Wednesday, 29 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 16 - Stockholm, Sweden

We opted to wander in the old town of Stockholm. It occupies an island. So many twentieth century cities in Europe had their beginnings as wall-enclosed Islands in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries and even earlier. Paris started on w
hat is now the Isle St. Louis in the middle of the Seine, Concarneau in Brittany originally sat on an island connected to the mainland by a drawbridge. Our favorite small Italian town, Sermione, sits out in Lake Garda, surrounded by fortifications. The reason is obvious. It was easier to defend a walled town surrounded by water than one surrounded by dry land. Where no river or lake was handy, the early Europeans built moats.

Old Houses of Stockholm
The old center of old Stockholm, known as the Gamla Stan, is a high hill steeply ascending from water on all sides.  Today it is connected to the modern city by seven bridges and also by ferries.

Rough cobblestone streets lead up to the Palace area. It was Sunday morning and we just missed being able to attend a service in the old Lutheran Church on top the hill, but were fortunate to hear a choir rehearsal in the Palace chapel. The chapel was up two very long flights of stairs. It seems one must climb endless flights of steps to get anyplace in Northern Europe. This would not have rated a mention when I was twenty, or even fifty, but I have a knee that requires TLC, and I’ve refused to acknowledge that until now. Mind over matter and all that. But today I’m paying the price. I must remember in the future to travel with gel ice packs.

Throne Room
To our surprise, the palace, the home of the Swedish Royal Family, had a lift. We didn’t notice it. A young attendant noticed me looking in trepidation at the stairs winding heavenwards to the “first floor” and took us to a lift.  So we got to see the Royal Sitting Room, the royal Bedrooms, the Royal Banquet Room and a host of other chambers. The walls were all highly decorated – covered in a pattern of gold crowns over and over, the only difference from room to room being a change in the background color, from royal blue to racing green to deep burgundy.  There was a throne room. I don’t believe I have ever seen an actual throne room before.

There were three major differences between this Swedish Royal Residence and the palaces I’ve seen before. First it is much simpler in its decoration than Versailles, or Schönbrun, or Windsor Castle, second it has no vast gardens, and third it is very much smaller. It looks, in fact, rather like a place one might actually live, although I suspect the royal family no longer does. Among other things, it would be a bitch to heat.

Leaving the chilly interiors we wandered outside to sit in the sunshine at a little café in the palace courtyard. The young man who served us spoke quite perfect English. Jeanette asked him “How many languages do you speak? “Just three,” he answered. “Swedish, English and Croatian.”  “Croatian?”
“Yes. I’m Croatian, and so are my mother and my father and my brother,” he said, pointing to the three other people working the stand.  The pastries were delicious.

We wandered out into the square and saw the
Nobel Prize Building
building where Nobel Prize winners assemble each year. A surprisingly simple building for one with so much prestige.

Then we ambled down toward the water, through shops and cafés. We found one shop that had some lovely things, hand painted Swedish designs... Wanted everything in sight, but contented ourselves with two egg cups.

I have one regret in Stockholm ... that we did not see the Vasa – the very old wooden ship brought up intact from these cold, almost fresh waters after hundreds of years, now on permanent display. I missed it by accident. I hadn’t realized this was where the museum was.

Sailing out of Stockholm
The islands of Stockholm
The sail-away from Stockholm was spectacular. Stockholm is not just a city, it is many, many islands, some connected by bridges, others only by boat. And Stockholm harbour extends many miles through islands and rock outcroppings. Our ship required a Stockholm pilot for a 50 km distance. I cannot begin to imagine how many ships floundered on these rocks over the centuries. But the passage through the islands with their low forests and beautiful Scandinavian style houses, with sailboats all around us, was the best part of our day here.


Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense  takes the reader to Italy's  beautiful Amalfi Coast.

"Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives."
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When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?

Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime.

Books of Blair McDowell
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Blair McDowell