 May

Helsinki Finland

This morning I was woken up by the rumbling of the ships engines as it slid backwards into the dock position.  This is like thunder, the glasses vibrate against each other, the bed shakes.  It’s just something you need to experience.

At around 7:30 I opened the curtains and we looked out over Helsinki.  This is a city that both of us have been to before both separately and together. Because of this, we opted to see friends instead of taking a ships tour.  

It was a miserable day when I woke up, but it didn’t matter.  Our plan was to stay abed until around 11 and then head out for the city.  As we lay in bed, I was sending directions to our phone and found an escape room center.  At 11 on the nose I called to find out what was on for the day. Sadly, the first game would start at 12:45 and we wouldn’t be able to meet our friend on time.  

Instead we went of to Heureka.  A puzzle shop I have been to many times before to see what we could find.  As always, we were not disappointed.  Today we came out with another 20 puzzles that we did not have.  It is a nice little shop and if you find yourself in Helsinki they have a nice variety of puzzles.  And check out that uniform!

From here we walked to the main train station where we were to meet our friend Timo.  Our plan was to meet under the big balls at 2pm. 

The day was miserable and wet so George and I decided to go into the station and grab a warm coffee.  Shortly after we sat down our friend came out of the main station and after hugs were given, we went off to another restaurant for a bite to eat.  

I don’t remember the name of the little cafe, but the food I do remember.  George and Timo had a "cake sandwich" and I had a turkey and cheese croissant. We all had a glass of Karhu and a lovely talk.  I guess we must have spent around 2 hours just chatting away. It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other and we had a lot to catch up on.  

When lunch was over, we walked to a local shop to purchase yet another suitcase because we have purchased so many puzzles on this trip, we have no luggage to bring our clothes home in.  After our little shop, we walked back to the ship and said our goodbyes.  As always, the visit was too short, but as always it was great to see friends.  

28 May

Mariehamn, Finland

This stop is a small island that belongs to Finland but has predominantly Swedish speaking people.  It’s a port that I would have never chosen to go to on my own, but since we were here why not get off the ship and look around.  

I’ll be honest, it was raining and cold and I hate this type of weather.  But again, we don’t plan to come back so we got off the ship.  We took a shuttle into town.  We had no idea how far it was, so we took the little tram they had set up. 

Now we got off at the first stop because there is a book store here and a thrift shop.  When I asked on the ship I was told this would be our best bet for puzzles.  

We got off at the corner stop and walked to a bake sale and took a look at the offerings.  We then spotted the thrift shop, but not before watching a few children enjoying a bubble blowing event.  

Inside the thrift shop we made a beeline for the puzzle section and I rummaged through all of them.  Most were jigsaws, and none of any note so they stayed on the shelf.  I did manage to find a jigsawed wooden fish that had to be of local make so for 1 euro 50 it went into our bag.

When we left, we decided to wander down the main road and have a look around.  It was so cold that we agreed we would get to the end of the street and head back to the bus to take us back to the ship.  The third shop we came to had a display in the window and I squealed with delight!  I pulled George into the shop and I went right up to the shopkeeper and told her I wanted to see some rings she had on display.  She ignored us and told me she would get to me after she waited on all of the other customers in the shop. Fair enough.  I guess we looked like a bit of riff-raff walking through the door.  

I told her when she had time I wanted to see the Georg Jensen rings.  She didn’t even stop to think about it, she dropped the other "customers" (who by the way walked out of the shop without any purchases) and got the rings out for me.  We tried on everyone she had in stock, and I mixed and matched in different ways, but ended up with a classic.

See, I spotted these things from 20 feet away and wasn’t going to leave the store without them if the price was right.  George says my finger swelled up to match the size of the ring so it would go home with us.  For me, it was simply the price.  I was sold a trio with diamonds for the price listed in the 2010 catalog.  Add to that the VAT refund and the discount I got from the salesgirl and the 3 rings were the price of one. George joked that I made her month with that sale.  I can imagine that he was right.  It didn’t look like a busy shop.  

George said the first ring was for the engagement, the second for the wedding.  Too bad both came years after the facts.  :)

From here we walked the rest of the main street and headed back to the ship.  The walk back was a nice promenade lined with linden trees. There were some nice old buildings and a few sculptures along the way.  

When we got back to where the ship was docked, we decided to take a bit of a detour to look at a clipper ship.  George found a big heavy chain that interested him, we took a few photos and headed back to our cabin to warm up.

29 May

Stockholm Day 1

We had a tour booked, but par for the course, it was cancelled.  Instead we opted to go to the Vasa museum to see the ship.  This Vasa ship capsized and sank in Stockholm in 1628.  It stayed on the seabed until it was raised in 1961.  The process that they went through to preserve the ship is incredible and can be seen on the ground floor of the museum. 

In nutshell, King Gustaf II was a very conceited king and had this ship built. Turns out it was top-heavy and his builders were unwilling to tell him this bad news.  Instead, they let the ship sail.  And sink.  

We intended to walk over and spend just an hour in the museum. Instead, we were there for two and had we not been in need of food, we would have spent another two or three hours there.  I find it ironic that Swedens greatest naval disaster ended up being their greatest naval museum.  It truly is a museum worth visiting.  I will let the photos speak for me.

From here we went to a little restaurant along the waterfront and had a very nice lunch of shrimp salad, olives, and fried cheese.  You can’t go wrong with olives and cheese.

We returned to the opera house to get back to the ship. Sadly, we were 40 minutes early so we had to wait in the cold for the bus to arrive. And here I get to complain a little bit.  When the ship docks out in BFE, there should be a bus that runs more than once every hour.  Too many passengers said they couldn’t get on the bus to go into town.  The same thing happened for people returning to the ship.  It just seems to me there should have been a more regular bus schedule.  Denmark was horrible with a bus leaving every half hour (starting at a different time each of the three days we were in town) but this was worse.  

30 May

Stockholm Day 2

Today we had a lie in.  Our tour was at 12:50.  Today we decided to go to the Ice Bar. I had been to one in Hong Kong in the late 2000’s and George had been to this one with our dear friend Oskar in 2005.  We opted to do this one today together. 

We had a nice tour the city before we got to the ice bar.  It was interesting to hear that a 500 square foot apartment sells for around 1.1 million US.  Expensive rabbit hutches. No thank you.  Been there, done that, NEVER again. But, I hadn’t realized that real estate here was that expensive.  Being a hot house flower, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live here. 

After this we headed into the ice bar. They put a poncho on us and we entered a sealed corridor.  When everyone was inside and the outer door closed, an inner one opened.  We stepped inside. And yes, it was cold!  I was glad for the extra layer.  

We wandered around and took a photo or two, I did a short video of the room and the bartender mixing a drink, and then I ordered one for each of us. 

I must say, I was a bit disappointed, but I suppose with COVID and all they had to use glasses and not pour the alcohol down the bar top.  At least George and I experienced it together.  Our friend José sent me a photo of him in there in 2005.  He was a bit chunkier and not quite as hairy.  AND there was fur!

From here we went on a walking tour of the old city.  There was a cute little sculpture of a boy looking at the moon, and we saw a rendition of St. George the Dragon slayer rescuing a rather asian looking Sweden. 

There was a changing of the guard and quite a few statues.  Another nifty thing we saw was a rune stone that was used as a corner stone in a building. It was protected by an old cannon barrel. 

We walked up a very narrow alley, and saw a lot of very old buildings and water wells.  It’s funny how times change.  Now life revolves around shopping malls.  In earlier times, it was wells.  

We got back to the ship and the captain again wasted no time in leaving.  I believe we were pulling out at 4:30 today.  A full 1/2 hour early.

Dinner was in the grand dining room tonight and I must say, it was a rather strange experience.  One of our friends had ordered a fois gras paté with chutney which was delicious.  Then George and I had a Sicilian salad.  Which was not.  There was so much sand in it, that I was eating grit all night after just a few mouthfuls.  Even George didn’t eat it and he’s like Mikey!   I ordered a cauliflower soup instead which was just wonderful, and the strawberries and cherries we had for desert were perfect.  All in all, it was a good meal, but would have been much better if they had just washed the lettuce.  

We sailed out to one of the most beautiful sunsets. Here's goodbye to cold weather and the land of the midnight sun. 

Anyway, tomorrow is Visby, Sweden so until then, Happy Puzzling and Smooth Sailing.