Maybe the binge watching of ‘Nordic Noir’ dramas has influenced us, as we crossed The Oresund Bridge into Sweden, made famous by The Bridge, we felt the need to lock the doors. All the Nordic countries seem full of murderers, drug dens, kidnappers and criminals, we’ve learned that from the TV, so with much trepidation, we ventured forth. Just kidding obviously, we know that we probably are not the kind of target those folks would go for, we wouldn’t make good TV :-). I don’t suit ‘The Killing’ Nordic jumpers anyway nor drive a retro Porsche, and Nick doesn’t do ‘moody’ that well either.
Anyhow, what a beautiful bridge, well actually the first half was a tunnel; but having crossed without seeing any dead bodies, some stunning views and only a cursory passport check at the toll booth we were quick to ‘get outa Dodge’. Our first stop, north of Malmo, was at a Stallplat farmhouse in the middle of nowhere (to settle our nerves!) Very quiet and charming with super views. A paradise for Jigsaw to stare at blades of grass for hours. A morning wander and we stumbled upon a dilapidated shed full of old sleighs and carriages. Clearly abandoned, it was a sad sight seeing fairy-tale like eeriness. The pictures don’t evoke the charm of the aged splendour, decaying before us. (apparently if you tap on an image in a montage it opens each individually if you want detail!)
Moving on, Vadstena, on the East of Lake Vattern is a reasonably sized historic town known mainly for its C16th moated Castle and the wider area around Vadstena Abbey. It was a fascinating wander around and felt very different to Denmark. We figured that the writers of The Bridge might have done some research at the Sanitorium/Big Madhouse as it was known, given some of the gruesome treatments laid out. Examples being a spinning chair that they tied patients into and spun until sick, curing the mental illness and patients were strapped into a bath full of electric eels… thankfully times have changed! The Town Hall on the main square (had the customary drink there in the sun) is the oldest in Sweden, C15th. The area is also well regarded for its glass making, there were several museums and shops to that effect, many of the modern pieces were incredible in their creative form, a real craft. A quirky homage to ‘The Soldiers House’ in a side street referenced the founding of a hostel for disabled soldiers and their families in C18th who were taught to make lace, another skill that the town became known for.
Having been to several Ghost Towns in the US we were surprised to come across a modern day one in Sweden. The town of Bjornhammaren was once prosperous with the community employed in the factory preparing wire for, and making nails until 2014 bankruptcy and the whole community moved away for work. Now, there’s the abandoned factory with decay throughout and water gushing in from the river, and one of the roads has piles of bulldozed houses on the concrete slabs where homes once stood. Some houses survived and have recently been bought and are being fixed up as holiday homes in the traditional red painted style. It is actually, a gorgeous area so we stayed riverside for the night to allow the local bugs (or thugs) a small feast. There is a plan to have a nature reserve which will no doubt bring new life. Nick, a fan of the ‘dereliction genre’ took loads of photo’s, some of my phone ones are below!
As we left that area we saw a great sign (see below) The irony however is that Loppis translates to Flea Market 🙂 Heading further north we detoured to a fabulous Sculpture Park. The only problem was the 427 steps we had to climb in 30degree heat, it was worth it though, we love finding this type of place. It’s within a ski resort/mountain biker paradise called Kvarntorp. The park was once a slag heap created from a Bitumen and Uranium mining operation nearby, its now a whimsical creative landscape with really fun installations, favourites below. Each has it’s own story, the tree created by prisoners hence the prevalence of keys and cages. Noah didn’t build the ark. From there, it was off to Stockholm, to look for a syndrome!
We’ve been to Stockholm a couple of times before, when we got engaged at Lollapalooza with The Foo Fighters and the second for their Christmas market where we didn’t see the light of day! So this time we approached it a bit differently, seeking out the quirks. On the metro from where we stayed the first spot was Pacman within the vents. Apparently there a few different ‘icons’ on the new trains. Stepping out of the metro at Slussen we saw a man coming up from underground through a man hole cover… A visit to their photography museum/gallery where the main events were Frank Ockenfels portraiture and Yang Yongliang’s incredible “Journey to the Dark II” which was a layered digital wallscape with moving elements (look it up, it’s worth it, excuse my photo!) we then wandered some more. The Stockholm Tivoli on the far side of the water was in full swing. In some of the back streets we came across an ‘Alternative Tattoo Artist’ who’s eye catching window of a painted mannequin had us double take, and the ‘Very Important Clothes Shop’ with its own unique window display. It was quite appropriate that Nick was wearing his Euro trousers (yes, they only come out in Europe!)
Passing across one of the many bridges (Stockholm archipelago is 1500 islands) you can’t miss the Royal Palace, sizeable and imposing but actually a tad dull, and the more ornate Parliament Buildings. The Stockholm Concert House was a surprise, very Germanic, Art Deco and blue exterior and a building that, rarely for us, we went inside to look further. It is currently celebrating 250 years of The Royal Academy of Music. The interior was a superb example of preservation, glorious ceilings, fixtures and fittings of a bygone time. Beautiful examples of Art Deco lighting and ornate touches everywhere.
After having a drink at the spot we celebrated our engagement we then headed back via the Kvngstradgarden Metro Station, the deepest one but also another nod to the quirky nature of Stockholm. Its a fanciful, beautiful and artistic station, decorated with paintings, art installations, sculptures and mosaics. It is visually striking and incredibly has formed it’s own eco system akin to a cave.
Our second day there was on the bikes. Our route in took us through some suburbs, one of them being Sodermalm, a trendy up and coming island suburb with plenty of bars, boutique and vintage shops and veggie cafes springing up. Felt a tad like a low key Greenwich Village in NY and clearly fashionable. The quest for quirk meant finding the oldest illuminated sign (for toothpaste) and Stockholm’s smallest statue. This took some finding, in a small courtyard, it is known as Jarnpojke and depicts a boy looking up to the moon. It’s a real beauty and pretty evocative.
Skeppsholmen Island was home to more colourful outdoor mechanical sculpture. A ride around the island of Djurgarden, which is a green oasis cum historic leisure park (home to the Tivoli) we avoided the ABBA museum but did marvel at some of the architecture. Many older buildings, most very well kept and symbolic of the status of generations past, set in fabulous grounds. The island is a surreal escape from the hustle and bustle of the marina areas and the tall grand buildings adorning the main promenade opposite. An old town snack at Fika (which means ‘coffee and a chat’… lets have a Fika) before a wander there among the cobbled and well preserved streets. Stockholm passed a law in 1930’s to protect their old town which is why there is so much there, more than any other city we’ve been to that we can recall. From there we headed back to base, routing through some of the uni areas. We met a lovely German family next to us so ended up chatting late into the evening by the marina before exchanging numbers should we ever be in Potsdam again (quite likely!)
Here’s a few other pics of nice to look at things, buildings and streets that are all very Stockholm. They didn’t fit into the narrative but we thought you’d like!