Stockholm - Thunderbolt and vikings!!

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July 18th 2012
Published: June 26th 2017
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Gamla Stan (the Old Town) is the focal point of Stockholm. This has to be the number 1 attraction with its narrow cobbled streets, the Royal Palace and the cathedral. However, the old town is also full of people!!! It can get very busy with singleton travellers and group tours sharing the narrow thoroughfares all trying to snap that unique photo! The cafes and bars charge over the odds and the shops sell tackier souvenirs than usual. Although it is a 'must see' if you ever come to Stockholm, for Roisin and I, we have well and truly ticked this one off our bucket list on previous occasions.

Today I suggested that we visit a real gem. It's another metro, train ride and walk from the centre of Stockholm but it is also a chance to see the environs of the capital.

Millesgården lies on Lindingö, an island north east of the centre but still within the Inner Stockholm boundaries. It is now an open-air museum of the artist Carl Milles. This 5-acre park features many sculptures of the artist, fountains, the artists home and studio and collection of antiquities and an art gallery. All this is in the surroundings of flower decked terraces overlooking Lilla Värten, a strait separating the island from mainland Stockholm.

Taking the T-Bana from Östermalmstorget, we headed towards Ropsten where we alighted. We had no choice really as this is where the T-Bana terminated!! Our next leg of the journey would take us on another train known as the Lidingöbana. This train is classed as a light railway although it has more characteristics of a tram. The platform to this line is accessed via an elevator. The word for elevator in Swedish is ‘hiss' as indicated in big bold font above the doors. Noticing this first, Roisin turned to me and murmured something to which my reaction was to point at a young man in a multicoloured shirt, and say:Ha! He looks like a bar of rock!!'

‘No!' giggled Roisin knowing full well she had prompted the reaction she expected. ‘I said that we need to take the hiss!!!'

We arrived at Millesgården at 10:45. The doors didn't even open until 11:00. I know I also speak for Roisin when I say that this is the first time EVER, we have queued up waiting for a museum to open!! Is there any such thing as an ‘artifactoholic!!'

C'mon, c'mon open these doors. I'm dying of thirst for knowledge here!!!'

After walking through the main building to the steps leading to the lower terrace, one was met by an array of sculptures of all shapes and sizes mounted on plinths of varying heights. The ‘main event' of the lower terrace is the giant bronze (but it could be iron!) figure of Neptune taking the centre stage of a fountain. What is it with Swedes and water features??!! (see previous entry on Drottnigholm!)

Although it was overcast, it was still warm (and dry!) which is more than I could say for central Stockholm. As we looked across the straight, the lightening had once more returned. You could see the sheet rain as it moved across the city. Luckily it was moving away from us.

There are 3 terraces in Millesgården, lower, middle and upper. Although the larger exhibits are to be found on the lower terrace there is something to catch the eye on all levels.

One such sculpture that had me ‘clicking' from all angles is that of a small man, standing on a large hand. He is looking upwards and his body is tense. This piece is known as ‘the Hand of God'. The man is balancing on the index finger and thumb of a large hand and is gazing with rapt attention at something in the sky, as though he were receiving a message, taking part in a dialogue or even waiting for the football to come across so he can flick it illegally in to the English goal!!

The café in Millesgården has a very unusual system to ensure customers don't just walk off without paying. There is a small wooden garden gate at the entrance to the café. Easy. Open the gate and walk in. However, to exit the same gate, there is a keypad on the adjacent post. The code is provided on the sales receipt once you have paid for your refreshments. Now, there are two flaws in this approach:

1. No one told us about this procedure and after screwing the receipt up into a neat little ball and flicking it playfully in to the dregs in my coffee cup, we stood like two lemons by the offending gate trying to figure out how it opened! We were finally relieved of our frustration and increasing embarrassment by a couple entering the café. They held the gate open for us and we quickly scuttled through and on our way.

2. The café is self-service so you pay for your refreshments BEFORE you consume so it's a bit difficult to do a runner anyway!!! Where is the logic in that?? Perhaps it is just for entertainment of the staff!!!

We walked back to Torsvik and made our way to Karlaplan where we headed to the Historiska Museum. We were only interested in one exhibit here…meet the Vikings!!

As we walked in to the inner courtyard of the museum we were transported back more than 1000 years in to a Viking settlement. The various tents contained different aspects of Viking life. We watched as two Viking ladies kneaded dough and shaped it before sliding it in to the clay kiln. A jeweller was busy making a bracelet using techniques long since forgotten. I noticed a tree stump in the corner of one of the tents. I had to take a photo of it because I was told that if you look hard enough, the face of Jesus Christ appears. I couldn't see anything!!!

Oh no!" Roisin spotted the archery corner. When Vikings weren't burying axes in to your skull, their chosen method of hunting weapon was the bow and arrow. Roisin picked up the bow and a quiver containing three arrows.

‘How hard can this be?' were her famous last words as she took aim pulling back on the bowstring.

‘Thwang!' the first arrow flew off to the right completely missing the target but nearly took out a peasant Viking kneeling down tending to his dug out canoe.

Roisin's reaction was to look at the bow in an inquisitive way as if the accuracy of her first attempt was due to the craftsmanship of the bow!

A small child had appeared by her side and realising she now had an audience, handed the child the bow and remaining arrows and said, ‘I think there is something wrong with it!!!'

Meeting the Vikings was certainly an experience as it must have been for the Vikings in meeting the Hodgsons!!

During our pre-trip research on Stockholm, Roisin came across a web site: This site advertised walking tours each evening that are completely free of charge. The web site, however, makes no secret that the guide will willingly accept tips at the end of the tour if satisfied. The tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. What can be better than free air, exercise? All free!

We arrived at the meeting place for the start of the tour by the top of the steps at Sergelstorget at 6:45. The tour was due to start at 7pm.

The steps look down in to a sunken Plaza where street sellers were just setting up their rugs to lay out an array of African beads, counterfeit sunglasses and handbags.

Many of these hawkers are immigrants from Somalia. The last time we encountered so many Somalians we were being chased around the Horn of Africa by pirates!!

Our guide introduced himself as Saheed as we proceeded to follow him down the steps.

Suddenly a loud crack echoed around Sergelstorg's plaza. One of our group split away to investigate and came trotting back several moments later.

‘Do you get many people tazered down here??!' asked the man in a sarcastic manner.

Saheed must have been taken aback by this unexpected activity and could think of nothing smart to say other than ‘Er…no. Not normally!'

Apparently someone had got hold of a tazer gun and thought it would be a laugh to tazer his mate!! Jackass the movie coming to a Scandinavian capital near you!!!

An entertaining start to what turned out to be a very interesting 90 minutes. Even if the tour did taken us in to the old town!!

The Nobel museum lies in the heart of Gamla Stan. This is one museum I have never visited in all the times I have visited the city. Unfortunately we will not have time to visit it on this trip either. One of the interesting pieces of snippets we received from Saheed was that there are 5 Nobel Prize categories: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Peace, and Literature. However, I had heard that there used to be a 6th prize. – The Nobel Prize for Human Behaviour. The winner was renown for his many papers and studies into what causes laziness and its connection to the human genome. Unfortunately it wasn't a roaring success as the winner sent someone else to collect the Prize!!!

The guide took us through some cobbled back streets including the narrowest street in Sweden, Marten Trotzigs Gränd. The street is not much more than a metre wide. Having already ascertained that Swedish doors open outward I wouldn't want to be walking down that street when someone suddenly opens their front door!! It's an accident waiting to happen. OK, it's an accident since the 1600s waiting to happen but an accident never the less!!

The tour ended near the Slussenhiss (Slussen elevator) just over the bridge on Sődermalm. The whole walk was only a few kilometres and was certainly worth the non-obligatory 50 kroner (£5/$8) we gave our guide as a thank you for an informative and pleasant time.

We headed to the nearest Metro and took the train to Kungsträdgården where we called in to TGI Fridays. We were soon turned away as they were taking no more custom due to their dishwasher being broken. Surely that's nothing that a pair of marigolds and a small bottle of fairy liquid couldn't fix!! God forbid someone would have to put the dishes in to a sink, fill it up with soapy water and wash the things by hand. It seems a small price to pay for turning away custom!!

We walked the 400 yards to the other TGI's on Birger Järlsgatan. Here they were happy to take us but there was a 50-minute wait!! It seemed obvious that all those turned away from TGI 1 had the same idea as us and headed for TGI 2!!! We finally ended up in a back street pasta house with a bowl of pasta and a beer. For £7 a head in central Stockholm I'd call that a result!!!

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