Tuesday, September 20, 2011


We visited Stockholm on a rainy day, just a few days before midsummer, the longest day of the year, and the day after students began their ten-week summer vacation. We weren't thrilled with our Swedish guide, who drove us around a lot and pointed out "important buildings" instead of turning us loose. Still, we could see even through our rain-splattered bus windows that the city has a lot of charm:

We liked this snake drawn on a bit of concrete plastered to an outside wall.
Gotta love this version of St. George and the Dragon, with the spiny, skinny dragon and the valiant horse.
What? A Christus in the window?  You mean the Swedes borrow from the DANES? (They don't seem too fond of each other.)
Miniature street art

In all that driving around, we did learn some interesting things from the guide:

* As in most of Scandinavia, only 2% of Swedes attend church.

* Half of TV programming for kids is in English, and a lot of adult programming is too. It is a very effective way of supporting English instruction in the schools, which begins in third grade.

* Swedes are very proud of one of their native sons, Botanist Carl Linnaeus. Our guide told us the inscription on his statue reads, "God creates; Linnaeus puts it in the right order."

*Gay marriage is totally legal in Sweden. Churches have to perform gay marriages or they can't perform any marriages at all.

*Swedes have a 30% income tax, and rich people pay more.

*Danish women drink beer in public; Swedish women NEVER do. (As noted earlier, Swedes look down their patrician noses at the Danes.)

*Women are given a one-year maternity leave with the guarantee of getting their old job back.  Sometimes they get eighteen months.  Grandmas generally take care of the children.

*All women over 40 work.

 * The minimum work holiday is five weeks, and it is fully paid.  For long-term workers, vacation time may be seven or even eight weeks/year, and workers can "bank" weeks for use in future years.

We saw two main sites in our short, wet stay in Stockholm.  The first was the wreck of the Swedish Warship Vasa.  Its maiden voyage in 1628 lasted less than a nautical mile before it sunk.  Apparently, everyone knew the ship had problems, but no one wanted to speak up.  The ship was pulled up out of the sea beginning in 1956, and over the next eleven years, 14,000 pieces were salvaged.  It has been rebuilt in a huge barn-like building, an enormous, elaborate monument to a colossal error in judgment:

 The most mystifying thing in the museum was this picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian:
 The second site we visited was City Hall, the site of the annual Nobel Prize Banquet.  The spire on City Hall is topped with the Three Crowns, Sweden's national emblem:

Dinner occurs in the Golden Hall at fancy tables with fancy dishes:

There is a fancy red velvet chair in the corner where Prize recipients sit to be interviewed:
I would love to sit in this chair for an interview.  What are my chances?
 The building itself is magnificent, from its ceilings:

. . . to the views out the windows:

. . . to the walls themselves:

At the end of the day, we hopped on the cruise ship and navigated past a few of 25,000 Swedish islands on our way to Finland:

This novel isn't really about Sweden, but A Man Called Ove (pronounced OO-vuh) was written in Swedish by the Swedish author Fredrik Backman.  It was a #1 bestseller in Sweden, and in the summer of 2014 it was translated into English and published in the United States. I must confess it is the only Swedish book I've read that I'm aware of, and so I think it's worth adding it to this post. Besides, I absolutely LOVED the book, and I need a place to share it!

Ove, a curmudgeon of the -nth degree, is a recent widower. He lives in a planned community and is constantly monitoring his neighbors' behavior and finding it lacking. At about the same time that a mangy, half-dead cat decides to move into his yard, new people move into one of the houses on his street, a family headed by a somewhat passive computer programmer and his very strong-willed Iranian wife who won't take no for an answer. I can't say much more without spoiling the story. Read it for yourself.



  1. Sweden was the biggest disappointment on the trip. We may need to go back some day and have a better experience.

  2. As usual, even on a disappointing day you have something interesting to show and for me to learn. Laughed when I saw Bob with his cannon. I liked seeing the Noble Prized building--to think it was all started with sticks of dynamite (how he got his fortune).

    Loved the pun at the end. Can hardly wait, because I want to read about the Northeast trip! Are you blogging that one, or are you sick of trip blogging?


  3. ALL parents get 16 month paid, though often men take less time then women.