Island cities

Gamla Stan, Stockholm
Gamla Stan

In the climactic scene of The Goonies, the kids stumble into the grotto where One-Eyed Willy’s treasure-laden pirate ship is stranded.

They gaze at their discovery in wonder.

I felt the same amazement when I came face to prow with Vasa, a nearly four-hundred-year-old, four-story warship in near-perfect condition on display inside Stockholm’s Vasa Museum.

Ninety-eight percent of her wood is original! The multi-level museum spirals around the ship, allowing her to be viewed from every angle.

Vasa was built and launched in 1628. In her day, the 226-foot ship was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world with two decks of cannons. However, upon launching, Vasa proved top-heavy. The ship foundered and sank just forty minutes after leaving the dock.

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Finland by design

Sweden's archipelago
One of Sweden’s 24,000 islands

Silja Serenade, the overnight cruise ship from Stockholm to Helsinki, is a floating shopping mall. It carries two thousand passengers, mostly Swedes and Finns looking for getaway weekends in the others’ cities. On board are numerous duty-free shops, a movie theater, a Broadway-esque show (Grease), a casino, and several restaurants and bars.

I checked into my below-deck cabin with the Irish immigrants, then lounged on the sun deck as the ship picked its way through Sweden’s archipelago and into the Baltic Sea.

The water was calm. In the setting sun, the islands were peaceful and picturesque, evergreen, each with red-and-white summer houses huddled around docks. A few small islands, white with guano, teemed with birds. After a dinner of, what else, Swedish meatballs, I went topside to watch the sunset. The pub erupted in cheers every time the Finns scored a hockey goal against Belarus.

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