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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.