A Bird's Eye View, The Nordiska Museet and Skansen!
06/15/2014 - 06/15/2014 60 °F
After a rough sleep two nights ago, last night was glorious. I went to sleep around 9:30pm last night and 12 hours later I sprang out of bed. The downside of this hostel room is that there is no window to be woken up by the sunlight, but it was probably for the best because for 12 hours I never woke up to go to the bathroom or even just to roll over. Since the 35 year old guy and I were the only ones going to bed at 9pm and I left as soon as I woke up this morning, I never got to meet my hostel-mates that were all still asleep when I left. Anyways, the good night sleep did the trick, because while I still didn’t have an appetite, my achiness and general lethargy had disappeared. I brushed my teeth and hit the trail, but not before taking some time to ponder how badly I REALLY needed a haircut…
I had a pretty good walk ahead of me to the Kaknastornet TV tower, the largest building in Stockholm, for a bird’s eye view of the city. (When it’s shown as an arrow off the edge of the map, that usually counts as a good walk). Pretty much all I could stomach for breakfast were a few handfuls of nuts. Along the way, I passed the Hungarian Embassy (see you soon!) and also the US Embassy, which I had to laugh for using a twitter hashtag. Plus, you knew it was the US Embassy because there was a giant muddy jeep in the parking lot covered in stickers.
When I got to the base of the tower, I was confused when there was a door code and buzzer to call reception. When the guy was clearly confused, I figured I must be in the wrong place. Sure enough, that was the entrance for people that work in the tower. Around the corner was the tourist entrance and elevators directly to the 35 floor. The tower was built in 1964 and remarkably, the concrete form was cast in a mere 35 days!
It gave a pretty remarkable view of the city.
I even found some hidden treasures of Stockholm. Look, the Hammarbybacken “Ski Resort!” If you don't see too many Swedes winning gold in the downhill, this is probably why...
While I was up there, I was so enjoying the view that I thought I would stay awhile. Since it takes me forever to eat, I might as well enjoy it! I picked up a Caesar Salad at the little bar/restaurant and settled in to a comfy chair. It was still a struggle to eat, but at least this time I didn’t feel like I was struggling not to vomit. Progress!
After an enjoyable and relaxing time on top of the world, it was almost 11:30 and I had a whole day ahead! Again, I was trying to travel about a quarter mile as the crow flies, but had to walk at least a mile and a half just to get to the bridge to the Djurgarden and then walk another mile and a half back in the same direction once I was on the other side. I set off in that direction and along the way, decided that I would go to the Nordiska Museet on my way to Skansen. One of my favorite things to do in a country is to try to better understand their culture and Nordiska promised to do just that with “exhibitions on Swedish trends and traditions.”
It was a long walk, but there was plenty to see, not the least of which was this fast food burger chain, where each menu item lists it’s carbon footprint.
Sweden takes going green to a whole ‘nother level! The river was lined with restaurants with outdoor seating. The Nordiska museum building is beautiful in and of itself.
They also had a sweet audio guide system where you just pointed your wand at any stand and it started explaining the piece to you.
Inside, I was greeted by an enormous statue of Gustav Vassen (2997), the King that United Sweden. Also, they have ample stroller parking in case you were worried.
The first floor had a temporary exhibition. It was on stripes. As in lets take as many striped pieces of clothing from the last 500 years as we can find and put it all in one place, then try to explain how stripes and their meaning have evolved. Wow. I had to check my ticket and make sure I was in the right place. Suddenly I thought I might be getting to Skansen earlier than I had planned. I decided to press on, albeit with a little extra speed. In the permanent exhibition, I learned a whole lot about coffee. Apparently they really like it.
In 18th century it was fashionable for ladies to have each other over for tea. But there was a whole hell of a lot of rules you had to follow for etiquette. Such as that the oldest women should be served first, provided that she was married. Also, if you wanted to have a proper coffee party, you had to serve seven different kinds of biscuits and the guests had to have them all. BUT, when it was time to break out the biscuits, the guests had to decline three times before accepting them (even though it was pretty much assumed they were coming over for coffee and biscuits). They even listed the seven specific kinds of biscuits that were usually served. After listing them, the audio guide narrator asked “Did you notice that there was no cream cake served?” (Ummmm, no? I literally laughed out loud at the seeming absurdity of this question). Apparently, cream cake was not served until the 1920’s, just in case you’re baffled. I’m guessing cream cake is super popular with today’s Swedes?
FINALLY, after those shenanigans, I got to the part of the museum that I had been expecting all along and was glad that I didn’t call it quits. There was a pretty big exhibit on how the Swedes celebrate holidays. For St. Lucia, little boys dressed as biblical characters (especially the 3 wise men) and these “star boys” went to neighbor’s houses for toys and candy, like a christmasy-Halloween. On New Years, 4 shots were fired in each direction to ward off evil and were the precursor to today’s New Years Eve fireworks. On 12th night, Swedes held (hold?) a “tree plundering party,” where kids take the sweets and nuts off the tree to enjoy before the tree is tossed. And if you blame retailers for starting Christmas earlier every year, blame the Swedes instead! Swedes started getting ready at midsummer! They collect the midsummer flowers at their peak to dry to make wreaths, start fattening the pig, dry out the fish and of course brew the Christmas Ale, all before the days even start getting shorter! Fast forward to two days before Christmas, “Thomas Day” aka “Thomas Drunkard Day,” where they “test” the Christmas Ale. Until recently, Swedish children were brought up to believe in a “Christmas Goat” that brings their gifts. Check out this goofy sun of a gun.
Unfortunately, when Christmas got commercialized and mass-produced, they gave way to St. Nick. That must have been a tragic transition for kids of a certain age. On Christmas eve, they slept on the floor because they wanted to let their ancestors sleep in their beds and they ate black pudding and blood bread (both made with pigs blood) because, why not? On to other holidays…
Not sure if this is true about churches in the States, but Swedish churches have the baptismal font placed at the entrance to the church because the babies couldn’t go further into the church until they were baptized. Swedes celebrate their flag on the 6th of June. It is essentially their national day since they have no revolution to celebrate. On Easter, kids again do the Halloween routine, but this time dressed as proper witches. They’re called “Easter Crones.” But before we get to Easter, during lent, it is (was?) common practice to sneak into a neighbor’s house while he is still sleeping to smack him with twigs to remind him of Christ’s suffering. Sounds like the beginning of an epic prank war! During Holy Week, witches are said to be out on the prowl and you’re supposed to hide your brooms or anything else a witch might be able to use. Last but not least was midsummer. It turns out they weren’t just messing with us.
They picked wildflowers for their crowns and little girls had to find seven different kinds of wildflowers to put under their pillow which were supposed to help them to dream of their future husband. Plants picked on midsummer’s eve were said to have supernatural powers. And as icing on the cake, when they played a few samples of traditional midsummer songs, I recognized many of them from a few days ago.
There was also an interesting exhibit on the different customs of dress through the ages and even an evolution of the household, where during the era of Folkhemmet, which began in 1930 and guaranteed housing for all Swedish families. In 1920, Swedes had some the worst living conditions for the lower class and this housing was created and rent was set around one-fifth of an industrial worker’s pay. They even carried out studies to discover how a housewife used “her workspace,” creating the Household Research Institute to learn the best way to set up the house and especially the kitchen to maximize efficiency.
The final exhibit in the museum was about the Sami people who were indigenous to Sweden and have faced endless racism and persecution over the centuries much like Native Americans. For example, children were made to feel inferior and were forbidden to speak Sami with each other in Swedish schools. There are 80,000 Samis still around today in the Scandinavian countries, 20,000 of which reside in Sweden. As reindeer herders, they’re mostly found up north.
They have had several legal battles over the years over where their reindeer can pasture and where they can hunt and fish. More recently, all rights to reindeer herding operations have been given to the Sami, although only 10% of the Sami people are still involved in a “Siida,” the local groups assigned to the herding rights in different areas. Despite a slow start, the Nordiska Museet didn’t disappoint, but it was getting late in the afternoon and was time to head to Skansen!
It’s probably been a decade since I was at the Genesee Country Museum and I don’t fully remember what it is, but from what I do remember, Skansen is a giant version of that plus a Swedish Noah’s Ark. Essentially, there are buildings, plants and animals from all of Sweden crammed into a 75 acre, open air museum and zoo. When you first walk in, you can see artisans making and selling their wares using authentic tools and methods of days past.
At the bakery, I learned the deal about the bread disks that I’ve seen around Stockholm. Unleavened bread is a staple because in Northern Sweden, wheat could not be grown and only barley could ripen in the short summers. This thin barley bread could then be dried quickly and kept for a long time.
There are even farmers out chopping wood and tending fields in traditional ways. Beyond the actors, the buildings themselves are fantastic. Most were built elsewhere in Sweden and brought to Skansen to be preserved. Some of the buildings were so large and intricate that it was fascinating to imagine the engineering feat it would take to successfully make a move like that.
For example, this church was built in 1730 and somehow moved to Skansen in 1916. Today, it is one of the most popular churches in Sweden to get married.
(me and tower)
The Hallestad Belfy, at 40 meters high, was built in the 1730s and then donated by Parishoners after the rest of the church had been destroyed in a fire.
As I wandered around the property, I happened upon a folk dancing performance. (they really like this stuff!) It was clearly a family affair as there were older folks but also young children. This little boy was adorable.
Some of the dances were similar to the ones I had seen and others were new and different. It was neat to watch!
Later in my wanderings, I happened upon the Sami village. It was interesting to learn more about these people. In the early 20th century, there was government policy that “legalized” racism and discrimination towards them. In 1995, they created their own parliament to lobby on their behalf with the Swedish government and in 1998, they received a formal apology from the Swedish government. Unfortunately, I was there too late, because apparently there are Sami people here during the day time to show the typical tasks in a day in the life of their ancestors.
Here’s a traditional hut.
I thought this was just a sweet treehouse, but the nomadic Sami had to build these types of structures to keep dry wood and supplies because when they would leave an area and later return, animals were likely to get inside and the building was likely to be buried in snow if it wasn’t put on risers.
Not only was it an interesting museum, but since Skansen is on one of the highest hills in Stockholm, it provided great panoramas of the city to boot! Here’s a view of Gamla Stan!
For the first time in 48 hours, I was feeling “hunger” so I decided I had had enough and started my trek back to the exits. Along the way, I passed by several of the animals that are kept at Skansen because they are native to Scandinavia. My niece, Livia, knows more about animals than your average zoologist, so my goal was to find some animals she hadn't seen before and maybe even some fun facts that she didn’t already know. So here’s my best attempt…
Reindeer have antlers that are shed annually and its not just the boys, but also the girls that have antlers!
Only male Elks have antlers, while growing they are covered in “velvet” and when they stop growing, they scrape off the velvet on trees or on each other’s antlers. The calves in this picture are just a month old.
Seals have whiskers that can detect vibrations from the movement of fish from 180 meters. Unfortunately, seals almost became extinct in Sweden because they were seen as competition for fishermen and were readily killed.
Also, I couldn’t find the rabbit in its large pen, but rabbits don’t have voices, so their only way to warn each other of danger is to stomp their feet loudly.
By this point, I was just about the last person at Skansen and began the long trek home to the Anedin Hostel (on a boat!) in Gamla Stan. Though it was a long walk, I wasn’t complaining!
By the time I got to the hostel, I was starving! The plan was to throw my stuff down and head off to grab some grub. However, I noticed that it was around 10pm, which meant that it was 4pm back home and I could just imagine Tommy Boy firing up the grill at fathers day so I gave him a call on FaceTime and got to wish him a happy birthday as well as to say hello to the whole family, which was great. By the time I was done, it had started to rain. I looked up a couple restaurants and ventured out into lovely Gamla Stan. The upside of rain is that it makes for wonderful night pictures. I was a little bummed that my camera was dead and I only had my cellphone to use, but I got some good shots nonetheless.
I was (miraculously) able to find the restaurant very quickly. It was packed, which was a good sign, but they had stopped serving food. The bartender told me that virtually every restaurant stops serving food at 10pm, so I started to get desperate. I knew I had seen a few grocery stores on Gamla Stan in my previous wanderings with Tommy, but I doubted they would be open. Luckily, on my way to check I found a seven-11. I’ve never been so happy to find one in my life. I grabbed a sorry looking salad as well as some cold cuts (don’t ask me what the animal was because I spent 10 minutes trying to decipher the labels to no avail) and cheese. I headed back to the hostel and set up shop in the common area to eat, blog, plan for Budapest and watch some soccer matches. I would be astounded if I didn’t walk a marathon today. From 9am until 10pm, I never stopped moving. Even at an extremely slow 2mph, I’m at marathon distance. Needless to say, I’ll be happy to crash tonight and sit down for a few hours on the plane tomorrow.
According to Arthur, “Budapest is divided into 23 district, called kerulets…many street names are often used repeatedly in different kerulets, but are not all continuations of the same street. This makes it very important to know which kerulet a certain address is in. You will also need to pay attention to the type of street. Is it utca, ut, ter or tere?” Oh boy…this will be fun!
I was up really late. It is extremely hard to adjust to such a late sunset. I climbed into my bed and set two alarms…One for 7am to catch a 10am flight, and the other for 3am because I really want to see what a 3am sunrise looks like. All I had to do was look out my porthole to get this view!