Monday, December 12, 2011

Finally, a tour of my own city: Stockholm!

This being my last weekend in Stockholm, it was my only chance to do the real touristy tour of Stockholm. During the week is difficult since I have to be at the hospital and the sun rises and sets while I am there. Like many of the weekends so far this fall, it was not predicted to be the nicest - it has started to get colder and has been cloudy most weekends. Regardless, I was determined to see the sights of Stockholm and had made a fairly ambitious itinerary for myself.

I got up around 8:30 on Saturday morning (no need to be too ambitious as most things don't open until 10 or later on the weekends) and after getting ready and taking a quick fica from Pressbryån (fica = Swedish tradition of taking a coffee with a pastry), I took the busy from Södersjukhuset to Slussen and hopped on the Djurgårdsfårjan to the island of Djurgården. The morning was nice enough and we had a beautiful ferry ride to the island. Once there, I made my way to Skansen. Skansen is an open air historical museum of Sweden that was started in 1891. It is quite touristy but offers a unique view of life in Sweden throughout its history. The buildings of the museum were moved from around Sweden and Finland (which was once part of Sweden) to their new home in Skansen. Within the buildings, people are dressed up in traditional clothing of the time period of that particular building and tell you about life and the people that would have lived and worked there. Since it is the Christmas season, many of the homes were decorated for Christmas in the traditions of the times and the type of people that lived in them. Tables were set with typical Christmas dinners and I was able to learn about Christmas celebrations throughout the history of Sweden from the poorest farm laborers to the rich owners of the manor homes. There was a small zoo of Scandinavian animals including reindeer, elk, European buffalo, and seals among others. They also had set up a Christmas market in the center of which was a stage where a musical group played and sang traditional Christmas celebration songs and children and families danced around a Christmas tree. I decided to splurge and bought myself a traditional Swedish meal of a flat bread cone with potatoes, fried elk meat, and cloudberry sauce. I was surprised at how much I liked it! Despite warming myself up by one of the many fire pits and my wool socks and boots, I had lost feeling in my toes and decided it was time to leave Skansen and go visit the Vasa Museum also on Djurgården.

the Vasa
The Vasa Museum is an incredible museum that houses the Swedish Navy ship Vasa which was set to sail in 1628 as the pride of King Gustav Adolf's fleet. Unfortunately for Gustav, more time and money was spent into the ship's decorations and adornments then on the physics of making her stay afloat and 20 minutes after setting sail from Stockholm, she sank. Efforts were made to recover her, but she was too heavy for the technology of the time and remained under water in the Baltic Sea near Stockholm for 333 years until she was finally salvaged. With incredible search and reconstructive efforts, the ship on display is about 95% original from when she was built in 1628. Her paint colors have worn off but models and displays show what she probably looked like on the day she set sail and for the 20 minutes she was afloat before sinking, never to be seen again for 333 years. The museum is incredibly well done with the ship as the centerpiece and displays around it giving information about that time period in history and what life was like for people living in Sweden then. Sweden was at war with Poland. The kings of the two countries were cousins. The king of Poland, Sigismund, was trying to rule both Sweden and Poland from Kraków. While he was away, there was a coup in Stockholm and Gustav Adolf took over the throne of Sweden. The sculptures decorating the ship are all symbols of power and wealth and of Sweden's domination. There were also displays about what life was like for a seaman. One in ten men were conscripted to serve in the military which was mostly the Navy. This was a hard life and most men who served on the ships died. Richer men were able to pay to have someone else serve for them so that left the peasants and immigrants as the ones who ended up serving on the ships. Very well done museum and seeing a large gaudy warship from the early 1600s is quite impressive.

After the museum, I made my way back to Jägargatan to change and get ready to go to the Royal Opera House to see the Nutcracker Ballet. I was running a bit late and thought I would just make it in time when an announcement was made on the bus. Of course, I didn't understand Swedish so I asked the woman sitting in front of me and found out that because of the Nobel Banquet, no busses were allowed to cross Gamla Stan - the island between Södermalm where I live and Norrmalm where the Opera is. The last stop before the bus took a giant detour was Slussen on Södermalm. I got off at that stop and had about 15 minutes to run across Gamla Stan to the Opera about a mile away. I was wearing dress and new pair of heeled boots that I had just purchased for the occasion. But what is a girl to do? So, I ran. Red in the face and drenched in sweat, I made it to the Opera House and in the vicinity of my seat when the ballet started. I sat in the back and cooled off then moved to my seat during the intermission. The music was beautiful and the dancers were quite talented. The only problem I had was that the nutcracker, instead of being the soldier doll-like nutcracker of the story, was a modern Ikea-looking metal nutcracker with a ram's head stuck on top. Totally wrong, but I tried to let it go and just enjoyed the music and the dancing. I only paid 50 SEK (less than $10 for my student obstructed seat) and it was probably worth that since I didn't have a great view, but I enjoyed what I could hear and see nonetheless. At the end of the show (around 8 pm) I made my way back home and crashed.

Sunday morning started very similarly to Saturday - got up, got dressed, had a fica from Pressbryån, and made my way to the city center to do a little Christmas shopping and see the Christmas market and outdoor skating rink at Kunstragården before heading to Gamla Stan for a tour of the Royal Palace. While shopping, I was most impressed with the window displays of the department store NK. They were so creative and well done that I found myself crowding up to the window with the children to look at Santa and his elves. Speaking of the children, there is not much cuter than Scandinavian children bundled up in their one piece snowsuits, hats, boots, and mittens waddling around with their parents are snuggled up in their strollers wrapped up in a down miniature sleeping bag. Watching the kids skate at the outdoor skating rink while I ate my lunch of muffins and hot chocolate from the Christmas Market was completely endearing. Most of the kids wear helmets on top of their hats and it was so cute watching them try to skate and fall done - obviously not hurt because of their vast amount of padding from their snowsuits. I could have sat and watched for hours. 

A little after 12 I wandered over to the Royal Palace at Gamla Stan. We were not allowed to take pictures within any of the museums. This Royal Palace is the third that has stood in that spot since Sweden has had a monarchy (over 1000 years). There are several palaces and the main one is not where the royal family lives, but it is the working palace where the offices are and the business of the state is conducted (in addition to City Hall). The Royal Palace consists of several museums and I started with a tour of the Royal Treasury. Apparently the Swedish regalia has never been stolen so all of the original pieces are on display. My tour guide was excellent and for an hour, I learned a ton about Swedish royal history while touring the small museum. At the conclusion of that tour, I made my way to the Royal Apartments for another tour and discovered that my same tour guide was leading this one as well. For an hour and a half, I learned even more about the monarchy of Sweden and Swedish royal history and saw a tour of only a small number of the 680+ rooms of the palace. (680 actual rooms not counting halls and stairways which are also very impressive - a total of nearly 1200 total room-like spaces within the palace). The palace was not nearly as gaudy as Versailles and the grounds not as expansive or beautiful, but the rooms on the inside I like much more - they were simpler and elegant in their simplicity. I also learned that the royal Swedish Silver Throne has been featured in two Hollywood movies - one a 1933 film about Queen Christina and the second, the 1989 version of Batman where Warner Bros rediscovered the remade Swedish throne and not realizing that it was a replica of the actual throne of Sweden, used it as the fancy chair for Jack Nicholson to sit in when playing the Joker. After this tour, I made a quick pass through the Tre Kronor museum which is a tour through the remnants of the previous medieval castle that survived the fire of 1697.

After my tour of through Swedish royal history, I made my way back to Jägargatan to get ready for the largest Lucia Concert in the world at the Ericsson Globe Arena. I met my Swedish friend Sara whom I had met on my first two weeks of internal medicine. We took a glögg in the Swedish tradition with ginger snaps before the show then enjoyed the concert of over 1200 Swedish children dressed in white and singing the music of Lucia and Christmas. It was very impressive and quite magical especially when all the lights were turned out and the floor of the arena was lit with the candles held by the 1200 children and Lucia walked toward center stage with a crown of real lighted candles on her head. Simply amazing.

It was a great weekend in Stockholm and I was able to see and do all the things on my itinerary except see the lights in City Center at night - although since it is now night most of the day, I shouldn't have a problem hopping over there before I leave on the 20th. Now for my last week at the hospital before my final excursion across the Arctic Circle to hopefully see some Northern Lights in Abisko, Sweden. Tack så mycket! Hej då!


Schoolhouse - Skansen

traditional Swedish food

window display at NK

1 comment:

  1. Glad you're having fun! Can't wait to see you! You will be here before long!