August 2, 2018

Beautiful Stockholm

by Steve W

Having now spent several months in Europe and in some of the major cities, I have to say that Stockholm is the most beautiful and welcoming city we have been in so far. Aside from the fact that the people are extremely friendly (and most speak English), the architecture of this Old World city is stunning. This is due somewhat to the fact that Stockholm was not bombed and/or leveled during World War II, so the old buildings are really old and not just recreations of what stood there before the war.

The city is easy to get around, due to an excellent public transportation system that ranges from shuttles from the airport into the center of town to a subway system that is easy to navigate, as well as buses and trams that go all over town on the same ticket, so transferring between them is easy. Tickets for individual trips can be purchased at every subway station and on the buses and trams, or a transit card can be loaded with a certain amount of money and just scanned. Even though expensive relative to other cities we have been in, the transit system offers a senior discount, which made it more affordable for us.

The city is an archipelago, a series of islands, small and large, bound together by roads and bridges, and the presence of rivers and lakes gives it a beauty that is hard to believe until seen in person. The views from land across the water and from the water to land show how the two elements have merged into a landscape that is both functional and gorgeous.

A hotel on the archipelago

Mixing old with new.

We took a three-hour boat trip (a three-hour tour?) on the waterways from the center of town to Vaxholm, a resort town on the water, which can be reached by boat or by land. Across a small channel is an armory that was used to defend Stockholm from intruders.

We saw many beautiful houses along the water, some of which may be in danger if water levels continue to rise.

Too close if the water rises?

Stockholm has a number of museums and attractions that kept us busy during our week in the city. No, we did not visit the ABBA Museum, but we still saw many interesting sites. One of the museums is dedicated to the warship ship "Vasa", which sank in the Stockholm harbor 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628 due to design flaws that made it too narrow and top heavy so that a light breeze filled the sails and literally blew it over. Submerged over 100 feet down, salvage efforts began in the 1950s, bringing to the surface cargo, artifacts and skeletal remains of some of the 30-50 people who died in the wreckage. Based on examinations of the skeletons, the museum forensic curators have fashioned ideas about each person whose skeleton was found, including their ages, heights and whether they were workers or just visitors to the ship.

After the salvage efforts, the process began to to raise the ship from the harbor, requiring tunnels dug under the ship so that supports could be inserted underneath to be able to lift the ship from the water. Remarkably, due to the brackish water caused by fresh water from rivers mingling with the salt water from the Black Sea, the ship is in surprisingly good condition. Years have been spent in preservation efforts, such as treating the wood with paraffin wax and chemicals to maintain its structural integrity.

A comparison of a scale model of the ship with the actual ship itself shows that the designs and decorative carvings on the ship's hull are accurate, even with the colors having faded over time while the ship was submerged. The museum has a short film that documents the recovery efforts and is well worth the 20 minutes spent to watch it.

It also features statues of Swedish warriors and sailors.

During the week, we took a break from sightseeing and met with friends Anders Mörén and his wife Raila, who graciously invited us to their home for dinner. Meeting us at the train station, we proceeded to walk through a beautiful park on the way to their home. In their yard, they are growing many fruits and vegetables, some of which were served with grilled fish for dinner. Having a delicious home cooked meal is quite the treat for us road warriors, who have been eating in hotels and restaurants for months now. Good food, good conversation and good friends - who could ask for more?

We spent a day at Skansen, the world's oldest open air museum. Built in 1891, it contains replications of various "craft" shops, like blacksmiths, weavers, glass blowers, etc. as well as buildings transported from other regions of Sweden to show how life in Sweden looked in days past.

In keeping with some traditions, the food choices were unique (to say the least).

Skansen also had a small zoo, featuring animals from the Nordic territories.

Whooo the hell are you looking at?

A real wolverine, not Hugh Jackman.

I say, I say, go away boy, you bother me!
Pix and videos of a wolf with pups, and a lynx. (In some cases, videos may not be playable in email or on certain mobile devices.)

Mama Wolf

We found it funny that, because the city is so close to water, we saw seabirds perched on the heads of many of the statues in town.

We saw several statues of St. George slaying a dragon.

Here are some more pictures of this beautiful city.

The Grand Hotel. When Pres. Obama stayed there, the US took up the entire hotel.

A modern house on the archipelago.

Entrance to the Royal Gardens

Don't do this.

One of the interesting things about visiting Stockholm in the summer is that the sun rises about 4 AM and doesn't set until about 10 PM. On the flip side, during winter, there are only about 5-6 hours of sunlight each day. We may go back in the winter to see how affects us. Come join us!

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