Thursday, 17 July 2014

Stockholm 3 - Under the Bridges and Saying Hello and Goodbye to a Queen

Again we were up bright and early, had breakfast and out into a overcast Stockholm, mind you, even in that weather it looked beautiful. We were heading to nearby Stromkajen where we were joining the Under the Bridges of Stockholm boat tour. This tour passes under fifteen of the bridges that link some of the islands that make up Stockholm.

Gamla Stan from the Water
The boat was barge-like and chugged along at a leisurely pace. We passed by the gorgeous Grand Hotel . and then Djurgarden and had a good view of the Vasa Museum and the Grona Lund amusement park.  We passed Gamla Stan and then passed through a lock that separates Lake Malaren and the Baltic Sea. We then skirted the north shore of the island of Södermalm. There were some gorgeous turreted buildings built up on a hill facing Gamla Stan, they were very Germanic in style which is something I noticed with many of Stockholm's old buildings. We passed many residential areas, the apartments all had large balconies brimming with colourful flowers and there was lots of greenery. There were also many houseboats lining the shore.

We passed the island of Langholmen and then looped around Lilla Essingen and south of the small island of Reimersholme. There we passed a huge wooden barrel on the shore, this marks the site of the original Absolut vodka factory founded by Lars Olsson Smith. We continued on and followed Sodermalm's southern shore. We passed a huge hospital that had dozens of allotments on the slope below it all with brightly coloured sheds.

The Grand Hotel
On our way back to the berth we passed the spot where the Vasa sank all those years ago, it was very close to the museum where it resides now. And that was it, I really enjoyed the boat tour and we saw more of the city than we would have any other way. Being built on many islands you often get the best views from the water.

Before I go on with the next part of my trip as promised I'll let you know what drew me to Stockholm in the first place. When I was around fifteen I read a book called Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. It was a novel based on fact about a silk merchant's daughter called Desiree Clary from Marseilles in France. She was engaged to Napoleon at one time and married a French general called Jean Baptisite Bernadotte. In 1810 Jean-Baptiste was asked by the elderly, childless Charles XIII of Sweden to be his heir. Eventually in 1818
he was crowned King Charles XIV John  of Sweden and Desiree became Queen Desideria and to this day the Bernadotte dynasty is still Sweden's royal family. Since I read the book I have been fascinated by Napoleonic times in France and how a silk merchant's daughter from Marseilles ended up as Queen of Sweden and I wanted to see Stockholm for myself one day. I waited a very long time but now I was there.

We then went to The Royal Palace (and saw another changing of the guard up close) which is the royal family's official residence and place of work. It also houses royal departments and state apartments where visiting world dignitaries stay. We went in and climbed marble steps with diagonal lines across them into the palace proper. We wandered through the rooms that ranged from very opulent to oppressive, beautiful and homely. It varied a lot, there was even one very modern room which was the present king's homage to Swedish design (no it wasn't furnished by IKEA!) Apparently there are over 600
Me Outside the Royal Palace
rooms in this humongous place!

There were a few portraits of Desiree and her family, mostly from before she actually lived in Sweden - she moved there permanently in 1823. She had been very unhappy in Sweden, she hated the cold, never learnt the language and always longed for France and she became increasingly eccentric as she grew older. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the palace which was a shame, but I suppose flash can damage old paintings and tapestries.

There were several museum's within the palace but we didn't have time to see them all so we decided go to The Royal Armoury. It is the oldest museum in Stockholm and was founded by King Gustav II Adolph in 1628 and is now situated in the vaulted cellars of the palace. Upstairs was an exhibition called Power Games which housed costumes from TV and film such as Elizabeth the First and Game of Thrones. To be honest I wasn't at all interested in that so I went further down to another lower floor to see the real historical things.

It housed royal belongings going back to the 1500's, there was a beautiful blue velvet cape with golden crowns on it from very early times. Gustav II Adolph's horse, Streiff, which he rode at the battle of Lutzen in 1632 was stuffed and put on display here. Clothing of various kings and queens, swords, crowns, even
Riddarholm Church
ornate carriages and amazing sleighs. The latter reminding me that  this is a Nordic country with lots of snow and the waters around Stockholm's islands are frozen in winter. It was very interesting and I enjoyed looking
round the museum.

We had a snack of cakes and coffee and then again went our separate ways. Yvonne wanted to go to the Photographic Museum and I wanted to go to Riddarholm Church. which was only a short walk from the cafe. It is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm with parts of it dating back to the thirteenth century. It has not been a functioning church since 1807 but was reserved as the burial place for Sweden's monarchs until 1950. It's distinctive cast iron spire replaced the original spire that was destroyed by lightening in 1835.
Nowadays the church is primarily the resting place of royalty and also a museum and in summer it is the venue for classical music concerts.

The church is a typical Protestant type with little ornamentation. It has various chapels along each side where the various royal families tombs lay. The floor is stone with some ancient patterned slabs. I was especially
Tombs of Karl XIV Johan and Desideria
interested in the Bernadotte chapel which was dominated by the huge marble tomb of Karl XIV Johan. In front of it was Desiree's tomb, with her royal name, Desideria, along the front. I was surprised that I found it quite moving to view her tomb. This was the last resting place of a
woman from history who had an amazing journey from a French silk merchant's daughter to a reluctant Queen of Sweden and who had captured the imagination of a schoolgirl in the north of England many, many years before. It felt like the end of a journey for me and I said hello and then goodbye to her, it felt like it was something I had to do.

I went back over the bridge to Gamla Stan and looked round some shops and ended up in the beautiful square of Stortorget.  The Nobel Museum was bustling and my Stockholm Card gave me free entry so I went in. It was busy but also fascinating, it was a very interactive museum. By now though I was getting tired and though I would have liked to have spent longer there I didn't stay that long.

Nobel Museum
I went back to the hotel and freshened up and by time I was ready Yvonne was back from the Photographic Museum which she has enjoyed very much. Before going out to eat we went to the library in the hotel and finished our bottle of wine watching the action on Västerlånggatan

When we left the hotel we soon noticed a restaurant called Gasgrand 4 (Goose Alley) in an alley of the same name close by. It looked nice so we went in, we had the choice of a table upstairs or one downstairs in the cellar, we went for the latter. It was small and very atmospheric, reached by curving stone steps, it was quite dark and had stone walls, I liked it.

My Elk Burger
I decided to go Swedish and had the elk burger which was lovely, surprisingly more like beef than venison. It came with saute potatoes, pickled cucumber (which they seem to love here), lingonberry jam and salad.
And seeing it was our last night and we had money left, we splashed out and had a bottle of wine and a delicious dessert too. We took our time and had a lovely, relaxing last evening meal in Stockholm.

I felt sad that it was our last night, I loved Stockholm and there was so much to see and not enough time.

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