Monday, November 27, 2006

Stockholm City

It’s been so long I had to check my calendar. Stockholm came and went for me a little more than a month ago. This post is a long time comin’.

The weather, much like the new layout and writing quality of this blog, was shit. With more or less constant rain, it and I were cold the entire time. But I was also, after all, in Stockholm. Life could have been worse.

A quick rundown of the essential: Stockholm is built on 14 islands, most of which sit in the Baltic Sea. Extending further out from the coast is the Stockholm archipelago, a series of over 24,000 islands (more on these in the next post). Though we stayed on Norrmalm, the modern center, the city was first built on the historic Old Town of Gamla Stan. We also spent time on Djurgarden, home to several museums and parks, and Sodermalm, the city’s funky, bohemian area.

As usual, I spent the first day walking the city. We also took a combination bus and boat tour through the main areas, and I must say Stockholm would be among the most picturesque cities I’ve yet seen (perhaps second only to Edinburgh) but for the low, dark, and omnipresent clouds. Even so, a few of my photos hint at what awaits those who visit during sunnier days.

Gamla Stan up close. Love the architecture.

The whole of Gamla Stan from our boat as we left the harbor.

The second day brought more rain, so we headed for cover inside Stockholm’s Vasa Museum. The Vasa is an old Man-of-War that at one time was the largest ship in Sweden’s navy. Unfortunately, it sank on its maiden voyage a bunch of years ago in 1628. Despite the best efforts of our patriotic tour guide to explain otherwise, it basically sank because it was a shitty design. The King personally ordered that a second row of canons be placed above the first, thus throwing off its proportions and causing it to be way too tall and narrow for its own good.

Just how unstable was it? Before each ship was put out to sea, the crew did a stability test which consisted of thirty men standing on one side of the ship and then running to the other. This was repeated several times. The purpose was to get the boat rocking side-to-side and make sure it wouldn’t tip over. When this test was performed on the Vasa, the commanding officer had to stop the men after they made only three runs across the ship because a fourth would have caused it to tip. And yet, because the King really wanted his precious two-gun-deck ship, they sent it off. It didn’t even get out of the harbor before a stiff wind broadsided the vessel, tipped it to one side, and sent it to the deep blue depths below.

Anyway, the Vasa sank in really cold water, which prevented most of the rot and decay. It was recently raised, restored, and put on display. If it sounds boring, you’re wrong. I thought it would be, too, but somehow we ended up spending like four hours in the museum. It was super cool. Unfortunately, to preserve the wood it was also very dark inside, so the pictures are difficult to see.

This is a mock-up of the Vasa. The actual ship stands in the background.

The Vasa, standing at the back and looking toward the front.

Our last day was spent back on Gamla Stan at the Nobel Museum. It's very new, opened only a few years ago, and it’s also very small. Nonetheless, there are few museum experiences I’ve enjoyed more. As someone who plans on winning a Peace Prize one day, I was a huge fan.

Nobel Museum. Look for my picture in here in about forty years.

Before we left, I meandered around Gamla Stan a bit more. A few minutes of people-watching and it’s clear that the legend of a nation full of tall, blonde, blue-eyed, gorgeous women is absolutely true. The other thing I noticed was a bit less exciting. In addition to the ubiquitous McDonalds, Pizza Huts, T.G.I. Fridays, and Burger Kings that infest most every city, Stockholm has a ton of 7-Elevens. Go figure. The irony here is that the aforementioned beautiful blonde behind the counter speaks better English than any 7-Eleven attendant you’ll find back in the States.

Narrow street on Gamla Stan with another 7-Eleven.

A few other randoms...

Sunset over Norrmalm.

A rare peak at blue skies over the water.

In case you missed my ugly mug, here's me freezing on a boat in the archipelago.

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