Friday, 4 August 2017

Trip to Stockholm

We have been wanting to go for a cruise with kids for some time by now but we have thought that theyare too small to actually enjoy it. However, my husband was rewarded as an employee of a month with a cruise gift card! We decided that we would go with the whole family and it actually turned out to be a good idea. The kids were thrilled and enjoyed (almost) every bit of it. We chose Silja Symphony by Tallink Silja Line simply because it is the best cruise ship there is. ;) Seriously, it is big, spacey and it has wide promenade in the middle. The restaurants are good and the whole ferry was remodeled just couple years ago, including the kids' play room. Silja Symphony cruises between Helsinki and Stockholm and it stays in the port of Stockholm for a day so you have time to go exploring Stockholm. Also, you get to spend two evenings on the ferry, just nice mini break.

Going for a cruise with kids is one thing - driving over 200km to get to the port is another thing. Our kids are quite used to travel in a car though so the driving part wasn't that bad actually. Activity books, especially erasable books are good in a car trip. Our younger kid is a bit of a perfectionist and solving some mazes with usual pencil in a car isn't a good idea, at least if haven't taken ear plugs with you. Apparently the pencil isn't good enough even it can be erased as it leaves some imprint on the paper, not good. Dry erase pens are great, they can wiped off completely so they work well in a moving car. Then we had audio books for the kids and just in case, a tablet. Usually that's needed only in the end of the car trip - if even then.

Nowadays we usually use our phones to take picture as the phones have so good cameras that the pics turn out much better with them than with our (old) digital camera. So this time we gave the actual camera to the kids. When we arrived to Helsinki they started taking pics.

Quite good shot from a moving car by 5 year old, don't you think?

For those not familiar with Helsinki, the statue is one of our former presidents, Mannerheim and and behind him an art museum, Kiasma.

There are many others from Helsinki; trams, busses, houses etc. It was first time in Helsinki for the kids and biggest city they had visited by then so it was all very exciting. Then there are of course many shots from the ferry itself, this one is taken on board, islands right next to the port of Helsinki:

Then there are several shots of small things, things you don't pay attention to. Like this one:

Their activity book on a window shelf while having breakfast on the ferry. I made these erasable activity books last summer. Then I used "wet-erasable" pens but for this summer I bought these dry-erasable ones. More about the books here.

Time to start our trip! Our ferry, Silja Symphony (Tallink Silja Line) at the port of Helsinki. More about the ferry here.

The kids on the window shelf of our cabin. We chose a promenade cabin; 4 person cabin with two bunk beds and a window facing the promenade. The window is big and gives you a feeling of bigger space in otherwise small cabin. The other option with a window is of course the seaside cabin but the window is rather small and after leaving the port there is nothing much to watch. Always interesting to watch the people walking on the promenade. The kids liked it too.


Watching the ship departuring.

Tiny islands on the archipelago of Helsinki, these were completely covered by birds.

Arriving to Stockholm. The ferry goes in middle of islands for couple hours at least, the archipelago of Stockholm continues quite far on the sea. There are beautiful houses and summer cabins on almost every island, some are reachable by ferry boats, some only by the house/cabin owners' own boats. It's always great to eat your breakfast and watch the islands go by, getting bigger and bigger while getting closer to the mainland.

There is big buffet restaurant serving dinner and breakfast. The breakfast offers pretty much anything you can imagine; bacons, eggs, porridge, bread, cereals etc. My favourite is usually natural yoghurt with yam, seeds and nuts on top. Something I don't usually have at home.

We weren't planning a visit in a toy store but we happened to get out from an underground almost in front of the biggest BR toys in the Nordic. When the kids spotted it, we didn't have much choice. :D They wanted to have their picture taken with full-sized Lego Friends made out of Lego bricks.

Our main plan in Stockholm was to visit Junibacken, an indoor activity park based on the stories by Astrid Lindgren and other swedish children authors. First thing I spotted outside was this tree with huge real-looking bananas.

Junibacken is like nothing else, it has activities based on the children's books, the look is very different compared to those new plastic, flashy activity parks you usually find. Here the atmosphere is calm, no one seems to be in a hurry. First thing you see in Junibacken is Storybook Square. Storybook Square has places to climb, slide, explore and play for a long time. It is made so well that even the adults aren't bored, there is so much to see and so many details that you just won't believe it before you see it!

Princes's place; dragon watching over a treasure and dresses hanged out to dry.

Pettson's workshop from the books called "Pettson and Findus" by Sven Nordqvist. Everything here is kids size so they can reach almost anything. There are no warning signs anywhere forbidding you to touch the exhibition, the kids are encouraged to touch and play.

Alfons Åberg (Alfie Atkins, by Gunilla Bergström) watching over everything.

There was plenty of upcycled (probably more than I could spot) and re-used old items.

After the Storybook Square we took the Story Train that travelled through the scenes of the stories by Astrid Lindgren. The train had full Finnish narrative so the kids were able to follow it too. The Story Train arrived to Pippi Longstocking's house. It is every bit as wonky as you would imagine. Like everything else, the house was completely free to explore, there were also stairs up and slide down (on the tower on the left).

Laundry hanged to dry.

The house was full of old things.

Junibacken's idea is to take you inside the stories and I have to say that it's exactly what it does!

On our return journey we skipped the buffet table and ate in one of the à la carte - restaurants. The dish here is "Captain's sword" and the meat really arrived in a sword. Beef, chicken and lamb with delicious pepper sauce, oven vegetables, salad and french fries.

The journey back included more time in kids' land with ball pool, circus show and finishing the Lego sets the kids had bought day before. How can you leave something like that to do at home when you can do it right away, no matter how tired you are?

In Stockholm after visiting Junibacken our son asked if we could go home already because there were too many people. Indeed, I could feel it too. Not that I would mind that much but it was the first time I have been in a big(gish) city with two kids. They have grown up on country side, in a place where you can run at the end of the road and still see your parents. Where they can go to playground themselves or ask their friends out. Where you don't have to mind other walkers or bikers on pavement... I was constantly looking around as my kids weren't and pulling them back before they were run over by bikers! I have tried to teach them to look back before crossing the pavement, but no, they don't remember it, maybe because there is usually no one there? The cars weren't a problem, that's something they have learned to be careful with. To parents in big cities; I have no idea how you manage, I was stressed enough only after half a day!

So, when we stopped by a lake close to our home to stretch our legs and the kids saw the lake with sand beach, they grabbed their Littlest Pet Shop-figures and had immediately a play going on. Almost home!

All in all, great mini vacation, not nearly as catastrophic as I would have thought!

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