Friday, July 08, 2005

Stockholm

We sadly said goodbye to Balestrand and the fjords and then spent the next 23 hours getting to Stockholm. It felt a little like planes, trains and automobiles, even though it was just boat, train, train and more trains.

We almost didn't come to Stockholm, as we were trying to figure out how to go cheer on Michael and Jannie at the Euro Championships. However the logistics to get down to Rostock were even uglier from the fjords than getting to Stockholm. While we were really disappointed not to be able to spend more time with them and to get to watch them play (especially as Michael's team ended up with Denmark's best ever finish, losing to Clapham, England in the finals. Tilykke, tiklykke! Runner's up across Europe, not bad at all!), we are really glad that we made it to Stockholm.

We had heard that it was a pretty city and that there were a lot of islands, but we really hadn't pictured it correctly at all and had no idea of how nice it was or how much we'd like it. The city is built over a series of islands -- some big, some small -- with canals cutting between them all and bridges across some of them (with ferries going across others). It's kind of like Venice except on a much bigger scale.

The city was a great mix of things to see and enjoy. One of the islands is the old town, with the palace and narrow streets and museums and cobblestones and cafes that you would want to see. Another couple islands are mostly parks and greenspace and museums, some of the others then have the downtown and business and shopping, etc.

We thought it was a great combination of cosmopolitan city and outdoorsy park. We probably wouldn't feel this way visiting in the winter, but in the summer it looked like a place we would enjoy living. Strolling around the city parks and island parks, we passed group after group picnicking, enjoying strawberries and a glass of wine, or beer and a game of boules. In addition to Boules, the other similar game that we saw being played everywhere was called Kubb, and involved knocking down wooden blockes instead of trying to get metal balls close to a target.

It was the first time on the trip that I felt a little lonely or isolated from people, because we so much wanted to be part of a group enjoying the fine evening with friends, drink and games.

We also noted that like Amsterdam, there was a lot of cruising on boats being done after work.

While we visited some sights, we mostly enjoyed walking around. The two touristy things that stood out the most, however, were the Vasa Museum and the changing of the guard.

The Vasa was a 17th century warship that was one of the greatest war flops of Swedish history. Built to be the crown jewel in the war against Poland, it tipped over and sank in a light breeze 20 minutes into its first sail. (It didn't even make it out of the harbor). 350 years later it was rediscovered and salvaged. (The story on that is fascinating). Because of the water temp and low salinity levels, it was extremely well preserved. So it's a great opportunity to imagine yourself back in the 1600s. You see the ship and how ridiculously (it seems to us) top heavy it was and how little ballast it had and you can't believe that this didn't happen more frequently. We highly recommend visiting the museum and seeing the film, taking a tour, and then wandering to explore all the details yourself.

The other thing we liked the most was the changing of the guard. For this we again have to give Mr. Steves a pat on the back. Normally changing of the guards are not things we make much of an effort to see. You usually have throng of tourists all packed around a guard stand where one or a couple of soldiers approach another and they switch out. It's cool, but not that exciting. Well, Rick made enough of a big deal about this one that we decided to check it out. We're really glad we did.

First of all, we liked it because it's an actual CHANGING of the guard. The guard duty switches out between one company, that are sort of the permanent palace guards, and regiments from all over Sweden who get the honor of doing it for (a couple of days? a week?). So you have one company in one color and uniform changing out with another in a different color and uniform.

It starts down by the harbor, where a marching band (navy) leads the company down the middle of the city streets about 15 minutes up to the palace. It has the feel (to us) of a special occasion or parade (since they're stopping traffic, etc) but it happens every day. There's something kind of cool about this traditional march happening in the middle of modern traffic.

Once they reach the courtyard (and the throngs and throngs of tourists) there is a lot of marching, and then an involved ceremony where the flag is handed from one regiment to the other, and the guards at each station are switched, and there is a little bit of crowd pleasing, giggle-inducing running as part of it, and lots of commands and intricate alignments. Then in the middle, once the second company has taken over, you get a full marching band performance from the band, then after that you have the original company being led back out.

All in all, a worthwhile things to go see.

The other cool things about Stockholm for us was the chance to broaden our ultimate connections. One of Brian's WashU teammates had played in Stockholm, and he hooked us up with Andreas Dimberg, one of his teammates there. Andreas was great. He opened up his home to us, showed us around, and took us out with his friends -- giving us a much better look at Swedish life. So another Tak to him...and to ultimate for creating such a cool network of people around the globe.

(I haven't had time to link pics yet. But if you go to the Stockholm tag in flickr, you can browse. One warning: there are a lot of not so good pics there...we haven't culled them down yet or tried to put good explanations on them)

2 comments:

Elaine said...

What a great network of friends, and friends of friends! It's so much fun to share your experiences with them.

Andreas said...

It was a pleasure having you guys! As you say, gotta love Ultimate and the connections and possibilities it brings.