I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Sweden (31)


The icing on the cake


Just when I thought I had really done enough for one day, I spotted that sign.




I thought about it for five minutes and then declared that, however tired I was, I really wanted to go and see that exhibition.  In no time, our friend had bought tickets and we were finding our way through a secret gateway with a passcode, upstairs.




Up my alley?  100%.  This was an exhibit of Isabelle de Borchgrave’s work, based on paintings of the Medici family.




Each costume was made from paper, scrunched up and crumpled to create a soft, pliable material and then painted, glued and formed into realistic costume.




The detail was remarkable.




As was the likeness to the original inspiration.




I felt some costumes worked more successfully than others, but overall, the effect was stunning.




Even if it was obvious that these were painted embellishments, it didn’t matter – that was the point, after all.




It was the lace trimmings which were particularly interesting, I thought.




Some were finely cut and curled, to give the impression of lace.




Others appeared quite finely cut but on closer inspection…




were simply painted onto grey paper and cut out.




The whole thing was quite theatrical, with that same tromp d’oeil effect of a stage set.




I was so pleased I’d not only spotted the poster in time, but been determined to see the exhibition as well.




Especially when I recognised the poster shot.




I bought a copy of the book to bring home and to share with my m-i-l Bettine, who would have loved to have seen it herself.  I’d not heard of Isabelle de Borchgrave’s work before, but I’ll look out for it again now I have.


What next?




Well, it’s hard to walk right past an Oleana shop without stopping by.




And there might just have been another womenswear store opposite where I was persuaded to make a purchase, too.  That one was interesting for being the first cash-free store I’ve come across.  Sweden is becoming a cash-free society.




I wanted to take a look in Gudrun Sjoden whilst I was here, too.  Nothing here for me today, though.




So we returned to the last part of the Palace, past this “laundry and tailoring” shop.  For once, I could not even begin to guess “Tvatt & Skadderi” and had to google it!




Into the Armoury Museum then – and a most surprising flavour of the contents in the ticket office, don’t you think?  Well, it could partly be explained by the description offered on the website:

It was in this royal armoury that Gustavus Adolphus in the 1620s wanted his blood-spattered clothes to be saved "as a perpetual memorial". This became the Royal Armoury's hallmark: blood-marked costumes preserved to bear witness to royal valour.”

And there’s me, thinking the armoury would be full of, well, arms.

OK.  Let’s go!




First, a neat bit of graffiti on the wall.  Now, there is a lot of graffiti here and most of it isn’t so decorative or carefully executed.  I doubt that most of that will still be there in almost two hundred years.  Or?




The opening image is of this huge coat of arms, in soft faded colours.  It was so beautifully lit, too.




This was a modern museum housed in the old stable block of the castle and it was extraordinarily well designed.  Each item was labelled, but the whole collection was attractively arranged behind glass walls and carefully lit to highlight the features.  The rooms themselves were rather dark and it took a while for our eyes to become accustomed to the light levels.




There were several of these elaborate saddle arrangements, some incorporating armour but all highly decorative.




But as usual, there was one item which stood out for me.  I stood for a while looking at this cloak and reading the caption beneath it.  It seemed as though it had been worn in a battle in 1718 and as I looked more closely, I began to think about that mud.  Was that 18th century mud then? It would have to be, wouldn’t it?  I mean, no museum would take an 18th century costume and put mud on it subsequently…




Then I looked more closely at a slightly different caption nearby.  It seemed as though Karl XII had been wearing this uniform in a battle in 1718 when he was killed.


I noticed the word blodfläckar on the label and nudged my Hero who questioned my logic.  Did it actually say “this was the uniform he was wearing when he was killed”?

Errm.  No, maybe it didn’t.  But I felt confident that I’d drawn the correct conclusion, even though I don’t speak any Swedish and didn’t really understand every word of the label.  thankfully, google is a wonderful thing and not only did I find a whole lot more about Karl XII I think I found enough to convince even my Hero that my assumption had been right.

It was a fine example of the “blood-marked costumes preserved to bear witness to royal valour” wasn’t it?




There were a few examples of “real” armour there, too.




and a cute section on Royal childrenswear, too.  But when we reached the play section and dressing up box, we knew we’d reached the end.

Of this floor.

Because downstairs, there was more.




With creaking knees and aching feet, I braved the staircase (!) and as soon as I saw the first exhibit forgot all about how tired I felt!




Once again, the displays were beautifully arranged and really well lit.




Even though I’m not really interested in such things, it was hard not to be captivated.




What a great museum!




Having taken all the photos, ooohed and aaahed over those great horses (were they flock-covered or what?  we couldn’t tell but looked as closely as we dared!) it was time to go.  We wearily climbed the stairs and exited through the gift shop.




We caught up with one another in the lobby, where a couple of benches were too good to pass by without trying Winking smile  As we did, we took more notice of the display there.  What was it all about?  Was there another exhibit in here?  Upstairs maybe?

As I read more, I knew that, however tired I felt, however heavy my feet were, I simply had to go and have a look at it.

I’ll tell you all about it in the next post!


In Stockholm


The day stretched out ahead of us and in the company of our friends, we didn’t want to waste a single minute.  So, immediately after breakfast we wasted no time and set out to the Royal Palace.




It was another glorious morning and the city was shining.  I think that what I notice most about the hotel in which we are staying, is that it’s not near the water.  For me, it makes all the difference.




Anyway, we head inside to buy tickets from a fun, if feisty lady in the office and asked for details of events throughout the day.  Sadly, no changing of the guard today, she said, but it would be scheduled for the weekend, so our friends would be able to see it, even if we couldn’t.




Our first location was the Treasury.  Now, you don’t think they are going to allow any photographs in there, do you?





So, please, dear guests (spoken in the voice of that last Russian guide we had in the Faberge Museum!) make use of the picture on the leaflet to imagine the style and beauty of the crowns and other regalia there is in that very secure room.  Loved it.




Next, we visited the State Rooms.  Now these proved to be rather more interesting than I expected.  We started in the Throne Room.




The real interest began just around the corner, though, where a series of rooms outlined the orders of chivalry.




Now, King Carl XVI Gustaf has been bestowed with many an honour, including this somewhat familiar one: the Order of the Garter.  Yes, and there at the front, looking more like a dog collar, I’m admit, is the Garter itself.




In the next room was a photograph of one of his forebears, Bertil, for whom the choice of decoration must have been quite perplexing.  Just which colour would match the outfit of the day, I wonder – or maybe the outfit is chosen to complement the order he is advised to wear on that particular occasion?  So much easier for a man in black, grey or navy blue, though, don’t you think?




My favourite room was the order of the Polar Star, awarded to foreigners for services to Sweden.




In here was a display of how such things are made – a surprisingly long and labour intensive process, it appears.




My eyes fell, as they do, on what I thought were a couple of Dorset buttons on the miniature set of medals in the case, but on enlarging the photograph and looking closely, they are not Dorset buttons at all, but created from ribbon.  Neat!  I’m sure I have a book with these in it and must look it out!




Which one would I choose?  The Danish Order of the Elephant, of course!




Anyway, these rooms led through to the State Apartments.  Clearly, they knew we were coming and rolled the carpet back!




Having just spent time in St Petersburg, walking through ostentatious gold rooms a plenty, these state apartments appeared rather restrained in comparison.  Still, the guest rooms were lavish in size and the list of those who have stayed in them resembled a Who’s Who of world leaders.




Not all of the rooms were on a domestic scale, though!




I liked the illustrations of each room in use, too.  It makes it easier to put things into proportion.




So, we’d done with the Palace tour for now and thought we’d go in search of a bite to eat in the old town.  But outside, something appeared to be happening.

Could it be the Changing of the Guard, perhaps?




Well, yes, it looked like the same ceremony as we’d remembered.  Who said it wasn’t happening today?




So we joined the crowd and watched and waited.




I felt thankful for my super-zoom. Are we going to take a close look at the dress standards, do you think?  Of course we are!  I think I might have straightened his tie if he was my boy Winking smile




Because I don’t want to be overly critical or anything, but these seem to be a rum lot of soldiers, don’t you agree?  Is it the gaiters that give a relaxed impression, or perhaps it’s just that the Swedish equivalent of “stand to attention” is a bit different from the interpretation I’m familiar with?




Hair on the collar?  Surely not in uniform?




I noticed that beards are being worn large this year too!

As I’m observing all these little idiosyncrasies, I hear that the regiment on guard this month is a regiment of engineers.  Does that explain things?  I have no idea!!




Meanwhile, the chap holding the heaviest standard was struggling rather.  A stiff breeze had got up and it was blowing about a bit.




He was doing his best but at times could do little more than twist the pole and hope it blew back the other way.




By this time, the guard had changed and the new team were ready to go and stand for the tourists’ photographs.




We were going to go and have some lunch.

Back soon.


Not going home yet, though


We’d decided to spin our trip out a little and spend an extra day with our ace Trivia team in Stockholm.




So sailing in through the archipelago was not only a chance to reflect on our great cruise but was also time to look forward to a short time in a city we know and like very much.  The rainbow was a good omen, don’t you think?




We could see both ends, but my camera couldn’t.  Well, not at the same time, anyway Winking smile




Disembarking from a cruise is always a bit of a parlarver.  Well, we each need to be matched up with our luggage, we’re all heading off in different directions and the logistics must be a nightmare.  However, it all comes together somehow (I guess they are quite practised in such things!)  Off we set for central Stockholm.




Our hotel was situated in an area of the city with which we were unfamiliar, but the location was fine and though our room was a triumph of style over substance, we were ok there for a night.  It was all a bit quirky and in the evenings, was really hopping: definitely the place to be seen.




We soon got our bearings and headed down to the harbour for a spot of lunch.




One of our favourite places is tucked away at the back of the Opera House.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have read about previous visits here (tagged Sweden in the archive).  It’s a good, reliable and rather special place to have lunch, we think.




You can’t reserve a table, you just have to turn up and take your chance for one of the 30 seats.  At 12.10pm there were half a dozen left, at 12.15pm, all were full.




I looked at the menu but there was really no need.  I knew exactly what I would choose.




No, not meatballs on this occasion!  We’re out to dinner tonight and I’m fairly sure they’ll be on the menu there.




Salmon!  Lightly smoked and served with dill potatoes in a cream sauce.  Delicious!  So delicious in fact, that I forgot to take a photo until I’d had a couple of bites!  I think too, there were a couple of springs of sweet cecily in those herbs as well?




Well, having eaten what seemed like half a salmon each, washed down with a good, cold beer, we needed to walk it off.  A stroll in the Kungsträdgården seemed like a good idea and though it wasn’t looking anything like as lovely as I’ve known it, we were happy to be here.  Anyway, you know where it leads?




To the Hamngatan and the NK department store Winking smile  I wasn’t sure what was going on here, as we stepped inside, but looking at the website, it appears there were a series of talks about fashion and building a wardrobe, and yes, those do look like a bunch of fashion types, don’t they?




We always like to browse around the home departments, which are always so stylish and colourful.




There is usually something to make us smile!




A few familiar things, too – we happen to have these glasses at home.




The things on sale here are very much to our taste, confirmed by the number of familiar things we see – our serving spoons and things are here too!




So although we are not really here to buy, we are happy to browse and I take particular notice of displays such as this, which chimes closely with the workshops I was teaching with a  colleague earlier in the year.




But we are weary and a bit footsore by now, so we make our way back to the Haymarket and our strange, quirky room.




It’s not exactly comfortable and relaxing, but we have a few things to do before we meet our friends at 6.




There are always interesting things to observe, anyway, like this arrangement of photographs around a corner of the room.  I think I like it.

Anyway, dinner tonight is at another old favourite.  Oh my, are we creatures of habit or what!?


The real deal

You'll gather, we left the ABBA museum feeling a little deflated.  Our plans for the day had focused on that and here we were, in the late morning with the rest of the day ahead of us.  As we considered the options, the answer was there, right in front of us.



It was a few years since we'd visited the Vasa.  I'd considered hopping off there during my afternoon's meanderings, but had preferred to be out in the open.  However, an email from a work colleague reminded me what a great museum this is and with a few hours to spare before heading to the airport, we spent no time at all in making the decision to revisit.



The minute we stepped inside, we remembered what makes this a great museum!  Not only is the Vasa itself an outstanding exhibit, it is displayed and interpreted in such an accessible and interesting way that even someone with no historial knowledge whatsoever - like me! - can enjoy it too.  The excellent film presentation sets the scene, paints a background of the events and the superb CGI brings the story to life.



A scale model alongside the real thing gives a clear impression of how colourful the Vasa would have looked when it was launched.  It must have been quite a sight.



I found it interesting to identify the details and compare them, side by side.  Remarkable that so much survived for so long.



In addition, I appreciated the creative aspects of the exhibit such as this hand drawn lettering.



Yes, really, isn't it great that a craftsman's skill is employed in such a situation in preference to transferred lettering?  The draughtsman's pencil lines are still evident and there are the unmistakeable variations in the characters which add the personality.



I also admired the (surprisingly large) fragments of the sails which were displayed alongside clear descriptions of how they were contructed and supported.  The language and specialist terminology was intriguing - out came the notebook and lists were made!



The stitching and seam details were pretty amazing too, considering the length of time they were underwater.



The ropes were still clearly attached to the fragments of linen which remained and glancing back at the ship, it was difficult to imagine the challenge of making sails so huge (and so heavy!).  To think, I get tangled up in handling a domestic sized pair of curtains or a king size duvet cover!



We'd begun at the very top of the structure and worked our way down, timing it perfectly for a relaxed lunch in the outdoor cafe, overlooking the water.  What a perfect way to round off our flying visit.


If you are in Stockholm, the Vasa really is a must-see.  Thank you, Sally, for the reminder!