Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekend in Stockholm

Bobby spent the first week of December working in Stockholm, so I hopped on a plan Friday afternoon to spend the weekend with him. It was our first time in Stockholm and we both really loved it.
Founded in 1250, Stockholm is home to the Swedish royal family. Fun random fact: the Swedish monarchy, which has been in power since pre-historic times, was an elective (i.e., not hereditary) monarchy until the 16th century! Sweden is a much larger country than Denmark, both in population and land mass, and Stockholm is similarly larger than Copenhagen. Comprised of 14 islands, Stockholm is home to 2.1 million people, approximately 22% of the country's total population.
When I arrived in the early evening on Friday, Bobby was excited to show me how much it had snowed during his week there. We went to a nearby park, which was covered in at least 2 feet of fresh snow. Bobby decided to try 'foot sledding'.
Needless to say, foot sledding is both difficult and dangerous.
When I told one of our Swedish colleagues that we would be in Stockholm, she advised us to look up a lot. At first I thought she was talking about the pretty sky or nice roof tops, but it turns out she was warning us about icicles! Sadly, a young boy died a few years back from a falling icicle, so the city now has many warnings and roped-off sidewalks. The icicles pictured here are pretty tame compared to some of the others we saw (some of which were as long at 6 feet!).
On Saturday morning, we headed into the cold, walking through a lot of snow, to see the official royal residence, Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace). Built on the runes of the original Tre Kronor royal fortress, the current palace was built in 1830 and has 1430 rooms.
We got to see the changing of the guard, which on that day was performed by a small unit from southern Sweden. There were flag carriers, the standard inspection, and a really neat musical demonstration.
The captain of the unit explained in both Swedish and English what the different calls were for; we heard, among others, the call for waking up, marching, ok to fire, and retreat. Considering how cold it was (-8 C/17 F), these guys played really well.
This is the bell tower of Storkyrkan (the Great Chuch), Stockholm's oldest parish church. Built in 1279, the cathedral became a Lutheran Protestant church in 1527. It is the home of royal weddings and coronations. The current King was married here in 1976, and his eldest daughter, the Crown Princess (the future Queen), was married here in 2010.
Just across the water is the Kungliga Operan (Royal Swedish Opera house). The current opera house, built in the end of the 19th century, replaced the original opera house, which was completed in 1782.
Just behind Kungliga Operan is Kungsträdgården (the King's Garden). Originally a kitchen garden for the palace, this park is now a public park that hosts open-air concerts in the summer and, as you can see here, ice skating in the winter. With the amount of snow on the ground, we didn't see any bicyclists in the city, but we did see a lot of people with skis, sleds, and ice skates. No wonder Scandinavia excels in the Winter Olympics!
We also explored the Gamla Stan (Old Town), which sits on the same island as the Royal Palace. Dating back to 1250, the Old Town has old buildings and narrow, winding alleys, as seen in this photo. I loved this part of town! In addition to Renaissance churches and baroque palaces, there are tons of tiny little stores selling all sorts of knick knacks. We stopped at one little place to have a cup of glögg (hot mulled wine), and then sat in a little café to enjoy a huge latte and a lovely apple pastry.
As mentioned above, Stockholm is a bigger city than Copenhagen, and it also has a larger foreign population. Big foreign populations = awesome foreign food. When living in both LA and Paris, we loved going out to Ethiopian restaurants. Sadly, Denmark doesn't have a single Ethiopian restaurant (in fact, we missed the food so much that we tried our hand at making it, which we blogged about here). So we jumped at the chance to go to the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia. Though the portion was a bit small, we were overall happy with our choice. It will have to hold us over until we visit either Paris or LA!
On Sunday, we visited the Grand Hotel. Opened in 1874, the Grand Hotel has housed Nobel Prize laureates since 1901. In fact, we saw one of the laureates on Saturday and both Bobby and I recognized him (well, at first we thought he was a famous historian, but it turns out he is the famous developmental biologist Sir John Gurdon, who is most well known for his pioneering work in cloning. One way or the other, the fact that we recognized him shows that Bobby and I watch way too much history and science shows on TV). Though the Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo, Norway, all other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm.
In addition to its Nobel fame, the Grand Hotel is also famous for its Christmas buffet. This traditional Swedish Christmas buffet is amazing. We started with a selection of seafood, including 6 different kinds of herring, 4 different kinds of smoked salmon, and lots of other tasty ocean-dwelling critters.
Next was the meat plate, my personal favorite. Accompanied by some schnapps (seen in the background), we ate Christmas ham, smoke venison hock, pork belly, pork shoulder, sausage, prime rib, Swedish meatballs, and various forced meats. Oh, I was in heaven!
Next was the cheese plate, which included a few different blues, a nice sharp cheddar, brie, and a few others.
We finally reached nirvana, and max stomach capacity, with dessert. In addition to the traditional rice pudding, there were many varieties of chocolate, several puddings, candied fruit, cakes, fresh fruit, pastries, candied nuts, home-made marshmallows, and cookies. I may have had two plates of desserts... I refuse to confirm anything.
After such a large lunch, we needed to walk off the food and try to stay awake, so we walked along the water towards the Modern Art Museum. Along the way we passed by this beautiful tall sails ship, which is docked next to Amiralitetshuset (the Admiralty House).
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Moderna Museet (Modern Art Museum), which had a special exhibition on Duchamp and Picasso. The exhibition, entitled 'He Was Wrong', looks at some of the works of these two giants of the 20th century art world. There were several well-known Duchamp pieces, including the pictured readymade 'Bicycle Wheel' and 'Fountain' (the urinal signed R. Mutt). Unfortunately, they didn't have my favorite Duchamp piece, 'Nude Descending A Staircase, No. 2.'
Bobby and I have seen a lot of Picasso (especially in the Picasso Museum in Paris and the Picasso museum in Barcelona), so we weren't overly impressed by this museum's collection. However, I rarely turn down an opportunity to see Picasso's works. This piece was especially lovely. Aside from the special exhibition, we also toured the museum's permanent collection. I was thrilled to see a few Braque pieces (a contemporary of Picasso, he has some early Cubist works that I absolutely adore), some Kadinsky pieces that I've never seen before, and a huge Matisse painting.

Overall, we had a wonderful weekend in Stockholm. We hope to return during the summer months so that we can experience a different side of the city. It would be nice to visit when there is more that 6 hours of daylight!

1 comment:

  1. Dear the owner of this blog,

    I'm Uni Kim, a project manager at Neungyule Education, in Korea.
    Neungyule Education publishes textbooks for the English learners.
    Now we're on a project to create a reading skill book series for Gr. 5-6. Our goal is to contain lots of interesting articles as much as possible with vivid photos.
    One of the topic is Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, so I was looking for a related photo materials on the Internet. While searching, I found the photo of Duchamp's 'Bicycle Wheel' on your blog and it seems quite perfect for our book, so I'm leaving a comment here.

    I'd like to ask to permit to use the photo for our book. Please contact me at
    Will be waiting for your reply.
    Thank you,

    Uni Kim