Monday, May 21, 2012

Takin' it easy - Stockholm - Day 4

One of the things I really like about Stockholm is that the people are as soon as the weather is good enough living out on the streets. Probably they enjoy it so much because it is so dark and cold for several months of the year and when finally the spring is in full bloom the people love to sit in the sun twice as much as others would do.

So when you walk Stockholm you find benches almost everywhere: in front of normal residential houses, at every green - small or big, at the waterfront, outside almost all cafés and in front of many shops especially on Södermalm. And that is where we started our Saturday ... walking the streets shopping and people watching and enjoying the sun. And if you leave the busy main street Saturday morning shopping at Södermalm with its record shops, boutiques, kids shops and decor places looks like this: 

After spending some money we walked down to Slussen and over to the palace to start our little getaway from the lively city and ... from walking A LOT.


The abolute obvious thing to do when it is a sunny and warm weekend and you are in a coastal city with hundreds of little islands is to take a boat tour. In our case it was the litte ferry to the island Vaxholm about an hour from downtown Stockholm

Slowly we left the pier enjoying a beautiful view on the city: 

And then a couple of minutes later Stockholm was left behind and we were cruising from tiny island to tiny island, the sun shining on our faces, a light wind in the hair and the seagulls diving left and right from the boat. Beautiful and so, so, so relaxing. The citizens of Stockholm are very lucky humans for being able to enjoy this any time. 

The island of Vaxholm itself reminded me - very obviously - of Astrid Lindgren's children's book "Seacrow Island"  ("Ferien auf Saltkrokan").  The little town is very cute and has the typical atmosphere of those small places that smell in the summer like wind and sunscreen. 

And with the wonderful trip to Vaxholm my short vacation in Sweden was already almost over. In the evening we had our farewell cocktails at Benny Anderson's (ABBA) hotel "Rival" - very nice drinks btw - before we walked back to our hotel through the never really dark night. 

This was my first time in
Sweden and Stockholm, but I am very sure it was not my last time. There is too much left I did not explore yet and the mixture of a lively modern city, an amazing historic old town, relaxed and friendly people and finally a breathtakingly beautiful nature is really addictive. And not to forget - the cinnamon rolls

But there is also something one level deeper - the sweetness of
childhood memories. When my sister and I were kids we spent our family vacation at the North Sea and before we went to school we did not go in July or August but at the end of May.
It is hard to find words for what it was exactly but Stockholm brought back some of those memories. I think it was the spring sun, the smell of the sea, the wind that could not be more different from any wind down in the South, the mixture of birds singing and the seagulls screaming and the noise shoes make on planked boardwalks. It's been nice to have a little memory trip back to these truly blithe days

Hej då, Stockholm!

The longest day of the year? - Stockholm - Day3

If you think about it, it's quite crazy to built a full blown capitol city on a couple of rocky islands - crazy, but also lovely ... especially for visitors who like to enjoy a city vacation and some relaxing at the waterfront at the same time. People like me :)

On Friday we had quite a list of things we wanted to do. After the nice hotel breakfast we started the day on the Monteliusvägen - a scenic walk along the cliffs of Södermalm, where you can enjoy a fantastic view over the city. 

Walking Stockholm I felt btw like the only person on planet earth who never read Stieg Larson's Millenium Triology or watched the movies (neither the old nor the new with Daniel Craig). Södermalm - our  neighborhood is like I learned now also the location of important scenes in the books and movies  ... especially the narrow streets behind the Monteliusvägen. Maybe you recognize them?

Stockholm has over 80 museums and of course a littel more than three days is by far not enough to visit even the most important ones, but for this day we at least picked two of them: 


After the morning walk we first went to Fotografiska - the museum and center for photograhpy and art.

We visited four of the current exhibitions. Relatively quickly we browsed through André Kertész "My Paris" with pictures from the 1920ies (not my piece of cake) and went fascinated through an exhibition of pictures documenting the life of writer August Strindberg. He had such a strong expression in his face and eyes in all the pictures that it is almost scary.
Although taking pictures is allowed at the Fotografiska the glass framing and daylight in the Strindberg section did not allow to take good pictures of the exhibition. 

More time we spent at the exhibition "Stories from Another World" of Swedish artist Helena Blomqist. For some of her works she built dolls and models and put them into a real, natural enviroment to create an atmosphere between reality and a mystic world. The kids and animals often look like ghosts or phantasy creatures in "Alice in Wonderland" style. 

Helena Blomqist in general does not seem to have an optimistic and positive view on the world - the whole exhibition is pretty dark and scary.
The ones of you who read Ginny's blog "That's Church" might remember the discussion we had there about the scariest movies in general and the ones which scared us in our childhood? This exhibition reminded me of that because I got again chills when I was kind of confronted with the scariest movie scene EVER. And no .... I am not talking any fancy horror movie, I am talking "The Wizard of Oz". This whole "sucked in and carried way by a tornado" idea scares me to death - still (if you cannot see the twister, just click on the image to enlarge). 

After surviving Blomqist's art we went to the next room to my personal hightlight of the day - the Steve Shapiro exhibition. I know ... I am boring .... American art of the 60ies and 70ies again.

Let's grap the basic info from the website of Fotografiska:

" Steve Schapiro (b. 1934 in Brooklyn) began taking photographs at the age of ten. Trained by the renowned photojournalist W Eugene Smith, Schapiro received commissions for magazines such as LifeTimeRolling StonePeopleand Newsweek. Schapiro has worked on over 200 feature films, including TheGodfather, Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy, and has exhibited widely internationally and now lives in Chicago. "

And here we go .... 

Andy with one of the gorgeous silver clouds I gently tossed around already a couple of times at The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

David Bowie

And the famous movie stills from ....

Taxi Driver

The Godfather


Fotografiska is a great place. The shop has a good collection of art and books about photography and on top - literally - it has the best cafeteria I have ever visited in a museum. I had a feeling that several people up there under the roof of the building had paid the admission only to go to the restaurant. That would be understandable because the food is great, the interior design is beautiful and the view is breathtaking. 

Vasa Museum

After a sweet break at the cafeteria of Fotografiska we took a boat over the Vasa Museum - one of Stockholm's most famous places.

The Vasa is a battleship that was built by order of King Gustav II Adolf - to fight for Sweden and as a status symbold of the Swedish monarchy. It turned out to be one of the biggest disasters in the Swedish history. Overloaded and carelessly set up the beautiful ship made it on its maiden journey in 1628 not more than 1300 meters  (!) into the bay before it flipped over and sank. 
The special conditions of the Baltic Sea preserved the ship over the centuries until it was retrieved from the ground in 1961 in a long and complicated procedure.

Because there was no building that would have fit the Vasa and allowed to restore, preserve and exhibit the ship the Vasa Museum was built practically around the ship.

The museum is huge, because the Vasa is HUGE. You just walk in and try to adjust your eyes to the relative darkness and to process the impression this really big ship makes. The conditions in the room are good for the boat but tough for the visitor. The air is feels dry, it's relatively dark and there is a light stream of air that constantly blows over the ship. All this plus the fact that it is crowded makes it a bit exhausting but I liked it anyway. It feels like this ship fell through a wormhole from another  timezone into ours and is now a bit lost in our civilization. Ships are like living creatures anyway and this one seems to be still confused that is unable to sail and be the pride of the king. 

The Vasa is hard to photograph. The low light is one problem and the other is that there is no angle that allows to picture the whole ship - at least not with my equipment. Gabi's architecture lens would have been of great use here since it makes incredible shots from short distances. 

Here is what I could do (the highlights)

Additionally to the ship itself the Vasa Museum offers a lot of information about how the ship was built, why it sank, how it looked liked when it was painted (very colorful) and more.

After the sticky air floating around the ship we were happy to be back to sun & fresh air and walked quite a bit of our way back. And it cannot be said often enough - Stockholm is a beautiful city ...

To  be honest I was ready for my bed after this marathon, but ... no way  to end the day early. We instead regained some energy with eating a fantastic pizza from a woodfired oven (the best pizza I had for a long, long time) just around the corner from the hotel.

We even managed to go out for drinks later that night and walked to SoFo to enter the Pet Sounds Bar.  I wish I could take that place with me home since it is exactly what I miss here in Munich - a relaxed bar with awesome music. The definition of awesome for that night - Indie & Brit Pop from new tunes to classics like Blur "Boys & Girls" or Pulp "Common People" (for my hometown readers - classic Saturday at Rolling Stone music). 

That was a long, long day for us and in general because it almost never gets dark at the moment in Sweden which is totally fascinating. You can see a rest of light on the sky at midnight and at 4.30 am it's already day. It is btw NOT the longest day of the year yet for real - that would be at mid of June - but it might haven been mine, because I was totally exhausted when I finally went to bed and my feet still hurt the next morning. I was really happy that our plan was to take things much easier the next and final day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's hockey o'clock - Stockholm - Day 2

It is very safe to say that I HATE hockey offseason and I even more hate it when the offseason is so so so long because the Pens dropped out off the playoffs early. I miss my team, I miss watching my boys play and chat along with my hockey tweeps. But I also miss the sport in general - the atmosphere, the noise a hockey game makes, the action. So when we organized our trip to Stockholm right when the World Championships were happening in town it was clear ... we had to go. Well, I had to go and the girls had to come with me (but they loved it). We bought quarterfinal evening game tickets and it turned out that this was the match Sweden : Czech Republic. Homeice for the Swedish guys and I guess audience wise the best game. I of course would have loved to see Geno play. He rocks here like hell (no surprise) and dominates the whole thing. GO GENO!

When we arrived at our seats in the Stockholm Globen I almost had a heart attack. It was obviously hockey o'clock. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!

I have to say that the first two periods were a bit lame. I was surprised how slow the game was in comparison to a Pens game (you can tell, I am spoiled) and the Czech Republic dominated it quite impressingly although Sweden scored first but then struggled significantly on the blue line. The third period was great after Sweden could tie the game with two goals late in the 2nd and very early in the 3rd.

Finally ... a real hockey game broke out :)
Sadly for my host country Sweden it was the Czech Republic that scored the winning goal (4:3) with only 29 seconds left in regulation.

I also once again was blown away what the super zoom of my camera can do. Because this is the view from our seats (Sweden just scored):

And these are some sweet actions shots I made from my seat. Click on the images to enlarge to see how great they really are.

And that is the best player of the game - Z's brother Milan Michalek

It was big fun and now I am again on cold hockey turkey. No idea how to survive this until October. Maybe by staying focused, saving money and then really trying hard to make it to Pittsburgh around the homeopener. I think, I really need to do this. What do you think?

PS: Remember when Pittsburgh had an arena like that? Yeah, me too!  But I have to admit when we were climbing one million stairs up to our seats I was missing the luxury inside of the CEC

Gamla Stan - Stockholm - Day 2

It's late at night and it's been a long, long day of sightseeing and hockey (seperate posting) and I won't write too much, but upload a couple of pictures for you. 

After a great breakfast at our hotel we started the day with exploring Gamla Stan - the old town of Stockholm. The Pittsburgh people should have a close look at the entrance of the underground train station, because the subway it is called T (for tunnelbana) here too!

Gamla Stan is very pretty and has beautiful narrow streets with lovely old houses. Also part of the area is the Royal Palace which did not impress me too much - neither from the out- nor from the inside (no pictures allowed). The most impressing part is the "old castle" in the catacombes below the actual building. I am not surprised that the royal family decided to move to some nicer and cosier place - Drottningholm Palace outside the city center.

Next to the castle you find my favorite place at
Gamla Stan the beautiful cathedral Storkyrkan

I love Nordic churches. They are very often warm and full of light and especially when they are as old as Storkyrkan (first mentioned in 1279) very mystic. 

The church is beautiful from the inside and a concert with music from mediaveal times
 (especially for children) that was performed when we were there made it even more special. 

Of course even the most interested city tourists needs a break and what a pleasure it is in the homecountry of the cinnamon roll - SO GOOD!

And more sightseeing ....



And more to come ... tomorrow ...