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Published: June 26th 2017
Woke up at 8am due to the sun shining directly through the window. Breakfast was busy. There was a mix of families, couples, singles (all, I assume on holiday), people on business and the odd back packer. There was a wide choice available and the organisation of replenishing stocks was first class.
Today we had agreed to take a steam ferry out to Drottningholm, the official residence of the Swedish Royal family.
The Royal domain of Drottningholm is situated on the island of Lovön in Lake Malären, West of Stockholm. It was originally built in the late 16th
century and has remained a Royal Palace since day 1. The whole Palace and surrounding gardens were inspired by the chateau at Versailles. Drottningholm has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
We took the metro the short distance from Östermalmtorg to T-Centralen. The ferry departed from Stadshusbron (City Hall Bridge) but we weren't too sure where to buy the tickets. For this reason we headed for the nearest tourist information office which happened to be only about 100 yards from Central Station down Vasagatan.
As luck would have it, on entering we were met with a notice
advertising that excursions and tours could be booked here. I took a ticket from a nearby dispenser and waited for my number to be called at the information desk. This is a very fair way to deal with customers as you just take your ticket and wait your turn. No hanging around in queues. However, there are a lot of souvenirs sold in these places and not being fixed to one spot means you tend to walk around checking out trinkets and shiny baubles that you would probably walk right past if on display in a shop window!
One of the more tasteful souvenirs is the Dalahäst. Wherever you go in Sweden you will come across what is essentially a block of wood, shaped in to a horse and painted with very bright colours in the traditional patterns from the area of Sweden known as Dalarna. The Dalahäst or as I like to call it: 'the Norse horse'
range in size from ½ inch to 24 inches and beyond. The biggest Dalahäst in the world stands in Avesta, a small town (in Dalarna no doubt!!) about 100 miles northwest of Stockholm, and is a whopping 13 metres high and
made of concrete. The designer of this monster certainly didn't read his brief properly!! ‘It says you get the raw materials from the Alpine Forest NOT McAlpines the builders!!!'
We both managed to avoid purchasing anything from the array of key rings and fridge magnets on display. The Dalahästs are all hand painted making them an expensive item but unique as no two horses are the quite the same. Nevertheless, it was early days and we still had 3 days holiday left. We didn't want to peak too early!!!
It was now our turn as the counter machine beeped and the large digits flicked over to reveal ticket number 96.We were greeted with a warm welcome from an assistant who wore a badge near his left shoulder that screamed out in bold font: ‘LARD'. ‘That's a strange name',
I thought. ‘Even for a Swede!!'
After refocusing my eyes, I realised I had misread the ‘D'. His name was actually LARS'.!!
We soon learned from our new best friend that it's possible to book a round trip to Drottningholm on the ferry and pay entrance fees once you get there or, for convenience book a combo ticket
from the tourist information office. BUT…(and there's always a ‘but'!!) you have to leave 1 hour between booking the tickets and taking the ferry. As it was now 11:40 and the next boat was 12:00, this meant we had to wait until the 13:00 ferry.
I thought. LARS with an ‘S'' must have seen the dismay on our faces as he quickly added that tickets can also be booked at the ferry quay. We thanked him and decided to head straight to Stadshusbron, only a 5-minute walk away, to catch the noon sailing.
The boat trip sailed out past the city hall and navigated its way around small islets that are dotted about Lake Malären.
The trip to Drottningholm took 40 minutes. Not a cloud in the sky. It was hot and no indication of thunder storms as weatherdotcom had predicted.
As the boat turned the last corner and headed for the jetty, the majesty that is Drottningholm Palace came in to view. Although the short walk to the grounds took us directly past the entrance to the Palace we decided to take a walk through the well-maintained gardens. All the bushes were pristinely
manicured and the lawns were as flat as a billiard table. This, I thought as we passed the fountain and in to a tree lined avenue, must take some maintenance. I don't know how they manage to keep it so ‘showy! Too much like hard work. If it was me, I'd have the whole thing flagged' with a nice patio over by the water feature! That seems to be the place that gets the sun in the morning!!
After what seemed like (and probably was) a good half-hour, we arrived at the Chinese Pavilion.
In the 18th
century Chinese Pavilions were very popular although only royalty and nobility could see the potential in all things from the East. Many Royal Houses across the world have the odd Ming vase knocking around and other such nick-nacks. (I don't believe I've just referred to one of the most priceless series of porcelain as a ‘nick-nack!!). Mind you, I suppose, if you acquire too many, like everything else, it just becomes ‘clutter'!! I suppose that's why you always see these types of goods from ancient Chinese dynasties being sold at auction!!! (albeit the Sotheby's kind and not the eBay kind!!) Anyhow,
things have changed since then and if you look hard enough, you will see that most households in the world now possess at least 1 item from the Orient. You only have to look at your TV, Fridge or even your mobile phone to see what I mean!!!
We headed back through the gardens and approached the Palace. As this is now the official residence of the Royal family, there are Högvakten (Royal guards), placed strategically around the perimeter of the Palace. Their uniform is blue and yellow (of course) and they carry a rifle afixed with a pointy looky bayonet!!. I was observing one such young guard as he marched from his sentry post to the perimeter fence, a distance of about 20 yards. He would then do some sort of version of presenting arms. I was getting nervous because with the way he was handling his rifle he could easily have had someones eye out (not least his own!!!) As I turned to glance over at the guard house, I could have sworn that I saw several soldiers wearing eye patches!!!
We took a tour of the palace and observed room after room of 300 year
old tapestry, classic paining and portraits, highly polished parquet flooring and equally highly decorated ceilings. I asked one of the guides if the Queen gets fed up of all these people traipsing through her house!! A perfectly civil question, I thought. It turns out that when the queen and her family is home, they close the Palace to the public and take away all the ropes, signs and anything else that reminds them of a museum!!!
On the ferry back the skies turned a darker shade of black. Don't know where this came from, and just like weatherdotcom had predicted, we observed a thunder and lightening show. I say ‘show' because the sky was lighting up in the distance. We seemed to have missed this rather sudden down turn in the weather. It was still relatively warm. A few spots of rain but, due to our excursion away from the centre, we missed all the fun!!! By the time we arrived back in Stockholm the storm had moved on just leaving the, by now, sheet rain to deal with as we headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest.
Having eaten yesterday at TGI Fridays we
thought that tonight we would go ‘International'. We took the tram number 7 to Sergelstorget and headed toward Högtorget in search of the Dubliner!! You can probably tell by the name we weren't eating local cuisine tonight. As I said, ‘International' (to a Scandinavian!!!). The rain had long since dispersed and once again blue skies were up above us.
It was 7 pm as we swiftly moved out the way of 2 young lads who obviously had a few too many drinks. They were zig-zagging and the only thing stopping them from falling was each other. Oops! Spoke too soon. One of them let go of the other for only a split second but that was enough for him to go tumbling backwards. As he grabbed out to save himself, he accidently chinned his mate with an upper cut that Mike Tyson would have been proud of. Both now lay on the floor, one holding his jaw but laughing as if they had just discovered the funniest joke in the world. In their minds, they probably had!
It is well documented that Sweden has an alcohol problem? Beer, wine and spirits are much more expensive than the UK
with a pint of lager between 50-60 kronor. (£5/$8!!). How can anyone afford to get drunk, let alone becomne an alcoholic!!! The only problem I can see is that it's too bloody dear!!! And the only two people who could tell me their secret were too pissed to talk!!!
The Dubliner had a warm and friendly atmosphere. The Shepherds Pie that Roisin had and my Irish Stew were delicious. The only thing that was missing from the ‘craic'
was my novelty pint of Guinness shaped hat!!!
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