“Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again,” is the earworm I brought home from Stockholm, the beautiful capital city of Sweden. And there’s a reason. Of all the museums we saw on our European trip, ABBA: The Museum was my absolute favorite. 

It’s owned by the group so everything in there is just the way they want it. Yes, there’s a heap of history on each of the singers individually and as a group, mounds of mementoes and multitudes of musical examples. Plus some of the best interactive exhibits I’ve seen in any museum.

When you go in, you get a ticket which also activates a number of the exhibits, recording, videoing or photographing you for replay on your computer. Our daughter Zoe and I sang karaoke, posed for publicity stills and danced with the group on video. Since I looked like a pregnant turtle, no one will ever see that video, but it was lots of fun to do.

I think we heard every song the group ever recorded and some we hadn’t heard before. And we caught up with what the group members are doing now. Both Agnetha Fallskog and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad pursued solo careers. Benny Andersson has his own orchestra and tours. He and Bjorn Ulvaeus collaborated with Tim Rice on the hit musical Chess and both were involved as producers on the musical Mamma Mia! and both of the films.

Zoe and I were already ABBA fans but Jack said, “Even if you’d never heard ABBA, you’ll come out loving them.” 

As in Amsterdam, we booked a combo Hop-On-Hop-Off bus/boat tour, which gave us a chance to see a lot of the city and scope out places where we wanted to spend more time.

One of the most beautiful parts of the city is Djurgarden Island. ABBA: The Museum is here, as are a number of other museums. Another really cool museum is the Vasa Museum. The subject and centerpiece of this museum is an amazing ship designed to be the symbol of Sweden’s naval power in the 17th century.

The Baltic Sea was a war zone with Sweden, Denmark, Poland and other neighboring entities vying for control of the ports. King Gustav ll Adolf was intimately involved in seeing the completion of the ship. It was heavily decorated with colorful, painted carvings and carried a number of heavy cannons. 

There were no tools for estimating the sea-worthiness of ships in that day – it was pretty much build it and see if it floats. The hull of the ship was narrow – good for speed. The king made demands for it to be built higher than earlier ships. The first sign that things were not going to go well was a test where, while the ship was moored, a company of 30 men ran back and forth across the deck to determine stability. The roll of the ship was so extreme that the test was called off. But the launch wasn’t.

On August 10, 1628 the ship set sail for the first time. Only four of its 10 sails were unfurled but with the tall masts and brilliant decorations, it was magnificent.  The ship traveled less than a mile when a puff of wind caught the sails. The ship tipped; water poured into the open gunports on the lower deck and the top-heavy vessel sank.

Of the 150 people on board, all but 30 escaped. The tops of the masts were above water, allowing many to hang onto the rigging until help arrived. The hull of the ship rested some 100 feet below the surface.

Over 300 years, wood rotted, metal parts rusted, the seabed was littered with pieces of the ship but the hull remained relatively intact. The wreck was located in 1956 and operations began to raise, move, restore and conserve the vessel. 

A museum holding the restored ship opened in 1990. Three steel masts project from the roof of the museum to show the height of the ship. Hosting more than one million visitors a year, it is the most-visited museum in Scandanavia. Exhibits include not only the ship but artifacts found on the ship; exhibits on the salvage process and a scale model of the ship with full sails.

As for accommodations in Stockholm, Airbnb came through for us. We had an entire apartment – modern, clean and comfortable – one bedroom plus fold-out couch in the living area. We had a great kitchen complete with dishwasher. And it was about half a block from the train/metro station. 

When the automated ticket machines proved problematic, we were able to get our tickets – and great directions – from the 7-11 at the station. (7-11s are everywhere!) And there was a small grocery store right across the street. 

Having some of our meals in the apartment both helped us watch our diets and our pennies as well. Speaking of which – Sweden is going almost cashless – strictly credit cards so we never had to worry about changing currency.

One meal we ate in a beautiful restaurant – Ulla Winbladh -- with great outside dining in a park setting on Djurgarden. The rococo-style building was built in 1897 as part of an Art and Industrial Exhibition. Jack had traditional Swedish meatballs with potato purée accompanied with pickled cucumbers and lingonberries. Zoe’s vegan patties with mushroom sauce were also served with those sides. I was more contemporary than traditional with a beautiful shrimp salad. We were shaded by a red and white striped canopy and surrounded by pots of red geraniums. Lovely setting – great meal.

Another day we wandered down narrow streets in the historic part of town, finding Osterlanggatan 17. Again we opted for outdoor dining. Jack and I ordered the daily special – grilled Italian sausage with baked tomato, roasted garlic cream, mustard-pickled onions and grilled flatbread. Zoe’s eating options were our biggest challenge, but a mushroom omelet with creamy mushrooms and gruyere cheese with accompanying green salad and French fries. Presentation was great and we all enjoyed our choices. 

A picture is worth a thousand words – and I almost always take pictures of my food. Space in the paper usually limits the number of photos with my stories but if you look at the paper online, you can usually see more pictures. I love the paper paper – but the online edition is a great addition.

This trip – Amsterdam, Norway, Stockholm and Copenhagen -- was, literally the trip of a lifetime. I hope you’re enjoying my stories – and they make you want to go. Just writing about it is a great way for me to relive these wonderful adventures. Thanks for letting me share them with you.

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