Palaces, games and a race through the snow

The engines’ hum lulls us to sleep as the gentle pulsing of waves confuses our balance ever so slightly. If I look out, snowflakes dance by, swirling up, down, around, while a white foamy wake is the only other consistent sight in the inky blackness of night. But now and then the phosphorescent flash of a wave or the lights of an island town as we navigate through the archipelago towards the Baltic Sea.

We are aboard my first cruise ship, the MV Mariella, bound for Helsinki tomorrow morning. Hopefully no shipboard Hell or sinking involved!
It was a race to reach the ship in time. After a sad farewell to the hotel, we repeated yesterday’s stroll down to Gamla Stan. More of the surrounding waters have frozen in the night, a layer of ice sitting on top.

We ate a semla, a cardamom spiced bun filled with almond paste and cream and drank hot chocolate in an old Cafe decorated with portraits of Swedish royalty.
It was appropriate for our next stop, the Kungliga Slotten, or Royal Palace.
We began by viewing the Royal Apartments. The opulence, the artworks, carvings, furniture and decorations were awe inspiring. This is a world you cannot see in Australia. Possibly that is a good thing, for the amount of expense and effort concentrated into royalty is incredible. 
There was a section devoted to royal orders. The medals and chains associated with the investiture were so intricate in detail. The providence of some awards to foreign dignitaries was doubtful, with certain members listed not of the best of characters. 

The Tre Kronor Museum is located in the old basement and exhibits some of the history of the palace from its early days as a fortress. 

We didn’t make it to the treasury as it was getting late and B and Alex had enough of being trapped in the dull illumination of the palace. 
A bus ride took us to our next stop, the Tekniska Museet. Yet another science and technology museum, but this one was extra cool. 
Along with displays of robots, satellites, the insides of a dishwasher and old computers amongst many, many others, were unique interactive displays. Our favourites were the mind controls, including one where you have to compete with another player to focus and push a ball around with brain wave readings.

There were interactive sports games, relaxation games, tests of senses, science displays, a model railway and so much more. Not enough time to do everything, but we did squeeze in a quick trip around the computer games level which had far more amazing activities to do than we could try.
When we emerged from the museum it was snowing fairly heavily, the land blanketed in white, snowflakes drifting down on to our bags and jackets. 

It was getting late, so we squeezed into a bus back to the city and, once there, raced as quickly as we could back to collect our bags from the hotel. Then down the to the nearby metro station, trying to stay upright on the packed train as it jerked along. 

Another bus brought us to within a few hundred metres of the ferry terminal, but to get there we had to walk quicy through the snow, dragging our bags along, as more snow coated us white. 
Finally we checked in with a couple of minutes left to spare and quickly made our way on board. 
Our cabin was larger than expected and nicer than the Cabinn, itself inspired by boats. Four fold down bunks and a bathroom, plus I paid extra for a window. What would be the point in cruising without a view?

For many aboard the answer would no doubt be gambling and drinking duty-free alcohol. Not for us. 
We did splurge on a dinner at the buffet, which was pretty good. The sweets were especially nice, though it lacked fresh fruit. At least we had plenty of that for breakfast. 
I feel like I’m coming down with a cold. Not just the cold. 
Now the seas have got rougher as I come to the end of writing this. Fortunately B, who is especially prone to motion sickness, is asleep. It’s time for me to be that too. Tomorrow we’ll be in a different country! 
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