(Thursday) Woke up on our last day in the luxurious Stockholm Sheraton, feasted on another elaborate complimentary breakfast, packed our bags and checked out. We had most of the day to spend in Stockholm before our bullet train back to Malmö departed. Debating briefly where we should go, we decided on checking out the Gamla Stan (Old Town) again, taking in the changing of the Royal Guards at the Palace, and then heading into the shopping district to see the height of Swedish consumerism.
On our way to Gamla Stan, the kids were transfixed by Mario and Luigi, two Mario Brothers doing impressive juggling. Karen got pulled into the fray, standing calmly in the line of fire of burning torches and sharp scabbards. It was a great show, though I don't think they collected 100 coins to make it to an extra life.
The Old Town is home to at least two Swedish science fiction stores. Massive selection of reading -- in English and Swedish -- as well as comics, roll-playing games, War Hammer, and the rest. Seems that the heady escapism of scifi is going strong here.
Just before the Royal clock tower above the Nobel Prize building struck noon, we assembled for the changing of the guard. We had excellent front row positions while hundreds of other tourists strolled in and joined the spectacle. The guards organized themselves quietly, while some of them managed the crowds. Then, at 12:15 sharp, the thundering sound of marching drums, followed by a full Royal brass band lit up the streets.
Elwyn later said that when the drums were going, his heart was thumping really hard, and that for the next day he heard the brassy songs in his head.
At least 45 minutes of ceremonial guard changing ensued, with arming and disarming, dismounting and remounting, all orchestrated by a sternly confident master of the ceremonies. The guards all looked very young. We learned from Roger later that as a part of the manditory millitary service in Sweden, everyone had a chance to serve at the Royal Palace, but only the best squads get selected. Lots of women were in the guard, and the King supports a farily major equestrian operation to which goes far beyond his marching horses, with programs for the nations youth.
We only left about an hour for shopping in the city centre, which was fine as the infamous Swedish prices really prohibited any serious purchases.
Hopped on the x2000 to rocket back down to Malmö. 4.5 hours later, we arrived and met Roger at the station. Avis, where we were to rent a car to drive around for the next 5 days, was closed and the people who we phoned had no recollection of my reservations. An hour and a half of waiting in a hotel lobby later, the very apologitic Avis people drove out from the airport with a large-sized car, offering a free day, free upgrade, free drop-off fee, 10% discount on the total price. I accepted the terms, and headed back to Roger's house in Klippan for the rest of the night.