Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sweden, Part 1: Stockholm

My time in Sweden was outstanding, thanks to the hospitality and generosity of many new friends!  In Stockholm I stayed with Lena, a friend I met during the Extreme Sensescapes conference, and her husband Per.  They were invaluable in showing me the Swedish ropes about transportation, sight-seeing, and (perhaps most importantly) traditional food!

Upon my arrival in Stockholm, we enjoyed a lovely fika (pronounced FEE-kah, meaning coffee and snack) with Lena's mother who also happened to be in town.  Then we had a scenic walk through gardens and parks and greenhouses, followed by lunch in a cafe there.  We met an excited boston terrier named Boris wearing a pea-green cable-knit sweater!

Julros-- Christmas Rose
Boris the Boston Terrier in a Cable-knit Sweater
Then Lena and I visited a large outdoor Swedish heritage museum called Skansen.  Great scenery, history, and even animals!  Luckily, Lena is as ridiculous about cute little animals as I am, so we squealed and giggled together while the Lynx cubs played together in the leaves and again when the otter yawned and curled up for a nap.
You know I can't turn down an opportunity like this!
Historic Swedish Bakery!
In the evening, we made gingerbread cookies (thin and crunchy, the Swedish way) and Swedish meat(less) balls!  We had the meat(less) balls in a traditional manner, served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam-- Super delicious!!!

Lena, her mother, and Per--Some of my Swedish family!
The next day, I visited the Nordiska Museet (Nordic Museum) in the morning.  They had a super exhibit about "folk art" painted furniture from the eighteenth century!  The building was incredible as well-- inside and outside.  They had some great exhibitions about Nordic crafts and culture, so I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nordiska Museet
Nordiska Museet
Exhibition at the Nordiska Museet
After the Nordiska Museet, I met up with Lena and we went to the Vasa Museum.  The museum houses a 17th-century Swedish ship in remarkable condition!  Nearly 98% of the ship is original, with elaborate carvings and enormous masts.  The entire museum was incredible, and Lena and I continually remarked on how fascinating and well-designed the museum was.

The Vasa!
Up on the highest viewing deck at the Vasa Museum!
After the Vasa, we headed home to make another traditional Swedish dinner and saffron buns!  Saffron buns are a traditional bread for this time of year, and they smell outstanding and taste even better!  As someone who rarely cooks and even more rarely bakes, it was neat to make them from scratch-- using fresh yeast and everything!!  Yum!!!

But I also did work in Stockholm!  I visited the Historiska Museet (Historical Museum) to see their awesome collection of medieval Birgittine textiles.  The embroideries there are so finely made!  Most are silk embroideries using split stitch, stem stitch, and couching methods, and they beaded with lots of pearls and metal paillettes!  Totally stunning!
I'm so thoughtful.
Detail of an embroidered reliquary
Detail of a bishop's mitre
After some excursions outside Stockholm, I returned and explored Gamla Stan for a day before returning to Germany.  Gamla Stan is the "old town" of Stockholm, home to quaint (and touristy) shopping districts and fabulous churches.  I bought some kitchsy Swedish souvenirs and visited the Storkyrkan (pronounced stor-SHEER-kahn), one of the largest and oldest churches in Stockholm.  I got lucky when I visited, because the church choir and orchestra of Stockholm happened to be there rehearsing for their upcoming performance of Mozart's Requiem!  They were incredible, and I sat in a pew and listened with my eyes closed for a long time, thinking about how lucky I am to experience such moments in this life.

St. George and the Dragon at the Storkyrkan
Swedish is a wacky language, where nothing sounds like it looks and everyone speaks with such a lovely inflection and melody.  Lucky for me, nearly all Swedes speak perfect English!  So the time I got on a bus going the opposite direction from what I intended, the bus driver was able to explain that to me...  Just as I was beginning to worry that I was riding the wrong direction through a strange and foreign city, I saw a seagull flying in the open space between the bustling high-rise buildings of Stockholm.  Some of you know my relationship with Jonathan Livingston Seagull and the fact that I suspect my Uncle J's spirit flies over the world as a gull now, flying as fast as thought, and making sure all is well.  In that moment, a deep peace came over me, and I knew the bus would make a loop and drop me back off where I belonged.  Life is good.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, the Christmas rose is lovely! You are blessed have such a wonderful hostess--- thank you, Lena. I can't really imagine listening to the choir and orchestra in that setting. A spiritual memory for life. And, of course your Uncle J is there with you... Absolutely no doubt about that one! Love you!