Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Stockholm - June 2012

We arrived in Stockholm close to mid-afternoon. We found our hotel easily, chosen especially as it was close to the railway station. After we divested ourselves of our luggage we explored some of Stockholm.
We made our way to Gamla Stan, the Old Town, we crossed one of the bridges and found ourselves in Riddarholmen (Isle of the Nobility); the elegant buildings of the former Riksdag (Parliament) and several palaces are testament to this. The Riddarholmskyrkan ( Riddarholm Church) dominates the island with it’s an intricate façade with a tall lattice work cast-iron spire. The church was built in connection with a Franciscan monastery which was founded in 1270 by King Magnus Ladulas and was completed in the 14th century. The kings of Sweden have been buried here for the past 500 years their tombs showing various degrees of grandeur on the walls there are hundreds of coats of arms of the Knights of the Order of the Seraphim. The floor of the church contains about 200 graves. The church is now just a museum with the last regular service held in 1807.

Gamla Stan

We crossed the next bridge into the Old Town with its maze of medieval cobbled streets. Antique shops housed in 15th and 16th century buildings many various shops which seem to be dominated by souvenir shops selling the identical merchandise and cafes. The area has a wonderful atmosphere even though it is quite touristy. We visited the German church which is in the heart of this area. The history of the German congregation in Stockholm is interesting. We discovered there was an organ recital early evening so we decided to attend the have dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed the music which was by different composers most we didn’t know but the music was delightful.
We went for dinner at the rather good restaurant that served Scandinavian food and had reindeer which was cooked beautifully and melted in the mouth, it was not unlike kangaroo being a dark and very lean meat.
Even though we hadn’t really done that much for the day other than training it here from Malmö we were extremely tired and was glad to get to bed.
Changing of the Guard
We were now revitalized to tackle our first full day here. Off to the Royal Palace and as we arrived the changing of the guard ceremony had started which was quite interesting but there was a full blown ceremony at midday with more troops and military band, real theatre, which I think all these ceremonies have now become. The guard is conscripted from a number of army, navy and air force units each year and is not an honorary force and is an important part of Stockholm’s military readiness. Although Sweden was once a military power in the Northern Europe, it has not been involved in a war since the early 19th century.
The Royal Palace is built on the site of the original Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) castle which was begun in 1692; however a fire in 1697 followed by a poor economy delayed its completion until 1728. King Adolf Fredrik took up residence there in 1754 and it is still the official residence of the Swedish monarch. It is one of the biggest palaces in the world (over 600 rooms) still inhabited by royalty.
Visiting the Palace takes a good half day. The rococo confection that is the Royal Chapel, Queen Kristina’s silver throne in the Hall of State followed by the Royal apartments and galleries with their ornate baroque interiors and decoration and contains some wonderful 17th century Gobelin tapestries as well paintings, china, furniture and jewellery collected over the centuries. Included in our ticket was entrance to the Treasury which housed the crown jewels, not a lot of recycling of crowns was noted as a number of the different monarchs had their own specific crown made.
Also there was the Tre Kronor museum which presents the history of the castle and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities which was basically his collection of Greek and Roman statutory. Gustav III was shot at a Masked Ball as presented in the Opera of the same name, however he died in the palace after two weeks of agony as the doctors couldn’t remove the pieces of bullets lodged in his body.

St. George and the Dragon

Storkyrkan (Great Church) is the oldest church in the city dating back to the 13th century and has been the coronation site for most of the Swedish monarchs. The church has a muted baroque exterior  and the beautiful late gothic interior, however the decorations are ornate and definitely not understated. There is this magnificent sculpture of St. George and the Dragon which symbolize Sweden’s struggle to break away from Denmark. In square near the church, Stortorget (Great Square) a bloody event took place. King Christian II of Denmark in 1520 ordered the beheading of 80 Swedish nobles and piled their heads pyramid style in the middle of the square.
After lunch we walked across to the National Museum of fine Arts which was founded in 1792 when it occupied a wing at the Royal Palace and moved to its current home in a rather impressive Italian Renaissance style building in 1866. The collection covers a wide range of painting with Rembrandts, Rubens, Gauguin, Manet as well as Swedish artists, including Carl Larsson, Anders Zorn and Bruno Liljefors. There was so much to take in we stayed until the museum closed.

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