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9:58pm on Friday, 17th July, 2015:

Stockholm Vignette


Today we docked in the beautiful city of Stockholm:

I can't say the port is easy on the eye, though.

At breakfast, my daughter didn't want any coffee so the waiter brought her orange juice instead:

He brought three glasses of orange juice, then another one after she'd downed these. I think there must be a module on sarcasm at waiter school.

We went into Stockholm on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. This cost us €30 each and was a complete waste of money — taxis would have been both faster and less expensive. Also, well, this:

We were Hop-On Hop-Off, but there was also Hop On-Hop Off and Hop On Hop Off. Those hyphens make all the difference: they're three different companies and they don't accept each other's tickets.

Wasn't Hoponhopoff a Russian count?

Anyway, because we went in on a bus that was so packed there were people standing, I didn't get many good photos. Those I did get weren't very scenic:

That's some kind of statue outside a station.

That's some kind of statue outside a shop.

That's some kind of neon sign out of 1955.

Visby has concrete sheepies, Helsinki has concrete tortoises, Talinn has concrete birdies, Stockholm has concrete lions:

Not quite Trafalgar Square, but it stops buses from parking on the curb.

Finally! Off the bus and into some old-looking part of Stockholm:

This is near the Royal Palace.

The usual restrictions apply:

No imagination.

We went into the Royal Palace, which is open to the public in the same way that Buckingham Palace isn't:

It would seem that Swedish monarchs spent all their money bettering the lives of the Swedish people, whereas the Russian monarchs spent all theirs on bettering the lives of the Russian monarchs. As a result, Russian palaces are spectacular and Swedish ones are rather staid.

One set of rooms is dedicated to royal orders. One such royal order is awarded to other royals and heads of state. For that particular order, each member gets their coat of arms put on display in the palace. This one belongs to Prince Charles:

The Queen has one too, but that was on the opposite side of the room so my photo didn't come out very well. This is a recurring theme in the Royal Palace, by the way: most of my photos there are fuzzy because the light was dreadful and flashes were disallowed. We weren't even allowed to take photos of the Crown Jewels (although for those I'd guess it's because they're so unimpressive that the Swedes don't want them laughed at all over the Internet).

I like this medal:

Yes, Sweden does indeed have an Order of the Elephant.

The usual restrictions apply:

No exploding monster trucks, no hatchets, no pointing, no Mr Whippy ice creams. Ah, that's better!

Our stateroom on the ship is decorated more sumptuously than this stateroom in the palace:

This room is a bit more luxurious, but all the soft furnishings have covers on them (they're red velvet underneath):

These paintings are by a queen (Margarita, I think), who was a gifted artist:

Yes, well, she may have been a gifted artist, but she wasn't gifted as an artist...

This guest room has a double double bed:

Apparently The Queen and Prince Philip have slept in it. That must have been embarrassing for passing tourists

Here's a model of what the palace used to look like before it burned down:

Now that's a palace! Why did they rebuild it as a boring square when they could have rebuilt it as it was?!

This is about as close as this palace gets to a golden room:

It might have been impressive if I hadn't seen Catherine's Palace in Russia a couple of days earlier.

One of the rooms was refitted in a modern style in the late 1990s, showcasing the best of Swedish design:

We call it "the IKEA room".

After three failed photos that would have made great additions to this blog entry, here's another:

Those worried-looking lions holding up logs appear in several rooms, and I took photos of 4 sets of them. This miserable effort is the best of the lot. Why it's important that I don't take photos of fireplaces using a flash I don't know, but I'm confident it must be because otherwise dreadful things would happen.

Here's the interior square of the Royal Palace:

It looks like an office building.

The chapel in the palace does actually look quite good, so not everything in the building is dark, functional grimness:

They had light in there and everything.

On the way out, we came across the Changing of the Guard ceremony:

I don't know whether these squaddies were incoming or outgoing. I do know they had a short drummer who was beating a drum two thirds her height. It's as well that Sweden isn't under any immediate threat of terrorism, because this would make a high-profile yet soft target.

Outside the palace, exploring the Old Town:

It's a pretty square. OK, so it looks as if it ought to be in Amsterdam rather than Stockholm, but at least it has some character.

This is just off the above square:

The sign reads: "National Gallery".

Here's the work of an optimist:

Given that they lost the bag almost 3 months ago, the likelihood of its being handed in now is probably close to zero.

I had, er, high hopes of being able to go up this church tower:

Unfortunately, I couldn't. The building was in use because someone had chosen today to have their funeral.

This olde worlde street, only a short walk from the Royal Palace, was completely empty:

I wonder how far you'd have to go from Buckingham Palace to find a street that length with no-one in it at lunchtime,

These statues have chained themselves to a railing outside a shop:

I think we should listen to their demands before one of them throws itself under a horse.

Ahh, good, it would have been a shame to visit Sweden and not see one of these mannequins:

If it's good enough for the Joker, it's good enough for me.

Unlike other countries, Sweden doesn't disfigure its monuments with green netting when they're being restored:

It disfigures them with white netting.

Stockholm looks much better when the sun is shining, but there are still some stunning views across the water to different islands:

That said, some views which ought to have been stunning are instead a mess. Just to the right of the above is this:

Someone, somewhere, once thought that glass and concrete monsters were a natural fit with stylish 200-year-old architecture.

If a hostel had this name in the UK, it would have to justify it or fall foul of the Trade Descriptions Act:

Of course, it's entirely possible that this is indeed the best (because it's the only) hostel in the Old Town.

After a 25-minute wait for a Hop-On Hop-Off bus that runs every 20 minutes (during which time two Hop On-Hop Off buses passed by), we went to Skansen. It was a toss-up between Skansen and the Vasa Museum; we decided to visit the former if the rain held off and the latter if the heavens opened. The heavens remained closed, so Skansen it was. Skansen has been recommended to me by Swedes several times; as for what it is, well it's an historical recreation of various parts of Sweden, ranging in period from the 1700s to the 1930s. It was opened in the 1890s, and most of the buildings are originals that have been moved there from where they used to stand. It's huge:

That's a model, obviously, otherwise it would be tiny.

There are some good views of the Stockholm skyline from Skansen:

That's an impressive building on the left (no idea what it is). That's also an impressive block of modern apartments in the middle (no idea why they were allowed to be built). To the right, there's an artificial hill of some kind (no idea what its purpose is whatosever). You can see the artificial hill better from this angle:

Maybe it's a ski slope?

The path outside the glass-blowing shop is covered in tiny pieces of broken glass:

I like to think that if the glass-blower makes a mistake, she flies into a rage and hurls the half-finished object out of the window. However, as she did make a mistake while we were watching and didn't throw the result out of the window, this could just be wild speculation on my part.

There are farm animals wandering around Skansen. Here's a cockerel:

The spurs on its legs are enormous! No wonder in olden times people used to set up cockfights, those things look vicious.

Here's an example of a house in Skansen:

Here's an example of two houses, one of which has a saddlery upstairs:

Here's yet another example, this time featuring an employee in period costume:

She's using her mobile phone.

The descriptions of the buildings are helpfully in English:

The typos are about as frequent as the ones in this blog when I'm typing on my laptop and don't check what I've put.

I was thrilled when I first spotted this statue as I thought it was of a man pulling the wings off butterflies:

It turned out to be Linnaeus categorising a couple of leaves.

This is the inside of the apothecary shop:

Sadly, no stuffed crocodiles or scorched hedgehogs this time round.

Some of the cottage gardens have this sign on their gate:

It's lucky that geese can't fly, then.

This has to be the worst advertisement for a candyfloss shop I've ever seen:

It didn't stop my daughter (age 21) wanting some candyfloss, though...

This is on the ceiling of an old church:

I like the way they interspersed the clouds with angels.

The occasional screams we heard came from this ride at the nearby amusement park:

Metal statues are expensive because of the materials, let alone the work involved making them:

It amazes me that even so, many of them are badly-executed.

I saw this tub of small wooden stakes and just wanted to buy it:

I don't know what I'd do with them, I don't know what they're for, but I do know I want them. Fortunately, my will of steel prevailed and I resisted the temptation to stuff as many into my bag as would fit. However, if I ever come across vampire mice, I know where to come.

Why so sad, Foxy?

On the way back, we passed the Abba Museum:

I heard on the radio recently that Benny out of Abba occasionally walks past and if anyone in the queue recognises him he'll stop for a chat.

These horses, known as Dala horses, are on sale all over Sweden:

I suspect that the Swedes believe these horses to be famous outside Sweden and that everyone who visits Sweden wants them, like with those stacking dolls and Russia. Sadly, this is not the case, and no amount of treating Dala horses as if they were desirable objects is going to make them so.

There's much more to Stockholm than we had time to see, and the weather was a bit too cold for wandering around the streets aimlessly. Next time I'm here, I'm not going to take any of the Hop-On-Hop-Off buses, though — those things are too expensive for what you get.

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).