An American Couple in Delft
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Stockholm

Stockholm is at the top of the world, it seems. There are some large European cities, Helsinki for one, that are farther north but this is way up there at 60 north latitude. Strange things happen this far north. Delft is at 52 but because of the east-west position, sunset during the week of the summer solstice is about 10:30 p.m. in both places. It took a while to get used to that. But in Stockholm, because it's so close to the Arctic Circle, the sun rises at about 3:30 a.m. If it sets that late and rises that early, it never gets dark. It's light enough during the night to read a book comfortably outdoors with no additional lights. But it works the other way at the winter solstice. Why bother getting out of bed?

Stockholm is a pretty old place having its roots go back to about the 13th century. It's built on 14 islands which all have different characteristics. The Old City is on three islands in the center, there's another large island which composes most of the central business district and several more which are totally different and very residential. It's a little like New York City except that the flavors of the islands are much more varied than say the Bronx is from Brooklyn.

The Royal Palace of Stockholm is in the Old City and it's not the residence but rather a working palace. That means that King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia commute each day. It's not clear whether they take the train or drive. We wanted to knock on the door to see if they remembered us from the night we had dinner together. Seriously. Carl XVI and Silvia came to the Swedish Museum in Philadelphia in about '94 as part of a promotion for an exhibition of art done by the Swedish royal family. We went to the dinner along with about 500 others. Carl and Silvia made an entrance while we were all seated. We had dinner. He spoke and then they left. No receiving line, no nothin'. But Lynn and I really did have dinner with the King and Queen of Sweden. By the way, he is the presenter each year of the Nobel Prizes which are made at the Stockholm City Hall.

There's a museum in Stockholm dedicated to an old sailing ship, The Vasa  It seems that there was once a lot of bad blood between the Protestant king of Sweden and his Catholic cousin, the king of Poland. Somebody was occupying somebody else so the Swedes built this tall ship for the purpose of going to Poland to kick some butt. The ship left the port in Stockholm on a sunny Sunday in 1628 in very calm water. Almost immediately it listed severely to one side but after considerable effort, it was righted. No sooner than this happened, it listed to the other side and capsized after sailing less than a mile. About 50 of the crew of 200 drowned. It seems that the design changed along the way and the ship became very top heavy. It was doomed before it ever started out.

About 40 years later, using a diving bell, they were able to salvage what was important: the guns. The ship stayed on the floor of the harbor until 1961 when it was painstakingly raised. The actual ship is in the museum along with remnants of six of the original sails.

See all my pictures of Stockholm.

 

2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008