Sweden – travel journal (4)

After visiting the two largest cities, the impression I have of 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 have generated a powerful working force for the benefit of their economy. A beautiful city with a river running through it, and is adorned 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 that exactly look the same standing next to each other.

The window placement of big buildings in the city seems all very geometrical and appears the same at first look, but the intricately sculptured trims are different from one floor to the other. The rooftop 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 ordinances for buildings and houses which have cultural marks. A special construction license is required for remodeling. Check out these houses by the 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 the capital Stockholm alone, there are 5 million people and 3 million 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 the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren. Water water everywhere, that was my first impression when we landed here. It is a city with sophisticated architecture and a 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 and the largest harbor in Scandinavia. The moment when we stopped here, I felt like I was in New York City. McDonald’s first came into 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 Muslim ladies with hijabs. We were so happy to see Starbucks because the coffee on 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 is worth the experience. We munched a bit of Swedish chocolate and it is supreme.
Though car manufacturing is declining, Volvo was established here in 1927 and is still the major automobile maker. The renowned IKEA was originally created by a 17-year-old Swedish Ingvar Kamprad (the company was registered in the 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 the 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 the Mauritz merger, they started to sell Hers and Men’s clothing lines. In my opinion, the concept of H&M and IKEA basically are the same. They target younger customers 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 the front facade is under construction. We did walk through the room inside the palace where Swedish King hosted the Nobel banquet for Nobel Prize Laureates. Alfred Nobel is a Swedish philanthropist who founded the Nobel foundation in 1895 and the prizes were awarded in 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 ballast 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.
The Baltic sea has brackish water (a 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 of 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 storefront to see the hours and sometimes the prints are so fine that we have to get out 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 the equation, Norway’s 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 way 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
the 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, and 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 me 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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