Greetings from Stockholm! My travel group leaves from Sweden to Norway today. I found more time on another five hour train ride to construct a blog post. In case you missed my previous post about Denmark, here it is: A World Full of Busy Bees
We spent Friday afternoon to Tuesday morning (May 11-15) in Sweden and had a grand time. The first day was quite overwhelming since Stockholm is the largest city within Scandinavia. We were used to easily navigating around Copenhagen, but maps were pulled up, directions were asked, and confusion surrounded us in Stockholm. I was worried initially that first day and I only felt a tiny bit better after a walking tour of Gamla Stan. By the next morning I felt as if I had a better grasp on the city and I knew how to get to the metro.
Gamla Stan is the oldest city and a church is in the center of the town. The church is actually the oldest building from when it was founded. All the rest of the buildings were burned down because they were built with wood. Fires were made, since Scandinavia isn’t typically as warm as it has been during our stay, and the rest is history and burned to ash. Well, we all have to learn by failure in order to proceed.
We learned about one of the streets in Gamla Stan: Priest Street. This is where priests used to live with some other characters (criminals and executioners) down the way from them. There could only be one executioner at a time, and it was always a criminal sentenced to death. If they became the executioner then they were allowed a few extra days to be alive while they chopped off the heads of other criminals. How pleasant! Their initiation and test were to chop off the head of the former executioner. Talk about Deja vu.
On a more positive note…
On our walking tour of Gamla Stan we saw the wishing alley. There are 36 steps and you are supposed to keep your hand on each wall as you walk down. You think of a wish and it will come true as long as you don’t tell anyone your wish.
A unique thing about Sweden is that they love to fika! Fika is when you stop for a coffee break and a pastry, typically in between meals. It’s sort of like a study break, but country wide. Sweden is the second country in the world, behind Finland, that consumes the most coffee. We didn’t have time to stop for Fika the first day, but I made sure it happened at least once while I was there. Since I’m not a huge pastry fan, I substituted for ice cream instead which was totally acceptable because of the warm weather. When in Sweden, do as the Swedes do, right?
Saturday, our second day in Stockholm, was spent at a few museums. The first one was August Strindberg’s apartment and library. He was one of the playwrights we read for our class. His most famous play would be Miss Julie, which is based on his wife…If you have read the play then you understand the…
Strindberg was just a tad bit jealous and accused his rich wife of cheating on him all the time. He was from a lower class and quite insecure. Jokes on him because he lost the love of his life due to his insecurity while she was completely faithful the whole time. We saw his bed where he died after learning the news of his first wife’s passing. Strindberg never got over her. Also in his apartment, we saw Strindberg’s writing desk. The guide described it as clean on the outside with messy drawers, which was a symbol for the writer himself. He had a clean appearance but was rather messed up on the inside.
The afternoon was spent at the Vasa museum, my personal favorite thus far. It was a museum dedicated to the largest vessel ever salvaged, up to 98% of the original ship. How awesome! It sunk in 1628 right after it left for her maiden voyage in the Stockholm Harbor. The ship was recovered in 1961 and many artifacts were discovered. It was like finding a time capsule and Swedes had the chance to see what it was like in 17th century life! It is so sad that 30 people died tragically, but I am thankful that some good was able to come from the tragedy. It may not be as well known as the Titanic, but the Vasa is pretty cool in its own way.
We spent Sunday morning, day 3 in Stockholm, at the Nobel Museum to hear about the history of the Nobel Prize. This is what I was looking forward to the most! Since literature is our thing, we were able to see the current exhibit and find records of all the Nobel laureates over the years. Two of the writers we read in our class won the Nobel Prize for literature: Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset. I couldn’t help myself from daydreaming during the tour about winning a Nobel prize myself. It would be so cool and a phenomenal honor.
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor and chemist, but his true love was literature. His father pushed him towards science and told him to forget about writing. Nobel never forgave his father for dissuading him from his dream so as soon as his father died, Alfred Nobel published his written work.
When Alfred Nobel died, he was a very rich man, but he never cared about the money. He wasn’t interested in leaving all of it to his family members, so instead he left them a portion and the rest of it was to be invested so awards can be given to five individuals within their respective categories each year. The categories were literature, chemistry, physics, peace, and medicine/ physiology. All were extremely valuable and important to Alfred Nobel, and he wanted to award individuals who made advances in each field. The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. Anyone in the world can win an award, but you have to be alive to receive it. Only two people who have passed away received the award, so after that they changed the rule. The money is supposed to go to the individual, not the family. After the winner receives the award then they can choose what to do with the money.
After the Nobel Prize museum, the rest of the day was free so I was able to get some shopping done and go exploring. Mosebacke in Sodermalm offered an incredible view of Stockholm and I was able to get some awesome pictures. Also, since Sunday was Mother’s day, I made it back to the hotel room by 9pm to FaceTime my family instead of writing a mushy, unauthentic post to my mom on social media.
On our last day we did a walking tour of Sodermalm, which was where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie was filmed. We had read the first book for our class and it was neat to see where some of the places Stieg Larsson was writing about. My goal was to finish the second book before the tour, but I failed. The tour guide may have given away a few spoilers but I still plan to finish the series.
That afternoon we had a film lecture on Swedish Cinema. We learned that in the 1950s America was calling Sweden’s films “Swedish Sin” because they portrayed nudity and obscene material. Ingmar Bergman dominated Swedish cinema and contributed to these “obscene movies.” As progressive as Sweden is, they never saw these films as a problem and viewed them as art. I’m not saying I’m a fan of Swedish films, but it’s interesting to notice that American movies are now showing more nudity, violence, and serious themes when they used to condemn Sweden. On the other hand, Scandinavians are more interested in watching our genre-based movies than their artsy ones.
Overall, Scandinavia is more modern and progressive than America. Our entire class has been devoted to discovering what it means to be modern and living in the present. Sweden does an excellent job in preserving their history while also thinking of the future too. I wish America would have more reverence for our history. One cannot move on without acknowledging the past. If you hadn’t learned from those mistakes then you cannot move forward. Henry Ford says it best:
“If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
But anyways, Norway is next! Our train has been delayed so our schedule may be adapted somewhat. We are always adapting to little bumps in our lives and transportation hiccups are part of that. I recently learned that Scandinavia is notorious for trouble with trains. Stay tuned for a chronicle of Norway’s Voyage!