Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stockholm II

Well, we are finished Uni here at leeds, and have just three weeks before we are heading off again, this time for Spain and Italy. Meanwhile, we are still working our way through the backlog of blogs. Here’s the second instalment of Stockholm!

We awoke late on Sunday - sleeping in a room with no windows makes it hard to work out what time it is! As we were leaving on the 9pm train to Abisko, we needed to check out so packed our bags and were very happy to be told that we could leave the large packs in the luggage room. Not wanting to waste a day, we headed out to grab some breakfast – which was a coffee and croissant from a 7-Eleven. I know, I know, but Stockholm is REALLY expensive to eat out, and the coffee and croissant, even from the 7-Eleven were on par with any café I’ve been to in Australia, and the coffee was a helluva lot better than any in Leeds, York or Manchester.

As nothing opens on a Sunday until 11, we decided to wander around the waterways for a while before trying to find the Sauhall, the food market in Östermalm which apparently has a huge range of fresh local produce for relatively cheap, and we planned to stock up for the 18 hour train trip to Abisko. Near Gamla Stan, a bit of a crowd was gathered around the waterfront. We wandered over to see, and near the parliament building, where the water was rushing through the channel in a torrent, there were some guys in small kayaks messing around in the frozen water, and despite the temperature it looked like they were having fun!We wandered lazily along the cobbled waterfront promenades, drinking in the views of waterways lined with grand old buildings and lots of old timber boats.



Photos: 1) White water kayakers near the Parliament building. 2) Laura and I in front of the Palace and the Parliament. 3) Old wooden boat. 4-5) Quayside promenade of Östermalm. 6-7) Laura and I in front of the waterways. 8) The Östermalm Synagogue - a magnificent building. 9) Old barracks building near the Armeemuseum in Östermalm.

When we reached the Sauhall however, we found it was not open on Sundays, so decided to head to the nearby Armemuseum, an imposing military building whose entrance is guarded with the very strange looking cold war era Swedish turretless S-Tank. Our student cards again came in very handy, halving the entrance fees, and armed with English language audio guides we headed into the museum. From the outset, this was unlike any military museum I’ve seen. The first room was a reminder of the inhumanity of war, with two life-size scenes at either end of the gallery, one of early humans fighting, and the other of a current day Swedish soldier. The commentary asked us to consider some difficult questions, is humankind genetically predisposed to fighting each other, or can violence be overcome. The subsequent displays covered the military history of Sweden from the Vikings to the present day. In the section covering the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) in which the Swedes, under their warrior king Gustav II Adolf played such a key role, there was a huge diorama of 5,800 painted figures depicting a Swedish army deployed for war. Among the items on display was a 5 meter long pike, I have no idea how people could have held something this size out straight, it must have weighed a ton!

Photos: 1) The Armeemuseum, housed in an 18th century barracks building. 2) Swedish S-Tank. 3) Me in front of Armeemuseum. 4) 10th century statue of Thor, the Scandinavian god of War. 5) Huge diorama or Swedish Thirty Years War army. 6)Russian flags, drums and banners captured at Narva in 1700.

There was also a considerable section on Karl XIIs army, and the Great Northern War against Russia, Saxony and Poland which saw an end to Swedish hegemony in Northern Europe. Among the relics on display was a room full of flags and banners, captured from a Russian army at the battle of Narva in 1700. It was amazing that they were still in one piece, after over 300 years. The lighting was very dim, and turned off every 5 minutes to hopefully preserve the cloth for many years to come. The presentation of the museum was very effective, with life sized mannequins set out in battle scenes. When entering one room, you are greeted by three of Karl XII’s Swedish cavalrymen at the full charge, with their sabres drawn and heading straight for you! There as also a well set out room with a Napoleonic era gun crew reloading, and being attacked by Russian infantry.

Photos: 1) Karl XII of Sweden, the 'madman of Europe'. 2) Karl XII era (1700-1718) Swedish cavalry charging. 3) 18th century Swedish uniform. 4) Napoleonic era Swedish gun and crew. 5) Napoleonic era Russian infantryman.6) Napoleonic era Swedish Hussar's equipment. Rather fancy.

While Sweden may have concluded it’s last official war in 1814 against Napoleon, the museum does not gloss over the thorny issue of Swedish volunteers fighting for Nazi Germany in WWII. A whole section is devoted to the actions of these men, and also to more admirable figures like Raoul Wallenberg, a swedish expat living in Budapest who actively worked against the Nazis to save Jews from deportation and death.

Then it was the fun stuff. The museum had a large interactive ‘hands on’ area, where you can handle the weapons from the muskets and sabres of Karl XII’s army to the assault rifles of today’s Swedish army. While military history is obviously my thing, Laura was even interested by the well thought out layout and interactive nature of the museum, and was happy to indulge my excited darting about and snapping photographs. Difficult thing to have a military museum without celebrating war, but the Swedes managed to pull it off.

Photos: 1) 1940s Swedish Anti tank gun. 2) Section on Raoul Wallenberg and Budapest during the Holocaust. 3) Me with a Karl XII era musket. It was rather heavy!. 4) Laura has a machine gun. 5) The 'tre-kroner' insignia of the Swedish airforce, this was on the wing of a drone.

We headed back out into the Stockholm streets and wandered down towards the centre of town. It was not well after lunch time, and with all the walking we were famished. We wandered into the Sauhall of the NK building, which was supposed to be a cheap place to get food. After seeing that a small cup of coffee was 65 kroner (9 AUD), we decided to try out one of the little hot dog vendors which are all over Stockholm. Despite our limited ability to communicate in Swedish, and the fact that the Spanish hotdog vendor spoke no English, we had no problems ordering a couple of hotdogs. A note on hotdogs, or wurst. These aren’t the wobbly red plastic covered things we have at home. Each vendor has a selection of wurst on offer. Laura had a bratwurst, and I tried the local Bamse. They were delicious, served with an awesome sweet mustard sauce, and for less than 25 kroner (~3AUD) we were very pleased.

With our energy sources suitably recharged, we headed to our next stop, the Hallwyska Museet. The Hallwyska is an old aristocratic family’s house, located in an exclusive waterfront area of Östermalm . It was turned into a museum as specified in the last countess’ will following her death in 1993. The rooms were very impressive, showing the wealth and power of aristocratic families. The rooms were virtually dripping with oil paintings, tapestries, fine sculpture, very tasteful furniture and … folded napkins. Yes, folded napkins. Apparently the Hallwyska was hosting a special exhibition on the art of folding cotton napkins. As neither of us is really that much for folded napkins, it was a little annoying to have all the rooms covered in cotton folded into swans, triumphal arches, castles or roast chickens. Despite the cotton, the collection was very interesting, although the high admission charge, the napkins and the small number of rooms was a bit of a let down. Nonetheless, there were some beautiful objects on show, and the architecture and decorations of the rooms were amazing.

Photos: 1) Laura in front of an aptly named department store. 2) Entry to the main hall of the Hallwyska Museum. 3) The billiard room. 4) The ballroom. 5) Chandelier in ballroom. 6) Laura in the dining room of Hallwyska museum.7) Ceiling of the drawing room.

By now, we were very tired, but still had a few hours to kill before our train left. We decided to head back to the hotel, grab our bags and find a place to get a cheap dinner and wait at Stockholm Central station. We wandered by the SJ rail centre, Sweden’s national rail network, and booked our train tickets from Abisko to Kiruna, which we would need for the coming Saturday. Like everything so far in Sweden, the automated system was quick, efficient and hassle free. Cityrail representatives should take a trip over to Sweden to see how things should be done.

With our tickets and bags sorted, we found a comfy spot to sit, grabbed a burger meal each for dinner and watched the people come and go. At about 8.30 it was time to wave “Hey Daå” to Stockholm and head up to the platform for our train North across the Artic Circle and to Abisko. But that’s for the next blog update.