Enjoying life, off the hamster wheel
Hi all, we’re posting very quickly from Heidelberg in an internet cafe. We’ll log in again some time to load the pictures to the blog later. Auf wiedersehen for now!
Love, Ingrid and Neil,
Greetings from Ansbach, Germany! We’re now staying with my Uncle Peter at his beautiful house. Our apologies again for being remiss in writing. We’ve been trying to do as much as we can, and visiting as many relatives as possible within a very short period of time, so we’ve usually been too tuckered out at the end of the day to write a blog entry. As I write this, my Uncle Peter is downstairs playing piano, and Neil and I are winding down from an action packed day of visiting and sight-seeing in this beautiful area of Germany called Frankonia. But more on that later. Back to the Swedish leg of our journey (Neil and I are taking turns writing)…
Stockholm is a beautiful city, and even more wonderful thanks to the hospitality of family and friends. Moa, my second cousin Johan’s daughter, cleaned her room and gave it to us to stay in. We were very comfortable and slept especially well after our 31 hour trip from Vancouver! Tip: taking a train for 20 hours after flying for 10 is a speedy way of getting over jet lag.
On our first day in Stockholm, we walked along the waterfront with Johan and the family. There’s a lot of waterfront! Stockholm is a city made up of lots of little islands connected by bridges. Buildings can be as old as from the medieval times, and it’s steeped with history. The founder of Stockholm was Birger Jarl, and you can visit him in a little square near Riddarholm church (I think). It’s very close to the water.
Later that day, we made our way to the Vasa museum. The Vasa was a ship built in the 17th century with a fascinating, if short history. King Gustav Vasa III had the ship built and insisted upon it being built very quickly while he was on campaign in Poland. He also wanted to make a very impressive looking ship so he had the shipwrights build 2 levels of cannons, which had never been done before. In 1628, the Vasa embarked on her maiden voyage fully decked with sails unfurled and all the cannon ports open, a majestic and powerful sight. Minutes after launch, a gentle breeze caught her sails and she listed slightly to one side. She righted herself, and then suddenly listed again, this time taking in water in the lower gun ports. Within minutes, the Vasa sank, right in the middle of Stockholm harbour after a journey of approximately 1500m, where she lay for the next 333 years. Thanks to the brackish waters of the harbour, she was preserved, and was later resurrected and restored in the 1950s/’60s, and now you can visit her and learn all about her history, why she sank, and the lives of 17th century sailors in the spectacular Vasa museum on the edge of Djurgården. Our tour guide told us some of the gruesome discipline sailors might endure onboard. The punishment for fighting was to stab the sailor’s hand onto the mast with a knife.
For the most serious crimes, sailors were “keel hauled”. Their legs were tied together with a long rope, then they were tossed overboard, and dragged under the ship by the rope from one side of the ship to the other. What’s more, barnacles and muscles and other mollusks would have grown under the hull, so the offending sailor would have been lacerated as well. It was rare to survive this punishment. Brutal life, the life of a sailor!
And of course, a Djurgården (animal farm) wouldn’t be an animal farm without animals. We saw some weird geese that are called Canada geese by the Swedes that look like some sort of cross between a puffin and a Canada goose.
Neil and I were in awe of all the old architecture and the vibrancy of Stockholm. We walked all over town with Johan and the girls, and finally finished off our day with an authentic Swedish meal: Indian food. I had butter chicken and Neil had a mild curry with lamb dish. Delicious!
Almost everyday was a highlight, and I don’t think I can really convey how fabulous our visit was. The hospitality from family and friends was just amazing! I really want to thank everyone for making us feel so at home, welcome and well taken care of.
Johan has a friend who’s a stage manager at “Stadsteatern”, the civic theatre. His name is Nick, and I met him in 2000 when I visited Stockholm. Nick took us on a full tour of the theatre. It’s huge, with 7 theatres in the main building, the largest holding roughly 450 seats, and there are other small stages scattered around Stockholm. Stadsteatern is possibly the largest theatre in Europe. On their main stage, their fly system is fully automated, with huge sheaves that can be shoved around in the grid in different orientations. Cool.
This theatre complex runs all their shows in repertory, up to three shows per stage. Meaning that they can have up to 25 different shows running at the theatre at the same time. For those interested in the deeply technical details, feel free to make an appointment with either Ingrid or Neil, and we will happily bore you with the details.
Nick suggested that we should go on a cruise called a “räkfrossa” (shrimp gorge) where they serve all you can eat prawns while cruising the waters of the archipelago of Stockholm. We left the theatre, and wandered through Stockholm till we arrived at the wharf where the cruises left from, and we arrived 10 minutes too late to take the last cruise. So we booked spaces on the evening cruise for the following night.
The next day we met up with Ingrid’s brother Patrik at a funky “torg” or square in Östermalm, and spent a few hours with him drinking champagne and having great conversation. We took a very scenic route through a market that reminded us of an up-scaled Granville Island and through a nice shopping district, to get to the train station to meet his wife, Helena and their children, Elsa and Otto who were coming in on the train from Göteborg.
We spend an hour or so with the family, at a nearby restaurant, and then we raced off to meet up with Johan, and take our evening cruise.
As the sun set, we returned to Stockholm and had a nice walk back to the train (pendeltåg) station and home to Johan’s.
Ingrid and I have been so struck by all the kindness and generosity towards us on this trip, and Patrik and his family are no different. We had a lovely meal, and then Patrik drove us into Stockholm to meet with our friend Karolina.
We also got to finally see inside Stadshuset, or the City Hall. We had come by a few days earlier but had missed the last tour of the day, so we returned with Karolina in tow, and went on a tour of the inside.