Friday, May 29, 2015

A Swedish Weekend

While we are living in Germany, we are taking full advantage of the opportunity to travel to nearby countries and cities and have set a goal of trying to make one trip per month. We are also trying to visit as many capital cities as possible. Stockholm, Sweden was the trip for May.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon to cloudy, cool weather with a threat of rain, but that didn't keep us from exploring the old section of Stockholm, called Gamla Stan.

Terrific view of Gamla Stan from our hotel room!
I think it was surprising to us how much older Stockholm appears than Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki. Yes, those cities have old buildings as well - and old is relative, the 18th and 19th century buildings are modern compared to other places in Europe - but overall, the narrow streets and uniformly old buildings gave Gamla Stan an "old world" feel. We were also surprised by the colors of the buildings. The orange and yellow colored plaster reminded me more of Italy and Spain.

Saturday morning the sun dawned bright and early (4 am!) and it looked like it would be a sunny day. The forecast didn't call for rain so we set off unhindered by umbrellas and raincoats. We passed back through Gamla Stan on our way and enjoyed a moment in Stortorget, a popular and often photographed square.

Look at that blue sky!

Our destination that day was the outdoor Skansen open air museum and zoo. It's a bit of a walk since it's on a different island and by the time we got there the skies got dark and the rain fell. Did I mention we didn't bring our umbrellas or raincoats - oops! It was a light rain so we took shelter under a tree until it passed. Afterward we made our way to the entrance for Skansen, and oh my the lines were long! We expected Skansen to be crowded on a Saturday afternoon but it was crazy-crowded. We did not realize that it was also the 70th anniversary of Pippi Longstocking and being that she is the creation of a Swedish author, well, you can imagine the hundreds and maybe thousands of children and their parents (and many, many, many baby carriages) visiting the park for a special Pippi Långstrump day. We decided to wait a bit and grab some lunch but as we were hunting for place to eat, a second rain storm passed through. So much for the weather forecast! This time we took shelter in the ABBA Museum gift shop. It was appropriate since the Eurovision Song contest final was that evening (more about that later) and ABBA won in 1974 with Waterloo and with that win their career was launched.


Fortunately the skies cleared and we made it to Skansen, and not the actual museum part of the ABBA Museum, though I'm sure we would have toured it if the rain hadn't stopped.

Outdoor museums are popular in Scandinavia - I've been to two others in Norway and a small one in Iceland. They are a great way to see how people lived in years past and also enjoy the outdoors. Skansen is also a zoo with bears, wolverines, reindeer, wolves, lynx, and domestic animals (sheep, cows, goats, etc) and a few African animals too (lemurs , I think - we didn't see them). There are farmsteads throughout the park with buildings from different eras. Some are open for viewing and furnished with period pieces and a guide who can answer your questions.

Cabin with a grass roof.

There is also a town with demonstrations of baking, silverwork, carpentry, glass blowing, etc.

It was early in the season, so not everything was open, but we still were able to view some things and enjoyed learning about how people lived and worked in Sweden long ago. I was sad though to only be able to peer into the window of a shop that had textiles and a pair of wool combs.

Picture through the window
On our way out of the park we stopped at their gift shop. It's a really nice shop, not touristy-tacky (plenty of those stores in Gamla Stan). They sell items that are either manufactured on site, like a chair from the woodworking shop, or items that are representative of Swedish handicrafts, cooking, and gardening. My wonderful husband spied something he thought might be for weaving, and he was right! A souvenir that I can also use. :-)


It's a Scandinavian tape loom, used for weaving ribbons or bands. After some searching on the internet, I found out that this one is carved by eighty-year-old Åke Erlandsson. How cool is that? The shop also had linen yarn, which I couldn't resist. I bought the colors of the Swedish flag, with the intent of making a table runner or something. Perhaps a band using my new tape loom?

Travel yarn
I bought the yarn on the left in a shop in Gamla Stan called Anntorps Väv. There were three yarn shops in Gamla Stan - pretty amazing considering the small size of the island.

The first one I stopped in, Maker 11, is a really small shop that sells other crafty things besides yarn. The woman who runs it says she doesn't sell Swedish yarn, preferring instead to stock yarn from other far away Denmark (ha ha). But she was a really lovely person and told me about the other two yarn shops nearby that sell Swedish yarn. I was, however, tempted by the Danish yarn (the colors!!) in her store, though I think I might have some in my stash from our trip to Copenhagen.

The Anntorps Väv shop was interesting. It's a small store, as they all are, but with a nice selection of Swedish yarn as well as other brands. There were cones of fantastic looking, stranded yarns on the top shelf but they weren't marked and since there seemed to be other display items around, I wasn't sure if these yarns were for sale. It appeared that the woman there, the owner perhaps, didn't speak much English and I was too shy to ask (stupid me, since I found out afterward, reading on the internet, that she will sell any amount of these yarns you want). But I do love the yarns I picked out - the picture doesn't show the colors well enough and you can't smell the "sheep-iness" of the wool. :-)  Oh, and while I was there, a man was picking out yarn. I'm guessing from overhearing him speak to the owner that he was American. I'm also guessing that he was there on business or something and buying the yarn for his fiber-loving wife. My husband would do the same for me!

The third yarn store, Sticka, is a lovely store I popped into only for a quick look around. I immediately spied a table full of a scrumptiously soft yarn called Tweed, from Sandnesgarn, a Norwegian company. I didn't buy any because I already had my travel yarn and it wasn't Swedish, but of course now I want it. Thanks to the internet I've already found a German on-line shop I can order it from should I decide to buy some.

So back to the travel-log...Saturday night, after dinner at an Italian restaurant that also had Swedish specialties (there are quite a few Italian restaurants there for some reason), we headed back to the hotel in time to watch Eurovision. I am not surprised if you are non-European and have not heard of Eurovision, because I had not heard of it until I saw a documentary about Estonia winning the contest and what a huge win it was for them. Briefly, I'll say that the contest was started in the 50's as a way to bring European countries together after WWII. It'd take too long to describe it all, so it's best to direct you to the Wikipedia article on it. The winner this year is...Sweden!!! It's a good song too.

Sunday was another beautiful, sunny day, so we spent most of it walking around, seeing the sights.

Statue of Birger Jarl, considered the founder of Stockholm
Beautiful day for a walk or sailing
Our eventual destination was the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a ship that sank in the Stockholm harbor on her maiden voyage in 1628. The ship was raised 333 years later in 1961, and the majority of it is on display in the museum.

The actual ship in the background with a colored model in front.
The guidebooks say to allow an hour for the museum, but that's crazy because there are a lot of interesting exhibits to see - we were there for about three hours. The woodwork on the ship is incredible, and there's an interesting visual exhibit that ties what you see on the ship to statues and carvings on other ships and also buildings. Worth a visit, I think.
In the blink of an eye, the weekend was over. We made one last stop in the Old Town Monday morning before our flight home to purchase a poster we spied earlier when the shop was closed.
Did not know "Björn" means "Bear" in Swedish!

I really like the design asthetic in Sweden. It was hard not to purchase lots of stuff just because I liked the graphics. The clothes in the store windows were also interesting.

Fun use of stripes
I liked the front detail of this sweater (hard to photograph with the window reflections)
I'd love to find this fabric!

So that was our trip to Sweden. Our June trip is to Riga, Latvia.


  1. I've always wanted to visit Scandinavia, so lovely to visit vicariously - Heather

  2. It's nice to read about your travels but it makes me want to go travelling again! Looking forward to the next instalment.

  3. Thank you for the lovely tour, Lori. That music clip! Lol, maybe it doesn't seem as cheesy if you don't know what he is saying and don't see the graphics.

  4. Delightful descriptions...makes me want to go to Sweden too! Thank you!!