Den veckan jag blev en Stockholmare

23.25 Söndag, 5 Maj, 2013

This week, my parents came all the way from Texas to visit me!  We had a great time, and we visited many different places in and around Stockholm.  Throughout the semester, I have written so many posts about all the places I’ve been, but hardly anything about the beautiful city I live in!  So, this post will be a tour of Stockholm, just like the one I gave my parents!

Stockholm Map

Map of Stockholm – I live just off the northern edge of the map

Stockholm is situated on the eastern coast of Sweden, about a third of the way up from the southern tip of the country.  The city is built on fourteen islands at the point where Lake Mälar empties into the Baltic Sea, which means that the city is surrounded by water.  Historically, the main island of Stockholm is Gamla Stan (‘The Old Town’), where the original town was built as a trading hub to transport goods in and out of Sweden.  Since the surface of Mälaren is about two meters higher than the surface of the Baltic Sea, and this drop occurs at Gamla Stan, the island was the perfect location to collect taxes on imports and exports, because the goods had to be offloaded and reloaded onto different ships.  Gamla Stan used to be nicknamed ‘Staden Mellan Broarna,’ which means ‘the city between bridges,’ due to the fact that there are over ten bridges that connect Gamla Stan and the little islands around it to the mainland and to Södermalm.  Nowadays, Gamla Stan is the main tourist area of Stockholm, consisting of old Scandinavian-style buildings, beautiful churches, narrow and winding alleys, the Royal Palace, and the Parliament and courthouses (on their own neighboring islands).

View of Gamla Stan from Södermalm

View of Gamla Stan from Södermalm

Kungliga Slottet

The Royal Palace in Gamla Stan

In the southern part of the city is a large island called Södermalm, which literally means ‘Southern Island.’  The buildings on Södermalm are located on the top of a high cliff, which (after a hike up several flights of stairs) gives great views of the city (see above).  Södermalm was originally the poor area of Stockholm, where the working-class people lived.  Now, however, Södermalm is quite a popular area of town.  You can, though, still see signs of Södermalm’s history on some streets where the original buildings have been preserved, and even in the name of the main square, Medborgarplatsen (‘The People’s Square’).  Even farther south, past Södermalm, is the Ericsson Globe, which is a concert and ice-hockey venue and the largest spherical building in the world!

Heading back north, the district of Norrmalm (‘Northern Island’), which lies just north of Gamla Stan, is the real center of the city today.  This is where the central station, the main square (Sergels Torg), and many office buildings and department stores are located.  There is also a large park called Kungsträdgården (‘The King’s Park’), which is a very popular place because there is always something going on there, from ice skating in the winter to free concerts in the summer.  While I was there with my parents, there was a promotional fair for tourism in France, and the whole park was decorated with French flags to go along with the cherry blossoms that were just starting to bloom!

KTH, the university I attend, is located in the northern part of the city, north of Norrmalm and near a district called Vasastaden.  My apartment, Lappis, is near the campus of Stockholm University, about two kilometers north of KTH.  It is a little out of the center of town, and doesn’t really have a ‘city feel,’ but it is still very convenient, because it is only a short subway ride into town.  My post about KTH and Lappis is here.

Just west of Norrmalm, and separated by a canal, is Kungsholmen (‘The King’s Island’).  The main attraction on this island is the city hall, Stadshuset.  You can read more about the Stadshus in one of my previous posts here.

Stadshuset

The City Hall

On the other side of Norrmalm, to the east, is the Östermalm (‘Eastern Island’) district.  This part of town is the upper class neighborhood, where rich people can buy large, insanely expensive apartments overlooking the water on Strandvägen, and where there are food markets and fancy restaurants, clubs, and bars.

View from Skansen

View of Östermalm from Skansen

Southeast of Östermalm is an island called Djurgården (‘Animal Park’), which was originally the king’s private game reserve.  Now, however, Djurgården is home to several museums, such as Vasamuseet, Nordiska Museet, and Skansen, as well as the amusement park Gröna Lund.  At the Vasa Museum, you can see the Swedish warship Vasa, which set sail from Stockholm on 10 August, 1628, and promptly sank twenty minutes later, before it even made it out of the harbor.  Skansen is probably the most important museum in Sweden – it is an open-air museum (one of the first in the world, opened in 1891) that exhibits houses, farms, buildings, and animals from all over Sweden and from different times in history.  The layout of the museum even reflects the actual layout of Sweden, with the northern regions represented in the northern part of the museum, the southern regions in the southern part, and so on.  The buildings are occupied by people wearing traditional clothes and who talk about life in that particular region and time period.  I have now been to Skansen twice (once with my parents and once as a tour with my Swedish society class), so I learned quite a bit about Skansen and the buildings there.  The reason Skansen is so important for Sweden is because it has helped to promote a ‘Swedish identity’ throughout the last century, and has been somewhat of a unifying symbol for the country, especially during times such as World War II.  Skansen has celebrations for practically every Swedish-related occasion, including Christmas, Easter, Lucia, Valborg, Midsummer, the Swedish national day, and even the Norwegian independence [from Sweden] day!  There are also concerts at Skansen during the summer.

Vasamuseet

The Vasa, after 333 years at the bottom of Stockholm harbor

Skansen

A traditional windmill from the Swedish island of Öland at Skansen

The other main feature on Djurgården is the park.  Djurgården forms the southern end of Kungliga Nationalstadsparken (‘The Royal National City Park’), which is a nature area that extends over 26 square kilometers through the city, even encompassing the forest surrounding my apartment in northern Stockholm.  The park is mostly forest and some lakes and islands, and there are many very nice trails.  There are even a few trails that start right outside my window!

Trails through the woods in Djurgården near Lappis

A trail near my apartment

A few kilometers west of Stockholm, on an island in Lake Mälar called Lovön, is Drottningholm Palace, where King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia live.  Drottningholm was modeled after Versailles in Paris, as a royal palace outside of the city center with large gardens, its own theater, and even a ‘Chinese’ pavilion where the royalty could go to relax.  The gardens are now open to the public, and you can even go inside one half of the palace (the king and queen don’t occupy the whole building!).

Drottningholms Slott

Drottningholm Palace

To the east of Stockholm is one of the largest archipelagos in the world (by number of islands), called Stockholms Skärgård.  The archipelago consists of approximately 30.000 islands, which include everything from large forested islands to sandy resort islands to rocks sticking out of the water.  While my parents were visiting, we took a ferry to the town of Vaxholm, the main town in the archipelago.  In Vaxholm, we walked around the small town and had lunch and fika at a little outdoor restaurant overlooking the harbor.  Then, we hiked around the island and a few neighboring islands, and visited part of the fortress that protected Stockholm from enemies coming in from the Baltic Sea.

The Stockholm archipelago is a very popular summer destination, and many Swedes own summer houses on the the remote little islands, where they usually spend June, July, and August.  Since Swedes are known for their love of nature, it makes sense that a place where you can practically own your own island would be so popular!

Stockholm Archipelago

Map showing Stockholm’s location between Lake Mälar and the Stockholm Archipelago

Vaxholm

Stockholms Skärgård

As you might be able to tell, I really like living in Stockholm!  It is a beautiful city, and it’s what I would consider lagom, a Swedish word that means, roughly, ‘just right (in size, location, etc.).’  It’s so easy to get around in Stockholm (both with public transportation and by foot), and you are never too far away from a great view, a busy square, or even a hiking trail!  Unfortunately, I have to leave in two weeks, but I will definitely be back eventually!

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4 Responses to Den veckan jag blev en Stockholmare

  1. Guy Braden says:

    Another great post Aaron…and you were a great host and tour guide! I hope to get back to Stockholm again one day as well!

  2. Aunt Mazie says:

    So glad your mom and dad got the grand tour. Plan on having them visit you often, should you opt to study abroad again. There is truth to the old song “How ya gonna keep um down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”. Your beautifully documented year abroad may make travelling fools out of your entire family and anyone else who happens upon your blog.
    Wasn’t the Vasa amazing?…so grand and beautifully carved for a warship. A top heavy ship, a fearful ruler and an over zealous engineer makes great material for a true Scandanavian Saga. The ‘Vasa’ was my favorite museum in Scandinavia. Tell everyone to go early in the morning…avoid crowds.
    So my dear nephew, welcome back to the farm. Does it ever strike you as odd that Europeans come to America and embrace our colorful history just as much as we do theirs? Vive le diferance!(and I know you can correct the spelling on that phrase). Aaron, by the way, how is your French coming along? Were any of the other students who spoke French? Did all the languages start to get muddled? i.e. Sometimes I mix French words with Spanish phrases and Spanish words with English. I remember your cousin Jerry carrying a Japanese dictionary and word exchange on some kind of small computer. This was in the middle age of technology…1994-96? He got the device in Japan, but it was light years away in user friendliness like the ipad. Well, welcome home. Come visit us in California(which is a foreign country to many). Cheers, Auntie

    • Aaron Braden says:

      Whoa whoa whoa! Don’t make me think about coming home just yet! I still have four more weeks and at least five more cities to visit! :p
      Anyway, yea, the Vasa was really neat! It’s funny, though, that one of the most famous museums in Sweden is about one of the most embarrassing failures of Sweden…I guess 300 years is enough time for all the people responsible for it are long gone. Oh wait, ‘no one’ was responsible for it, it ‘just happened’! Haha
      As for my French, it’s ok…there are plenty of French people here, although it’s hard to practice when everyone speaks English so well! And the same for Swedish, although Swedish I think is easier than French, so I think my Swedish has improved a lot faster than my French. Also, now that we’re in 2013, I can just use google translate on my iphone to look up words – no need for special translating machines! As for the languages getting muddled, that sometimes does happen on the tv, when they try to give you information in two (or even three) languages at the same time, and it becomes impossible to hear only one!
      I’ll probably get to California some time, but right now, my savings account is steadily disappearing, so that’ll have to wait until I have a job! Haha

  3. Aunt Mazie says:

    Job? Is that Swedish for good luck?
    Enjoy the rest of your journey, sweet dear. You deserve it. I do hope you have paved a nice path for your sisters to follow. xxxxAuntie
    .

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