After much-ado and much drama we finally found ourselves an adorable little apartment in Stockholm to stay at for our one week there through Airbnb.com. It was in the apparently trendy Sodermalm island, one of the 14 islands that make up Stockholm. As soon as we arrived we realized that Stockholm was quite the bustling city. In the Central Train station people were literally running from one end to the other just to get out of there. Of course, as we were now in Scandinavia everybody spoke perfect English so we got to our apartment with ease.
As many of you know, we spent much of our time there catching up with friends and family on Skype-happily chitting and chatting with many of you. The thing we both miss the most on this trip, by far, is our friends-so it was great to get to talk to so many of you. Eric also caught up with work and I continued to plow through the Harry Potter series. When you’re traveling for as long as we are, sometimes you just need to take a little break and relax, so that’s what we did in Stockholm.
The place we stayed at was the perfect size for 2 people. It had a great little living room/dining room with a table for Eric to work at and a couch for me to lounge on. A little balcony with lots of thriving plants, a small galley kitchen with a surprising amount of amenities and of course, a little bedroom. Being in Sweden it was of course perfectly designed for the space it had and the owner (a warm and sweet Swedish girl) had done several ingenious things with her space. I photographed a few of them to remember.
Because we spent a lot of time resting and catching up, we didn’t see every little thing in Stockholm, (a city with over 70 museums) but we what we did see was really fun and interesting.
The Vasa Museet
The Vasa Museet (or Vasa Museum) is undoubtedly the coolest thing to do in Stockholm. I say this without reservation and with complete confidence. This museum is dedicated to the Swedish War Ship “Vasa” which sunk about 20 minutes into it’s maiden voyage in 1628. The story doesn’t insite much confidence, but a few factors have contributed to a wonderous museum. The fact that the boat was essentially brand new when it sunk, and because it sunk in the Baltic Sea (which has a low salt content) means that the museum houses an (almost) perfectly preserved ship!! Behold!
It. Is. Huge. I mean, so big that 120 tons of ballast (giant rocks they put in the bottom of boats to keep them balanced if it’s windy or choppy) was not enough to keep this ship balanced when “…a small gust of wind tipped the ship over, it took on water, and was sunk”.
The museum was great because not only did it house this giant relic but it had a lot of other information regarding the time around when it sunk-what life was like, government, royalty, etc.-how they built the ship-with no drawn out plans, by the way-and how they raised it from the watery depths.
One cool thing was this replica of an old diving bell, which is what people used before scuba equipment (even before the old canvas-and-metal-helmet-suits).
The Vasa Museum was definitely the highlight of our visit to Stockholm and my number one recommendation if you ever find yourself there. Even if you’re not interested in history, or ships, or …anything you still must go. It’s a real-life giant Viking Ship!!!
Stadhuset or Stockholm City Hall
We also visited Stockholm City Hall which wasn’t built until 1911 and completed in 1923 before which, there was no building to house city government. That’s actually pretty young in the grand scheme of Europe and Sweden. It’s famous because of the many unique and beautiful rooms it holds. The main hall, which famously hosts the Nobel Prize banquet, is in the style of an Italian Piazza.
The room that actually holds the city government, called the Municipal Assembly, (a democratically elected body of 101 members) is a plush, red velvety room with upper decks for the citizenry to view all city government meetings.
The roof of this room was painted in the classic Swedish style, kurbits, where you hold two paintbrushes with different colors in one hand. It has red on each side of the ceiling with a blue strip down the middle representing the sky. This is so the light can always shine on government proceedings-always transparent since 1923.
The hall of Prince Eugen is painted with a mural done by the Prince (the younger brother of the King) at the time this building was built. It took 5 years to paint because he restarted the whole mural after 2 years of work!
The last room, called the Gold Room has a funny story to go with it. Originally, the architect wanted to have a gold mosaic border surrounding the ceiling. However, he came across a very good deal on a big amount of gold tiles, so he invested and decided that the whole room would be done in mosaic. The thing is, Sweden isn’t known for it’s mosaics (like Italy or Greece) so there was only one person the architect could find to do a mosaic-a young guy, just out of Art School who had studied mosaics in Italy.
This mythical Queen has the city of Stockholm resting in her lap and on the left side we see representations of “the West” and on her right representation of “the East” signifying Sweden’s unique position between the Eastern and Western culture. Our guide said this was a very ego-centric view of the world (putting yourself in the center of the world) but someone in our group pointed ou that you are always in the center when you are pointing at somewhere on a sphere (like a globe!) so it’s not so untrue after all.
So naturally, he did a mosaic in a decidedly Italian style. Very, very unusual to find in Sweden indeed. The thing is, the whole building was done in a “Nationalist Romantic” style-meaning that everything was done to celebrate all things Swedish, artistic styles and craftsman, traditional methods of design, etc. I thought it was fabulous but it was introduced to very mixed reviews because it was so “un-Swedish”. The interesting thing about it is that it’s done in such an Italian or Byzantine style but the subject of the whole thing is Swedish History. From early Viking days up to World War II, so as our guide said “It’s the most Swedish and least Swedish room in the whole place!”
The Nordic Museum started out to be a whole museum dedicated to all of Scandinavian history and culture. In the end, it’s just about Sweden and Swedish culture. On the whole, the museum wasn’t that gripping but there were a few good bits.
Swedish Furniture Design
Of course we ran the Ikea gamut but I enjoyed the Victorian era Swedish chairs.
Traditional crafts and home goods
The History of Men’s Swimsuits
What more noble art could we learn about than the history of mens bathing suits? From Swimming Costumes to Speedo we were regaled with details even we did not want to know.
Sweden and Scandinavia in general were terribly expensive but we were on Sodermalm, home of Stockholm’s hippest neighborhood “Sofo” (think mission but clean, no scary bits, less stores and burrito shops) I did manage to do a bit of shopping!
We also splurged on a few coffees out and even went to a café that exclusively serves muffins. Eric was a bit displeased that they were in bowls and everyone ate them with spoons. Hooow European.
Stockholm was a really beautiful city on the water; all boats and brick buildings and sparkling crystal skies. We did feel a bit disconnected from it though as we couldn’t bring ourselves to pay the sky-high prices for food in restaurants. Because of this, we were even more excited to travel southwest to Gothenburg-home of my good friend Liana and Sweden’s soon-to-be-newest citizen! In my next post I’ll show you Liana’s city and the highlight of our weekend: a birthday party for 2 year-old twin girls, otherwise known as Victoria and Valentina –Liana’s nieces!
PS. Sorry if I geek out a little bit in this post on the history! I just really love learning about it!