No need to rush this morning – we’re already on the palace grounds. Last night’s walk proved fortuitous – it’s drizzling this morning and photography would be a challenge. It would have been hard to beat last night’s lighting anyway.
The Drottningholm Slott, the royal palace, has a long history. Building started in 1662, under the architectural eye of Nicodemus Tessin the Elder, around the same time as Versailles. It’s been home to Sweden’s royal family for part of the year ever since. Inside it’s a rich blend of roccoco and baroque styles. Illusionist paintings abound, from the faux marble central entrance to the decorative finishes on walls and floors. It’s very effective, illusionist painting, trompe l’oeil , – you virtually have to touch it to convince yourself the effect you’re seeing not real.
The open sections of the palace are a series of the formal rooms. Highlights, for me are the Queen Lovisa Ulvrika’s stunning cream and gold library (so obviously a lady’s room, vs the heavy interiors of gentlemen’s libraries) and Queen Hedvig Eleanora’s state bedchamber, plushly decorated in deep blue and gold luxury, complete with a hidden door along one wall. The room, also a formal receiving room, is very reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s in Versailles.
Queen Hedvig (1636 – 1715) was not a woman to mess with. Queen consort to the King, she ascended to the throne on his passing in 1660, ruling until their son was old enough to. On her son’s passing in 1697, she took to the throne again, ruling until her grandson was old enough to ascend to the throne. I’m betting she was pretty formidable and well earnt her beautiful room in the palace. Legend has it she had affairs, liked to gamble, loved the theatre, was the subject of much gossip and liked to party. Centuries ahead of her time.
Also fascinating is the Karl X Gustav Gallery lined with huge paintings depicting famous battles through his rule. They’re painted in great detail showing the battlefields and naming the various landmarks. Below each is a detailed explanation in calligraphy script. Another formal room holds portraits of each of the European rulers of the time. We’ve seen a lot of palaces in our travels – these gallery rooms are quite unique.
The palace is so interesting that we tour it twice then stop for lunch at the café on the grounds. Finally off the burgers Chris deems the kottballer (Swedish meatballs) and accompaniments a success and I have the best skagen toast yet. The usual prawn, dill and mayonnaise mix is set off with pan fried toast tidbits and a delicious salad. You can eat well in Sweden no matter where you are. Our cafes at home could learn a few things from here.
After lunch we set off to see the Kina Slott, the Chinese pavilion, built as a birthday present for Queen Louisa (she of the fabulous library) in 1753. Boasting one of the finest roccoco chinoiserie interiors in Europe, it was used as a private retreat for the royal family and subsequently restored between 1989 and 1996. It’s a pretty pink, cream and pale green arc shaped building with smaller versions either side. One of these is the dining room, with an ingenious table that could be lifted, fully set, from the basement, negating the need for servants at meals.
The interiors of Kina Slott are decorated with Chinese rice paper and silk wall paintings, extraordinaryly preserved given their delicacy and age. Everything is decorated in the Chinese style of the period – it would have been incredibly exotic for its time.
As far as birthday presents go, it’s a pretty fabulous one. Every attempt to give the royal family privacy has been taken, from setting it deep in the grounds, to camoflauging the guards barracks behind a colourful tent facade. It’s very cheeky and very clever.
Even though it’s still drizzling, we can’t resist exploring the gardens again, especially getting an up close look at the Hercules fountain that’s within the private section of the garden. The tree lined avenues look beautiful in the soft rain.
Looking at the whole effect, the ancient oaks, chestnuts and mulberries in perfect formation through misted rain, I can’t help but admire the foresight of the landscapers whose design continues to deliver such loveliness, centuries on. We’re quite lucky to have seen the garden in both lights, I think. As I write this, I’m quite cross with myself that we didn’t do the additional tour of the theatre. Next time perhaps.
We’ve been debating going to Visby, a walled medieval town on an island a couple of hundred kilometres from Stockholm. Despite not having any luck booking the ferry on line, we take a gamble and drive to Nynashamn, the ferry departure point, in the hope we can sort it in the morning.
It’s a great afternoon for wildlife spotting: I see a very focused buzzard sitting on a fence on the way there and close to arrival, a sign warning of wild boar. I nearly sprain an eye looking for them…but none. When we arrive, we settle in the Karingboda nature reserve nearby.
The nature reserve proves to be the best resting place yet. Shortly after dinner, a hare lops out of the forest, making short work of the distance. He stops only a few metres from us before bolting across to a nearby field. He’s close enough for me to get a good look at his elegant lines, his huge back legs and especially pretty, the white and black markings on the tips of his long ears. Want him.
A little later, I spot three shy roe deer grazing across the way, at the edge of the forest, their white rumps and straight little horns clearly visible in the twilight fog. They stay grazing for ages, leaving me longing for night vision goggles. In the meantime we spy on them with binoculars until the last bit of daylight fades.
Much squealing on my part – especially when I saw that hare. Better than an adrenaline shot, any day.