The numbers are staggering: 30,000 islands, islets and rocks.
These chunks of earth comprise the Stockholm archipelago and imbue it with immense beauty. But the numbers say nothing of the feeling one experiences when cruising through the archipelago into or out of Stockholm.
I’ve done it both ways, and for me, an avid cruiser who has cruised along this planet’s most fabled waterways, the archipelago ranks at the top. There were two moments that did it for me.
The first was on a journey coming into Stockholm. It was the middle of the summer, 3 a.m. The darkness that had descended on the lower parts of Europe struggled to grip the sky at latitudes this far north. Rather, streaks of pastel brushed across a light blue canvas of sky.
Only a few of us were on deck as our ship began to make the three-hour transit to the Swedish capital. Along with me, one woman was photographing the sky, the islands and the rippling water as our ship quietly motored along.
At 3:30 a.m., the sun began to peek above the horizon. Morning had broken. The dawning of a new day and the rhythm of the ripples lapping against the shoreline made me think that this was exactly what it was like eons ago. Indeed, the archipelago felt like something ancient that morning, as if it belonged to the beginning of time, although I knew the archipelago was constantly renewing itself, forged by the upheaval of earth (the islands are rising at a rate of three millimeters annually).
On that beautiful morning, I stood on deck for three hours to watch our ship sail past those beautiful islands. It was an experience I would recommend to anyone — and everyone.
The second moment that did it for me was on a ship departing Stockholm. As we left picturesque Gamla Stan in our wake, the bustle of ferries between Slussen and Djurgarden slowly began to give way to small pleasure boats, loaded with Stockholmers headed out to the archipelago for the weekend. With their workweek behind them, many of the happy passengers in those boats waved to us, 11 decks up.
And then, there she was: A woman stood on a private dock leading down from her cottage on one of the islands. She looked up and waved to us before walking to the end of the dock, disrobing and diving into the chilly water. Her head popped out of sea, and she waved again.
We cruised until I could no longer see her, but the vision of her remains and the memory of cruising what is for me the world’s most beautiful transit, Stockholm’s welcome mat, the archipelago.
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Also see Stockholm Tips & Advice: The Archipelago or check out the videos, Stockholm’s Archipelago On Silver Cloud.