Hidden Valley Waterfall

Hidden Valley Waterfall

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stockholm, Sweden

By the time I arrived in Stockholm, I was on my fourth country and was still very energized. Which is a good thing here, as Stockholm is packed with so many things to do! The city is larger than Copenhagen, but not so large that you can't walk a lot of the places. And everywhere you turn, there seems to be parks around every corner. It's an incredibly clean city for Europe, and people truly take advantage of the summer months to be outdoors.  This is a park right near my hostel. People sunbath any and everywhere here as well. I didn't think it was THAT warm. But, I am used to China's heat.

Stockholm is also filled with some amazing museums.  Ranging from the outdoors (Skansen: First open-air museum) to the most jaw-dropping ones indoors. The Vasa Museum was definitely a highlight. This ship never made it out for the maiden voyage. It was improperly designed and sank just out of port. It has been resurfaced and restored to nearly its original splendor and it is so beautiful and majestic, you are just in awe. 
 This was a woman at Skansen who taught people about making yarn, which included using berries, etc. to dye it. 

The front of the ship....

.....going along the side....

...the back of the ship - such detail! 

Another highlight was the City Hall and Tower. This is the city hall where the Nobel Peace Prize banquet is held each year, after they go to Norway to receive the honors. Odd it isn't in Norway. Anyway, the one room is completely done in mosaics with a LOT of gold. It was spectacular to see. The views from outside and up in the tower were just as nice. 

The mosaic room.

Me, outside by the gardens.

The view of City Hall and the Tower from across the water. 

A view of old town from City Tower. 

Now, the next stop may seem weird to some that I would want to visit, but you can think what you like. It was the Woodland Cemetery. Not only is this a UNESCO world heritage site, but it is the burial grounds for Greta Garbo. We had to explain who she was to the youngest member of our group. He had no idea who she was, nor Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and Ingrid Bergman. But, he was proud that he knew of Marilyn Monroe! Kids now adays. ;)  Anyway, I like to visit cemeteries for several reasons. They are usually beautiful. They are always peaceful. And, unlike so many other tourist spots, they are usually not crammed with people there "just because".  I love to walk around and imagine the lives of the individuals buried there. Maybe they were great writers who never had the time to write their own novel. Or, maybe they were painters who let their talents go to the side to raise a family. Well, The Woodland Cemetery is within a huge forest, and it was remarkable. We even saw some fawns running about. 

The entrance to the Woodland Cemetery

On a day when I wasn't traveling with friends, I took an 11 hour Archipelago Cruise. We visited three different small islands and had lunch and dinner served on the boat. What an amazing and relaxing day!! I met a heartwarming German couple on the boat and enjoyed hours of conversation with them. I forget their first names, but I know the last name was Brunn. He reminded me so much of my own grandpa. He even smelled like him. Of course, that made me miss my grandpa more and more, but it was so comforting to be around them. 

While there, I did visit both the Royal Palace (where they mostly just work now) and the Drottningholm Palace (where the king and queen reside). Both of them were extravagant and lovely, but in different ways. The Royal Palace was brighter in colors and decor. The Drottningholm Palace, which was originally the summer house, was much darker in colors and decor. I found this somewhat backwards, but who am I to judge? They were both great. The Royal Palace has an elaborate changing of the guards each day that lasts roughly one hour! They march out soldiers, and a band, to perform for massive crowd that is gathered. It was interesting, but after about 30 minutes, I had had enough. Sometimes, there is such thing as overdoing it. 

The changing of the guards at the Royal Palace.

Drottningholm Palace

Now, in every country I go to, there is always something that is "very American" in terms of food, decor, etc. Here is the unusual sighting of Stockholm.....

I literally laughed out loud on this one and forced my friends to stop while I got a picture. Seriously?  

One of the few things that actually disappointed me in Stockholm (there were not many, as I loved this city!!) was the Butterfly House. I was anticipating lots of different butterflies, with exotic and colorful flowers, etc. Oh, this place was a far cry from that. However, I did get some great photos of some of the butterflies. I can see how this is exciting for little kids, but us big kids were not impressed. I have been so spoiled by animal exhibits (zoos, aquarium, etc) back home in Pittsburgh, that nothing else ever stands up to my expectations. 

Overall though, like I said, I loved this city. There was so much more I did, but to tell you about the entire week would take forever. These are some highlights. I would have no problem living in Stockholm. The people are incredibly friendly, there is so much to do, and you really just feel happy there. The only downside is the cost of living there. It is not cheap. It's definitely worth a visit though!!

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