Sunday, February 04, 2007


In Stockholm - flying to Kiruna tomorrow - return to Stockholm later in the week, and thence back to London.

Bondi is not along for this week-long trip, more's the pity, as there is more snow here than he's seen since leaving Seattle nearly 4 years ago. It's just wildly expensive to fly him around, so he's waiting for me back in London. He'll get to visit Sweden sometime in May. I did note, with regret, that while dogs are a common site on the street here in Stockholm, they're not allowed on the trains. [I've subsequently been told that my reading of the "no dogs" symbols I've seen on station doors is too strong, and that they are allowed on trains, but not in certain stations or carriages. Still a bit confusing.]

Chris and I were booked in for our first few nights in the Hotel Rival, a funky boutique hotel on Mariatorget Square, owned by Benny Andersson of ABBA/Chess fame. It's one of those places (like its website) which is exuberant with design but not exactly practical. When you step into the room, or indeed any of the corridors carpeted with elaborate expressions of mechanical designs or parking permits, you are struck initially by the big screen TV or the oversized still from a famous movie ... yet each time you go to the bathroom, you puzzle over how the light-switches (wherever they've been hidden) actually work. We were separately surprised that here (and at the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi) that there were no policies to save on washing towels.

Both of us wanted to visit the Vasa Museum, which is one of Sweden's premier tourist attractions. The Vasa is a 17th century ship which sunk in the harbour, minutes into its maiden voyage. It was relocated and dredged in 1961 and after decades of restoration and archaeological analysis (still ongoing) it found a berth in a dedicated waterside museum dedicated to it.

Chris had been there briefly on a long ago day-trip to Stockholm, whereas I had grown up with a poster on my bedroom wall, brought back by my grandmother in 1975 who must have gone to the temporary museum housing it.

Stockholm being built on an archipelago, we crossed several bridges to reach the island of Djurgården, which has the large open-air museum Skansen, and the Vasa (next to the W on the map above).

We spent several hours wandering through the museum, which is a really excellent space to house the ship and show off the social history associated with its construction, together with analysis of the sinking, the political scene in the Baltic at the time, and the extensive dredging and recovery process.

Leaving the Vasamuseet after a nice reindeer casserole or somesuch at its restaurang (that's how it's spelled here), we followed the shoreline of Djurgården in an anti-clockwise direction around Skansen, out to the islet of Beckholmen where cranes painted as giraffes loom in friendly fashion over the deep dry-docks wrenched out of stone.

Then through the snow-covered garden in the middle of Djurgården, and back towards the city, following along the edge of Djurgårdsbrunnsviken, which was mostly ice-covered. This was a real thrill to me as an Australian where frozen bodies of water are not to be seen (at least on this scale). Even when I took Bondi up into Canada we only saw one or two very small lakes that were iced over. Even the reflections off the ice seemed like sunlight frozen in amber.

The statue shown in pictures above is of Jenny Lind, the soprano promoted by P.T. Barnum as The Swedish Nightingale. She was buried in 1887 in Malvern, Worcestershire.

We walked back into the old town quarter of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, where we'd be staying later in the week. It's a very handsome area, with narrow stone-laid streets overlooked by rows of early 17th century buildings.

We finally walked northwards into the main shopping street Drottninggattan, following it for block after block after block, before turning around, quite exhausted, and catching a metro train back to Mariatorget.

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