My first Friday Flickr album is from Skansen Open-Air Museum in Stockholm. It was the world’s first open-air museum and is huge. AND it has bears!
As part of being super-organised with my new website (and being super-enthusiastic) I’ve decided to have a regular feature.
Yes, just like the real bloggers.
As I have an abundance of photos that I’m slowly trying to upload to Flickr, I thought I could do myself a favour and make my Flickr albums multi-functional by using them on here.
I’m also thinking that linking my social media accounts in this way might generate more readers and be good for my SEO. I sort of understand what SEO is and why it’s important, but actually I don’t really. Pearls of wisdom in the comments section below will be welcomed.
So, onto my first Friday Flickr (drummm rollll) …
It’s an album filled with the best of my photos from Skansen, a photogenic place if ever there was one.
Skansen can be found on the outskirts of Stockholm and was the world’s first open-air museum. It was opened in 1891 and has been growing ever since.
It showcases historic buildings from the full length of Sweden and also has a zoo and an aquarium. People dressed in periodic costume demonstrate crafts from times gone by like breadmaking and glass-blowing.
But best of all, I got to see bears. Real ones! They looked so cute and cuddly. Well, except for their huge claws. I think I’m probably glad I didn’t meet any in the wild when I walked the Kungsleden.
I spent a very long day wandering round and only stopped for one quick coffee (couldn’t miss out on fika, especially when it looked like this). I saw pretty much everything except the aquarium, but felt like I was rushing. I would have liked to have taken it slower and had more time to watch the animals. Two days would have been much better, but there were so many other things to see in Stockholm and my time was running out, so I couldn’t really justify it. I’d definitely go back again though.
Click on the image below to access the Flickr album.
Ascending the exterior of the world’s largest spherical building to get a last look at Stockholm.
I’d crammed every minute of the last four days with touristy activities and I’d loved every one of those minutes.
So I didn’t see why I should stop just because it was my final evening and I needed to collect my bags and head to the airport.
I could fit one last thing in surely? Well, one last thing before the very last thing which was to sleep in a hostel on a plane.
I took the subway to the appropriately named Globen. There is a globe at Globen and as I alighted from the train I could see it peeping above the buildings.
The Globe is a concert arena that just happens to be the world’s largest spherical building. It is also part of the ‘Sweden Solar System’ which is a scale model of the solar system runing the length of Sweden at a scale of 1/20million. Being the biggest sphere, the Globe represents the sun.
I wasn’t going to merely look at it however, or even attend a concert inside. I was going to stand on the very top and admire the view.
As intrepid as climbing up the exterior of the world’s largest sphere and standing on top of the sun might sound, I have to ‘fess up. There are a couple of gondolas that go up and down the outside all day and this was how I was getting to the top.
I’d bought a 3 day Stockholm Pass which had been really good value as it had covered the cost of my last three days sightseeing and my public transport. The SkyView gondolas are included in the Pass and wanting to well and truly get my money’s worth was another reason for squeezing this last activity into my itinerary.
I queued up to get a timed-ticket. Even though it was early evening it was still quite busy and I had to wait about 20 minutes.
The two gondolas are also spherical and as they are made mostly from glass give a good all round view. They are constantly going up and down, passing each at the midway point.
From the ground to the top of the Globe, 130m above, the journey takes about 10 minutes. Overall, the experience lasts about 20 minutes.
The gondola perches on the very top of the Globe for a few minutes before beginning its descent.
The views over Stockholm were great. I don’t think Stockholm is the prettiest city I’ve seen from above, but it was still lovely to see.
And I loved the feeling the feeling of being on top of world. Sorry, I mean on top of the sun!
Stockholm’s metro system hosts the world’s longest art gallery.
One of my surprise finds in Stockholm was the subway. I knew there was a subway and I knew it was supposed to be quite simple to use. What I didn’t know was that the subway system is also a massive art gallery.
Out of 100 stations, ninety are highly decorated with a range of sculptures, mosaics, paintings and engravings created by over 150 artists. As the subway stretches over 110km, it claims to be the world’s longest art gallery.
I shouldn’t have been surprised as it’s no secret.
This Stockholm website even has a page dedicated to it and advises the best stations to visit. I really don’t know how I missed finding out about it, but I guess it had something to do with me focussing all my research on the Kungsleden and not thinking too much about what I’d do after I’d finished walking.
The good thing about not knowing anything about it in advance was that I got to be surprised when I found myself in my first decorated station. I wandered round taking photos before getting on the train and finding another decorated station when I alighted.
Art in the stations began in the 1950s as a way of making culture accessible to all. Throughout the intervening decades more art has been added with the art from each decade encapsulating the hopes and fears of the time.
The 1950s and ’60s were a time of new prosperity after the Second World War, but were also the era of the Cold War. Both are reflected in the art.
As time progresses the art reflects the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, the individualism of the 1980s and the environmental concerns of more recent times.
I didn’t get to visit many stations, but next time I’m in Stockhom I’m going to work out a route so I get to see as many as possible.
Update: The Guardian has featured the art in the Tunnelbana and has a good write-up.
A boat trip was the perfect chance to sit down for an hour.
Stockholm is a watery city. Built on the edge of the Baltic coastline, the city is the gateway to an archipelago of 30,000 islands and skerries.
I didn’t have time to explore the outer reaches of the island area, but I couldn’t leave without spending at least some time on the water.
The 3 day Stockholm Pass I’d bought had a scenic boat tour included and so early(ish) on my last morning I was standing in line for the first trip of the day.
Having spent the last three days racing around trying to do as much as possible, I was quite tired and was looking forward to starting my last day chilling out on a boat for an hour or so.
It was another lovely morning and would have been nice to sit out on deck, but the only seating was inside. I suppose this is practical for most of the year, but it was a shame that it couldn’t be opened up on such a nice day.
Having to take pics through the windows also meant that most of my photos have refections in them.
The tour itself was worth doing despite the lack of fresh air and dodgy photos. The boat was comfortable and each seat came with a multi-lingual headset, so I was able to hear the commentary in English.
We saw lots, including some places I recognised – Skansen and Vasa for example – and were given lots of information. Being tired and ready to relax a bit, I focussed more on what I was seeing than listening to the spiel.
I’ve put pics on here without much info because, well, I don’t really remember what I was looking at or where it was.
It was a good way to start the morning though and by the time the tour was over, I’d woken up enough to race around making the most of my last day.
Touring the old and the new at the Parliament building in Stockholm
I’d really wanted to see the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen. Who wouldn’t after watching Borgen every Saturday night on TV? But when I got there ready for the once-weekly tour in English, the times had changed and I’d missed it by an hour.
So when I just happened to pass by the Swedish Parliament and they just happened to have an English language tour about to start and it just happened to be free, of course I had to tag along. I mean, you never know do you? They might decide to make a Swedish version of Borgen and then I’d be kicking myself for not taking an opportunity that had been chucked right in front of me.
There was airport style security to get through to enter the building and lockers which all bags had to be put into. Cameras were fine to carry around though and photographs were allowed.
We piled into the lift and the guide led us to the new building which is literally on top of the old building.
There were great views from long curving glass wall.
The Prime Minister’s residence was pointed out. It sits across the water from the Parliament building on an ordinary street. Anyone can walk up to his front door. No fences, no barricades. The complete opposite to Downing Street.
We sat in the galleries overlooking the main area where the 349 MPs sit when Parliament is in session whilst the guide explained about the make-up of Parliament and how voting happens.
At the time of the tour there were almost as many female as male MPs, though this has dropped somewhat since September’s general election.
The system of voting means there is always a coalition in government. Currently the PM is a Social Democrat and his party is in coalition with the Moderate Party and the Sweden Democrats.
There seem to be an awful of parties, but many of them didn’t get any seats. I love that there is a Pirate Party of Sweden even though they didn’t get any seats. I wondered if they imagined themselves as a modern day version of the Vikings, but it seems more that they are standing for increased privacy laws and changes in copyright legislation. Not things Vikings would’ve been too bothered about.
Leaving the modern building we headed downstairs to the older parts of the building. This was very different in style.
We saw various meeting and committee rooms and were given a lot more information. The tour lasted about an hour an half and was well worth doing. Even if it wasn’t Borgen.
Gamla Stan is one of the best preserved medieval city centres in Europe
It was hot.
I’d expected to find Sweden a bit on the chilly side. I’d packed thermal underwear and a winter sleeping bag. Instead I’d arrived in the middle of a tropical heatwave and found temperatures soaring. News reports were gleefully informing people that parts of Sweden were hotter than Bangkok and Istanbul.
Fortunately I’d also packed sunscreen and sandals.
I left the hostel and caught the subway to Gamla Stan, the old part of Stockholm. My plan was just to wander round and get a feel for the place before I caught the Arctic Circle Express train that evening.
But it was so HOT.
I wandered round colourful narrow streets dating back to the founding of Stockholm in 1252, watched buskers and window shopped.
Everyone seemed in a jolly mood and the ice cream shops were doing a roaring trade.
During my wanderings I stumbled across a lovely old church.
St Gertrude’s is known as the German Church because of the number of Germans who lived in this area during the Middle Ages. As St Gertrude is patron saint to travellers and cats I decided I liked her.
And I really liked the cool interior of her church.
Outside the church was a small cafe, shaded by trees. I sat for a while with a coffee. It was so peaceful and even the temperature felt quite pleasant.
Feeling rejuvenated, I headed back into the tourist melee that is Gamla Stan, for a last look around before heading back to the hostel to collect my backpack and catch the train to the Arctic. Surely it would be cooler up there?
A chance to nosey around the old home of one of Sweden’s most loved writers.
I didn’t know much about August Strindberg – I’d seen one of his plays, Miss Julie, performed last year – but that was about all I knew. So I can’t say I was going to visit his old apartment because I’m a big fan. The real reason was because I’m nosey and love seeing how other people live.
Over the years, August Strindberg occupied 24 homes in Stockholm. He moved into the Blue Tower shortly after it was built and stayed for four years. Even though he didn’t stay long, this is the home he’s probably most associated with as it’s the only one open to the public.
As a new-build, the apartment was full of mod-cons like a toilet and central heating. He didn’t have a kitchen, but his building did have a lift.
The original lift is still there and taking it is quite an experience. There are no automatic doors here. The passenger (is that what you call someone who takes a lift?) is responsible for sliding and locking into position the doors and gates. The dark wood panelling, pull down seat and gold mesh made me feel as though I was a character in an old film.
The rooms of his apartment are pretty much as they were in his day with most of the furniture having been his own.
As the apartment had no kitchen he either ate out or had food delivered.
My favourite room was his study. If I love noseying around people’s homes, I love even more seeing their desks. Unfortunately, this was the only part of the apartment behind glass. I still got a good look though.
Even though electricity was included amongst the mod cons in the apartment, Strinberg didn’t use electric lighting. His lamps were powered by kerosene and he was partial to candlesticks in the shape of naked female bodies.
He used the highest quality writing implements – his pen nibs were made from British steel, his ink was French and his paper hand-made.
As well as writing plays and novels, he was interested in science, astronomy, occultism, painting and photography.
The apartment adjoining his also forms part of the museum and this is set up like a ‘real’ museum with lots of artefacts and pictures and plenty of information about his life and work.
The street outside his apartment looked worth exploring too, but I had other places to be. I think this is an area well worth coming back to though.
A simple stone marks the grave of Sweden’s assassinated Prime Minister.
Olof Palme was the Swedish Prime Minister. He was known for his refusal to align with the superpowers and his support of many third-world liberation movements. Between his stints at being PM he’d served as a special mediator for the UN in the war between Iran and Iraq. He was the first Western head of government to visit Cuba after its revolution.
It wasn’t all good though, as he was criticised for his support of third world leaders with horrendous records of human rights abuse.
At home, he was a supporter of women’s rights, free university education, a good standard of free healthcare for all, unemployment benefits, workers’ rights … basically lots of things that made him very popular.
Hence, security was never seen as a big necessity and when he was ‘off-duty’ if was often non-existent.
On 28th February 1986, he was walking home from the cinema with his wife. It was late, close to midnight, and he and his wife were alone.
He was shot in the back at close range by an attacker who then fired at his wife. His wife wasn’t seriously hurt and survived the attack. The PM was rushed to hospital (a taxi driver used his radio to raise the alarm), but was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival.
Sweden went into shock. This was the sort of thing that happened in America, not in safe Sweden. Of course there was a big police investigation, but it was two years before anyone was arrested and convicted. The assassin was a small-time thief and junkie with a previous record of manslaughter.
Within a year however, Christer Pettersson was freed at appeal as it was decided there hadn’t been enough evidence (and what there was was too dubious) to have convicted him in the first place.
Since then conspiracy theorists have had a field day. Owing to Palme’s criticism of the US (in Vietnam for example) and apartheid era South Africa, both the CIA and the South African security forces have been accused of being involved in his death.
The national obsession with his murder is still strong nearly thirty years later. Only recently a Swedish national newspaper was given access to 15 boxes of files belonging to the late Stieg Larsson (author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) who had conducted his own investigation into the assassination.
Over the years, in addition to the CIA and the South Africans, suspects have included the Yugoslavian security forces, Swedish security forces, right-wing Swedish groups and the Kurdish separatist PKK movement.
Many people have confessed to the murder (around 130), but these confessions have been discounted. Alibis for suspects have been withdrawn, others have been given. But with no new hard evidence it seems the identity and motivation of Palme’s killer is going to remain a mystery.
As I was in Stockholm and I’d read a bit about this case and found it quite intriguing, I decided to visit the church where he was buried.
Adolf Fredrik Church is beautiful. It was built in the 18th century to replace an earlier wooden church. Palme is not the only person of note to have been buried there. Theologian René Descartes’ remains were originally interred here, but were later removed to France.
There was a monument inside the church dedicated to René Descartes.
And also one dedicated to Sven Hedin; explorer, geographer and map-maker extraordinaire. He travelled extensively in Central Asia during the 1800s becoming an expert on Tibet, mapping the Great Wall of China, uncovering buried Buddhist cities in China and publishing the first atlas on Central Asia.
Leaving the interior of the church, I wandered around the surrounding gardens and graveyard and found what I’d come to see.
The simple stone memorial with his signature carved into it was so much nicer than a big elaborate monument would have been.
Most of the pictures I’ve seen since have shown flowers laid at its base, but the day I was there, there were none. Just the simple memorial with a young tree growing alongside.