Saturday, June 11, 2011

SE - Stockholm

June 11                 Saturday                             Sweden                                                Stockholm                                         

OK so Stockholm didn’t get totally dark, after all.  I was just looking out the window from a bright room and it seemed dark.  As soon as I stepped foot outside, however, I saw it for what it was… the sun had definitely passed the horizon & it was darker than Reykjavik, but still not a star to be seen.

I’d put a mask over my eyes… it was handed out way back on my Air New Zealand flight in 2009 and I’ve kept it ever since.  I mostly did it not because of the light coming in from the portholes, but because I was the first of three roommates to return and as it was about 2am: I knew that the other two would be coming back late and drunk.  So the lights were sure to come on… and the mask offered at least one small distraction.

While I woke up briefly when they returned, it was only for a moment as my body quickly tuned out the racket and returned to slumber.  While I tossed and turned a bit over the night, I eventually rose at 11:30 am… a very long slumber.  My two roommates were already up and gone.  As I ventured about the boat: I couldn’t quite discern whether I was just slow to wake up or if my balance was thrown off by the movement of the boat… I’m guessing the latter, as I seemed pretty sure-footed upon disembarking.

I visited the palace and a couple museums, but Stockholm’s hours got the best of me as things start closing at 3pm, 4pm, and 5pm.  First: I definitely recommend the Stockholm Card… it’s quite nice being able to walk into places for free now.  I stop in and see everything simply because I can, though overall this day didn’t bring too much of spectacular interest.

The palace was OK, but I’ve seen better… really, after seeing the Hermitage in St. Petersburg: I’m not entirely sure there’s much else that can stand up to comparison – except maybe Versailles – but I haven’t been there yet to say for sure.  So I think I’m now somewhat disillusioned with other European palaces, though I’d still certainly say it’s a must-visit destination in Stockholm.  You pretty much can’t go to a European capital and not see it’s palace; that’s just not right.

The Treasury Museum was extremely disappointing… even with the Stockholm Card I wouldn’t recommend it, despite being seconds away from the main palace tour.  It was two rooms… I actually went back & forth a few times just to make sure I wasn’t missing a door in the darkness.  While I’m still not convinced there wasn’t more, I keep recalling that headed into vault there was a large iron strongbox (a chest) bearing a sign that it (the chest) held all of the items on display.  There are really wasn’t much of interest.  I wanted gems… while I had been a bit let down by Vienna in that I expected more out of the center of the Habsburgs – you know, the people who spawned pretty much every monarchy in Europe – one thing I was pleased by was their treasury: the Habsburgs did a good job at looting the world well enough to present such a great museum.  The Swedes, however, did a good job on the raiding but apparently didn’t pick the best targets for looting.

The Mint Museum was OK… I’d say it’d be of interest to the numismatics out there (of which I’m slightly inclined toward), but once again I had a stellar experience in a past trip which is tough to beat: the mint museum in Hall-in-Tirol, Austria.  While Hall-in-Tirol is a small town, its claim to history is home of the first Thaler, which if you read that aloud you’ll realize is actually what led to the name of our own Dollar.  Those Thalers… they were kind of a big thing; and the museum did them justice.  Stockholm’s museum had some neat pieces, but I really didn’t find myself reading many signs… none of them seemed to offer much interesting history; really just straight-up facts.  Bah, facts.  I'm American: we don't need facts; we crave entertainment!

After that was the National Museum.  The first floor had an exhibit on Swedish furniture design.  That may not sound interesting at first, but keep in mind that this is Sweden and think of why you ever even think of Sweden to begin with.  But it wasn’t that interesting… potentially reinforcing your first thought when I mentioned an exhibit on furniture design.  So here I am in the land of furniture – I’m using some right now, actually – and I’m bored by this exhibit.  Now for comparison, I can be pretty darn entertained on a walk through an IKEA.  I was really hoping there would actually be an IKEA downtown just so I could walk around it… it’d be like touring Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory instead of just the gas stations selling the chocolate bars.  But there is no downtown IKEA.  This saddens me and greatly affects all I had believed about Sweden.

The second floor had exhibits on art.  This wasn’t the art museum per se, but it did showcase a large collection.  Alas, none of it was too enticing… well, in the art appreciation sense.  I’ll come back to that in a moment.   Once again, other European empires simply had a bigger take of the production (or looting) of paintings, with Vienna once again standing strong and Vatican City undoubtedly a contender.   Of course, the problem with Rome – and the rest of Italy – is that they were really the “lootee”  for most of recent(ish) history… so most of Italy’s best works are found outside of Italy.  But back to Sweden: they’d had a few things here & there, but nothing of major interest.  Until I turned the corner.

I’d kind of noticed some references to it along the way, such as on the immense poster covering half of the entire front of the building & also the numerous signs in the lobby, but surprisingly it didn’t gather much attention from me.  But turning this corner did.  From floor to ceiling was a gigantic mosaic of a very modern woman bending over toward a bookshelf, offering little to the viewer but a 15-ft tall thong and two immense butt cheeks.  In an adjacent room was a video on a loop of a woman laying down & masturbating, surrounded by thick forest (that’s not a euphemism; the video was indeed set in a forest).  It was an exhibit not on porn, but on sexuality in art. Granted, most of it focused on olden stuff of little erotic interest in this day and age… but there was an exhibit of modern porno albeit where the two actors were heavily blurred out of the image.  Then there were those other two… the massive keister mosaic & the masturbation video… the intent of those was to show them in a public & decent setting so that people were so-inclined to look but trying to will themselves to turn away.  It did get me thinking about the glances I kept stealing at that perfectly-curved rear-end, only to try and keep them very brief and casual so that no one would think I was gawking.  So yeah, I guess that intent panned out perfectly.  Though for anyone who’s grown up in the age of the internet: the video was pretty dull.  I was actually kind of amused by the little old ladies who seemed so enthralled by it.

Djurgården was my next stop – a reportedly scenic park-like island of Stockholm.  It also gave me the opportunity to ride a tram, to which I reiterate that I’m a transportation engineer: I did this with great zeal.  The whole point of this trek was really just to find a grassy spot to lay down… I think my legs have officially quit on me.  If ever there was a time I really needed some geothermal baths: this would be it.  It’s actually got me thinking of cutting down my time in Norway’s mountains in lieu of a bit more city time.  I found my spot and relocated a few times to stay with the sun – the shade was getting surprisingly chilly with the soft breeze.  Eventually I came to realize that the flotilla of tiny flies hovering about me were actually biting me… here it was just the tickling of my leg hairs getting on my nerves, but when I realized that small itchy bumps were rising minutes after they’d bitten: that was it, time to get outta there.  My legs had gotten the relaxation they needed.

I largely took it easy the rest of the night, relaxing on the deck of the boat as the sun set beneath the horizon.  Eight hot air balloons also popped up one-by-one, making their way from east to west and offering some perfect photo opportunities.  I got to chatting with some of the other people on the boat: a bunch of French guys & a guy from Buenos Aires all traveling together.  The Argentinian actually spent some time in Philly as a graphic designer… then the economy fell apart and since 2008 he’s been back on the other side of the Equator.  They were all quite nice, and at one point a German girl – from Dresden – sat beside me.  I can’t quite explain it, but for once I was at a loss for conversation when conversing with a German girl… I’ve always been so good at that, but for some reason the sentences just weren’t flowing like they with the other folk.  Ahh well, while somewhat cute: she was also a smoker… so really my interests lay in watching the sunset.  And also on being able to sit comfortably… thanks again to my sharp rocks incident a week before.  Though I have come to find that my time in Scandinavia has really helped bring back my German skills… the only problem being that they don’t speak German here.

It turns out the Argentinian is one of my roommates… and he’s said the other one is Kurdish.  Then as I returned to the room I met our new fourth guy: this one French.  So now I’ve got a full room & met two of the three… so far they seem like good guys!  The new French guy seems a bit of a geek, to which I mean that as a compliment in this case (unlike the two guys I was seated beside on my flight to Stockholm).  One thing I took note of just before heading to bed was that if I stood in the hall, I could hear slowly-paced moans emanating from one of the rooms… the room I’m pretty sure the German girl is staying in.  Bravo to one of the French guys or the Argentinian!  I’d put my money on the latter – they seemed particularly fond of each other… or at least fond enough for a couple days of fooling around.

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