Travel Day: Stockholm to Copenhagen

 To round out our trio of the Scandinavian countries, we caught an 8 AM train this morning to head to Copenhagen, Denmark. It took a total of 5 hours, so we didn’t arrive until around 1:30 PM. After throwing our luggage in lockers at Central Station (since we could not check-in to our B&B yet), we grabbed a quick bite before heading out to catch a free walking tour. 

Our tour guide, Benjamin actually turned out to be Canadian! He had been living in Denmark for 6 years since his partner was Danish. It was easy to see that he loved the city by his energy and enthusiasm, and he certainly had some interesting stories to share with us.

 We assembled outside of the City Hall. If you look carefully, just to the right of the Scandic sign, you see two lure blowers. Legend has it that if a young virgin walks by you will hear their trumpets sound. Benjamin then interceded to say, with humor, that to-this-day the horns have yet to be heard, after all, Denmark is a very progressive country.

 Just a short distance away was the Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. If you read Tivoli backwards, it reads “I love it.” The park is also home to a more than 100-year-old wooden roller coaster that dates from 1914. It is so popular that presidents, royalty, and even pop icons have a fondness for the ride. The coaster is also one of only seven that still requires a driver, called the brake man, on board. Obviously Tom was enthralled by this and now wants to returned to Copenhagen just to spend a day in Tivoli. I, on the other hand, am less than thrilled that I maybe dragged on another coaster against my will.

 We learned about the history behind the Carlsberg Beer, how Prince Fred met Mary, and even some interesting laws concerning equestrian statues. Apparently if both the horse’s hooves are on the ground, the rider died peacefully, if one hoof is in the air, the rider died from wounds sustained in battle, and if both the horse’s hooves are in the air, the rider died during battle. 

After our long day, Tom and I were exhausted. So we picked up our luggage, checked into our B&B for the night, and grabbed pizza nearby before settling in for a quiet night of “How I Met Your Mother.”

Advertisements

Stockholm: Ticking Hands of Time

 We woke up first thing this morning and grabbed breakfast to-go during our walk to City Hall. Stockholm City Hall is the center of governance for the municipality, and also the location of the Nobel Prize banquet every year on December 10th. You may recall my previous post from Oslo concerning the Peace Prize. However, it is the only Nobel Prize that is presented in Oslo rather than in Stockholm. This is because Alfred Nobel specifically wrote this request into his will. Originally there were only 5 awards, Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Medicine, and Peace to award individuals who had made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of humanity. The Economics award was added by the Swedish Central Bank in 1968.

Interestingly enough, City Hall is not an old building. It’s celebrating only its 93rd birthday this year. Designed by the architect After City Hall, we stopped for lunch before heading over to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a the only almost fully intact Ragner Östberg in 1923, he desired for the building’s structure and facade to look old without actually being old. Ragnar drew inspiration for the interior rooms from a variety of historical eras, but also made major design changes as the building progressed and his whims of fancy changed. 

 

The Blue Room (although not actually blue) recalls the elegance of a wide open Italian piazza, an assembly space for various events and banquets. Knowing that patrons would be making their entrance via the grand staircase, Ragnar included a star on the far-opposite wall. It is said that if a person focuses on that star as they descend, they will maintain proper posture while all eyes are focused on them; and so far, no Nobel Prize winner has ever tripped or fallen as they enter a banquet in their honor. 

 The Gold Room is opulently decorated in colorful gold mosaic, bringing to mind the glitz and glamour of the Byzantine Empire. The artist and his assistants only had two years to complete the room’s walls prior to a certain event that had to take place on a specific date for historical reasons. As a result, some mistakes were made with no time to correct them. The depicted castle is missing one of the three crowns (this was supposed to depict Tre Kronos, the Castle of Three Crowns), and the king riding the horse is without a head due to scaling errors (although it is historically accurate since the king was eventually beheaded). 

After City Hall, we stopped for lunch before heading over to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a the only almost fully intact (98% original) 17th century ship to ever be recovered. The ship was built on the orders of King Gustavus Aldophus in due part because of a military expansion campaign he initiated with Poland-Lithuania and his desire to enter the Thirty Years War. At the time, Sweden’s political and military power was an afterthought and neighboring nations barely acknowledged its presence. Gustavus is widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders of all time. He was progressive in his governance, innovative in his military weaponry, raised Sweden to be a Great Power.

 The Vasa would have been the first double-decker war ship of the time, and one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. She was constructed under contract by private Dutch entrepreneurs between 1626 and 1627. The ship was richly decorated in symbolic carvings illustrating his ambition for Sweden. However, due to severe time constraints, and a lack of expertise (as no one in the country had ever built a double-decker), the Vasa’s final design proved too unstable and top-heavy. 

 On her maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, she was only 1300 meters out of port when a wind caused her to keel and ultimately sink. Fortunately for us, the ship-channel she sank in has a low salt content. This allowed her to lay relatively undisturbed and remarkably well-preserved for over 300 years. The Vasa did not sail again until her hull was lifted from the harbor floor in 1961.

 

I was personally astounded by the size of the ship. She is the first thing you see when you enter the museum, and she simply dominates the room. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of her intricate carvings and exquisite detail.

Our take-away from the day is that time is a double-edged sword. For some, time is a luxury, while for others, time is a looming specter. In both the cases of the Gold Room and the Vasa, had the designers had sufficient time to complete the tasks at hand, we believe that the inherent flaws could have been avoided. 

 Speaking of time, Tom and I spent the rest of our afternoon enjoy the Swedish tradition of Fika. Fika is equivalent to the British Tradition of tea-time, where people take a break from their day to savor some coffee and sweets. We went to Vette-Kaffen a traditional Fika institution. It was both tasty and relaxing. 🙂