Friday, March 19, 2010

Stockholm is melting

Joe We're in Stockholm this weekend, through the generosity of a friend who happens to be (a) in possession of an apartment in Södermalm, and (b) out of the country for a few days. So, for three days, we're trying out life in the big city. Now, admittedly, March in Stockholm is the off-season for a reason: caught between the rainy south and the snowy north, the weather in Stockholm is quixotic at the best of times, and after its snowiest winter in decades the thaw is proving a bit ugly. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to feel like a native when there aren't hordes of tourists on every street corner in Gamla Stan...

We came in on Thursday night, so that we could have an easy start on Friday. As predicted by the Norwegian weather bureau*, Friday dawned wet and dim--the perfect day for some museum hopping! We started by fortifying ourselves with some fresh-baked pastry from the Nytorgs Hembageriet, just around the corner (raspberry weinerbroed, aepple korg, and cardamom bear claw) and a cup of coffee, then we spent a little time formulating our plan of attack.

Our destination of choice today was the Museum of Medieval Stockholm. This is a relatively recent museum, first open some time in the mid-80s I believe, located underneath one of the bridges to Gamla Stan. It came about as a result of a planned underground parking structure for the Riksdag: the excavations turned up a 50 m long section of the medieval city wall, along with a large cemetary. The garage was scrapped, and in its place an underground museum was built around the wall. We've wanted to go to this for years, but from before the time of our arrival it was closed for repairs (it turns out it's not so easy to build a musum underground on a small island, with a busy bridge overhead, and keep everything safe and dry at the same time); it only just reopened a couple of months ago.

The ruins are impressive, and are supplemented with some nice reconstructions of the sort of brick buildings that would have surrounded the wall in its time. There are plenty of scale models and videos to give one a sense of what Stockholm would have been like in the 13th century, and several more or less garish displays of life in those grim times--the reconstruction of "Gallows Hill" (pictured) would be the "more" part of that equation. The free English audio guide made up for the occassional lack of understandable explanatory text, even if Jennifer did, for some mysterious reason, choose not to proceed when prompted, "If you would like to learn more about life in a medieval hospital, press the button now." Most of the Swedes in the place opted for the guided tours, of which there were at least three while we were there.

By the time we had finished there, we were both tired and hungry (this turns out to be that rarest of Swedish museums: those with no fika!), so our next step was to wander over to Drottningatan, one of Stockholm's more notable streets. Alas, these days it is mostly notable for being full of sort of junky, touristy stores; nevertheless, it was a good spot to grab a hot dog from a street vendor and do a bit of people watching, and there is some decent architecture buried behind all the dross.

Restored by our respective Stekt Jättetjockar, we decided to wander back a bit towards Kungsträdsgården, so we headed up through Jakobsgata Arkaden. On the way, we passed St Jakobs Kyrka, a pleasantly gothic pile, where a free organ concert was about to start, so we stopped in and spent a pleasant hour resting and thawing in the company of Buxtehude and Bach.

By this time it was growing dim, and the light misting of the afternoon was turning into a cold, gentle rain, so we decided to get for home. I managed to sneak into Tourist Info just as they were turning off the lights and locking up, and came away with an inner city bus map for my troubles; I took my prize back to the bus stop where Jennifer was waiting, to find her staring at a much better one posted at the stop (not a usual thing in Stockholm; most of the bus stops provide at best vague information about destinations). Sigh. Anyway, we took a bus down the eastern edge of Gamla Stan into Södermalm, past the mad tangle of Slussen, and the disturbing statuary below the Södermalm cliffs, and wound up not two blocks from the apartment.

As it was nearly 7, I high-tailed it to the local Systembolaget to procure us some beer. With that safely deposited in our fridge, one more walk around the corner was all that was required to snag a couple of rental movies and an excellent pizza (pepperoni and leeks, and easily the best pizza either of us has had in Sweden).

* As mortifying as I'm sure this is to most Swedes, provides the most accurate weather forecasts for Sweden, much more reliable than Sweden's own SMHI. It also provides humorous, weather related "news" stories, about things like how to make the thaw come sooner by nailing butter to your wall.

1 comment:

  1. so did you "give a gift to Related Searches?" which is possibly one of the best mistranslations involving butter and seasonal traditions ever.