We ended up spending a lot of our day in Stockholm in an area called Djurgården. It has a strong naval history in the area, which means there are ships and galleys everywhere still, but nowadays a lot of it has been turned into museums – the model to the right shows roughly how it looked back in the 1940s. There is an old ice breaker docked which is a museum and also a restaurant. There is the Vasa Museum, which has a ship in it sticking out of the top (left – yes that ship is real and old). And there is the Spirit Museum, which we entered into because the exhibitions looked too interesting to pass up. The whole area of Djurgården was quite clearly a tourist destination, as there were people everywhere and plenty to do – I think you could spend a day here alone just to get everything done, because we sure didn’t have the time to.
The Spirit Museum (I think that’s what it was called anyway) had three exhibitions going on – one on spirits and drinks of Sweden, one on Artpop and Record Sleeves, and one on The Swedish Sin. There weren’t too many fascinating photos from the Spirits exhibition but alcohol is an important factor in The Swedish Sin exhibition, which looks at Sweden’s relationships with alcohol and sex over the last half a century or so.
Starting off, however, with the Artpop exhibition, for a music fanatic like me this was a lot of fun. There were a lot of classic album covers on display from the age of vinyl, and lots of information about particular artists behind some of these covers, as well as the styles and similarities between some. It was nothing life changing, but it was a nice reminder that once upon a time a lot of work went into designing an album cover and at times the liner notes inside too – something which gets lost as music becomes increasingly digital around the world. There were also some bits of information that were just funny, like the fact that inside an album by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a quote about how he was excited to know that Andy Warhol had heard of him because Picasso had heard of Andy Warhol. Anyway, this was a good exhibition to ease us into the museum before the more serious stuff!
The Swedish Sin was by far the most interesting of the exhibitions. While in the mid 20th century the world was looking at Sweden in shock at their sexual values, as sex became less and less of a taboo topic and the society as a whole encouraged sexual freedom and rights in ways much ahead of their time, alcohol restrictions in the country were some of the most severe in the developed world. It’s interesting because this was the reverse of America and much of the western world of the time, which had an easier relationship with alcohol but still saw sex as a fairly taboo subject. I can’t show pictures from the sexual side of all this because, well, you can figure it out I’m sure, but the alcohol aspect was quite a spectacle back then. For a long time there has been a total alcohol monopoly in Sweden – you can only buy it (to take home, I mean) from Systembolaget, a government owned chain of shops. This is still the case now, and even now the Systembolaget sells no cold drinks (meaning you need to “plan” to buy them in advance so you can cool them down), they shut early and don’t open at all on Sundays. Still, back in the 1950s you had rationing of alcohol where they wrote down how much you had bought and could refuse you if you tried to go over your rations. In the late 1950s they dropped the rationing, trying to encourage responsible drinking through campaigns like Operation Wine in which they encouraged people to drink wine instead of vodka so they wouldn’t get so drunk. For someone like me who comes from a country like Australia where the attitude to alcohol is quite liberal, it is fascinating to see that the current restrictive system on buying alcohol stems from something much more complex and culturally embedded.
So what turned out to be a spur of the moment decision to enter perhaps the least majestic museum we had come across in Stockholm turned into a really interesting and enlightening afternoon for us. We soon headed back towards the main part of town, walking past the Stockholm Royal Theatre (somewhere else to see on a later visit) and chilling on a jetty for a while by the water as we considered dinner. Oddly enough, all the waterfront restaurants had really boring menus which is something I found quite frustrating – plenty of other cities by the water that I have visited have great restaurants on the water. But all of these had not only dull menus but the same menu, and I was almost at the point of giving up when we found a really nice Lebanese restaurant further in town which ended the night perfectly. According to my Fitbit we had walked some 20 000 steps and nearly 20km, and I definitely felt it.
Coming up next, we head up a lot more north finally to the High Coast, a place of beauty and, oddly enough, significant geological interest. Stay tuned for more!