After we left Germany, we spent a day at sea, and the next day we were in Sweden. To get to the Stockholm harbor, our cruise ship passed through the Stockholm archipelago. The Stockholm archipelago is a cluster of some 30,000 islands and rocks spreading 80 km east from the city into the Baltic Sea. Some are large inhabited islands and others are little more than rocky outposts or grassy knolls. This reminded me a lot of the Maine coast. It took our ship almost three hours to travel through the archipelago.
Jeff and I took the tour of the city of Stockholm in Sweden. Sweden’s capital city of Stockholm spreads out over 14 islands in Lake Mälaren. So there are a lot of bridges connecting islands that have sections of the city on them.
Stockholm City Hall is the first place that we stopped on our tour. It is an example of the romantic style in architecture. Mostly, to me, it just looked like a very large brick building. I was not impressed by its style but it was very, very large. The City Hall was designed by the architect Ragnar Östberg, and opened in 1923. He was difficult to work with, and keep changing plans as it was being built, so it took a long time to finish. It has eight million bricks, and the tower has three crowns at the top. This is the Swedish national coat of arms.
Inside the Stockholm City Hall is the Blue Hall (Bla Hallen). This is where the Nobel Prize banquet is held every year. It is called the blue room because the architect originally wanted all the bricks in this room to be painted blue. Then he changed his mind, but the name stuck. Our guide also told us that the architect made this wife walk up and down staircases many, many times, so he could design this staircase just right. He wanted everyone to be able to walk up and down with good posture and appearance. His wife likely got tired of walking up and down stairs, as she divorced him while he was designing this building!
There is a gold plaque on the wall in the blue room of Alfred Nobel.
Just when I was ready to categorize the Stockholm City Hall as just another large brick building, we entered the Gold Room. This is a hall with its 18 million gold mosaic tiles on its walls, and it is very, very impressive! Wow!
This is one of my favorite mosaic pictures from the wall.
Outside the Stockholm City Hall, there is a crypt holding the remains of the architect. This is probably a quieter final resting place than the Bad Doberan Minister church, as almost no one (not even many tourists) wanders around to this part of the building.
Next we went to Old Town (Gamla Stan.) This is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. In the middle of Gamla Stan is Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm. Stortorget is the central point from which runs Köpmangatan, the oldest street in Stockholm, which was mentioned as early as the fourteenth century.
Mårten Trotzigs gränd (Mårten Trotzigs alley) is the narrowest alley in Old Town, only 90 centimeters (35 inches) wide at its narrowest point. Jeff and I both walked up through this alley. It was more narrow at the top Than the Bottom.
Tyska kyrkan (Deutsche Kirche), sometimes called St. Gertrude’s Church (Sankta Gertruds kyrka), is a church in the Old Town in Stockholm .It is named for its neighbourhood that in the Middle Ages was mostly German. The church is dedicated to Saint Gertrude (626-659), the patron saint of travellers. The German guild of St. Gertrude was founded on the location for the present church in the 14th century. The headquarters of the guild was gradually built into a church starting in the 1580s. Jakob Kristler enlarged the chapel in 1638-1642 to the present two-nave church. During the 17th century, while the choir of the school participated at the royal concerts, the church became an important centre for church music in Sweden. It is still an active Lutheran Church, with services every Sunday.
You could still see how this building had once been a guild hall if you looked at the stained glass windows. They showed countryside and middle class family scenes, not religious ones.
The Royal Palace is the largest of the buildings in the Old Town. It is one of the largest palaces in the world with over 600 rooms. In addition to the reception rooms, there are several museums in the Palace, including the Royal Armory. This combination of royal residence, workplace and culture-historical monument makes the Royal Palace of Stockholm unique amongst Europe’s royal residences. The palace is built in baroque style by the architect Nicodemus Tessin and is similar to a Roman palace. There is also a parade of soldiers and the daily changing of the guard. We arrived just in time to catch the changing oe guard
Stockholm Cathedral is also known as Sankt Nikolai kyrka (Church of St. Nicholas), or Storkyrkan (The Great Church), It is the oldest church in the Old Town in Stockholm. It is an example of Swedish Brick Gothic architecture. Situated next to the Royal Palace, Storkyrkan was first mentioned in a written source dated 1279 and according to tradition was originally built by Birger Jarl, the founder of the city
For nearly four hundred years it was the only parish church in the city. It became a Lutheran Protestant church in 1527. Because of its convenient size and its proximity to the royal palace it has frequently been the site of major events in Swedish history, such as coronations, royal wedding and royal funerals.
The most famous of its treasures is the dramatic wooden statue of Saint George and the Dragon attributed to Bernt Notke (1489). The statue, commissioned to commemorate the Battle of Brunkeberg (1471), also serves as a reliquary, containing relics supposedly of Saint George and two other saints.
The church also contains a copy of the oldest known image of Stockholm, the painting Vädersolstavlan (“The Sun Dog Painting”), a 1632 copy of a lost original from 1535. The painting was commissioned by the scholar and reformer Olaus Petri. It depicts a halo display, e.g. sun dogs, which gives the painting its name and in the 16th century was interpreted as an good omen.
After we left the Stockholm Cathedral in Old Town, we went to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century (Viking!) war ship in the world, and a unique art treasure. More than 95 percent of the ship is original, and it is decorated with hundreds of carved sculptures. The 69 meter-long warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628, and was salvaged 333 years later in 1961. For nearly half a century the ship has been painstakingly restored to its original glory. The three masts on the roof outside the specially built Vasa museum show the height of the ship’s original masts.
This ship was amazing!!!! Jeff and I ended up taking 708 photos in Stockholm, and I think it was because we took so many of this ship! And we only had about 20 minutes to take photos and explore the museum once the guide was done telling us about it. It is enormous and impressive! Like the Stockholm Cathedral, it is impossible to get the entire ship into a regular photo. The photo below is good because you can see people in the lower left of the picture to give you a sense of the size of the ship!
The ship sunk because it was too top heavy. (Perhaps the Swedes were better explorers than engineers at that time?) It sunk in the archipelago, not far from the harbor, on its maiden voyage, in about 30 meters of water.Most of the people on board were rescued, as they could climb up the masts (which were 42 and 54 meters high) which stuck up out of the water. The ship stayed there with almost no damage for so many years because the sea water in the Stockholm archipelago is very brackish. So much fresh river water flows into it that sea worms and other decomposers cannot live in it. Below is another photo showing a scale model of the Vasa.
I definitely want to return to Stockholm to spend more time in the Vasa Museum! When we returned to the cruise ship, it was the second formal dinner night. This last photo is of Jeff and Me dressed up nicely for dinner, with the Stockholm archipelago in the background behind us as the ship headed out to Finland.