While travelling in and around Stockholm, the kronor spent in a several-days ticket for the insanely efficient mass transport system is a wise investment. You can get pretty much anywhere by train, bus, subway or tram if your feet are getting to you, not worrying about fares. And everything comes obsessively on time – can’t speak for the wintertime though.
There are around 80 museums to visit in the Swedish capital city. Fotografiska, now featuring a huge exhibition by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, is highly recommendable. Vasa Museet is a must. But my prize has to go to Etnografiska Museet. It owns an extraordinary collection of objects from all over the world and it had to be three of the most interesting and fun hours we spent in the city. Featured were an overview of the native North American cultures, then and now, and a review of the devastating effects of the Carlisle School (the documentary Schooling the World – the White Man’s Last Burden provides a sound outlook on this subject) and an exhibition about Swedish missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa, through whom many objects came to be at the museum today. Outside the museum sat this small, beautiful Japanese Tea House, surrounded by a proper Japanese garden. It only opens for booked groups and special occasions, but the garden is there to be enjoyed by all visitors.
When night-time came, and as recommended by a friend, we went in search for Stampen (the Pawn Shop), a jazz club right in the middle of central Gamla Stan. We sat at the bar, drinking Swedish beer and munching chips, as a band got ready for their act. The Dixieland tunes that they played were a pleasant surprise. As the night went on, the band had a small break, and some of the members caught a glimpse of the sketch. For a few hours, all of us were the bestest of friends!
It took us two years living in Sweden to visit its capital city. A few stolen days from the travels around the Iberian Peninsula finally gave us the chance to do that! It is a gorgeous city, with a lot of different areas, depending on what are you up to. It’s widespread and controlled in height, although easily navigable, sensibly planned, and has a stupidly efficient transportation system – as you would expect from a Scandinavian capital. The first day usually absorbs the shock of us wanting to visit a little bit of every part of the town. That let us to a walk around in tourist-riddled Gamla Stan (Old Town), the hip Södermalm district and the western area of the Djurgården (the King’s Game Park) island, where quite a few museums are based.
One such museum is the Vasa – a 17th century ship placed within a building. This ship was built at the peak of the Stormakstiden (the Era of Great Power – or the peak of the Swedish Empire) to serve as a royal flagship. The project was a fiasco, however. The ship had to high a gravity center and foundered right after setting sail from the harbour. Centuries later, in the 50s, it was recovered and turned into the most profitable tourist attraction in the country. Talk about a late break-even!
After a few hours spent in the holiday-deserted streets of Helsingør, we caught the train southward to Humblebæk, an otherwise unremarkable small town on the western shore of the Øresund – using the Danish spelling here. What really puts this town on the map is Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, an outstanding building, landscape and institution in the outskirts of Copenhagen. It’s been around since the late 50s, harbouring works from all kinds of well-known artists from all around the world. The exhibitions that were there weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but I rejoiced seeing the tiny permanent Niels Wessel Bagge collection of pre-columbian art. Such objects were there to remind me of the wonders of simplicity in patterns, shapes and colours and also that humour belongs in art! Like three-dimensional caricatures The more we stared at some of the objects, the funnier they got! I love to find that in art.
Outside lies the true richness of Louisiana: it’s carefully designed gardens, with (litterally) tons of sculptures and peaceful viewpoints over the sea. The sun was already low so we took advantage of whatever picnic leftovers we had and called it a day on top of the natural grassy amphitheatre. But our wonderful hostess – whom we hadn’t met yet – still had something in store for us.