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SWEDEN | Monday, 2 July 2012 | Views [673]

Drottningholm Palace

Drottningholm Palace

Having walked for 15 minutes in the pouring rain to Oslo S, I'm glad to finally get under some shelter and looking forward to sitting on the train to Stockholm for the next 6 hours. As with everywhere else in Scandinavia, a ticket and a seat reservation are separate things. I have a seat reservation and on the train, a woman sitting in it. In true British fashion, I apologized to her for having a reservation.

Most of the scenary is the standard Nordic fair of tunnels, rivers, forests, valley and lakes. At one stage the train crossed tracks that had been built across a massive body of water. I've no idea where this was, but it felt like crossing an ocean. Of course the scenery can only be entertaining for so long and I eventually spent the next 5 hours watching movies on the laptop. I surprised myself by choosing to watch Charlie Chaplin. I hadn't seen "City Lights" and "The Gold Rush" since I was a Kid (no pun intended) and was amazed that the films still stand up to the test of time. The way Chaplin turns visual fragments into complete narratives. Without using speech to express dialogue and still extract feelings from the viewer. The ending scene from "City Lights" has got to be one of the most touching moments in celluloid.  Thinking back, I could have watched "Modern Times" to really sum up Sweden's attitude to work.

Amazingly, the train arrived in Stockholm 30 minutes before the scheduled time. This was bad for me as I wasn't expecting this and was in the toilet for a doo-doo. I have to hurry to get my stuff and it's too late to go to the tourist office for a Stockholm map. But I go anyway more in hope than expectation. Maps are actually posted around the train station, and luckily also shows in detail the roads leading up to my hotel.

Everything everywhere is so clean in Stockholm that the place feels really sterile, even the train station:

When I got to my hotel, the corridor reminded me of "The Shining":

Day 1

The day starts with a trip out to see Drottningholm Palace, which is easy to get to via the metro, then a bus. Drottning is Swedish for Queen, so the name of the palace is literally the Queen's Palace. It's said that the palace is a lot like Versaille, but smaller. It's not far off:

The interiors of the palace aren't actually that different from palaces around Europe, so I wasn't that impressed. The garden's howerver are a different matter. Not only are the gardens massive, it's all been layed out in straight lines, drawing the viewer's eyes to particular features. 

A number of pavillions ar dotted around the grounds, some of which are used as residences for the staff and this one was the guard rooms. The facade is actually hiding a barracks:

The really well known pavallion is the Chinese inspired Chinese Pavillion. Ironically, I was a little upset that there was a separate entrance fee for this, so I never went inside:

I spent the entire morning here before heading back into central Stockholm for the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a Swedish warship built in 1628 to be part of Sweden's Baltic fleet. It was supposed to be the pride of the Swedish Navy, but sank on her maiden voyage, only 20 miutes after sailing out and while still in the harbour. The ship apparently had poor stability due to it's top heavy design and even a light squall could destablized the ship. In the 1950s the remains of the ship were located, which brings us to the museum. For a museum essentially devoted to one item, it's surprisingly good as it goes into histriography, archeaology and little bit of socialogy. Well worth a visit even if it's just to tell the archeologists that the Vasa designers should have stopped off at IKEA:

I finish off the day with a walk around the Gamla Stan, which is the oldest part of Stockholm. I have to admit, I was blown away by sprawl, but well preserved old buildings, pictureque little alleyways. The whole place has so much characters and chock full of tourists. At about 6pm, there's a band that marches through the area:

Also in Gamla Stan is another Royal Palace, which has got to be the most ugly royal palae I've ever seen:

Day 02

Most of the attractions are out of the way, it's going to be a slow and relaxing day. So I visit the National Gallery first. An impressive collection of Rembrandt and there was a great exhibition called "Slow Art". A type of art in fine craft skills where technique, materials and the work process are considered especially important. I thought this glass dress was really nice:

After this, it's a 20 minute walk to Stadshuset, which is the name of Stockholm city hall. It's main claim to fame is the place for the Nobel banquents in the Blue Hall. The city hall is a funational polictical office, so visitors are obliged to take a guided tour which is actually well worth the price. We learn that the building is made up of 8 million bricks. Originally conceived as a neo-classical building, the architect Ragnar Östberg apparently kept changing the design until running out of time and money, with the main hall (Golden Hall) still to be completed, compromises were made. As you can see, it's not exactly neo-classical:

The story goes that the architect, with little budget left and under pressure from Stockholm council to complete the building, thought he found a good deal within the budget from people selling gold pressed decorative mosaics and then commissioned an artist to do something Byzantine with the stuff.

Tags: old town, sightseeing, stockholm, sweden


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