Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stockholm - day 7

Since Kel only had to work a couple hours on our last saturday in Stockholm, we spent most of it together, doing some touristy stuff.  The morning was again spent in Gamla Stan. We started off by venturing inside Storkyrkan, the old church (c. 1279) that is next door to the Royal Palace.  the place was phenomenal:

We hung out some more at the Royal Palace and caught part of the guard ceremony:

And then we spent time at Stortorget Square, which is right next to the Nobel Museum.  This square is interesting, because it is a historic site that relates back to a horrible massacre that happened in 1520
but nowadays, serves as some sort of an open-air market.  I mean, this is a place where, several hundred years ago, the invading Danish promised amnesty for the Swedish nobilty, but, lying through their teeth, proceeded to cut everyone's heads off.  But now you can buy some pretty candles while standing on the grounds.  ...huzzah?...

There's also a wishy-washy tale of one of the buildings surrounding the square.  The building in the photo below has a cannon ball embedded in the corner of it, just above the sign.  See it?  The story goes that this is a Danish shot at the island (plausible), and that the ball embedded itself right where you see it (bullshit?).  Who knows.  At any rate, it makes for a cool story for young kids, or something.


After leaving Gamla Stan, we took a tram over to see the VasaMuseet.  This museum houses a 1600s warship called the Vasa, which happened to sink shortly after embarking on its maiden voyage, right off of Swedish land.  Several attempts were made to right it and bring it back to shore, but it wasn't until the 1950s or 60s that modern equipment could do such a task.  The ship was supposedly 95% intact, and it's super impressive to see in person.  Here is a vid and some pics:


All right, I'm tired of writing.  Time to get some sleep.

Stockholm - day 6

Since kel had to work all day again, I again wandered around downtown.  I spent the morning in the more modern parts of town, but soon wanted to head back into the Gamla Stan area, so I headed that way again, after lunch. 

Now that I knew my way around better, I spent more time at the Royal Palace.  The first video below is somewhat funny, but probably more serious than anything, since I crossed an imaginary line and got approached by an armed guard:

Stockholm - day 5

K-sweet worked all day the first and second day in Stockholm, so I was left solo to wander around downtown Stockholm and take in the sights.  Unlike our stay in Amsterdam, our Stockholm hotel was right downtown in the thick of it, so that made getting around much easier/quicker.

I took a 10 minute walk onto an island called Gamla Stan, which is the old, original “stake in the ground” location for Sweden’s new capital city way back in the day, after a ditching (due to continual looting) of the first “capital” city.  The place was very striking – lots of architecture that was older than what I saw in Amsterdam, and the island was also home to some amazing churches, as well as the Royal Palace.  Here are some pics and vids:

After spending all day in this area, I met back up with Kel and we ate some traditional Swedish food and had some beers at a nearby Pub.  Hell yes.

Amsterdam - day 3

We took the train downtown again right away in the morning, since K-Sweet had to work at the Fulbright Center later on in the afternoon and we wanted to cram as much in as we could in the morning (TWSS).  There was a lot more of the walking around and taking in of everything on the streets, but we were slowly making our way to the Anne Frank museum for the main thing to do for the day:

The modern part of the museum takes up the entire building that is directly adjacent to the actual Frank family home, so throughout your visit to the museum, you go in and out of the real rooms where the family hid, and the other more modern exhibitry parts of the adjacent space.  Walking through the hidden passage that is covered up by a replica bookshelf is pretty somber stuff, as is spending time in the living quarters of the family.  Their furniture has been removed, but there are encapsulated areas of Anne’s bedroom wall, where what seems to be the real decor that she had placed on the wall still exists – newspaper cutouts, magazine covers, etcetera.  A few friends had told me that this experience is pretty sad stuff, but completely worth it, and I’m definitely in that club.

After lunch at another Dutch pub, K-sweet had to head off to work, so I accompanied her to Fulbright and then took the tram solo to head back into the city to go to the Stedelijk Museum – Amsterdam’s contemporary and modern art museum.

On my way away from the museum, I noticed that I must have run into the time of day where everyone was coming home from school.  I can’t describe the sight very well, but over and over again moms and dads were rolling by with their kids on their bikes, and they were singing what seemed to be Christmas songs.  It was charming as hell and it made me miss my girls big time.

Shortly after this, my tram ride was interrupted by some sort of protest march for immigrant rights, and it was funny that it didn’t even seem to phase any of the other passengers on-board.  Must be somewhat common to see public marches.  (Jason, I didn’t see Paul, Olav, or Jos from Seein’ Red.  what the hell!?!?.  haha).

I wandered around town solo again, stopping to eat at a charming little Italian place (funny, huh).  After more walking, I wandered into a record store that I had looked up and chatted with the owner about hardcore and punk bands we both liked.  Good guy and awesome store.

Kelly finished up her night at 9:00, and we went back to the hotel to crash.

Amsterdam - day 2

K-Sweet didn't have to work on day 2, so after a quick breakfast at Schiphol train station, we took advantage of the free day to take a train downtown to walk and explore. Actually, I just recalled that our train trip from the airport to downtown had a funny moment... As the conductor walked into our car, we showed him our tickets, and he said something like "ah - first class, come on" with a smile, as he waved us into the next car.  I said something like "no, it's okay, we're fine."  He again repeated what he said, and a Dutch passenger in our car laughed at us.  I quickly realized this dude was telling us we were actually sitting in first class when we shouldn't be, while I thought he was giving us a free invite to the glory land.  whoops.

So, we arrived downtown, and canals, bicyclists, electric trams, and people are everywhere.  Hardly any cars.  People are sweeping up in front of their shops, and it's exactly what I pictured.  Very cool.

After wandering around on foot, we began tram-hopping here and there to get a sense of the street map that we had.  We badly wanted to check out the Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam's "classics" art museum (it houses what is commonly referred to as "The Night Watch") - so we made that our first stop of the day.  The place was mind-blowing.  Two Vermeers, plus an abundance of Rembrandts.  And the thing is, they had a lot of historical galleries that featured craftwork found around the home, and that contextual exhibitry actually worked quite well.

We took off from the Rijks and eventually landed at a little square called Leidseplein, a place that had a lot of restaurants and pubs, and a little ice rink set up for kids.  It also had these things:

Chocolate-covered waffles for the win, or as kel called them, "crack cocaine."  Leidseplein was a cool spot, so we hung out and grabbed some food and beer.  Here's a video of the area:

At the end of the night we met up with Caroline, an old friend of my wife's who had done a year abroad when she was in high school by coming from Netherlands to Iowa for a year.  Caroline rules, and was very fun to walk around with.  She took us to the red light district, which was a lot less of a big deal than I had been told.  Plenty of regular restaurants around it, and all kinds of ages wandering around the streets.  It actually seemed like a decent area, so I don't know if it was cleaned up throughout the last several years, or if I had some sort of euro-blinders on where everything seemed nicer than it was.

We ended the night with Caroline by going to one of her favorite spots for dinner.  The place was small, had nothing on the walls, and the chef stopped by top speak the menu of the night to you personally.  It was phenomenal.  Kel and I shared a prosciutto starter, and we chowed down on this dinner that was a prime cut of beef placed on top of goat cheese, all covered in this puree of mixed berries.  It was the best damn dish of our entire trip, and to top it off, we ordered this pear "pie" of some sort that came with a side of sour creme.  HOLY F%^K.  the waitress said the grandmother of the business' family makes the dish once a week, and that she will not tell anyone else in the family the recipe.  i'm not a big foodie, but this place ruled.  Chao, you are drooling right now, eh?

Here are some pics and a vid:

Also - one final thing about this first full night out in Amsterdam - just about everywhere you go downtown, it costs the equivalent of about 75 cents to go to the bathroom somewhere.  I went into the water closet at Central Station, and there was a turnstyle to get inside, and there was a woman sitting inside the men's room, with a clipboard, at a desk (that had a fridge), watching people piss.  I'm 100% not joking.  funny stuff.