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17 May 2012

A day on Djurgården

Who switched on the light?

Today started at the crack of dawn, i.e. 4 in the morning.  Although I knew through Em's pictures that 600 km north of here, the summer days seem endless, I didn't expect that the day started this early in Stockholm as well.  At 4.00 AM there was a much light as midday.  A bit disconcerting when you're not used to it.  And although your mind tells you that this is really an ungodly hour to be awake, your body seems to kickstart when flooded with light.  The fact that I am used to sleeping in pitchblack and that the venetian blinds of the flat are not that obscuring, probably didn't help.  I was up and running way earlier than expected and without any "morning moods" neither, so there's no complaining really.

I wanted to write a bit about the oddities of staying in a strange country yesterday, but it slipped my mind. Time to set that right.  Every country has its own habits and oddities.  I am sure that whoever visits Belgium the first time will raise his or her eyebrows at things that I take for granted or consider completely ordinary. So it comes as no surprise, that there are things in Sweden that I find odd.  This is most definitely not a judgement value but what I have noticed so far is that :
  • all doors seem to be opening up the "wrong" way i.e. they swing open to the exterior, like the front door of the flat or the building in general.  Thinking about it, it is a more logical  if you consider a possible evacuation.  When in a hurry to get out, it will always be easier to push on the door in front of you than to pull it.
  • I keep getting the doorhandles wrong in the flat.  Pressing down the handle locks the door instead of opening it. It is a bit confusing.
  • the doorbell is a button under the door handle and is basically the same as a bicycle bell. It took a while to locate it yesterday.
  • for what I thought was a very eco-society (think green), some companies don't seem to be so aware of wasting energy.  There are several office buildings in the street and when we saw the last employees leave around 8.00 PM last night, nobody bothered to switch of the lights or the TVs.  As a result, today being a public holiday, nobody is at work, but their office is still lit up like a Christmas tree. Now don't go thinking that we are looking at office buildings all over, but living on the 8th floor and having a office building on the opposite side of the street, does give you a good view on things. :o)

So, what did we get up to today?  First of all we had to get to the Visitor Center in order to pick up the Stockholm cards I ordered online (grabbing a 10% discount on those cards on the way).  Even if the cards are pricey (think 1770 SEK/195 EUR for a 5 day card), they are well worth the money.  If we visit everything I put on the programme, we will end up saving about 230 EUR on entry fees to museums.  If you ever do a city trip to Stockholm, check it out ... you might be surprised to see the savings you could make.

Back to our trip to T-centralen and another thing I noticed about Swedes : they are really one of the nicest people around.  Most of them are fluent in English and when they aren't (like our taxi driver yesterday who conversed in a German/English mix), they really go out of their way to get themselves understood. They are always helpful, always smiling (especially if you try to show off your few words of Swedish) and if they could teach their notion of hospitality to many other nations around the globe, the world would be travel heaven. Like the employee at the underground.  When we asked for two single tickets (because we were just going to pick up the cards and once we had them, public transport would be free for all 5 days), he immediately told us that proportionally single tickets were quite expensive and that a daycard might be more economical solution if we were going around in public transport.  That's the kind of thing I mean : I dare you to try this in Brussels and see if someone would give you this kind of sensible advice.  Not a chance ...

So, we picked up the cards and made our way to Djurgården with tram 7 (helping a French tourist on the way who heard us talking and was at a loss finding the same stop we were heading for).  Another thing that struck us about this capital is it cleanliness : no litter on the streets, clean building faces, no grafitti or tags, ... Very impressive.

The tram was crammed with families with little kids in strollers and they all got off at the Vasamuseet stop just as we did.  We were wondering were they were heading until we saw the sign for the Junibacken and saw that the entry to the themepark of the fabulous stories of Astrid Lindgren seemed to be their gathering point :o)  Leaving the happy families behind, we set off to look for the entrance to the Vasa museum.  And we ended up doing the same thing as we did with the Guggenheim in Bilbao last December i.e. doing a whole tour of the building before noticing that we missed the entrance by a couple of meters at the very beginning of our tour. :o)  Or how to tire your feet needlessly ...

Nevertheless we made it to the Vasa Museum and were very impressed with this salvaged ship, restaurated to 95% of its original state despite having been immersed in the Stockholm waters for 333 years.  Although taking pictures with flash was allowed, it gave the pictures a nasty colour, so I decided to try and shoot pictures without using it.  As a result the pictures aren't as sharp as I would like them to be, but well ... these are just the rough cuts without any editing (except for the cropping to mosaic size).

After some soup, we spent the afternoon at the Skansen open air museum.  By this time the sun was shining brightly and with all the flowers around, it really felt like summer.  Skansen is a really fun place, and today being the Norwegian national day, there were Norwegian flags all over the place and many visitors wore blue and red ribbons pinned to their clothes.  Norwegians galore in Stockholm?  I also never saw so many double strollers, something rather unusual in Belgium, unless you have twins. Over here, it's more families who have two kids who are close to each other agewise : like a baby with a two year old.  So lots of little ones visiting Skansen with their parents and also quite a few baby animals around : the reindeer, the owls, the wild pigs, the geese, ... they all passed their genes on to the next generation. :o)

Skansen was a nice introduction to Swedish life over the centuries and we saw lots of interesting homesteads and farms, like these below.

Tomorrow we'll be spending the day in Gamla Stan, visiting the old city.  To brighten up your wait of another blogpost, a little picture taken in front of the Biologiska Museet this afternoon.  Daffodils always cheer me up :o)

Oh and this commercial is on the air all the time on TV.  I don't know what the lyrics are to this kid's song but I just love the rhythm and the kids' enthusiasm as opposed to the mom's despair. Enjoy :o)


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