|A very bored moose. Or, possibly, elk.|
If you want to know all about Stockholm, plus pictures, forget it. Look on the internet; that’s what it’s for. If you want to know what the Vikings were up to, you can buy a T shirt with all the venues and gigs on it from 793 to 1066. If I were to tell you that the city is beautiful, relaxed and full of confident, happy people with blonde hair, blue eyes and remarkably good teeth, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Should I venture to suggest that a large proportion were outdoorsy, fit, and walk around wearing backpacks – with full access for the disabled – this too might not be believed, especially in the light of the fact that tattoo and piercing parlours flourish and quite a number of persons engrave themselves, often inappropriately. If I were to also suggest that the city was unpolluted, traffic by Parisian standards was light and well-behaved and people obeyed the ‘don’t walk’ signs, I can almost hear a lightly mocking laugh. I could also make a guess that it is possible to travel in outstandingly clean relative comfort, without snarling or crowd control, to reach from one side of the archipelago to the other in less than an hour by bus, tram, tunnelbahn or boat.
|A very expensive mistake|
In 1626, King Gustav II Adolf ordered his finest shipbuilders to build a vessel fit for a king. With an extra tier of gunports. Nobody could quite summon the political will to tell His Majesty that this was a really, really bad idea, which was a shame, because the customer isn’t always right. Workers toiled night and day for two years to assemble a beautifully carved warship which sank within one nautical mile of her launching dock on her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbour, blown over by a light squall. The extra gunports meant that there wasn’t enough room for the ballast so the great beast simply toppled over like a pot-bellied pig, where she lay in embarrassed silence for the next three hundred and some years. Gustav was, understandably, a mite ticked, but since the extra gunports were his idea in the first place he agreed to let bygones be bygones and nobody was flogged or executed for carelessness. He had the idea of decorating his masterpiece with brightly coloured, intricate carvings of Roman Caesars, with the exception of Augustine, who was replaced by himself. King David also features in the lineup, since His Majesty was something of an admirer and regarded his Lutheran inspired warfare against his Catholic cousin Sigismund, King of Poland in much the same way as he had read that David attacked the Philistines. Oh, dear, not again…
|A very nice little house|
The next stop on the boat tour was Djurgården on which is housed Skansen, or Sweden in miniature, houses assembled in a living museum of mostly Swedish history amidst pleasant woodland. Apple-cheeked, flaxen-haired and pigtailed maidens in traditional clothing give history lessons in the buildings while doing a little crochet. There’s also a small zoo housing mostly Scandinavian animals. I have always wanted to see an elk, although the psychology of wanting to see a very large deer wearing a pair of oven gloves on its head is probably labyrinthine and obscure. After the brown bears, wolves and grey seals, we were finally introduced. The female and its fawn looked at me disinterestedly and I can tick it off on the bucket list. The photograph is of the creature in the next enclosure who gets in because it has antlers. I thought it was a male elk, but my so-called ‘friends’ from Canada tell me it’s a moose. It looked quite stupidly at me so perhaps they’re right.