Sunday, 14 August 2011

Stockholm Part 2 -- Djurgården

wooden spoons in an 18th-century house at Skansen
When I say I love Sweden, I really mean I feel as though I've fallen in love with it, as you might with a person. I want to 'possess' it in as many ways as possible, reading its books (the Moberg Emigrants saga I'm reading at the moment is wonderful), watch its films, listen to its music. If only it would make me a mix-cassette.
window at Skansen
Of all the things we did during our week in Stockholm, the day on Djurgården (once the Royal Game Park, hence its name) was my favourite. Djurgården is one of the islands making up Stockholm and is almost wholly given up to pleasure, in one way or another. It's the most lovely, elegant, safe place to be, with huge summer houses (presumably belonging to very rich families), parks, museums and galleries. Even the theme park, Gröna Lund (the 'Green Grove'), is appealing and was first set up there in 1883.
Gröna Lund would have to wait for another day as I was so keen to go to Skansen. Skansen is the world's oldest open-air museum and was founded in 1893 by Artur Hazelius to bring buildings from all over Sweden in order to preserve architecture and traditions at a time of great change. It's like a mini-Sweden, condensed into a few acres, and manages to feel authentic, rather than constructed -- or, rather, you can take a sense of authenticity from it in spite of its being constructed. Yes, all the people walking round in long skirts and headscarves are just modern Stockholmers dressed up, but there is an apple-cheeked dignity about them that overcomes any Disney aspect. Perhaps they just have fantastic casting.
I absolutely adore this woman, who was making barley-flour crispbreads in the Bakehouse. I stood and watched two complete cycles from the ball of dough to the hot bread coming out of the oven and she was a fantastic baker. AND you got to eat chunks of the fresh bread with wonderful salty butter. It was one of the best things I've ever tasted. It only went in the oven for about two minutes at most.
The magical thing about Skansen seems to be that it has managed to become more than just a museum. It isn't just a dead place where relics of the past have been stored -- all the places there still seem to hum with life and to speak to us from the past. I came over all strange there and could easily imagine myself, if I was ever 'regressed to a former life', discovering I had been a Swedish farmer's wife.

I've decided I must have Viking ancestry. The evidence: I come from the North-East, an area with age-old ties to Scandinavia; my maiden name is a Norse word; my granny used to cook rollmop herrings. Proof, if proof were needed, I think.
So Skansen is more than a museum but embodies the strong attachment that Swedes seem to feel to their traditions. At festivals, such as Midsummer, Skansen is a focal point for traditional celebrations. Watch this video of the Midsummer celebrations there -- I love the slow, kindly voiceover:
There are all sorts of different buildings at Skansen from Sami huts to an 18th-century manor house.
 There are farm buildings and industrial buildings, shops and homes. I couldn't get enough of it.
There's also a zoo, knitted in to everything else. So here's a ball of lemurs:
It would be my fantasy to go back to Skansen and hide in one of the buildings (just like in From the Mixed up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler, one of my favourite kids' books) so that I could go round it on my own after it had closed.
painted ceiling in the church
After tearing myself away from Skansen, we got a tram further into the island, to Waldemarsudde, home of rich painter Prins Eugen. I think Eugen's money may have given him 'opportunities' to promote himself beyond his talents -- sorry Prins E. But he had an exquisite house, full of flowers:
I like the picture on the brochure, though
Upstairs at Waldemarsudde was a great exhibition of the fashion designs of Swedish couturier Lars Wallins (no, I hadn't either) so we had a quick look at that too. High, high camp but beautiful too. Lars wasn't there when we were, but here's a pic off the net:
Then we struck out on foot for the Thielska Gallery. I hadn't quite got a sense of the size of the island and it turned out to be much bigger than I'd thought, but we trudged on and on, following the signs, under the shade of the huge trees. Enormous houses kept looming into view. With each one I thought, this must be it, it looks like a gallery, but it would be just another vast summer palace. Eventually, just as we were about to give up and catch the bus home, we came to it. Another lovely gallery, closing shortly, but we still got a quick run round.
Thielska Gallery
Karl Larsson painting, 'Writing Postcards'
I'm only at the end of Wednesday of our week, but will leave it there for now. More soon, if you have an appetite for it...


Makeminemidcentury said...

(I hope you write blog posts in the nuddy!)

I'm loving your Swedish posts, and the fact that this country has made such an impact on you. You've made me want to go over there, even more.

It sounds so magical and comfortable and clean and smart and honest.

LAC EMP 2020 said...

I've got the appetite for it Jane!! Have read both the Swedish posts in succession and it's been a treat. Sounds like a fabulous holiday and looks even better! There are some pretty inspiring photos here and your love of the place is coming over loud and clear. Waiting patiently for the next instalment...

menopausalmusing said...

I love the spoons! I also spy lustreware and what a lovely punched metal candle holder/lantern thingie! (At least, that's what it looks like). You are selling Sweden to us............ Big time!