Sunday, November 5, 2017

5 Days in Stockholm

damp overcast day walking through Kungsgarden

If you are hoping for a longer post describing our 4 and a half days in Stockholm I think you willl be disappointed. I am a bit unhappy that I can’t write more too as we were there for a long time. We had bigger plans and maybe we could have pushed harder to carry them out but the weather was against us the entire time we were there. It is hard to get motivated and so certain things when every day is, at least, completely overcast and moderately breezy. Toss in a couple of days of on and off again modest rain with blowing conditions that certainly pushed the windchill below 40F and  perhaps you can see how our enthusiasm waned. Still we did explore the city to a degree and we did see and experience some very good things. I’m going to focus on those.

Our hotel , Courtyard by Marriot, is on Kungsholm. Kungsholm is one of the 14 (I think) island that make up Stockholm. If you are starting to imagine a city where water is always in sight and clearly affected by water: stop. No doubt Stockholm’s access to the Baltic Sea and the interior lakes of Mallaran and Vartan (to name 2 I know of) has a great effect on the city but as a pedestrian you won’t notice the water all that often. This is not Venice. From our hotel you certainly do not see any water. 

We were perhaps a quarter mile from the nearest train stop. That train quickly took us to the heart of downtown or wherever we wanted to go.I don’t think I’ve ridden escalators as long since riding the Metro in Washington DC. Trains were clean and quick.  Our biggest  problem is dealing with words, the street names, that just don’t come easily. But we got by. We found pedestrian streets and all sorts of people wandering about the cold (OK, normal temperatures really but we were not expecting it) blustery days as we tried to find things to do.

A visit to the Museum of Modern Design (my name). Was on the agenda and it is worth it. At least if you are interested in modern design and art especially with a Swedish bent. The lunch we had at one of the cafes, Blum I think, was also quite nice and fairly inexpensive. A walking tour through Gamlastan is also worth it. But the numerous stores that sell all sorts of good including artisan works seem to have rather limited hours.  Even after 11:00 plenty of shops were still closed up tight. But Gamlastan is the old town of Stockholm with properly twisting cobblestone streets and that helps make it worth a visit. We might not have seen much in the stores but we spent a couple hours there nonetheless and even had some very nice coffee. Coffee in Stockholm came in good amounts. No tiny little cups of Americano let alone finding just a brewed decaf or a nice sized latte. Nope. In Stockholm coffee drinks were a proper size. Is their a relationship between temperature and coffee size? Colder air temperatures yield larger coffee drinks.
ships island

City Hall from Lake Mallaran


We also took a boat tour. X runs the tours and the two-hour tour is definitely worth the money. The boat is comfortable, protected from the weather, and the audio guide is excellent. It’s totally canned but well put together. You will get a sense of history, a bit of knowledge about Swedish culture and values, a sense of what makes Sweden Sweden. It is more than a mere recitation of facts that can quickly go in one ear and out the other. And when the weather is iffy as it was for us sitting inside the boat absorbing the sites of Stockholm and listening to the audio is a fine way to spend some time.
walking in Gamlastan

Another superb tour is the one provided at City Hall. You see the building from a distance on the boat tour. The building tour itself gets you up close and personal. It is a remarkable space. I don’t honk you will find City halls much like it elsewhere. From the great exterior courtyard , to the Blue Hall (not blue at all) where big events like the Nobel Prize awards dinner happen, to the Golden Hall filled with exquisite mosaics depicting  Sweidsh history and other things , and more the tour is de finely worth your time and the modest fee. 
City Hall of Stockholm

If you like sculpture visiting Carl Milles’ house and sculpture garden is also worth it.  I don’t think I even knew his name but the property with its sculptures is quite nice even on a cold and rainy afternoon like we had when we went to see it. I can understand how he drew inspiration from the natural surroundings as he looked out on Lake Vartan and created his art.

Mom in Carl Milles Hayden

Hand of God sculpture

Lookong to Lake Vartan

Finally visit the Culture House right across from the Centralum train station. From play areas for kids, to eateries, and many exhibit spaces for expeditions devoted to Swedish arts and design this is an intriguing place worth taking a look at. We also managed a decent lunch there which is always a plus.

A Note From Judy
The downtown areas were crowded with shoppers. We were in the high end districts as well as the more middle class or lower middle class areas. Lots of people and these are not the tourist spots (Gamlastan is a tourist area).

1. Walking through Kungsgatden towards the docks to take a two-hour boat tour. It’s not much above 40F and blustery to boot. I think Mom has 5 layers on. 

2. The red castle-like
Mbuilding was, I think, an old naval fort and munitions store. It’s part of the ship building island that you must pass if you intend harm to the city. 

3. A view from our boat tour of City Hall on the shore of Lake Mallaran. We would learn later just how remarkable a building this 100 year old building is. 

4. I think this is a hospital viewed from the boat. It is larger than it looks as a huge portion is underground. The hospital was built during the height of the Cold War and therefore has a bunker meant to deal with a nuclear strike.

5. It is a rainy chilly morning on the streets of Gamlastan: Stockholm’s old town. 

6. I can barely give you a sense of the grandeur of the City Hall with this exterior courtyard photo. 

7. The aptly named Golden Hall inside City Hall. If you want to get married there just reserve the space.

8 Birch trees and Pegasus were n Carl Milles’ sculpture garden. 

9. Mom provides a bit of scale in the sculpture garden of Carl and Olga Milles.

10. The Hand of God in the Sculpture garden looks out on a ruffled Lake Vartan.

11. A final view of the Milles’  garden. He drew inspiration from his surroundings and perhaps you can see why here as Dad descends the steps.