I spent yesterday in the Old Town area of Stockholm. My host, Liselotte, was going to a wedding so we caught the train into the city and then she went off to the wedding and I managed to negotiate the subway to Old Town.
It's quite confronting, at first, to be in a place where nothing is in English. Signs, names, directions, etc are all in Swedish. But most people speak English pretty well so one just has to ask.
Old Town dates back to the 1600s when Sweden was an important European power. The basis of that power was the sea - Stockholm has been called the Venice of the North because of the way it's built on 14 islands where the River Norrstrom meets Lake Malaren before the whole thing empties into the Baltic Sea. Right back to the days of the Vikings, Swedes have been excellent seafarers. There's, disappointingly, no evidence of the Vikings in Stockholm; you have to go to places like Birka and Gotland to see that heritage. There are plenty of ships and boats moored along the many waterfronts though - everything from giant passenger liners to small fishing boats.
The architecture of Old Town is interesting. The buildings are tall but quite narrow. The streets are narrow too, and cobbled. Cobblestones can be very hard on the feet after a while!
The area is dominated by the Royal Palace, the official residence of the Swedish Royal Family. It's a huge baroque building and makes a good landmark for finding your way around. For 140 Kronor you can tour various parts of the palace but photography is not allowed. 100 Kronor equals about 15 Aussie dollars. Sweden is, on the whole, an expensive tourist destination.
From Old Town and the palace I crossed the river to the island of Skeppsholmen. This used to be Stockholm's naval base but is now a public area. The buildings have mostly been converted into hotels and restaurants. I had a glass of wine in a converted torpedo workshop! The ex-naval training ship, the af Chapman is now a youth hostel. Yesterday was an open day of some sort for the island so the ship was acting as a floating bar and cafe.
After wandering around the island I ended up back near the ship and thought it was time to start making my way back to Akersberga. Until I saw a sign....... the Chinese Terracotta Army. Woohoo!! I can't remember the cost but it was worth every penny.
There are tunnels under the island, storage, secret military places, etc., which have been converted into an exhibition space. This is where a selection of the Terracotta Army is on display. I wandered round twice taking photos - allowed as long as you don't use flash - then twice more just looking. There are only a handful of the 8000 or so warriors on display but that's plenty to get a good idea of what it's all about. There are also a selection of smaller figures - warriors and animals - from the later Han imperial tombs. The larger figures (they stand over 6 feet tall) are from the Qin emperor - the First Emperor. These are dated back to 210 BC. There are also examples of tomb architecture and other paraphenalia - jade figures, dragons, lucky discs, etc. Absolutely fascinating. A must-see if you're in the area.
From there I wandered back to Old Town where I ate an expensive plate of spaghetti and then made my way back to the subway. I managed to negotiate the subway, then the train to Akersberga, then the bus to the house without any dramas.
All in all, a rewarding day.
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