Sweden Road Trip #4: Stockholm Part 2 – Djurgården, and The Swedish Sin

01 - Djurgarden 1940s modelWe 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 02 - Vasa Museum Shipan 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.

04 - Spirit Museum ExhibitionsThe 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.

05 - ArtpopStarting 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 06 - Artpop 2similarities 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!

08 - SystembolagetThe 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 09 - Systembolaget 2spectacle 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.

11 - Stockholm Royal TheatreSo 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 12 - Chilling On A Jettyon 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!

Sweden Road Trip #3: Stockholm Part 1

01 - Stockholm across waterIt’s a little sad that it took me almost six months of living here to finally make it to the capital city of Sweden, but a couple of days into our road trip in July I finally got there. I actually had to go there anyway to visit the Australian Embassy about something (it was hiding upstairs in some totally random building that we could have so easily missed, too, but the people there were nice at least). After half an hour, we were done and headed off for a day around Stockholm.

The city itself is like a lot of the other bigger cities of Sweden – not all that big. There is about a million people living in Stockholm altogether, which compared to many cities of the world is tiny, and the effect on the overall scenery is that there is a distinct lack of high-rises which in turn makes the place kind of cosy. Like a lot of the main cities of Sweden, water is the key natural feature of the whole place, and added to the usual modes of transport here are ferries (which we boarded on our way to a place I’ll cover in Part 2 of this post).

04 - Stockholm epic buldings 2The architecture here is amazing, as you would expect, with churches and cathedrals littered everywhere. I could go on and on about the architecture, but I’ll just include a bunch of pictures towards the end of the post to show you what I mean. As we didn’t have much time in Stockholm we didn’t go into most of these buildings, which is kind of a shame but I plan on spending a lot more time exploring the city later, and when I do I’ll probably be able to say something more profound about these places other than “oh look, dey so purdy!” (But they are.)

02 - Lunch at Under KastanjenAfter some sight seeing, we dodged the crowds through the main part of the city and found ourselves on the back streets. After a little bit of wandering we came across an amazing little cafe called Under Kastenjen, which translates as Under The Chestnut Tree, called this because…well I’m pretty sure you can work it out. We had a surprisingly cheap lunch while relaxing here, and halfway through our meal a keyboard player appeared in the middle of the courtyard and started performing for us (I say appeared, but he did walk into the courtyard – I don’t want you to think that not only do Swedish people just materialise places but that it’s accepted as nothing unusual (although that would be cool)). Naturally, we didn’t find ourselves in a rush to leave and decided a dessert would also be a good idea.

06 - Stockholm 1600s pharmacyWe eventually left our little lunch spot and roamed some more of the back streets, going into a few different shops along the way while we looked for a pharmacy. What we weren’t expecting to find, however, was a pharmacy from the 1600s that was still in use! A lot of the historic feel to the place has been kept, which I thought was fantastic (I’m sure most people who live there think it’s no big deal, but then again I am a big nerd). 08 - Pharmacy mortar and pestleThere was an extension out the back that looked a lot newer, but the original pharmacy was definitely still in use, and I believe that computer monitor also dates back a few centuries (I made that same bad joke on Instagram with this particular photo…extra sorry for those poor souls who had to see the bad excuse for humour twice). There was also an old mortar and pestle and a plaque with all the owners of the place since 1674 – interestingly the only female owner was not in the last century at all, but back in the 1700s.

13 - Antique shopThere were plenty of other interesting finds along some of those streets. We walked past some awesome antique shops, many of which weren’t open frustratingly. We heard a lot of different accents on our way, including a lot of different English speakers too (it was the middle of Summer so the peak of the tourist season). We also walked past some darker 14 - Racist street nameaspects of history, such as a street named Svartmangatan – translated as Black man’s street. For all the wonderful ways that Sweden has been progressive socially, racism has long been an issue throughout the history of the country and, judging from the election results here last night, it still is an issue (to cut a long story short, an incredibly racist party has somehow become the third biggest party, which has left a lot of the country devastated, embarrassed, and a little bit scared).

09 - Nordic MuseumAs I said before, this was a rushed tour of the city, and so there were a lot of places we just didn’t have time to visit. One place which I regret not going into, and yet I feel I probably needed to dedicate a full day to anyway, was the rather majestic looking Nordic Museum. It was so huge 10 - Nordic Museum from afarthat taking a picture of the longer side required me to stand back. Several hundred metres back, actually. I adore the architecture with this place – I think all good museums should put the effort into looking nice from the outside (because I have visited plenty in my life that look drab and awful until you go in). Anyway, I have heard a lot of good things about this place, so this is definitely deserving of a return trip one day. It was also surrounded by some nice gardens and place to eat and drink.

15 - Stockholm parksAfter this, we went and rested in a park for a little while while we decided what to do next. The rest of the day would be spent in a part of Stockholm called Djurgården, which I will cover in the second part of this post. There we did go into a museum, looking at a couple of different exhibitions from Artpop music covers to Sweden’s cultural history with alcohol and sex. In the meantime, I’ll finish off this post with a few more pictures of the architecture around Stockholm. Enjoy!

What I love with this is just the sheer amount of detail that has gone into it! Beautiful!

What I love with this is just the sheer amount of detail that has gone into it! Beautiful!

This was a door. I want this door.

This was a door. I want this door.

Suddenly this statue loses its stature with a bird on its head. For some reason this made me laugh a lot.

Suddenly this statue doesn’t look so tough with a bird on its head. For some reason this made me laugh a lot.


Sweden Road Trip #2: From West To East At Around Midnight

A badly drawn line represents roughly this leg of the road trip.

A badly drawn line represents roughly this leg of the road trip.

Okay, so we finally begin the actual main road trip itself. Our first leg of the trip involved going from Halmstad on the West Coast of Sweden (where we live) to a place called Nynäshamn, about an hour south of Stockholm on the East Coast. The intention was to leave mid Monday afternoon and get there at night. But in reality, we overestimated our ability to be ready on time by a good eight hours, and left at about midnight.

I guess it was to be expected. Four of us sharing a car, a caravan and a tent attached to the side of the cabin – there was a lot of stuff to organise, put away securely, things that needed checking they still functioned. But eventually at midnight we took off, deciding it was still worth making a start on the trip so that we wouldn’t wake up with the whole thing still left to do.

IMG_20140708_084345At about 3 in the morning, exhausted and a little over half way there, we decided to make a pit stop for the rest of the night in the luxury accommodation of some random car park we found. One thing about Sweden is their very loose laws about where you can stop for the night in a caravan. Almost the entire country is in fact legally available, within reason (obviously you can’t go blocking the driveways of people or businesses, or stop in the middle of the road or somewhere fenced off entirely, but you get the gist). There were quite a few other caravans who had stopped here overnight, too, so it seems to be quite common. A few hours later, the sun well and truly up, we went to the supermarket to get some food, had a quick breakfast, and took back off for the rest of the journey.

IMG_20140710_211437By lunch time we finally got to our destination, which turned out to be this really cute little seaside camping site. We got one of the last spots and set ourselves up nicely towards the top of the hill sloping down to the beach, IMG_20140710_211828which was useful in that we were a tiny bit closer to the shops and the train station, both of which we would need to use. The camping site wasn’t too bad – we had electricity (something we really needed, camping there for 3 days and for 2 weeks in total around the country), there was a little restaurant/bar which we never used, and on the beach there was water slides and diving boards which we never got around to using sadly. Next time.

The second day of our stay there, we shot off to Stockholm for the day and I took so many pictures there and saw so much that it needs probably two full blog posts just to cover it, so the third and fourth posts of this series will be on that before we head up north. But, as I said, we stayed in Nynäshamn for 3 days, so back to Nynäshamn! On the Thursday, we wandered into town with the dogs and even took them to a dog cafe, which was quite a cute idea even if one of them went a little bit loopy and knocked over the water bowl put down for her everywhere. Luckily, I suspect the owner of the place was fairly used to that sort of thing. The rest of the town was sweet but tiny, and for some reason I didn’t take any photos of it – oops! Oh well, you’ll see plenty of other towns in the later blog posts so I’m sure you’ll get by. Or you could image search it if you’re really curious.

IMG_20140822_140050On the Friday, we had to leave by midday and that morning decided just to go on a walk around the coastline for an hour or so. Two hours later, we were completely lost. Nynäshamn is connected to a lot of other little islands, and somehow when we decided to return home we ended up on a path that was going to take us the really really long way back, around several other islands. The scenery was gorgeous, to be fair, and we got plenty of exercise in the whole process. But there was definitely a moment where we seriously worried whether or not we would find our way back to the camping site at all, especially as one person we asked for directions sort of pointed us in the wrong direction too. But we got there in the end…or did we? No, we did. It was fine. Honest.

Coming up next on my road trip blog, our day in Stockholm will be covered in a ridiculous amount of detail before we move on to the High Coast of Sweden, which perhaps in a lot of ways was the most memorable experience of the entire trip.