Hej! Välkommen till Sveriges!

A typical beautiful summer day in Stockholm

A typical beautiful summer day in Stockholm

We have spent the last couple weeks in Sweden. Our good friends Sven and Eva live just outside Stockholm, so we’ve been staying with them and enjoying both being tourists and being with friends. This is not our first time in Sweden yet we managed to see new things and go to new places. Sweden is remarkable. It is clean and safe. Swedes take responsibility for our planet and actively practice stewardship and conservation. (For example we are staying very close to a place that collects sewage from over 500,000 residents around Stockholm and the treatment process creates biogas that powers buses and taxis in the city.) Sweden has a rich history that can be found walking down the street as well as in museums. They escaped the damage much of Europe experienced in WWII. Swedes seem to know their history and are proud of their country and the efforts to preserve archaeological sites. The Swedish flag is hung outside many houses.

Sandhamn, a popular old town on the edge of the Stockholm archipelago.

Sandhamn, a popular old town on the edge of the Stockholm archipelago.

On the morning we arrived, Sven and Eva met us at the airport. After feeding us, we packed up and sailed away on  Sven’s boat to a nearby town. Ever since, we have been steeped in the beauty both of nature and man’s constructions. We’ve taken more pictures here than anywhere else on our trip.

Downtown Stockholm has bustling pedestrian malls

Downtown Stockholm has bustling pedestrian malls

Even without friends, Stockholm is worth a visit. It has been easy to spend multiple days sight-seeing, like good tourists. Some of the things that we love about Stockholm are: lots of squares and green spaces, easy-to-use public transit, many pedestrians and aware drivers who keep an eye out for walkers and cyclists, bikes left unlocked as often as they are locked, a large quantity of museums and public art, clean streets, buildings hundreds of years old still in use, and the ever-present connection to the sea with many boats shuttling people between the islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. As part of a cultural festival, we enjoyed live dance, music, and a children’s carnival.

The white building houses a bank that was robbed in 1973. The robbers held hostages for six days while negotiating with police. During that time, the hostages came to empathize with their captors, which led to the identification and labeling of Stockholm Syndrome.

The white building houses a bank that was robbed in 1973. The robbers held hostages for six days while negotiating with police. During that time, the hostages came to empathize with their captors, which led to the identification and labeling of Stockholm Syndrome.

We attended a couple walking tours which have allowed us to learn even more about the history and culture. We visited H&M’s headquarters, the house from the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies, and the bank where a robbery took place that led to identification of the Stockholm Syndrome. Megan loved when our guide suggested we play hipster bingo; coming from Portland, we had an advantage in already knowing how to spot a hipster. Our guide explained how Sweden gives couples 480 days of parental leave to use between them and requires each parent to take at least 2 months off, how Ikea names furniture after Swedish cities while naming floor coverings after Danish cities, and how Swedes consume on average 7 cups of coffee each day.

Vasa. Look on the right hand side to see the scale of this ship by comparing it to the people and 7 floors of this museum

Vasa. Look on the left hand side to see the scale of this ship by comparing it to the people and 7 floors of this museum

One of the most amazing museums is the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a warship that accidentally sunk in 1628 due to design flaws, a mile into its maiden voyage. It sat at the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor for 333 years before being excavated by divers and refloated. Today it is the largest single archeological piece in the world. Vasa itself is huge at 226 feet by 155 feet. It was the first warship to have two rows of cannons and had a total of 64 gun ports, the king took a large part in designing it. Despite being a great maritime failure, the resurrection of Vasa has been a publicly funded project. What could have been a source of embarrassment has been turned into a window of the past and a major tourist attraction. In addition to the ship itself, there are exhibits on what people on board would have eaten, social classes, how warships work in battle, meaning of the decorative carvings, and much more. The skeletons, clothing, and possessions of 15 of the souls who went down with the ship have been given forensic analysis to recreate a bit of their life: how old they were, what ailments they suffered, what job they may have had on board, etc. We listened to a visiting archaeologist speak and she explained that most museums have only 3% of their collection on display—there is still much to learn and understand from all the pieces that were recovered with Vasa.

Fun at the ABBA museum

Fun at the ABBA museum

The ABBA museum was a lot of fun. It gave us an entertaining look into Swedish popular culture and history of contemporary music in Sweden. There was a floor that had a room for each decade in the last century that highlighted successful performers and popular music of the time complete with their influences. We watched grainy old recordings and saw music videos released in 2014. The ABBA exhibits were extensive: outfits, recording equipment, paraphernalia, awards, posters, green rooms and photos. There was also an interactive component that let you sing and dance with ABBA. Jim created an avatar that was dressed in their outfits, followed his dance moves, and kept alternating from male to female.

Our next post, in a few days, will share some of our experiences outside the city. Here is a link to the Sweden’s photo album.

We are staying in one of the buildings on the shore. The 450-foot tower in the background is part of the sewage treatment and biogas plant. It is built tall so all possible odors are undetectable to the neighbors. Indeed, we have only smelled fresh air while here.

We are staying in one of the buildings on the shore. The 450-foot tower in the background is part of the sewage treatment and biogas plant. It is built tall so all possible odors are undetectable to the neighbors. Indeed, we have only smelled fresh air while here.

Sven and Eva on Season, Sven's boat.

Sven and Eva on Season, Sven’s boat.

Swedish words often make us smile for how different they are than English

Swedish words often make us smile for how different they are than English

Many houses on near the shore have a small sauna building right down on the water.

Many houses on near the shore have a small sauna building right down on the water.

Jim and Sven sailing Season.

Jim and Sven sailing Season.

Children's carnival in Stockholm. Each ride was human powered by parent volunteers.

Children’s carnival in Stockholm. Each ride was human powered by parent volunteers.

Ferris wheel at children's carnival with a parent cranking the wheel on the right.

Ferris wheel at children’s carnival with a parent cranking the wheel on the right.

While the children rode around, a ferris wheel attendant playfully tried to steal shoes, hats, or anything she could reach from the children.

While the children rode around, a ferris wheel attendant playfully tried to steal shoes, hats, or anything she could reach from the children.

By the end of the ride, she had quite a collection.

By the end of the ride, she had quite a collection.

If you look carefully you can see Megan in a pink blouse outside the tourist office in Stockholm.

If you look carefully you can see Megan in a pink blouse outside the tourist office in Stockholm.

Fun at the ABBA museum

Fun at the ABBA museum

This is a very common sight: bicycles "parked" anywhere, unlocked or locked only to itself with a small cable, and carrying a childseat and/or basket.

This is a very common sight: bicycles “parked” anywhere, unlocked or locked only to itself with a small cable, and carrying a childseat and/or basket.

National elections in Sweden take place in mid-September. Candidates and parties are only allowed to post signs for 40 days before. The combination of English and Swedish on one sign is not uncommon.

National elections in Sweden take place in mid-September. Candidates and parties are only allowed to post signs for 40 days before. The combination of English and Swedish on one sign is not uncommon.

Bicycle and pedestrian paths are very common, so you rarely are walking alongside a road. Lidingö, the island we are staying on, is half green space crossed with trails like this.

Bicycle and pedestrian paths are very common, so you rarely are walking alongside a road. Lidingö, the island we are staying on, is half green space crossed with trails like this.

Every stairway we've seen in Sweden has accessibility track for bicycles and baby strollers

Every stairway we’ve seen in Sweden has accessibility track for bicycles and baby strollers

Recycling is common here. You can see different bins for plastic, paper, metal, and everything else. Unlike in the States, virtually every kind of plastic, paper, and metal can be recycled from Saran wrap to lids to the bag cereal comes in.

Recycling is common here. You can see different bins for plastic, paper, metal, and everything else. Unlike in the States, virtually every kind of plastic, paper, and metal can be recycled from Saran wrap to lids to the bag cereal comes in.

The royal band making their way to the palace in Stockholm

The royal band making their way to the palace in Stockholm

We rented bicycles one day to tour one of Stockholm's island that used to the hunting ground for the royal family and today houses many museums.

We rented bicycles one day to tour one of Stockholm’s island that used to the hunting ground for the royal family and today houses many museums.

Vasa. Despite being submerged for 333 years, the ship is well preserved and you can see the elaborate statuary on the stern. In it's day, these would have been painted bright colors.

Vasa. Despite being submerged for 333 years, the ship is well preserved and you can see the elaborate statuary on the stern. In it’s day, these would have been painted bright colors.

Stockholm. Royal soldiers making their way to the palace. Note the mock bedroll at the back of each saddle; these folks are not sleeping outside today.

Stockholm. Royal soldiers making their way to the palace. Note the mock bedroll at the back of each saddle; these folks are not sleeping outside today.

Stockholm. The peach building cleverly attached a mirror outside each window to allow every room a water view.

Stockholm. The peach building cleverly attached a mirror outside each window to allow every room a water view.

Yet another stunning street in Stockholm

Yet another stunning street in Stockholm

Public forest and meadows on the island on Lidingo comprised more than half the land. We appreciated the hiking trails, berry patches, and soft grassy seats.

Public forest and meadows on the island on Lidingo comprised more than half the land. We appreciated the hiking trails, berry patches, and soft grassy seats.

An old steam boat, still used everyday as one of the ferries shuttling people around the Stockholm archipelago.

An old steam boat, still used everyday as one of the ferries shuttling people around the Stockholm archipelago.

A crane painted like a giraffe, Stockholm.

A crane painted like a giraffe, Stockholm.

Here is one of the old wooden boats, a common sight around Stockholm.

Here is one of the old wooden boats, a common sight around Stockholm.

As we sailed into Stockholm, we passed through a fleet of old wooden sailboats.

As we sailed into Stockholm, we passed through a fleet of old wooden sailboats.

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