Sunday, June 12, 2011

SE - Stockholm

June 12                 Sunday                                 Sweden                                                Stockholm                                         

Up for another day of touring, I made my way first to the City Hall.  This was perhaps the first site I’d really appreciated.  The tour (tours were compulsory) began in the Blue Room – the very room used for the Nobel Banquet.  We continued up the same stairs that the Nobel laureates come down, with the guide pointing out a star on the far wall which those descending can keep their gaze upon in order to keep their head up.  I kind of wish the tour went the other direction, though, letting us come down the stairs rather than up… just so we could test it out ourselves.

In either case, the tour continued on through the council’s chamber.  At 101 councilmembers, I was astounded that a city could function with a government of such a size.  It would seem that legislation could easily stall in continuing debate, but I didn’t ask to confirm whether or not that was often the case.  The chamber had an interesting design: a long rectangular room which included areas for public seating on each side.  No reservation necessary; the public can just show up and sit down.

The Gold (Golden?) Room was quite intriguing, especially in that its walls are indeed covered with real gold.  Granted, the gold is so exceptionally thin that while it would, in its entirety, be worth a small fortune to your typical individual; in the grand scheme of things it’s really not too much.  The designs on the walls aroused mixed opinions with me… overall I kind of felt that the figures were ugly – particularly the woman prominently displayed at the endpoint.  I felt vindicated when our guide mentioned that back when the room was completed: Stockholm’s denizens likewise thought she was pretty darn ugly.

I’d hoped to be able to climb up the tower, which was a separate venue from the city hall tour.  Alas, unlike most towers: this one requires you schedule your visit at a specific timeslot.  I’d just missed one by about 10 minutes and the next one wasn’t for an hour.  I opted for other options, instead, first making my way to the Central Train Station so I could pick up a map and start planning my route beyond Stockholm.

Next up was the Army Museum.  This was actually quite impressive – really the first of Stockholm’s museums to definitively capture my attention.  Going from the top floor downward, it takes you chronologically through Sweden’s military history.  It often included a mix of real remnants right beside replicas, letting your readily use the replica to help get a greater appreciation of how the remnants would have looked and functioned.  It had a lot of stories and history rather than mere facts, as the Mint Museum had.  The museum made extensive use of some very good mannequins, further helping to bring various scenes to life – from an officer berating a conscript to a mercenary seeking work to a starving woman scraping the remains of a rotting animal.  There was really quite an exquisite attention to detail; I found myself a bit taken aback when they started announcing that the museum was nearing closure… I’d spent a long time in there.  While military history isn’t for everyone: if you have even the slightest interest, I’d say it’s well worth a visit.

At this point my rear end was in a bit too much of pain that I opted to return back to my hostel and take the evening easy.  It’d been on my mind all day that I’ll probably stay in Stockholm and visit the hospital: my butt just seemed to be getting worse and worse ever since the hiking mishap.  Not having a spleen, I have to be particularly attentive toward the risk of bacterial infections… those can be a very very bad thing for me.

At the hostel I rattled off a slew of questions with the cute receptionist, Caroline.  She has a geek-girl look, which I can be a bit of a sucker for… the kind that looks like a member of the literati and could actually hold a good conversation.  She was a big help in my deciding where to head after Stockholm as well as also giving me some tips on hospital visits.  I also spent the night chatting with a girl from Chicago who had quit her job back in April and had been traveling ever since… I was kind of jealous of her freedom but I suppose I can at least be glad to have a nicely-sized savings account in exchange for sucking up hours upon hours of my life from most days of each year.  Oh, and it was during our chat when I realized that I’d broken 10,000 photos already.  Of course, that’s not counting the series which will be stitched together into panoramas… and that’s admittedly a rather large share.  I do have to start keeping tabs on available storage space, though.

My dinner had consisted of Swedish meatballs.  I assumed that getting them in the old town must surely mean they’d be OK… not thinking of comparisons like how one might think Geno’s must be the best of Philly or that the best food in Italy is the expensive stuff on the main street instead of the cheap stuff a block away.  One more culinary faux-pas: I even dared to think “How could you screw up meatballs?”  Of course, in retrospect, there are many ways you could screw up meatballs.  Indeed, I’d class them right up there with lasagna as one of the most screw-up-able staple foods.  So with all that prefacing: yeah, they were pretty lousy.  Edible, but lousy… especially compared to the hallmark Swedish meatball I’d grown up with.  Once again, I’d pressed Caroline for her favorite meatballs in Stockholm.  Without a moment’s hesitation she enthusiastically burst out “IKEA!”  ...She's awesome.

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