Nordic Adventure, Part 2: Stockholm

After spending a couple of days in Helsinki, I went on to the next stop in my trip:  Stockholm, Sweden.  Stockholm is a beautiful city, which may be why they have more gypsy beggars per square meter than any other city I’ve seen on this continent. As with Helsinki, my photographs in this post aren’t in chronological order.

The northern part of the old city in Stockholm is an island called Gamla Stan.  The Royal Palace and Parliament are in Gamla Stan, along with lots of narrow streets and cobblestone.  Much of it dates from the 1600s and 1700s.  For example:


There are also Viking rune stones in various places around Stockholm.  This one is actually embedded into the foundation of a building in Gamla Stan because someone in the distant past decided to relocate it from its original resting place.  Rune stones are often memorials to the dead, but this is not always the case.    This particular stone is a fragment; the part which is readable translates to “Torsten and Frögunn had this stone raised after their son.”


This is Tyska Kyrkan, the old German church.  The section of Gamla Stan containing this church has streets named after German iron merchants and craftsmen who settled in the city


This is the narrowest street in Stockholm, at a width of 90 centimeters.


This is one of the metro stops in Stockholm near my hotel in Karlaplan.  I just thought this was a really nifty looking metro station.


This building is the Town Hall. The thing at the top is three crowns, which is a commonly used logo for the city.


Of course you can climb the town hall.  It’s a lot of steps, but it’s well worth it because you get a view like this.


Off in the distance, you can see the Ericsson Globe, which is a concert venue.  It also has a nifty attraction attached called SkyView, which I visited later.


This is the SkyView at the Ericsson Globe.  There are two spherical capsules on custom-built tracks which go up the side of the building to get a 360 degree view of Stockholm from the top.  This is fabulous, but it’s pretty far outside the center of the city, so the view isn’t as nifty as I would have hoped.  Still, this was worth it for me because: tall places!


Inside the Town Hall tower, there are artifacts from the history of the city.   I especially liked the sculpture of the very tall warrior.


The Djurgården is an entire island which was once a royal hunting ground.  In modern times, the Skansen open air park, the ABBA Museum, and the amusement park Gröna Lund are on this island, along with the Vasa Museum which I mention below.  Sometime in the past, a king decided to open the park to visitors, and the Blue Gate was erected.  It has been moved several times, but it is believed that the current location is near to the original one.


The amusement park Gröna Lund, as seen from the water.  The park is seasonal, and I was in Stockholm too soon to go inside.


The Vasa Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sweden.   Here’s why:  The Vasa is a warship which set sail on her maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, and about a half hour into the trip, she sank into Stockholm Harbour.  333 years later, she was raised, restored, and a museum was built around her.   The vessel is something like 98% original parts with a coat of sealant for the wood, but they had to redo all the rope bits.


There are models showing the process of raising the Vasa from the bottom of the harbor.


The ship is huge.


The original mainsail was not intact enough to stay on the displayed vessel, but they put it in an environmentally controlled glass case so you can still see it.


I did not actually go past the lobby of the Abba Museum because it was too late in the day, but I was sorely tempted to come back.


Meanwhile, back in Gamla Stan,  the Nobel Museum contains details about the Nobel Prize and its founder, Alfred Nobel.  I had no idea before this trip that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and gelignite, or that he owned armament factories.  He was once nicknamed the Merchant of Death, despite being a pacifist.


Each of the more than 800 Laureates who has been awarded a Nobel Prize so far is presented in a random order, with a portrait and a prize citation.  The portraits move around the museum on a spiral track that loops back to the museum’s center.


This sculpture represents Orpheus going to hell to bring back Eurydice, surrounded by eight male and female figures.  It stands in front of the Concert Hall at Hötorget in central Stockholm.  One of the male figures has the facial features of Beethoven because the sculptor really liked Beethoven.  I saw this sculpture briefly from a moving bus and I liked it so much that I went back on foot later so that I could get a good picture.


This sculpture, called Non-violence, is used in various places to represent peace.  It was originally sculpted after John Lennon was assassinated, and there are sixteen of them around the world.  Three of them are in different places around Stockholm.


This is a typical street in Gamla Stan.  I don’t actually recall why I specifically took this photo.


This is the Swedish Parliament in Gamla Stan.


Sergel’s Tor is a popular meeting place.  It’s connected to the main train station for Stockholm, along with shopping, dining, public transportation, and a really nifty tall sculpture thingie.  Also, the building to the right is called the Kulturhuset-  it has exhibitions, a children’s library, and several restaurants.


One of the tours I took while in Stockholm was the Free Tour with tour guide Ira.  Free Tour Stockholm offers old city and regular city tours, and the whole thing is free- they work for tips.  It was very informative.  In retrospect, I don’t think the girl in the glasses wanted very much to be in my photograph.


Gustaf Dalén’s lighthouse.  This little structure was set up in 1912.   Dalén won  a Nobel Prize in physics for his work on regulators in lighthouses and buoys.  When this lighthouse was electrified in 1980, it was discovered that the sun valve had been working continuously since 1912 without the need for an overhaul.


If you have to have a permanent crane on your waterfront, why not paint it to look like a giraffe?


The Swedish Central Bank, Sveriges Riksbank, is the oldest central bank in the world.  It was founded in 1668.  This is not the original structure, though.  They moved here in the 1990s, I believe.


The Monarchy in Sweden is just chockablock with Carls and Gustavs.   This plaza is Gustav Adolfs Torg.


This quiet pleasant little circular area is offset from Gamla Stan-  you have to walk through a passageway that looks a bit like a hallway to reach it.  It’s the sort of thing you find if you’re willing to explore a tiny bit off side streets and alleys.


The Royal Palace in Gamla Stan is the “official” place of residence for the royal family, but they don’t really stay there.  They do have official events there, and they do receive state visitors there.   There are, naturally, Royal Guard members standing and marching in front of the Palace.


This is a big church that gets used for big events.  After a few years in Europe, the Big Important Churches are kind of starting to run together.


This statue is called “Iron Boy.”  It’s also called “Boy looking at the moon.”  The statue is only fifteen centimeters tall, and is considered Stockholm’s smallest public monument.   The Iron Boy is behind a church and is very easy to miss.  People leave coins and rub his head for luck.  There’s also a legend that he helps women become pregnant, but it’s entirely possible that our tour guide was just messing with us.  I would not have seen this without Free Tour Stockholm’s guidance.


St. George and the Dragon.


These buildings are in the same square as the Nobel Prize museum, and they each have a pastry restaurant at their base.


Have you ever been to Stockholm?


Nordic Adventure, Part 1: Helsinki

I scheduled a bunch of time off for another trip that didn’t quite pan out, so I decided to use the time to visit Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Reykjavik.  I started my two week romp through the Nordics with a day in Berlin, where I checked off the last three Category One stations and attended a concert by Hayseed Dixie.  The next day, I flew from Berlin to Helsinki, Finland.

My pictures from Helsinki are in no particular order.

This is the statue of Alexander II and the Lutheran Cathedral, as seen from about a third of the way into Senate Square.    If you do a Google Image search just on the word Helsinki, the Cathedral is going to be the single most common image.  It’s pretty well known.


This is Esplanade Park, a short walk from the Harbor.  The statue is  J.L. Runeberg, the national poet of Finland.  This park is a meeting point for locals and tourists, and there are free concerts here during the summer.


A convergence of tram lines near the harbor.


Uspenski Cathedral, the  Russian Orthodox behemoth of a church on the hill in the background, is walking distance from the Harbor.


Helsinki City Hall, I think.   It’s possible that I made the wrong assumption here.


Uspenski Cathedral again, this time from a bit closer.  Uspenski is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe.


I quite liked the feel of Helsinki.  Any city that puts out paired lounge chairs for its citizens can’t be all bad, you know?  I didn’t try out these chairs, but I should have.


The railway station.  I walked through this building to see the inside, but it wasn’t as impressive as the front.  This totally looks like it could be used for establishing shots in the upcoming Justice League movie, don’t you think?


Completed in 2012, the Kamppi Chapel of Silence in Narinkkatori square isn’t really a church.   It was designed by architects, and is built out of wood (Alder, spruce, and ash, according to the signs.)  It won the International Architecture Award 2010, and is part of the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 program.

Inside, the sound of the city is blocked out, and it’s muted and quiet-  something you might expect from a place called the Chapel of Silence.    This is only a kilometer from Senate Square, so it’s easily reachable on foot or by tram.


I had never heard of Moomins before this trip.  This is yet another instance of the United States completely and utterly missing a swath of culture from other places.  The Moomins, created by Swedish speaking Finnish auther Tove Jansson, have been cartoons, comic strips, stage shows, movies, novels, and even a theme park.  They’ve had exposure in England, Russian, Japan, Austria, and Cuba… but until this trip, I’ve never seen a Moomin.  The Jansson family has turned down offers from the Walt Disney Company, so that explains some of my lack of exposure.


The Three Smiths statue, unveiled in 1932, is another popular meeting place for locals.  Also, it’s directly in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I actually ate at Kaarna, another restaurant nearby.   I had a delicious reindeer burger patty with braised onion and salad wrapped in Laplandish flatbread.


This sculpture still bears damage from being shot during World War 2.


The Church in the Rock, or Temppeliaukion kirkko, was blasted out of granite bedrock.


The outer walls still show exposed granite.


The ceiling is entirely made of copper.


The Jean Sibelius Monument in Sibelius Park.  This was created in 1967 by Eila Hiltunen.  The intension was for visitors to interact with the design by creating sounds and echoes in the pipes.


Artsy shot!


This statue is called “A Mother’s Love.”  I thought it was nice.


Harborside Market, in Katajanokka.  Here you can buy crafts and local foods.


The Helsinki Pool and Ferris Wheel isn’t open yet-  It was slated for Spring of this year, but the 40 meter tall ferris wheel wasn’t open when I was there.


Suomenlinna could easily be separated into a separate blog post, because it’s an on a different island.  Suomenlinna is a sea fortress built off the coast of Helsinki in the mid-1700s in order to defend the city. The fortress is well preserved and is a frequent attraction for tourists, but the island is also home to around 800 residents. There are tour boats that go to Suomenlinna, but you can just easily reach the island using the HSL ferry-  if you’ve already purchased a day-ticket good for all the buses and trams, you’re covered for the ferry to Sueomenlinna as well. I purchased a multi-day ticket at the airport, and it covered me for the entire trip.


On the walk in the direction of the King’s Gate.


Kustaanmiekka is part of the original bastion fortress with guns constructed by the Russians at the end of the 19th century for coastal defense.


Plus it looks a tiny bit like the Shire.


I didn’t manage to see the Vesikko while I was there  Vesikko is a Finnish submarine built in the 1930 for World War 2.  It has been restored and set up as a museum.  Regrettably, I didn’t find the Vesikko, but I did spend quite a while on the defensive wall of the fortress.


The original structures from 1748 still stand and can be explored.


There are people in period costumes all over the Fortress museum area.


The Suomenlinna Church was a Russian Orthodox garrison church in 1854.  In the early days of Finnish independence in the 1920s, it was converted into an Evangelical-Lutheran church.   The steeple still operates as a lighthouse for air and sea traffic.


Katajanokka as seen from the ferry back from Suomenlinna.


Have you ever been to Helsinki or Suomenlinna?


I went to Leipzig on my way back from Dresden.  I didn’t stay overnight in Leipzig, I just took a few hours in between trains on the way back so I could see a bit of the city.

My first order of business was taking the number 15 tram to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, known in English as the Monument to the Battle of the Nations.  This is a monument to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat at the 1813 Battle of Leipzig.

I only wish I’d had better conditions for photography.  The sun was behind the monument, which made getting a clear shot very difficult.  There are some really beautiful pictures of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal on the Internet.  Mine isn’t one of them.


Coming back into the center of town on the tram, I stopped by the Panorama Tower, seen on the left.  It’s the tallest point in Leipzig, and for three Euros, you can go to the observation level at the top.


I was there on a really hazy day, but I still got a few nice shots from the top.


The tall church visible in this photo is the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church).


The Leipzig Hauptbahnhof is absolutely enormous.  I noticed the size of it when I arrived, and thought that perhaps it was the largest I had seen.  It turns out that I was correct-  according to Wikipedia, the Leipzig main station is the world’s largest railway station measured by floor area.  Here’s the outside, as seen from the Panorama Tower.


Here’s my attempt to capture the inside of the Leipzig station.  It was simply too big for even a single photograph to capture.


In every city I’ve ever visited, someone has been playing music for money.   Leipzig was no exception.


These next two photos are of statues inside the Auersbachs Keller Leipzig which were interesting to me.  The statues face each other.  The first depicts students bewitched by Mephisto.


The second depicts Mephisto and Faust.


Walking through the city, here’s Nikolaikirche up close.


On the side of the Nikolaikirche, opposite the Bach museum, is a nice statue to Bach.  Between Bach, Mozart, and Goethe, I’m collecting the whole set.


I think this is the New Town Hall.


Even if it isn’t, I liked the clock in this tower.


Have you ever been to Leipzig? 


During the last weekend in March, I went to Dresden and Leipzig. I partly went because I wanted to knock off two more Category One stations from my list, but I would have gone even without the stations- I’d heard nothing but good things about Dresden, and I was really looking forward to seeing it.

My walk through Dresden was a big counter-clockwise circle.  I started by taking the tram over the Elbe river and walking toward the Augustusbrücke and the Golden Rider.  On the way, I found a puppetry museum.


I thought I would have a difficult time finding the Goldener Reiter, but it turns out he wasn’t subtle at all.


There were lots of interesting statues all over town.  I particularly liked this one, near the Augustusbrücke.


Walking across the Elbe on the Augustusbrücke from the north, this is the view into the city.   The structure on the right is the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony.


This statue is in the courtyard to the left of that church.


When I reached the end of the bridge, I stumbled across a protest.   The little girl behind this sign was honking a noisemaker and there were cymbals and that sort of thing.   One of the people protesting came to talk to me about it- apparently there’s an upcoming rule that will prevent midwives from working due to insurance regulations.   For the curious, here’s a site detailing the protest, a FaceBook group about it, and a Bundestag petition fighting it.


Continuing my walk around the city, I snapped this picture because I thought it would look awesome.


This structure was directly across from the Church.  I’m still not entirely sure what this was.


The protest and parade backed up traffic a bit.  I’m glad I wasn’t on one of these trams.


My next stop was the Zwinger, an old palace which is now the home of several museums including my destination, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Master’s Picture Gallery.)


While inside, I walked past Boticellis, Vermeers, Rembrandts, Rubens, and more.  A particular highlight was Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, a very large painting which most people know from the two Cherubim in the bottom.  There’s a picture of the full painting over on Wikipedia if you’d like to see it.  The main entrance to the gallery is in this archway.  I walked right past it into the courtyard at first.


From the Zwinger, I went on to one of the most well known landmarks in Dresden, the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady.  The church was completely destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in World War II, but was rebuilt after German reunification in 1990.


For a small fee, you can ascend to the top of the Frauenkirche.  There’s an elevator for the first chunk, then a smooth ramped walkway circling the dome, then stairs at the very top.  Great views from the top, though.  This one contains the Augustusbrücke and the church I mentioned earlier.

dresden-14 dresden-15

After I got back down from the dome, I wanted to see the inside of the church.  This image amused me terribly.  I guess angels really are everywhere!


Inside the rebuilt Frauenkirche.


Across the square from the Frauenkirche are plenty of other picturesque buildings.  I saw this one just before I went for lunch at the Canadian steakhouse.  I had a tasty bison steak.


There are always people in major cities doing things for money.  Like these two.

dresden-18 dresden-19

A short distance from the Frauenkirche, back toward the Elbe river, there’s a rather nifty sculpture with a bunch of representations of the planets in the ground.  It’s not a full representation of the solar system though, and I’m not quite sure why.


This is the view of the Augustusbrücke from the planets sculpture.


On my walk back toward the hotel, I noticed that Spring has well and truly come to Germany.  You can tell because any time it gets sunny and warm, lounging Germans appear all over green spaces in Germany.  This isn’t very crowded, but give it a few more degrees and you won’t see very much green through the sunbathing people.

dresden-21 dresden-22

Have you ever been to Dresden?