Sunday, June 6

Stockholm III

What's not to love? Some call Stockholm the Venice of the North. I wouldn't. It's truly its own place and sure doesn't need comparison for prestige! It stands just fine on it's own!

Sadly our Rick Steves' guide didn't make it to us in time for this trip so we had to research it old school. Old school, in my frame of reference sadly means pre-Rick Steves. I am sorry if this offends any of your finer sensibilities. Feel free to educate me!

Man, we sure wish we had better weather here! HaHaHa!

There were so many reasons to be in Stockholm and enjoy the great weather and sites on Sunday, June 6, 2010! It was Sweden's National Day, the last day of the food festival, the beginning of Love Stockholm counting down the two weeks before the royal wedding, and of course the end of the marathon tourist weekend!

There were only two things on our site seeing list: the Vasa Museum - a 1628 grand war ship that sank on its maiden voyage in the Stockholm harbor; and Skansen - the oldest European open air museum.

In the early 1600s, Sweden fought many wars for control of the Baltic Sea among the Danes, Poles, and Russians particularly. In the 1620s, Sweden signed treaties with the Danes and Russians but King Gustav was fighting his cousin who'd assumed control of Poland. King Gustav kept local support for the war going by making the war about religion - us Swedish Lutherans against those corrupt Polish Catholics.

Don't ya think those boots must have been fun to walk in?

Gustav commissioned a grand ship be built to show the world his supreme power and might. Historians believe the ship, named Vasa, gets its name from his family and their symbol of grain. It had beautiful, ornate painted wood carved statues by many German carvers all over it. None of our pictures of the enormous ship turned out well since they keep the museum, which was built around the ship, climate and light controlled for the ship's preservation. It was pretty dark in there!

A few crucial errors led to the ship's demise on its maiden voyage. They hadn't loaded enough ballast (food and war supplies) into the low cargo holds to offset the ship's high center of gravity and the low lying cannon gun holes were left open upon setting sail. The ship sank within hours, a little over 1,000 meters into it's maiden voyage in the Stockholm port. Wind caught the sails and the ship began leaning to the side, taking in water through the open gun holes as this model shows.

The funny or humiliating part of the sinking was that the water was only about 30 meters deep so the ship's tall masts with Swedish flags flying proudly were all that remained above water. In fact, many of those on board clung to them until rescued by local fishing boats. The ship was raised from the harbor floor amazingly preserved in 1961. Pretty cool stuff and fun science behind its raising and continued preservation. I wish we'd had more time here to read all the exhibits!

My parents once took me to see a replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind (1577) which was on tour from the UK to the US west coast. That was 1987 and I was eleven. We saw it on a day trip from my grandparent's house in the Newport harbor in Oregon. I still remember walking aboard and how cool I thought it was, but how small for all those men. The Vasa was three times as big! Very cool and especially interesting to me as I just recently finished reading Treasure Island and am now in the thick of Robinson Crusoe!

Just across the street from the Vasa Museum, is the beautiful Nordic Museum. We didn't have time to go inside and see the 300 years of costumes exhibit but I think I could have enjoyed it. Did Rick Steves recommend it? It killed me not to know. [chuckle, chuckle]

Well, hello there, little guy!
We kept coming across little families of geese. So fluffy and adorable!

We walked through a nice park on our way to Skansen and saw people of all types spread on their picnic blankets soaking up the day. Skansen was a great place to be that day with the weather and National Day activities. It's the oldest open air museum and has collected buildings and farm steads, cultural elements, and animals from all over Sweden to be experienced in one place. There were many living history exhibits much like those in colonial Williamsburg, Virginia or the one in the Black Forest.

We talked with a handful of living history docents in their exhibits: a flat bread baker, an influential wealthy copper miner's son from the 1700s, and an inner-city working class young woman preparing to get married. It was the custom in many villages to give a young girl a plant to nurture over the years that would be used to make her wedding crown like the plant and crown shown below.

When I saw The Allotment Hut below, it looked so familiar! This one is from the 1920s.

These are all over in and around my little German town so I was thrilled to finally know what to call them and understand their origins! The Skansen hut here said these allotment gardens played an important role during the food shortages during and after WWI. In Germany and pretty much all over the world, the allotment gardens (or community gardens as they're called in the states) sprung up as a result of industrialization and urbanization by 1850. City workers were given or leased an allotment of land to grow their own food from the town, a private land owner or a church. Many would build a little hut on their allotment to double as a shed and sleeping quarters. The gardens now serve less as food security for the population, and are now seen more as a hobby and are often used for social gatherings as well as growing fruits, veggies and flowers. Food security and hobbies. Self reliance and food storage. Note to self. [Twinge of guilt.] I also read of them being in the Philipines too.

In looking up these gardens I found it interesting to note that Einstein was part of an allotment association in Berlin. He didn't keep it up to code and there is record of an association letter to him with a deadline to get his weeds and fence in order or he'd loose his lease for it being a nuisance.

Speaking of food security, Ryan sure enjoyed what he thought was the perfect food stand offering - the Suovas in a flat bread cone.

That would be "lightly smoked and fried reindeer meat in a flat bread cone with crushed new potatoes (mashed) and cloudberry creme fraiche." He liked them so much he had three over the course of five or so hours. Me? Not so much, they weren't my favorite. Too much gamey-flavor, chewy texture with the sweet and sour of creme fraiche and berry sauce. I was, however, very appreciative of their food display and English menu so we knew what we were ordering!

Skansen has their own dance troups that perform and I loved it! First there was a children's group and then the adults. The children's dances all had to do with love, courtship and such as circle games played to song. So cute!

I enjoyed seeing how this played out because each dance had one or two children in the center who had to pick a partner when the music cued them to. One song had them yank the partner out of the circle, another had them drop a hanky and the selected one had to pick it up and follow, while my favorite was a demure smile and coy look over the shoulder to be sure the partner was following. Simply adorable! And what fabulous colorful costumes!

Watching these fun dancers in their layers of thick clothing made for colder temperatures on such a warm day and sweating profusely sure made us thirsty! We headed for the water spigot to fill up our water bottles and the best dried, crisp apple chips I've ever had!

As the crowds began to grow at Skansen in anticipation of the National Day celebration concert, we decided to head out. The Skansen celebration was expecting the Royal family in attendance and as luck would have it, we happened on the parade preceding their arrival and finally did get to see the family in their horse drawn carriages and royal guardians on horse back. The size of this celebration was akin to a regular sized town in the States doing a 4th of July parade and concert. It was a little strange given some of the big national celebrations in big cities we've been to.

But Sweden has only been celebrating their National Day for a few decades now. Ryan was disappointed there were no fireworks. One of our docents reminded us that there's no fireworks on account that it doesn't get dark until about 11pm or later right now! Being that far north, the sun was up by 4am when we got up to catch our train and flight home Monday morning.

And that concludes this installment of Carters Travel: Sweden!