Yes!!! Fine weather at last! It’s bikes out for the ride into Ostermalm, playground of the beautiful people. It’s four island hops away, and just the thing to shake to cobwebs off.
Ostermalm is indeed home to those who like the finer things in life. The harbour is full of ocean going yachts and the mainstreet, the Strandvagen is a tree lined home to turreted mansions that form an impressive frame to the harbour. It’s certainly the place to dress up and be seen, everyone is very polished.
We walk the strand admiring the beautiful homes then head behind them, in search of the Ostermalms Saluhall market. The old market is being renovated, it’s now in a temporary space until 2018. We’re searching for Linda Lisa Elmqvist, recommended as one of Stockholm’s best seafood restaurants, serviced directly by its own market stalls. The recommendation holds true, we have a truly memorable meal accompanied by a French chardonnay; pike perch with chanterelles for Chris and Arctic crab for me – enormous crab legs, served with a rose sauce. Now I know why otters are so happy…
We’re kept entertained by our waiter who tells us about the temporary market (whuch been sold Germany after it’s served its purpose) and tells us all about his travels to Melbourne. Also very friendly are our lunch neighbours, a couple of over refreshed older gentleman who are in love with life and wine. Perhaps not in that order.
Purring quietly after lunch we set off to find the Historiska museum to walk through 10,000 years of Swedish history, starting with the Ice Age, through to Viking and Christian times. The museum is very well done, showing the periods through the eyes of man during each time, reconstructing and modelling the lives people lived. Most are from graves and artefacts discovered in each period. In many instances they have used facial reconstruction techniques to bring to life the people found. Oldest of these is the Backaskog Woman, dating back to 9,000 BC. It wasn’t an easy life. At 45, she’s distinctly worn out.
Having just recently finished watching the Viking series, it’s this era that intensely intriguing. The Viking display is enormous – a treasure trove by any measure, reconstructing men, women and children and people from different walks of life. We also see endless looted silver treasures that have been discovered through the ages and beautifully and painted carved runes.
Interestingly, coins and silver at this time had no face value – value was measured was measured by weight. You simply hacked off the amount you wanted and went with that. Many of the coins we see are cut for this purpose, called hack silver.
A highlight is the below ground Gold Room, full of plundered gold from the wide reaches of Viking raids. Modern techniques can identify the gold’s origin, much of it Roman, but some as far as what we now call the Middle East. Gold was as precious then as it is now, reserved for thinly beaten decorative finishes or heavy jewelry, made to impress.
Following Historiska, it’s back on the bikes to island hop again, this time to the neighbourhoods of Djurgarden and Skeppsholmen, home to many museums. There’s a gorgeous one, a truly stunning building, just across the bridge, the Moderna Museet, but we have our sights on something quite unique, the Vasamuseet, home to the Vasa, the only example of a 17th century war ship.
Vasa was the Titanic of her time, absolutely enormous at 69 metres long and 48.8 metres high. The ship is so big that it has an ominous feel to it. Despite it being fascinating, in truth, I felt relieved to be away from it. To view it fully, one has to climb seven floors. That should give you an idea of scale.
The Titanic reference not only refers to size, she also sunk on her maiden voyage, sailing for only 20 minutes. The enormous ship was caught by a side wind, righted, then caught by another which proved fatal. The ship filled with water, pouring into the cannon portals, left open after the celebratory salute for her maiden voyage. Figures are unclear as to how many people died, ranging from 60 to a couple of hundred.
The Vasa languished on the sea bed for 333 years before being salvaged and restored, like an enormous jigsaw puzzle. The museum was purpose built for it, and is one of the most popular attractions in Stockholm, attracting over 2.5 million visitors per year.
The enormous ship is richly decorated with wood carvings, lions, soldiers, moral tales, all are featured. The bow tip is a life size lion mid leap. These carvings were once brightly painted and there’s a great display showing how the paint was sourced from nature and examples of painted carvings. There’s also a replica 1:10 scale Vasa in miniature, fully painted, in sail.
The musuem covers the ship building, life on board (at least how it was meant to be) the maiden voyage and sinking, her recovery and restoration. It also beings back to life the people whose bodies were found, using facial reconstruction techniques – this seems popular here and it’s a very effective was of humanising history.
There’s a great deal of detail and we don’t really do it justice. There’s only so much that can be done in a day. It’s back on the bikes, to island hop home.
Stockholm has come to life under the sun it’s looking spectacular and the city is abuzz.