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Flowers from this booth or choclate from that one??Sept. 20-24, 1998  Stockholm, Sweden

After 6 hours on the train, we step down onto the platform feeling a little stiff. Apparently, our legs had grown rather comfortable during the long ride and were now holding a protest of sorts when asked to carry not only our usual weight, but also that of our packs. Our first stop, as usual, was the ATM to withdraw the next few days ‘allowance’, and then to change window to exchange any leftover cash from the last city (as a rule, a mere pittance).

Following the signs lead us into the main part of the local subway station – during rush hour. If you live in, or have had occasion to visit a big city, you have seen and probably navigated what I call a ‘human river’. As a rule, this phenomenon occurs when a large number of people, all rushing towards their various destinations, are forced into a bottleneck – a space more narrow than the combined width of the bodies trying to squeeze through it. In short, this causes an almost solid, rapidly moving, mass of humanity split roughly down the middle, half flowing one way, half the other.

We stand at one side of the wide corridor, backpack adding considerable weight to an already wobbly set of stilts (our legs). At the other side, the ATM, change window, and subway information window. I look at Laura. Ready. Go! We gradually join the stream, making our way towards the middle with each step. Then the critical move – the turn. A half twist and the river turns us the rest of the way. Back in the opposite direction. A few more steps help make our way towards the far wall. And we’ve made it! A fine welcome to Stockholm during Monday rush hour.

Laura taming the lions in Kungstradgarden parkStockholm is by far Scandinavia’s largest city. It’s 1.4 million inhabitants live in a thriving, water-bounded metropolis. This large but welcoming city is, in fact, made up of 14 islands connected with 53 bridges. The water does much to enhance the charm of the city, as do the numerous parks and public gathering spots. Demonstrating that it is very much a city of contrasts, within our first 10 minutes of strolling, the city offered us everything from a large group of loud (and obviously disgruntled) protesters outside the Central Station, to a small group of middle-aged men in the park with barely a care in the world with the possible exception of where the next toss of their Bacci ball landed.

Outdoor sculpture outside the Modern Art MuseumThe city’s year-long cultural festival (as the Cultural Capital of Europe this year) boasted a choice of selection ranging from Small Dutch Masters, to modern conceptual sculpture, with an impressive assortment of everything in between. Our days here were short, and seemed to blend together. So much to do and see, with so little time.

Children drawing a decrative doorway in Old TownThe majority of our time was spent in and around Stadsholmen, or the Old Town. As it was centuries earlier, its narrow canyons of streets intersect with one another as they cut their way through tall buildings, just barely letting the sun in. Shop, shop, till you drop. But make sure that when you do drop, it is into one of the city’s many old and authentic Swedish restaurants.

The Royal Band plays during the changing of the guard.After lunch, we hurried over to witness the pomp and circumstance of the changing of the guard ceremony at the Royal Palace. The 608 room palace is the largest one in Europe that is still being used as such. The King and Queen arrive almost every working day to busily do whatever it is that Kings and Queens do all day.

Following the hour long ceremony, we headed back across the bridge and onto the waiting canal boat for a quick tour of the city by water. Although rather educational, the weather had turned overcast, and our ability to enjoy and photograph many of the sights along the way was diminished. One of the few highlights of the tour was when I, during one the of the many periods of music without commentary, quickly reached over and switched Laura’s headphone from channel 2 (English) to channel 1 (Swedish). The look of confusion on her face as the next voice segment started was well worth the short sting of a smack on the arm once she had figured out what I had done.

Excuse me, which way to the beer festival??The following day brought bright, warm, sunshine. According to our host, it was one of the first few days without rain that they had enjoyed over the last few months. Laura and I hopped on a ferry and made our way across the harbor to the island of Djurgarden. Once the king’s hunting ground, it is now home to some of Stockholm’s best sights including Skansen (a sort of Swedish Colonial Williamsburg), Nordiska Museum, Waldemarsuddle (former palace of the artist prince, Prince Eugen), and our personal favorite, the Vasa Museum. The Swede’s have raised and completely restored the largest and most expensive of ship of the King’s Navy. On its maiden voyage in August of 1628, this 64 cannon man-o’-war was 20 minutes into it voyage when it was hit by a sudden gust of wind with its bottom gun ports open. On her side, she quickly took on water and sank. We found the Vasa itself, as well as the $35 million dollar museum built around it, to be awe-inspiringly huge and well worth a visit.

Dcp00211.jpg (122320 bytes)I’d like to revisit this city someday. Maybe during the summer months with more time on my hands and money in my pocket.

As a side note, I learned that the Swedes have made quite a contribution to our modern society. Below is a short list of things for which we owe our indebtedness.

Made in Sweden:

Ingmar Bergman

Absolute Vodka

Alfred Nobel (Nobel Prize)

ASTRA

Bjorn Borg

Electrolux

Ericsson

The zipper

Gretta Garbo

Ikea

Ingrid Bergman

The safety match

Ingo Johansson

Saab

Smorgasbord

Stephan Edberg

The adjustable wrench

Volvo

August Stindberg

The propeller

Tetra pak

Dynamite

Abba

Ingemar Stenmark

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Last modified: June 01, 1999    Photographs and text 1998 Scott and Laura Kruglewicz. All Rights Reserved.

 

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