Monday, May 23, 2011

Stockholm 3: less walking, bigger stuff

We did a bit less walking today -- we still hoofed it to the Tunnelbana station but our destination today was Drottningholm Palace and we actually figured out the bus and train schedules (in Swedish, no less) to get out there. We decided against the boat, since we're going to take the Under the Bridges tour tomorrow (well, we were going to do it today, but the Vasa museum was far too interesting to leave, so..tomorrow it is!)

It apparently rained buckets this morning before we got up, and it was forecast for rain until mid-day, but everything looked like it was clearing up as we left the hotel, so I didn't bring a rain jacket. For once, I was right. It cleared by lunchtime and was sunny and gorgeous (albeit win-dy!). We definitely luck out with weather on our vacations.

Drottningholm is interesting -- in comparison to the Kungliga Slott (Royal palace) in Gamla Stan, which we toured around on Saturday, and which is designed/finished by the same architect, it's a much more typical baroque and rococo style building. The obvious comparison is to Versailles (which was built at the same time, so the rumors that thisis meant to be "a copy" are false, according to our very knowledgeable guide) with the long, perfectly symmetrical facade and wings, and the extensive French and English gardens is apt. Inside, it's french silk wallpaper, rococo and neo-classical mirrors and gilding, and not much of a trace of good old-fashioned Swedish aesthetics. Nothing is simple, everythign is a bit overwrought, most notably the main staircase which is a riot of faux painted marbles and sculptures and trompe l'oeil ceilings and alcoves. The effect is nearly perfect - I had to touch a few of the walls to confirm that they are, indeed, just paint. Some of the perspective-bending ceiling paintings are realistic enough to fool a first glance, and make the rooms look taller and larger than they are. Drottningholm is actually quite small, as apalaces go -- it is meant as a true summer home for the king, even though the current family lives here most of the year.

But it's the gardens and the remarkable Chinese Pavillion that are really fun. Over 700 lime trees in perfect, neat rows surround carefully laid out and pruned pleasure gardens, all leading to the fanciful pavillion at the far end -- a concoction of mock-oriental design and color -- "like a chinese lacquer box plopped down in the swedish countryside" our guide said. it even has a private dining house where the table and the cabinets rise up out of the floor so the cooking and serving happens below, and no servants are required to stand tableside to serve things. it's all just cooked and raised up on pulleys into the little gazebo. The king and his friends used to take a carriage from the palace to have parties here, among the tschotkes of chinese dolls and painted porcelain.

Back in town, we got stuck in a tunnelbana station a bit further away than we anticipated -- we manage to decipher something about "road work" and "20 minute delay" (we think!) from the very serious sounding announcement. But, the walk was nice and we were back on the tram to Djurgaden easily enough, once we navigated our way around the station and figured out which direction we were facing once we emerged at ground level. At least the streets are consistently labelled here (even if most street names have about thirty letters, I swear).

The Vasa museum was tops on our list to visit (and should be tops on anyone's list to visit -- it's absolutely amazing to see this huge, tall, narrow ship almost entirely intact, in the museum. Once you stand on the floor near the huge rudder and stare up at the insanely narrow, towering stern of the ship, you understand immediately why it sank promptly, in the harbor, on its first voyage out of the docks. Blub glub glub. Originally, they thought it was the weight of the guns shifting from side to side that did her in, but they were all found well-fastened when the ship was discovered and raised in the 1960s. The current theory is that she had far too little ballast to balance out the huge, top-heavy ship. The rest of the museum is fascinating, but it pales in comparison to just looking at the enormous, fully-restored ship sitting in the middle. Nearly everything is the original wood (preserved with some sort of chemical soup) and the restorers put the thing together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, matching up nail holes in individual pieces as they went. It's just a stunning work of art. I could have stayed for hours just staring at the bits and pieces all over the ship. It was for that reason taht we missed the boat tour -- I was hanging, agog, over the railinglooking down on he main deck.

We went a little further onto the island, and just walked around the park for awhile -- sat on the bluff overlooking the harbor at Prince Eugene's Waldensudde and walked up to the vast gardens at Rosendal palace (and never did see the actual palace, which is kind of funny, castle-hunter that I am). It was just a lovely, perfect evening to wander around and sit on the various benches.

Street food for dinner - Sergels Torg was filled with the 'International Food Festival" and we downed a couple of enormous sausages and picked up a half-dozen desserts (hey, you have to set priorities!) before finally trekking back to the hotel. On the way we ran into a gentleman we'd met at Drottningholm (he asked us to 'test' his photograph by holding up our hands to "hold" a building on our palms so he could help a friend of his get "the perfect tourist picture"). he actually lives only a few blocks from our hotel and we passed him walking up the street....a rather weird, deja-vu-ish sort of experience. We assured him that we were not stalking him, and had an enjoyable chat on the way from the metro station. How odd!

It's early still, and we're in the hotel room, stuffed full of bratwurst, baklava, and English fudge and probably ready to crash for the night. it took all of four seconds for us to kick off our shoes and socks and collapse.

Oh, and may I just register that I think it's against the geneva convention to charge for using the bathroom at a mall? We ducked in to the Gallerian mall (a ginormous mall near the central station) and luckily we had 10 kroner to put intot he turnstile or we'd have been out of luck. Phffft! Although, I will say, Swedish public toilets are among the nicest I've ever been in and very, very clean.

Tomorrow? The Under the Bridges tour, and if I can manage to convince Mark, the historic museum. We have to leave Stockholm by about 2:30 (We're going to be in Gothenburg tomorrow night) and we'll probably not have time to do much. But we'll try!

1 comment:

laurafingerson said...

I am totally loving your travelogue! I'm so glad you liked the Vasa museum -- that is still my absolute most favorite museum I have visited ever. I could stand and look at that ship for hours (although I would want a high powered spotlight to see better!). Thanks for writing updates and I can't wait to read more! :)