A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Kathrin_E

City of Water, Wind and Light

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The clear nordic light and the dramatic skies, and the spacious landscape of the city with its islands among wide open lake surfaces - that's what impressed me most about Stockholm. New views open up all the time. Each island is a quarter of its own with a different character.

There is heaps to see in the city, so this first visit was just an overview. We had a total of five nights, hence four full and two half days, and a well-filled schedule, but of course we could not see and do everything. This city could keep one busy for months in a row.

We started with a boat tour „under the bridges“ on the first afternoon, as an introduction to the city.

On day 2 we had a guided tour of Gamla Stan, some churches and the royal palace in the morning; the afternoon had an optional museum visit but the weather was far too nice so I explored Riddarholmen and the city centre on my own instead.

On the third day we had a meeting scheduled with members of our sister club in Stockholm at Drottningholm palace. The ferry ride there could have been very pleasant but unfortunately this was the one and only day with really lousy weather.

Day 4 was dedicated to Södermalm and its more off the beaten path attractions.

On day 5 we visited the Vasa museum, which we all found so fascinating that we decided to stay longer than planned. The afternoon was free for shopping or whatever ladies do when travelling.

On the last day we still had the morning to play with because our flight departed in the afternoon. I was up early so I had enough time to pack and then go and visit the city hall with the first morning tour.

The trip was a privately organized tour with a small group. We have two Swedish members in our club here (not wanting to go into more details) and they came up with the idea to plan a visit to Stockholm for the members. What did we think about it? Yes, sure, we're in! So a group of nine ladies and one plush wombat boarded a plane in Frankfurt and invaded the Swedish capital. Thanks to local knowledge and a lot of pre-planning we found a convenient but affordable place to stay and had the tour itinerary planned with some extras that, once more, only local knowledge can provide. Special thanks to M. and A.!

Stockholm is not cheap...

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Better start saving well before your trip. It is not as bad as Norway but not much better. Calculate a budget that is 1/3 higher than what you are used to in other cities of Western Europe and you'll get by. There is a lot of tasty food to try, there are plenty of interesting things to see - it would be a pity to be limited to dry rolls (I'm exaggerating) and seeing places from the outside only because the money doesn't last. There are also plenty of fine shopping options but there I restrained myself, unlike my better-off travel companions.
Anyway, mentally prepare and you will be fine.

Posted by Kathrin_E 23:45 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Day 1: Introduction to Stockholm

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We arrived in Stockholm Arlanda at midday and went into the city in a large taxi that carried us all. Our two Swedes were staying with relatives, all others had booked rooms in Hotel Colonial not far from the central station. After moving into our hotel rooms we set out onto our first walk.

We were all eager to see the city but most of all we were hungry after an early morning departure from home. So our knowledgeable friend took us to the market hall and food court for lunch. Hötorgshallen, just off Hötorget and Sergelgatan in the centre of the City's shopping district (http://www.hotorgshallen.se/), is a market hall with many many themed shops and stalls selling food specialities from all over the world. Many, especially those in the basement, also offer prepared food to eat right there or take away. For a quick lunch there is plenty of choice and a wide variety of cuisines. Seating is limited to some stools at the bar, or standing tables.

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We were of course after Swedish food. We found a stall run by two very cute young people, a guy and a girl, that offered meat and fish dishes. Everything was fresh and neatly arranged. I had venison meatballs (forgot the correct term, Swedes will know what I mean), others had fish dishes. All very tasty! For a drink we had fresh natural apple juice, also very good.

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The market hall is close to the series of five highrise buildings along Sveawägen and Sergelgatan, the pedestrianized street between Sergels Torg and Hötorget. These modern buildings are part of a large project to rebuild and refurbish the city centre in the 1950s. The highrises were erected between 1952 and 1956. At that time the functionalist style and multi-storey buildings were still a rather new thing in Europe. The grid patterns of the facades are a characteristic feature of functionalist architecture and might appear boring. A comparison of the five individual buildings and a view from a distance reveal, though, that these are very cleverly designed. Each building has a different pattern, so that from a distance (as in the second photo, which is a zoom view from Monteliusvägen on Södermalm) they appear as a series in gradual shades of grey. The facades are reflecting, an optical effect which dissolves the huge rectangular shapes. All in all, a remarkable example of early functionalism.

Boat cruise „Under the Bridges“

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The boat tour „Under the Bridges“ was the first thing we did in the afternoon of our arrival day. Our Swedish friend and organizer suggested it in order to give us an idea and impression of the city and its townscape.

A purpose which it successfully fulfilled.

The cruise runs for almost two hours and took us through lakes and bays around several islands, through two locks and under no idea how many bridges.

You get an idea of the city’s layout, the correlation of topography and urbanistics, of landscape and architecture, and the individual characters of the different quarters and islands.

The comment is available in a dozen or so languages over headphones at each seat.

The seats are comfy and there was more than one passenger who dozed off…

I decided to restrain myself from the comment and rather be on the move to take photos. I spent most time outside in the back, but it was cold and windy so every now and then I had to slip back indoors to warm up.

A hot coffee and a very tasty chocolate muffin from the cafeteria counter helped to keep my spirits up!

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Bridges of Stockholm

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I have read some bad reviews about this tour on the web and I have to admit that some points of criticism are justified: The layout of the boat will not allow those who have the middle seats to see much of the views because of the low, closed roof and the distance to the windows. Even from a window seat you see only one side. The major part of the boat is indeed indoors, only a small part in the back is outdoors and this has a (canvas) roof, too. However, we were lucky as the boat had no more than maybe 25-30 people on board, 10 of which belonged to our party. That meant an abundant choice of window seats and room to move around to one’s liking. Had the weather been sunny this might have been different.

So what I’d recommend doing is this: Board the boat at the first point of departure at Kungsträdgården, not at the second one in Nybrohamnen, in order to be among the first passengers boarding. Be there in time. Weather permitting, sit outside in the back. If the weather is not cooperating, try to grab a window seat.

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Information sheet with a map of the route at my seat
More information:http://www.stromma.se/de/Stockholm/Sightseeing/Sightseeing-by-boat/Under-the-Bridges-of-Stockholm/

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The whole port can be viewed like a ship museum. The ships, steamers and ferries that tour the waters of Stockholm are often historical vessels, 100 or more years old. The small steamboats that do the passenger lines are particularly cute. More old ships, sailboats, fishing boats are lined up along the quays, some in good shape and ready to depart, others obviously awaiting renovation.

It is so hard to decide upon which photos to use, there are so many interesting vessels…

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The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, famous for his ascetic lifestyle, has at least one fan and heir in Stockholm, it seems. This here could well have been Diogenes's houseboat. I think in the nordic climate even he would have consented to equip his barrel with an oven.
I spotted this funny houseboat on the northern bank of Langeholmen island.

Tunnelbanen

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We were also introduced to Stockholm’s underground network, the Tunnelbanen. We received electronic cards loaded with a weekly ticket that our friend had organized, so we could ride the underground as much as we wanted.

Tunnelbanen is not only the fastest public transport through the city. Going by Tunnelbanen is also sightseeing.

The stations of Stockholm’s underground are sights themselves. Many of them, especially those in the centre, have been designed by artists and refer to a certain topic and/or the location. Take your time to have a look at them. Running after underground trains is a waste of energy anyway since they run so frequently. Sometimes it makes sense to miss one on purpose in order to have time to look round the station.

I particularly liked the blue tunnels of T-Centralen with their rocky structure and vegetabile ornaments – not only because blue is one of my favourite colours.

Here are a few random examples that we passed through. I am sure there are many more discoveries awaiting Tunnelbanen passengers.

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Kungsträdgården has elements of the park above, with sculptures, grottoes and baroque railings.
In Slussen they have abstract murals.
Rådmansgatan station (sorry no photo) is dedicated to the author August Strindberg.

Posted by Kathrin_E 23:56 Archived in Sweden Comments (2)

Day 2: Gamla Stan

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The second day was dedicated to Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town on the island in the centre. This is the oldest, the most beautiful and also the most “touristy” part of the city. Cruise passengers, of which there were thousands, hardly see more than this small part of the city during their short visit.

We had booked a private walking tour through Gamla Stan for the morning. Our guide took us through the narrow alleys and showed us a lot of details which we would have missed, had we gone by ourselves.

The anchor plates on the facades are such a feature. Most historical houses on Gamla Stan display such wrought-iron anchor plates. First of all these fulfil a technical purpose, concerning structural reinforcement: withstanding the tractive forces of the beams and connecting them to the wall or gable. The visible part on the facade was often designed in a decorative shape. However, even anchor plates are subject to fashion. The trick about them is that you can date the anchor, hence the facade, with the help of these shapes and patterns.

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The tour was very good, nevertheless my memory of Gamla Stan is a bit of a blur.

It is weird: If I visit a place with a guided tour only, as opposed to exploring on my own, then I feel afterwards as if I “have not really been there”. One looks more into the guide’s face than at the things s/he explains. As a photographer one is constantly on the run to snap some quick shots, tries to listen to the guide at the same time if possible, and always has an eye on the others in order not to lose the group. Tourist stress!

I remember the two characteristic colours of Gamla Stan that most historical houses are painted in: a dark warm red and a yellowish ochre.

I remember the stone with the Viking runes, and a cute shop in the house behind it that sold funny little Viking dolls.

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Tyska Kyrkan

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During the tour we visited Tyska Kyrkan, the German Church, which was of particular interest to me. The former church of St Gertrud, one of the two large churches in Gamla Stan, is the parish church of the German-speaking community. German influence was strong. In the late middle ages the Hansa controlled the trade on the Baltic Sea, German merchants and craftsmen settled in Stockholm just like in many other port cities. Even when the power of the Hansa diminished, economic and cultural contacts remained important and influential. That included the royal family - marriages with princesses (and recently, bourgeois) from Germany occurred several times. The German members of the royal family have their own separate box in the church.

The present church was erected around 1640 - in the era when Germany was devastated by the catastrophe of the Thirty Year War, the German community in Stockholm lived in peace and wealth.

Among the impressive interior and furniture, the pulpit with its elaborate carvings in wood and alabaster is the most remarkable piece. The altar and the galleries are also richly ornated. By the way, this is a Lutheran church.

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Russell wants to make sure that he will return to Stockholm one day

In a small square named Bollhustäppan next to the Finnish church we were shown the tiny but famous statue of a little boy looking up to the sky. It would be a hidden spot if it wasn't on the schedule of any guided tour. It is considered the smallest public statue in Sweden - hard to tell if this is really true, but never mind. It is certainly small, and cute...

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The little boy was created by the sculptor Liss Eriksson in 1954. The artist recalls his own childhood, when during sleepless nights he used to sit on his bed and look up at the moon.

The legend tells that if you pat the little boy's head you can be sure that you will return to Stockholm someday. That's why the head is so shiny.

I could not figure out, though, why people donate coins to him and where the money goes. However, there are rumours that stealing these coins means bad luck because the boy sees everything and will never forget...

Royal Palace

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In the townscape of Gamla Stan, the Royal Palace is a striking element. This is where our tour ended. The large flat building appears like a big brownish shoebox. It qualifies as probably the ugliest palace I have ever seen, and I have seen quite many. Why King and Queen prefer to live in the idyllic surroundings of Drottningholm and come here for work only is easily understandable.

This is still a ‘working’ palace, meaning that some parts are heavily guarded and off-bounds to visitors. Nevertheless there is quite a lot to see and visit inside the palace, like the historical rooms and halls, the treasure chamber and some museums. I did not have the time to enter and see any of them, though. The palace is on my wish list for „next visit“.

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The palace chapel is free to enter and needs no tickets. However, there is a strict „no photos“ policy so I cannot show you any pictures. It was inaugurated already in the 1750s but the interior is rather neoclassical than rococo as could be expected – seems they have worked on the furnishing for at least 20 years longer.

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The Royal Guards on duty are quick at shooing people away. In their uniforms they look as if they have escaped from some operetta. But their job cannot be much fun and they are serious about it, so keep your distance. The bayonet looks surely threatening. (However, he would appear even more impressive hadn’t they chosen a guy of hardly more than 1,65 m height with the face of a 16-year-old, LOL)

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The cannons in the front yard of the palace should not be approached too closely either. The guards there will not allow it. These are the cannons which are used for salute shooting at certain occasions.

The changing of the guards at 12.15, on Sundays at 1.15 p.m. is a tourist must-see and takes place in the front yard. I sadly have to confess that I missed it due to tired, painful legs and the need for a lunch break…

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Where to find affordable lunch in overtouristy and overpriced Gamla Stan? There is one answer: Stockholms Stadsmission. They run an eatery which is one of the rare opportunities, perhaps the only, to get food at relatively cheap prices here. Their premises are located in Stortorget, right in the heart of the old town. It is a self-service place and popular also with locals. At peak lunchtime (12.30/13.00) it can be very crowded and a free table can be hard to find. The buffet has a couple of warm dishes, soup, fish plates, salads, cake and pastry etc. Everyone selects what looks appealing to them. We were a group of nine ladies and everyone found her food very tasty. Coffee and water were included.

Storkyrkan - The Royal Cathedral

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After lunch we continued to the royal cathedral. Storkyrkan is the main church not only of Stockholm but of the Kingdom of Sweden, and tightly connected with Swedish royalty. Sweden's Lutheran church is a state church with the king as its head. Royal ceremonies take place inside this church.

Over seven centuries the brick gothic hall church has been extended and refurbished over and over again. The interior was meant to impress, and it does. The church contains lots of magnificent artworks and furniture that impresses both through artistic quality and through its sheer size. I'd like to mention in particular:

- the silver altarpiece with reliefs showing the main scenes from Christ's Passion,
in best Lutheran tradition,and statues of Moses and John Baptist,
- the baroque „Royal Chairs“, two boxes under high canopies in the shape of crowns
held by flying angels, framing the central aisle,
- the lifesize statue of St George on horseback (late 15th century)
- the late medieval bronze chandelier, total height 3.7 metres.

Opening hours: The church is open daily from 9.00 to 16.00 except during services.
Entrance fee: 40 SEK if I remember correctly. I'm always a bit grumpy when I have to pay to enter a church but the interior is worth seeing, missing it would be a pity.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 01:15 Archived in Sweden Comments (2)

Riddarholmen

Day 2 continued

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After the long tour of Gamla Stan I felt the need for a relaxed walk at my own pace and a break from the group. The museum of modern art was suggested for the afternoon, but the weather was far too nice and sunny for a museum visit. I stayed inside Storkyrkan longer than the others and then walked down the hillside to the bridge over to Riddarholmen, a separate island west of Gamla Stan. A narrow branch of water divides them.

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The baroque Riddarhuset next to the bridge was the meeting point of Swedish nobility. It was built in the 1640s. Four architects were involved, and they used Dutch architecture as model for their design. The gable is entitled: „Palatium ordinis equestris“, Palace of the estate of knights. The inscription above the portal cites the motto: „Arte et Marte“ - art and war. The two main occupations of nobility. The statues on the roof are allegories of 'noble' virtues.

Riddarholmskyrkan: Burial Place of the Kings and Queens

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Riddarholmskyrkan, the church on the island of Riddarholmen, with its delicate spire is a landmark in the cityscape.

The gothic church was built from bricks in the 13th century and extended several times - I do not want to enter the details of its construction history too deeply.

The nave is surrounded by small burial chapels from different eras, most of them baroque.

The details of the roof landscape and the chapels are worth a closer look. The chapels are crowned with gilded „toppings“ that use various Christian symbols.

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The steeple of Riddarholmskyrkan was badly damaged by a fire in 1835. Afterwards it received the present spire which adopts gothic patterns but uses the new technology of the 19th century industrialization: cast iron. This material allows much more delicate structures than stone. From a distance, the spire looks like lace.

The church has important significance for the country since it has been the burial place of the royal dynasty since the 16th century.

Riddarholmskyrkan contains the graves of the Swedish Kings and Queens and their close relatives. The church is used as burial and memorial place only, for 200 years there has been no regular service any more. All succeeding rulers of Sweden from Gustav II Adolf (d. 1632) to Gustaf V (d. 1950) are buried in the Riddarholmen Church, with the one exception of Queen Christina. There are also a couple of graves of kings from the middle ages. The most prominent 'inmate' is probably Gustav Adolf, whose body was transferred back to Stockholm after his death in the battle of Lützen in the 30 Year War.

Practical hints:
Opening hours: The church is open for visits only during the summer months from mid-May to mid-September.
Please refer to the website for detailed opening hours and other information: http://www.kungahuset.se/royalcourt/royalpalaces/theriddarholmenchurch.4.396160511584257f2180001466.ht
Entrance fee (2014): adults 50 SEK, children 25 SEK. Payment can be done by credit card only - no cash is accepted.

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P.S. To my astonishment I read on the website recently that taking photos or videos inside is not allowed. However, when I was there, there was nothing written and nothing said (or I totally missed it), I stayed quite long and openly took a lot of photos all over the church and chapels, and no one objected - I think I even asked if it's okay to take pictures, I usually do. So either it is a new rule, or I missed something, or it isn't enforced. I cannot tell you how this will be handled in the future. Anyway, however it is, turn that flash off.

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The founder of the city of Stockholm, Birger Jarl, is commemorated in a monument on the island of Riddarholmen. Birger, the king of Sweden, built a first fortification around 1250 to protect the lake from pirates. According to legends the place was decided upon by throwing a tree trunk into Mälar lake, which then 'beached' on the shore of this island. The statue looks rather 19th century to me, maybe even early 20th century. The king is depicted as a knight in the pose of a resting hero, leaning on his sword and shield.

Evert Taubes Terrass

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My favourite place on a sunny afternoon to sit and rest, enjoy the view and just – feel being there, that’s Evert Taubes Terrass.

The terrace occupies the western shore of Riddarholmen island behind Wrangell Palace. There are some benches on the terrace and it is rarely crowded.

In the afternoon you have the sun in your face and the wind blowing in from Mälar lake over the glittering waters of Riddarfjärden.

This is the perfect spot to rest after a visit to Riddarholmskyrkan.

On the other side of Riddarfjärden Stadshuset, the city hall, is the dominant landmark, with the three gilded crowns on top of the tower gleaming in the sunlight.

Should you overlook it, which is hardly possible, though, the statue of a musician with a guitar – no idea who he is – points towards it.

The abstract modern sculpture on the terrace further left also makes a good foreground for your photos.

Riksdag

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Then I made my way back to the hotel for a bit of rest before dinner. The shortest connection on foot from Gamla Stan over to Drottninggatan and the city centre leads right through the grounds of the parliament.

The parliament of Sweden, named Riksdag, has its own island between Gamla Stan and the city. A public passage leads over the island through arched gates.

The parliament building was erected in the early 19th century in neorenaissance style. The models were surely taken from the Italian renaissance architecture, given the general appearance of the buildings (and, for the experts, the use of the Serliana pattern for the two gates). Some modern additions and extensions are visible from the opposite banks of the lake.

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Jacobs Kyrka

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The red church next to Kungsträdgården is named after St Jacob (James), the patron saint of all travellers (hence important to us, ha ha). Jacobs Kyrka was begun in the late 16th century and finished in 1643. Hence it is a renaissance church with some post-gothic structures and elements. Despite various restorations and refurbishments it has preserved some art works and its appearance.

The nave is a hall of three aisles with a higher middle nave, not a basilica because the row of windows at the upper walls is missing. The vaults are resting on sturdy round pillars.

The church treasure is on display inside the church. The parish owns a number of remarkable silversmiths' works like the bowl for baptism with a repoussage relief that shows the Baptism of Christ.

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That evening we were all rather tired. Nobody felt like more walking in the evening. All we did was cross the street to the Indian restaurant opposite our hotel for dinner. Then we called it a day.

Posted by Kathrin_E 07:48 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Day 3: Drottningholm Palace in the Rain

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On the third day we had a meeting scheduled with our sister club in Stockholm to visit Drottningholm Palace. The baroque palace is located outside the city on Mälar lake. It can be reached by bus but the most pleasant way of getting there is a mini cruise on the lake ferry. The ferries depart next to Stadshuset at regular intervals. They are a means of public transport just like buses. The ferry lines are operated by small steamers which are about 100 years old.

Mälar lake is a maze of small, smaller and minuscule islands. I think there is more island surface than open water. It is part of the skerry landscape which is so typical for the coasts of Skandinavia. The islands consist of granite rocks that were shaped by the glaciers of the ice age.

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The view from the air – photo taken during the flight home three days later – reveals the structure of this landscape.

Trees and shrubs are now growing on most of the islets. Any island big enough to build a house on will have holiday homes on it. The bigger islands are permanently inhabited. Looks like every Stockholmer family who can afford it owns a little house by the water for weekends and holidays, and a boat. People live on the water as well as on the land.

This could have been a really enjoyable boat ride. However, St Peter was not cooperating. This was the only day with really lousy weather during our stay – and the most weather dependent activity. All day the rain was pouring. In other words: Gah!

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Well, there is no bad weather, there is only wrong clothing. Thus we did not let the rain stop us. Since we had the appointment with the Stockholm club, we were unable to switch plans. We made the best of it. On the boat we stayed mostly indoors. Only the most passionate photographer in the group, i. e. yours truly, ventured out onto the back deck every now and then to catch some pictures. And we tried some photo experiments involving the raindrops on the windows.

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Drottningholm Palace is beautifully located on the lakeshore. The main palace dates from the 1680s. It is surrounded by wide baroque gardens and a landscape park. Originally it served as a pleasure and summer palace. The present royal couple, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, chose it as their permanent home in order to escape the hustle and bustle of central Stockholm and the tourist hordes. They inhabit the southern wing, which is widely fenced off and heavily guarded. Of course we stared, but all we got to see was a car leaving the grounds which transported, perhaps, the royal shopping bag or something like that.
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The side wing where the Royal family actually live

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The guards were not too attentive... They did not even notice King Kong sitting on the roof of the palace!

Our Swedish fellow members met us at the boat landing. We were greeted with a glass of champagne. They had organized a tour of the baroque theatre for us. Then we had lunch together at the restaurant next to the palace.

The Baroque Theatre

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Drottningholm Slottsteater, opened in 1766, is even more famous than the palace: It is one of the very rare examples of 18th century theatre buildings in Europe which are completely preserved, including all furnishing, stage settings, and one of but three that still have the original stage machinery. The other two are Gotha (Germany) and Cesky Krumlow (Czech Republic) – I had visited the other two previously. The original machinery and settings are used for mostly opera performances to this very day.

A strict “no photo” policy applies, hence no images of the interior here. We could not see the stage from behind because there were rehearsals going on. However, we got to hear an opera singer who is a great star in Sweden (I forgot his name, sincere apologies).

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The Park

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After lunch we had to make a tough choice due to time constraints: Either see the interior of the palace or go for a walk in the park to see the architectures of the landscape garden. I would have liked to do both but that wasn’t possible. I chose the latter because I wanted to see the Chinese palace. One of the Stockholm ladies took the role of the guide.

The middle part of the baroque garden was roped off. A lonely jackdaw played sentinel on a pole and happily posed for photos. He probably hoped to be rewarded with some treats, but we had nothing for him.

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The outer areas are a landscape park with magnificent old oak trees and wide meadows. The light green colour of grass and spring leaves looked beautiful even in the rain.

We were shown the hedge theatre in the garden, the tent for the guards which is a wooden building that imitates a tent, and finally the Chinese palace (Kina slott).

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The garden palace is in fact a rococo building, erected in 1753–1769, but its ornaments and decorations give it an oriental appearance. Chinese culture and architecture were highly en vogue in the 18th century. Everyone collected china from the orient and everyone wanted at least a “Chinese” room, better a tea house or garden pavillon in their palace gardens. These are not copies of authentic Chinese architecture, though, but rather fantasies of a distant, exotic dreamland.

“Peer pressure” did not permit seeing the interior, though. Ah the woes of group travel…

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In one of the side buildings, a wood turner’s workshop with all tools is on display. It belonged to a Swedish king who enjoyed woodturning. This was more than a leisurely “hobby”. It was interpreted as a symbol for the powers of the absolutist ruler, who turned the wood into perfect shape just like his state, society and the land.

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Because of the rain we decided not to bother with the ferry ride again but to take the bus back into the city. We stopped for coffee and a quick look at Kulturhuset, but we were all too exhausted to do it justice. The rest of the day was taken easy. I did not even take any more photos in the afternoon, which is always a bad sign…

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View of Sergels torg from the café on the top floor of Kulturhuset

Posted by Kathrin_E 08:44 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Day 4: Södermalm

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Södermalm is the large island in the south of the inner city. It is less polished and less touristy than the old town and the centre. It is a residential quarter where ordinary people live their daily lives, work and go shopping. However, it is not without its attractions.

The island has a steep cliff along its northern side that breaks off almost vertically towards the lake shore. The northern side means: towards the old town and city centre – and this means fantastic panoramic views.

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It also means that getting there on foot requires some effort. We came by Tunnelbanen and let the escalators at the station carry us up. In former times someone had the brilliant idea to install an elevator that leads from the lakeshore up to the top of the cliff of Södermalm. It was named Katarinahissen after the nearby Katarina Kyrka.

Do not count on using it: The lift has been closed in 2010 and when, and whether ever, it will be reopened is yet unknown. Anyway, it is worth going there from the upper side because (photographers!) of the view from the bridge that leads from the clifftop over to the lift.

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In 1909 the first luminous advertisement in the world was installed on top of Katarinahissen. Nothing special to us today but when it was first installed, it must have impressed people a lot. It promotes a toothpaste (the name of which I am not mentioning here;-))

The top of the lift structure is the perfect spot for advertising, visible all over the lake. Later on the ad has been transferred to a nearby rooftop where it still does its job more than a century later.

Nearby on the edge of the cliff, behind Södra Teatern there is an open terrace called Mosebacken that has the next great view. It overlooks the eastern part of the lakes with the islands of Skeppsholmen and Djurgården, Skansen and Gröna Lund lunapark.

There is a beergarden on the terrace. In summer they have outdoor concerts.

This must be a very pleasant spot to spend a summer evening!

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Katarina Kyrka

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The main church of Södermalm is the majestic baroque Katarina Kyrka, built in 1656 - 1695. Its yellow walls and the high dome are visible from afar across the lake due to the location on top of the cliff.

Disaster struck on May 16, 1990. A fire destroyed the church and affected also the quarter around it. Soon it was decided to rebuild it in its original shape and, as far as possible, in the historical technique, including the preserved parts. Five years later the church could be reinaugurated. So what we see now is a reconstruction.

The church is open in the daytime at free entry. I am grateful that my mates gave me the chance to see it.

Now speaking from the point of view of an art historian who specializes in protestant church architecture: This church is one of the most important baroque Lutheran churches in the whole of Scandinavia, even despite the fact that the present building is not the original. King Carl X. Gustav hired Jean de la Vallee for the project, an architect of French descent. De la Vallee designed, upon the King's request, a centralized building on the ground plan of a greek cross, i.e. a cross with four arms of equal length. The dome emphasizes the centralized shape. Inside, the new table-shaped altar is placed in the middle underneath the dome, not exactly in the geometrical centre, though, but in front of the eastern arm or chancel, while the pulpit is attached to a corner of the crossing. The church has no galleries except for the organ. The 'arm' behind the altar serves as chancel and hosts the frame of the large baroque altarpiece which now contains a modern cross.

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We then walked on through random streets with townhouses in various styles, explored a street market, and stopped for lunch at the modern Saluhall mall, where we then indulged into a little shopping spree.

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In various locations in Gamla Stan and on Södermalmen we spotted the historical phone boxes that the city of Stockholm has kept to this very day.

Inside they have been equipped with modern telephones, though, and are fully functional just like any other public phone.

I think they look funny, balancing on those four thin legs. The door flaps pretend some privacy but since they are open at the bottom everyone could listen nevertheless.

Good thing is you can see from afar whether a box is occupied, and people won't occupy it too long because they get cold feet quickly.

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After lunchtime the sun decided to make a reappearance, much needed because we had been promised a walk along Monteliusvägen. The way there lead through more residential quarters with fine, mostly 19th century, architecture.

I would not mind living there!

The small baroque church of Maria Magdalena and its surrounding churchyard were an eyecatcher.

Ditto Mariatorget with the little park in the middle of the square.

But many side streets have interesting architecture and pretty streetviews.

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Monteliusvägen

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The view

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The footpath along the edge of the cliff of Södermalm offers fabulous views over the islands and waters. The whole panorama of central Stockholm is at your feet: Gamla Stan, Riddarholmen, the city centre, Stadhuset. The changing light, sunshine and beautiful clouds which are so typical for Swedish weather add to the photo opportunities.

This place seems to be popular for wedding photos, too...

Benches invite to sit and rest and enjoy the view. Part of the trail is a wooden boardwalk, other parts a gravel path. Steep stairways led down to Söder Mälarstrand. The trail is easier to reach on foot from the upper side through the pretty side lanes of Södermalm's old quarter, though.

Devote an hour to this walk, and bring the camera…

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Zoom views: The new opera house, Jacobs Kyrka, Storkyrkan and Royal Palace

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Posted by Kathrin_E 14:40 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Day 5: Vasa Museum

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Vasa Museum is one of the most fascinating museums I ever visited. It has the original ship, which is gigantic, and a large and varied exhibition that explains its history and background as well as its construction, something about nautics, the planning process and so on. It tells about life on the construction site and on board, and about the individual people who were on board, as far as details are known about them. It also explains why the ship sank due to mistakes in the construction. Video shows and multimedia presentations are included.

We quickly agreed to extend our planned timeframe there and take the tram back into the city instead of doing the walk along Strandvägen.
The royal warship „Vasa“ sank in the port of Stockholm in 1628. The Titanic of the 17th century only managed a maiden voyage of 1,300 metres until she heeled over.

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333 years later the wreck was lifted from the water bottom in one piece, secured and set on display in its own museum.

In 1995 the new Vasa Museum has opened on the museum island of Skleppsholmen. It presents the original ship as well as various exhibitions about its construction, the sinking, the salvage, life on board, archaeological research, the people on board, the restoration etcetera etcetera. These are very well done, informative and interesting. Take your time.

The multimedia presentations and videos, alternating in Swedish and English language, are a worthwhile supplement.

Free guided tours are also available at regular intervals.

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Practical Hints:
The excellent museum website http://www.vasamuseet.se/en/ tells you all further details about the ship, the reasons for its sinking, the historical background and the exhibitions. This saves me further descriptions. The website also contains all up-to-date information like opening hours and entrance fees.

A museum with „Wow!“ factor. Not to be missed.
Since most Stockholm visitors follow this advice, expect it to be crowded. Coming rather early in the morning turned out to be a wise move. The lines at the cash desks were short when we arrived – two hours later people were queueing far, far outside the doors.
Getting there: From the city centre, take the tram 7 to „Nordiska museet“.

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Sculptures on the rear of the ship around the royal coat of arms

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Carved and painted sculptures from ship, reconstructions

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View from the top gallery

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A sail of the ship

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Model showing activities on board

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Reconstruction of the faces of some people on board, done by analysing the skeletons of the victims

Strandvägen - Stockholm's most elegant boulevard

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Strandvägen is probably the city's most elegant boulevard. It leads along the southern bank of Östermalm and overlooks part of the harbour (Nybroviken). The land side is occupied by belle epoque buildings, many of which contain upscale hotels and restaurants and posh shops.

The street is good for shopping if you have money to blow - there are for example shops with top Swedish design articles. If you don't have money to blow, visit the shops like you'd visit a museum, just to look at these many pretty things. For everyone the street is fine for window-shopping and people-watching.

We had lunch in a restaurant along Strandvägen and then got the rest of the afternoon off. What do ladies do on a free afternoon? Shopping, certainly, if budget permits.

I slowly meandered towards the hotel, checking out a record shop or two because I wanted some new additions to my CD collection, sung in Swedish. I was not too successful, though. In Swedish language, there seems to be hardly anything between folk on the one hand and heavy metal on the other. Rock and pop singers from Sweden all sing in English, not Swedish...

A rest at the hotel and the last dinner in the city, and it was almost time to say farewell to Stockholm.

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:40 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

The Last Morning: Quick Visit to Stadshuset

large_7079590-Stadshuset_Stockholm.jpgOur flight back home was scheduled in the early afternoon. We had to leave the hotel at noon, so we had a free morning to play with. Some wanted to go shopping, others needed the whole morning for breakfast and packing. But I had other plans, and I kept them secret because they required a tight timeline and an early start, which I wasn’t sure to make.

I nourished that one wish which was not covered by our trip’s programme: seeing the interior of Stadshuset. Research on the internet revealed that the first guided tour would be at 9:30. So this would be doable if I get up early, pack at light speed and have breakfast as soon as the buffet opens. Before the others even appeared at breakfast I was already out and about.

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Stadshuset, the city hall of Stockholm, is an impressive landmark on the northern bank of Riddarfjärden, overlooking the wide open water west of the old town. It is not as old as it tries to appear: The building was begun in 1911 and completed in 1924. Its style is known as „national romantic“, a style which is closely related to the arts and crafts movement. It combines elements of historical styles with the technical achievements of the early 20th century. All materials used are Swedish. 8 million bricks were needed for the facades.

The tower is 106 metres high, one metre higher than the one of the city hall in Copenhagen – ah the chauvinism. The three gilded crowns on top refer to the coat of arms of the state.

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The facades are rich in details worth a closer look, like several balconies, small gilded statues on the edge of the roof, moon and star and palm leaf on top of the spires.

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On the terrace by the lake

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Outside the tower, underneath the canopy, there is a kenotaph (symbolic grave that never had a body in it) for Birger Jarl, the founder of Stockholm, with a gilded statue of the defunct lying on top of the empty tomb.

The main courtyard and the waterside terrace can be accessed for free. The interior of the city hall can only be visited with guided tours. I wholeheartedly recommend joining one to see this remarkable building from inside.

Although Stadshuset is a busy tourist hotspot with bus and cruise groups in addition to the individuals' tours, and tours move rather fast, you get to see all the important halls and rooms. Most of them are vast enough to provide enough space for two or three groups at once. I do not regret going. It's worth it.

Guided tours are available in Swedish and English. There is no prebooking except for large groups, tickets for individuals are sold on the day itself at the cash desk. Hours and intervals differ depending on the time of year and are subject to change if there are events taking place in Stadshuset. Please check the official website for all details concerning your exact date of visit: http://international.stockholm.se/the-city-hall/tours-of-the-city-hall/

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The "Blue" Hall

The tours start in the so-called Blue Hall. There is nothing blue in the Blue Hall, though. The walls were actually supposed to be covered in blue tiles but when the architect saw the brick walls in their various shades of colour he liked them so much that he decided to leave them the way they were.
Upstairs you are lead through some representative rooms and corridors into the hall of the city council.
The festive banquets to celebrate Nobel Prize winners take place in the Blue Hall.
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The Mayor's office (we were jokingly asking whether visitors have to find their way though the maze on the carpet to approach his desk?

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The hall of the city council

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The Prince's Gallery was named after Prince Eugen, the painter who created the frescoes on the wall that depict views of Stockholm's various islands.

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More interiors

The Golden Hall

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The most impressive interior is the Golden Hall with its gold mosaics. Simply fantastic. The picture on the front wall shows the Queen of Lake Mälar with the city of Stockholm in her lap. Further pictures show personalities and events from Swedish history.

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The allegory of Mälar lake, a large woman on a throne, is depicted on the wall at the far end of the hall as the central figure. In her lap she is holding the city of Stockholm.

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The opposite wall shows the city in two images left and right of the entrance.

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The reveals of the windows each present one legendary or historical Swedish hero.

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The Hansa played an important role in Stockholm's history.

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King Gustav Vasa

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:42 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Impressions and Details of Stockholm

A Random Photo Collection

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Bright sunlight

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The waters of Mälar Lake

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Busy shopping street in the centre

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Market in Hötorget

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Souvenirs

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A shoemaker's shop sign in Gamla Stan

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The Royals are omnipresent

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Narrowest lane in Gamla Stan

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Kayaking under the bridges

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Sweden is a friendly country. Even the lions are smiling.

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Park with a view

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Street lantern

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A sunny afternoon in the park

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Modern fountain

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August Strindberg's sixpack belly impressed all the ladies...

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Stockholm certainly is NOT flat.

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Streetview near our hotel

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No comment

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Coexistence of religions

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Swedish flag

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What's for dinner?

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Tunnelbanen on a bridge

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Farmers market on Södermalm

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Evening light

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Sculpture in Sergelsgatan

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May evening in Gamla Stan

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End of school exams will soon be over - party time!

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Lake view from Vasa Museum

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Historical tram

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The synagogue

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Art nouveau houses near our hotel

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Take care...

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Monuments outside the central station

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Boats and steeples

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Evening skyline

Posted by Kathrin_E 00:05 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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