Sweden – travel journal (4)

After visiting two largest cities, the impression I have on Sweden is royal, majestic, and picturesque. Like Norway, Sweden is part of original Hanseatic League and they are historical big traders on Baltic Sea. Norway obtains its wealth from oil and Sweden has brought in enormous immigrants who has generated powerful working force for the benefit of their economy. A beautiful city with a river run through it, and is adored with breath-taking architecture throughout.

storybook-like houses along the shore

As you may know, I cannot get enough of the colorful houses in Norway and here in Sweden, my obsession only grows more.  Generally speaking, residential houses in Norway have more straight lines while Swedish houses seem to have more characters. It is not easy to find two houses exactly look the same standing next to each other.

Window placement of big buildings in the city seems all very geometrical and appears the same at first look, but the intricate sculptured trims are different from one floor to the other. Roof top is intentionally designed for snow load and long winter here which can go from Oct to April depending on the region.

I was wondering, as old as the styles look, how come the buildings all look so orderly and well maintained.  I was told that they have strict ordinance for the buildings and houses which have cultural marks. Special construction license is required for remodeling. Check out these houses by lakefront. How do you like to have your boat right outside of your house?

Sweden is the 4th largest country in Europe, 9 million population. In capital Stockholm alone, there are 5 million people and 3 millions of them are immigrants. It is an international city. Stockholm is named ‘Venice of North’ with one difference, no smell, as the locals put it.  It has its natural waterway and is composed of 30 islands, between Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren. Water water everywhere, that was my first impression when we landed here. It is the city with sophisticated architecture and beautiful landscape.

a private residence with boat launch

When our cruise ship was approaching the shore, I was so attracted by the landscape that I ran to the upper deck and grabbed a spot without noticing that I was standing in front of a man who was there before me. I did not realize how rude I was till he switched his place and stood before me. I got the hint. I was going to say sorry but then I was so caught up with the scene so was the man. I don’t think he would hear me if I attempted to say something. We were ‘on the same boat’ loving what we saw and wanted to capture it all.

Goteborg is the second largest city in Sweden, the largest harbor in Scandinavia. The moment when we stopped here, I felt like I was in New York City. McDonald first came to sight and almost all American fast food chains are here. Plus, diversity of people and the busy traffic. Long blond hair girls are everywhere so are the Muslin ladies with hijibs. We were so happy to see Starbucks because the coffee in the cruise tastes like tar, but the locals highly recommended their own brand, Express House. It costs $5.70 a cup, but it tastes good and worth the experience. We munched a bit of Swedish chocolate and it is supreme.

Though car manufacturing is declining, Volvo was established here since 1927 and still the major automobile maker. The renowned IKEA was originally created by a 17-year old Swedish Ingvar Kamprad (the company was registered in Netherlands). IKEA takes the name after his first and last name, E=Elmtyard, the farm where he grew up and A=Agunaryd, his hometown in South Sweden. The great invention of IKEA concept has definitely benefited young families to enjoy style and value.
H&M is also from Sweden, Hennes & Mauritz Company. Hennes means hers in Swedish and that’s H originally came from. After Mauritz merger, they started to sell Hers and Mens clothing line. In my opinion, the concept of H&M and IKEA basically are the same. They target younger customers and with updated styles and attractive value. 
We drove by Abba’s Museum. Surprised to hear that Abba is not as popular in Sweden.  We tend not to cherish what we have local and readily available, don’t we?

In addition to the city, we of course visited Royal Palace and the famous Vasa Museum. Among all the royal palaces, I happened to be in favor of this one, a late baroque-style building with Rococo (asymmetrical style) interior decoration and the exterior, Italian Renaissance style. However, photography is not permitted inside the palace and front facade is under construction. We did walk through the room inside the palace where Swedish King hosted Nobel banquet for Nobel Prize Laureates. Alfred Nobel is a Swedish philanthropist who founded Nobel foundation in 1895 and the prizes were awarded since 1901.

the praying boy

I think this praying little boy was just as popular as the glamorous presentation inside the palace.

Vasa Museum has the original warship Vasa displayed. Vasa is supposed to be the most extensive and richly ornamented naval vessel built in Sweden at the time (1628). When she sailed forth on her maiden voyage on Stockholm shore, Vasa capsized and sank inside Stockholm harbor, just 45 minutes after her launch mostly due to the weight of the overly-furnished ship. It was top-heavy and did not have enough ballasts for the stability of the bottom.

Vasa warship
When the ship was discovered more than 333 years later, it still remained intact under the sea.
Baltic sea has brackish water (mix of salt and clear water) which prevented the growth of wood loving worms and saved the ship. 15 skeletons were found inside the ship, and part of them are shown in the museum. After being salvaged, she was able to float unaided. It was a somewhat emotional journey to go around the ship, look in and around and feel the despair from the captain and the sailors when a victorious entry suddenly turned into a deadlock. 
The display area was very dark. I did not have an external flash with me. Even I bumped up my ISO to the max 6400, I still could not get any decent shots. When I was frantically looking for ways to shoot,  I somehow was able to switch my ISO to a Hi setting that I have never discovered before. Here it is, I finally had a clear shot.

Bike rental 
It is not just in Denmark, bicycle is also popular in Sweden. There are self-serve bicycle rentals in the city. You can make your deposit, grab a bike and tour around town as you please.
All the major stores have their hours marked next to their store signs in large letters. I really like this customer-friendly arrangement.  At home, we often have to drive close to a store front to see the hours and sometimes the prints are so fine that we have to get out of of the car.  
store hours

The classical glamour of Sweden is in the city and the rural landscape is not less beautiful than what I so loved in Norway. Taking history out of equation, Norway scenery is similar to Oregon and prettier.  Sweden has the addition of an unspeakable richness and lushness. When I looked out of the window and into the green fields, my eyes seemed to wander a long ways before I saw the end, and from there blue water immediately opens another depth of field….

Most of my pictures taken on this trip are tour bus shots. I was not only in movement with the bus, window glass was also in the way. Photo quality can be better, but….

Royal Palace
Stockholm inside the city
old town, Main Square in Stockholm
apartment building at a glance

I started my blog to sound my inner voice. As the journey evolves, I have explored and discovered so many things that I either have never known or I have to refresh my memory to catch up. The joy I got out of the process is immensely meaningful and enlightening to me. For this, I have to thank Steve, my mentor, the leader of our photography group, who has inspired me to make this daring attempt: to write in English and to share in public.
(Steve’s blog site http://www.creativemonkeystudios.com/)


1. I have changed my title to Journey of Exploration and Discoveries. I also decided to only post one blog a week. This will give myself more time to prepare my content with more details and hopefully more depth as well in the coming future.

2. Finland and Russia trip journals will come later along with other posts if I may choose to post other articles first.

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