Not sure if now is a good time to get around to mentioning, but I went to Sweden back at the end of June – the original rationale was that I missed out on getting a Glastonbury ticket, so I figured I'd do something fun anyhow. Then a whole swag more Glasto tickets became available, but I figured a trip to Stockholm was something I'd always wanted to do since leaving high school.
It's always a weird feeling going to a new country where you don't speak any of the language whatsoever (although it turned out that my universal tourist phrase – Var ar grod kastar tavlingen ? / Where is the frog throwing contest ? – was pretty close to being right !). Right from the outset it all seemed so different ! I'd heard that the Swedes had a penchant for good design skills, and to be truthful that probably coloured my interpretation somewhat when looking at things, because I started looking at rubbish bins and thinking “Wow, they're lookin' pretty sharp !”.
I went up and stayed with Helen and Johan – Helen being an old friend of mine from Adelaide Gang Show days, and Johan being her Swedish boyfriend (and only current boyfriend – I didn't mean to imply that she's got a UN representation of boyfriends on the go at the moment).
On the Saturday we went to the National Museum of Cultural History (Nordiskamuseet), as well as a bit of a wander around Stockholm. I was well impressed with how tidy the place was, and how well-maintained the buildings all were ! The museum had all kinds of cool stuff in it, but the bit which I remember most now that it's been a couple of months since I went was the substantial collection of chairs from Sweden's history. It was almost like a timeline of Swedish development told in chair form – analogous to the timeline organisation of portraits in Britain's National Portrait Gallery. It seemed fitting, given that Sweden was the point of origin for Ikea – the great furniture empire which Britain's landlords rely on.
We *didn't* go to the big ship museum thing (the Vasa), on the grounds that Helen had just taken a friend through recently, and had 2 more trips to it to do in the next few weeks, so seeing it 4 times over the space of 4 weeks seemed a bit extreme.
Instead, we wandered around Stockholm some more, taking in some of the excellent architecture and historical places. We looked at the Palace, the Old City (Gamlastan), ncluding the square known as Stortorget, where the Stockholm massacre took place in 1520. Amazing, isn't it ? I paste a line like that in and it makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about. I really just got that off a web page. From memory I don't recall seeing anything about a massacre, and if I did it was probably in Swedish so I wouldn't have understood it anyway.
One thing I do remember learning about was the sculpture of the old lady next to the Drama Theatre – it has some kind of heating element going through it so that it's always at body temperature. There was no snow about, being the middle of summer, but apparently it looks quite bizarre to see everything around covered in snow except for a lifesized bronze woman.
That night we lazed around at the apartment and had Swedish meatballs (nice work Johan – they were EXCELLENT !), and generally had a groovy night in.
Sunday was an AWESOME day, so it seemed a bit of a waste to spend all of it underground in another museum. Hence, we only spent half of it in the museum. This time we went to the cunningly named History Museum (Historiska museet) to check out the display of golden collars. I'm not kidding, there was some serious gold in this place – some of it spoils of the vikings. The main showpieces were 3 golden collars made of tubes and incredibly intricate filigree work… not out of place amongst what Mr T used to sport. As well as these there was some excellent information on the topic, including a story about how one of the larger golden coils in the exhibit was found in a paddock holding a gate shut. The Historikamuseet also had a totally totally cool exhibition on Vikings, which kept me fascinated for quite some time (me being something of a viking enthusiast since the old Aesir Rover days). There was loads of armour and weaponry, coins, tools, burial artifacts, and some great information on viking villages. Following all that we went outside and frolicked in the sunshine, and Johan and I engaged in a traditional viking duel, which had been modified only by the addition of two sacks of foam, a pole, and a crashmat.
Finally we moved on to the banks of the river, the name of which I've got no sodding idea of whatsoever, for a lunchtime picnic. Again, it was excellent – Helen and Johan seem to have quite a knack for entertaining tourists; can't wait to get back up there soon and see the rest of the place ! – we had all kinds of groovy food, and I even cast caution to the four winds and tried a couple of different types of herring, which is some kind of local specialty.
What a way to spend a weekend ! Relaxed, casual strolling about in good company, in a lovely city, and with no idea whatsoever what anybody around you is saying. I give it a big THUMBS UP !