I’ve wanted to go to Sweden ever since I studied Swedish at uni, and was very excited to finally arrive in the country and have the chance to practise a bit of language (most of which of course, I’ve forgotten after 12 years). I have also studied Scandinavian history and a bit of Nordic textiles in the past and my interest was fired up.
Modern central Stockholm though - it’s hard to put a finger on. It’s very clean, very neat and tidy, straight streets and shiny shops. The transport is efficient and everyone smiles and speaks perfect English. Somehow, it didn’t feel quite real. It was almost like when you see a movie about a city, or on a smaller scale, a reality show - where you know someone’s been around before you and tidied up and cleaned the toilets but left just enough clutter lying around so it looks kind of true-to-life, or when the real estate agents take photos and they warn you to remove 75% of your personal belongings before they come. I think I’m explaining badly, and don’t get me wrong, we had a great time. Maybe I’m just used to travelling to European cities and seeing a bit more disorder and debris. And the feeling of general order and tidiness is probably merely a positive reflection on how efficiently Sweden is run.
Stockholm’s gory mediaeval history provided us with plenty to do - we’re not really into walking around looking at paintings and sculpture, but show us a dungeon or an armoury and we’re right there. We wandered around the Royal Palace in the Gamla Stan (old town) for a day, visiting the ruined foundations of the original fortress and learning the rather gruesome history of Sweden’s rulers since the Viking era. The armoury, in a different part of the palace, displayed such illuminating articles as the shirt Gustav III (II?) was wearing when he was assassinated - complete with bullet hole and blood-stains. There were more suits of clothing, also complete with bullet holes, and the stuffed skin of the horse another king was riding when killed in battle (also complete with bullet hole in the neck). It was very cool!
Also on the path of history, but this time more in my line than Neil’s, we spent a day at the Skansen open-air museum. Enclosed in a huge park, it consists of original buildings brought from all over Sweden. Farmers’ cottages, manors, mills, shops etc. There were loads of staff around dressed in costume and ready and willing to answer questions and demonstrate traditional crafts and discuss the history and displays. I want to include more detail about what I learned - so I’m saving it for another post.
On the same Island as Skansen is the Vasa Museet - a purpose built museum as big as a stadium housing the restored warship the Vasa, which sank on her maiden voyage in the 17th century. They finally found her and hoisted her up and after 40 years of restoration she’s on view. Apparantly, she was the inspiration for the ship in Pirates of the Caribbean. The Swedes still liking their gory displays, you can see the skeletons of the drowned sailors which they found with the ship. Preserved and documented with loads of information about their characteristics and possible features etc. If you’ve ever watched Bones, it was just like it - reconstruction of the facial features and bone tests to tell what the person’s diet consisted of etc. Very cool.
Apart from the museums, we wandered about and enjoyed brilliant weather. Sat in cafes, ate meatballs explored the winding little streets of the old town and its tourist shops. We bought kitchenware, ate smoked salmon and drank vodka. Prices were atrocious, Neil was paying £5.50 for each bottle of beer in one restaurant we went to, but quality of food and service were both excellent.
Yarn shops were plentiful, I bought some lopi-type yarn and some local carded batts, will take photos tomorrow. I saw mostly English yarns, like Louisa Harding, but there was also plenty of others: Jade Sapphire and some handpainted yarns in one shop, and some gorgeous Danish yarns. The ladies in the shops I visited did their best to answer my questions about sheep breeds and wool types etc, but I think I need to do some more reading to find out everything I wanted to know.
I’d love to go back and study more history, and more textiles - definitely take a course here sometime, and generally just revel in Nordic-ness. It suits me rather!
We only had three days due to a latish flight on Saturday, but we managed to squeeze a fair bit in. There’s loads more pictures, plus commentary on our Flickr photostream.