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Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumn in the Stockholm Archipelago

It was sunny and reasonably warm this morning so we decided to go on a boat ride with our dog Tanner and our friend Chris.  I optimistically wore shorts and tennis shoes with no socks.  It started off to be a fine decision.  It was sunny, with some clouds and quite a lovely day.  We wanted to get into the heart of the archipelago since we know our days are numbered out there for this season so we headed for the island of Ekskär, which our boat club partially owns.
I slept on the back seat of the boat on the way out.  I loved the fresh air and cool breeze.  There was scarcely anyone else on the island when we arrived so Tanner ran free, swam like a fish, and enjoyed being his crazy Labrador self.  We sat in the sun on the rocks, ate a lovely picnic lunch whilst taking in the views that I never grow weary of. The ride back in was chillier as a low cloud cover had moved in and it almost foggy, like a bit of a mist had drifted over the water.  Brrr.  I was wishing I had thrown in long pants and some warm socks!  It is late September afterall.  What was I thinking?  Perhaps that summer isn't really over.
Still, the beauty of the archipelago, the good company, the walk in the woods, the fresh air left me feeling renewed and relaxed.
We came home and I made fajitas for dinner. Yum.  What a great day. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Up on the Roofs

Stockholm makes available an opportunity to explore the Gamla Stan area via the rooftops!  Doug gave me this as a gift two Christmases ago and we finally used it last night.  Located on the island of Riddarholm, it was a nice experience.  We began in the square where the large Riddarholm Church is located, the church where the Royals are buried in a square called Birger Jarl Torget.  Birger Jarl is the founder of Stockholm and he watches over this beautiful yet sadly underdeveloped area of the city.  The light was gorgeous in that special Stockholm kind of way that always takes your breath away.
On the tour, you do learn a lot about Stockholm.  Unfortunately we were unable to book a tour in English and the wind was pretty strong so hearing  and understanding everything was a little tough.  Even so, it was fun to see our beautiful city from way up high! And the light did not disappoint!You get a good panoramic look at the whole of downtown and we saw the intensive work that is going on in Lake Mälaren where they are building an underwater subway tunnel.  Of course, it is perfectly safe as you are equipped with climbing equipment.  The Swedes have done a very efficient job of building catwalks and a pulley system that is quite secure.  The entire walk is only about 300 meters long and takes about an hour with stopping for the commentary and to soak in the views.  We were lucky that it didn't rain as it had been forecast and they do the walk no matter the weather re-enforcing the Swedish notion that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. I was thrilled for how beautiful an evening it was and watching the sun coming down over Lake Mälaren was certainly a joy from our vantage point.
As far as experiences go however, I would say it is only OK.  Too much talking, not enough climbing, too confined of an area.  I would save my money and go for the hot air balloon ride which was much more fun and a much better view of the entire Stockholm area.  That said, seeing the city from the heights of the rooftops was a lot of fun.  Afterwards we ventured into the heart of Gamla Stan and enjoyed a coffee at a coffee house where a friend works.  The evening was beautiful, warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the walk home.  Gamla Stan remains a beautiful treasure of our home town from any vantage point.

Britt Sommar

The chill arrived a bit early for me in mid-August but alas, Mr. Warm Sunshine showed up for a couple of more weekends in September.  Saturday, September 10 was the only Saturday in September that we were free from church obligations so we were thrilled when a sunny forecast came our way.  We called some friends, planned a picnic, grabbed the dog and headed out for the Finnmaster.  In my heart, I knew this could be our last good day on the Stockholm waterways before we put her to bed on the 8th of October.  If it was our final outing, if proved to be a real stunner.  Warmer than expected, calm water, beautiful skies, gorgeous picnic perch.  We headed south to Saltsjöbaden because the southern canal is beautiful and narrow and our friends had never been that way via water before.  We love that area.  Once you hit the open sea, the entire southern archipelago opens up to you and there are countless places to tie up and enjoy a fun afternoon.  The island we ended up on quickly became a favorite.  I was wondering why we hadn't been there before and then I realized that it is likely a very popular place to tie up so often, the good spots were already taken!  In fact, as we pulled out, another boat was waiting in the water to pull into our spot!On this special Saturday, it was ours to enjoy.  We unpacked the goods, fired up the grill, and soaked in every moment of warmth and sunlight.  While the men worked on the grill, my friend and I took a short walk and found a small sandy beach and it was so warm that one could've swam, but once again, it was only Tanner who ventured into the chilling waters.  Soon the delicious smell of bratwurst being grilled lured us back to the picnic where we feasted on a bounty of food.  We ended our time on the island with a quick walk where mushrooms abounded and all manner of tundra and foliage surrounded us.  We took a spin around Saltsjöbaden and saw these awesome bath houses with decks in the direct, warm sunshine with access to the water.  The clientele seemed to be mostly Swedish Seniors and a strictly nude policy was firmly in place. I loved seeing them sunning themselves like seals, enjoying the natural environment in their natural environment! Quite a way to spend the afternoon.  The autumn color had not quite yet begun but the rich green of a fruitful summer dazzled.
One of our friends had to be at work in Gamla Stan in the late afternoon so we decided the best course of action was to simply take the boat downtown and drop him off!  While heading down the Djurgården kanal, we saw the Duck Sauna boat!  This is a sauna/boat you can rent!  It is always hilarious when you see it floating by.  Dropping William at work extended our outing and gave him a different way of getting to work!  Everyone enjoyed driving boat, finding the fastest speeds and taking in the scenery.  We were out from 10.30-18.00 and when we finally docked, we all felt a great sense of satisfaction and beauty filling our souls.  Soon enough we'll be walking on the ice covered waters that our boat traversed and these wonderful days of summer will be a lingering memory until next spring. I always miss the open sea and this wonderful way of enjoying the breathtaking beauty that surrounds Stockholm when the Finnmaster makes its way to land and takes a break from the joy it provides us.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Secrets of Stockholm

The American Women's Club in Stockholm is celebrating their 100 years of existence this year.  As a result, those of us who are members are getting to do some very nice things.  So on a gorgeous early autumn evening, we headed to a wonderful event at Tessin Palace.  The mansion was constructed between 1694 and 1700 by Nicodemus Tessin the younger.  Eventually the property became the Crowns and today it houses the governor of Stockholm County.  What is so great about this place however is that from the street, you have no idea what lurks behind those walls.  The outer building is very non-nondescript, certainly not one of the architectural gems that dot Gamla Stan, where the palace is located. Until however you enter the front door.  From there this amazing Italian garden and a Baroque style building open before you.  Suddenly you are in Venice or Rome and the effect is quite dazzling.  It is hard to believe that this visual treasure sits demurely across from the Royal Palace where millions of unsuspecting visitors pass by each year!
The Governor's wife welcomed us to her home and then we received a guided tour of the palace, each room ornately decorated and telling its own unique story with the figures on the roof. We were in the company of good friends, the evening was absolutely beautiful and I was happy to have discovered this wonderful secret of Stockholm.  The evening kept getting prettier and prettier and I could not resist taking a shot of the facade from the upstairs rooms with the sky going all pink and lovely in the background. 
We walked out to a gorgeous evening.  The walk home was equally as beautiful as the palace as our jewel of a city on the shores of the Baltic showed off one of its most lovely sides.