Our Blog - Stockholm, Sweden - August, 2008

With the exception of a few hours we spent in Malmo, Sweden last year when we took our trip to Denmark we have not really spent any time in Scandinavia during our time in Europe. Stockholm is quite a bit up north, it's latitude is about the same as Anchorage Alaska and if we were there in June there would be only 4 to 5 hours of night. However, in late August the days were not exceptionally long and it was a bit cool, especially compared to Paris.

Near the Opera and the Swedish Parliament is the Gustav Adolfs Torg, a square in the central part of Stockholm and the beginning of our first walking tour in the city. The statue is of Gustav II Adolf who was the founder of the Swedish empire in the 1600's.

The Swedish Parliament building dates from 1897. We only saw the building from the outside as the only way to see the inside was by guided tours and we did not have the time to take the tour.

This plaza is called the Stortorget and was the site of the Stockholm Blood Bath of 1520 when Christian II of Denmark beheaded 80 Swedish noblemen and displayed a "pyramid" of their heads in the square. This is the primary square in the part of Stockholm called Gamla Stan (Old Town) and the narrow, colored buildings are typical in this part of the city.

Storkyrkan is the oldest church in Stockholm, it was founded in the mid-1200s but has been rebuilt many times since. It's the site of coronations and royal weddings; kings are also christened here.

The Royal Palace dates mainly from 1760 as the previous one was destroyed by a fire, (a common theme in Europe). It is the official residence of the royal family but they no longer live there as it is now primarily used for state functions.

Kopmantorget is a small square in Gamla Stan best known for a reproduction of the famous Saint George and the Dragon Statue, which we will get to a bit later.

In Gamla Stan there are a number of old narrow streets with houses and buildings dating from the 1600's and 1700's. Some of the buildings still have carvings above the door showing the trade that the residents were involved in and the year, in this case 1747.

The Royal Swedish Opera is located near Gamla Stan and the Royal Palace and it dates from the late 1800's.

The city of Stockholm sits right on the water and consists of 14 islands. It is quite a scenic city with the colored buildings sitting right on the ocean.

The ship called af Chapman is a steel ship moored on the western shore of the islet called Skeppsholmen it now serves as a youth hostel, it was built in 1888 in the UK.

The Riddarholmskyrkan (church) with its cast-iron spire is one of the famous landmarks in Stockholm. It was founded as an abbey in the 13th century, and it has been the burial place of Swedish kings for 4 centuries.

Inside the Storyrkan church. One oddity when compared to the churches you see in France is the brick interior, those in France are almost always granite or marble so seeing all of this red was unusual for us.

This time a view of the original Saint George and the Dragon statue which was completed in 1489. It is based on an old story of the Saint riding on horseback killing a feared dragon.

To the right and left you can see the royal pews, having been used only by the royal family for the past three centuries.

Like many of the churches in Europe the pulpits are not conservative and are often the most ornate decorations in the church.

Skansen is an open-air museum and zoological park located on the island of Djurgarden, it was founded in 1891. Over the years about 150 historical buildings have been moved there from every part of Sweden, most of them date from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Obviously we were in the zoo portion of the park with a family of brown bears.

Quite a bit smaller than the bears were some guinea pigs which Susan found quite cute.

Maybe not quite as cute as the guinea pigs but endearing in their own way were some pigs that were wallowing in the mud.

Most of the buildings in Skansen were farmhouses and such, however there was one very nice building from the 1700's that would be representative of a house owned by a wealthy family.

In general you would think that a tour of a city hall would be boring, but our 45 minute trip through the building was actually quite interesting. The building is made up of 18 million bricks and took 12 years to complete, finally getting done in 1923.

The main hall of the building is known as the Blue Hall as the original intent was to paint the room blue, but the architect decided it looked too nice with the natural light streaming through the windows to cover the red bricks.

The most famous use of the Blue Hall is for the annual Nobel prize banquet. All of the award winners walk down the large staircase you see here that was specially designed by the architect to allow easy walking and reduces the likelihood of any stumbles.

As a city hall government business must be done regularly and in this room is where the Stockholm elected officials meet. There are 101 representatives that meet in this room but like the rest of Swedish cities there is no mayor.

In many of the rooms the architects attempted to reflect elements of the Swedish culture. In this room the ceiling is meant to look like an upside down boat, harking back to the days of the Vikings.

This room is often used for banquets and is modeled to some extent on the hall of mirrors in Versailles. The windows to the left give an excellent view of the Stockholm waterfront.

For those in the room that have their backs to the windows, they are afforded a different view of the Stockholm waterfront. The large colorful painting was done by the King's brother over a five year period.

A controversial room when it was unveiled the Golden room has 19 million mosaic tiles, each tile having a very thin layer of gold. The people in the 1920's did not feel that the room had a Swedish feel and that the large woman on the wall, who was to represent the city was ugly.