Second in a week of lasts

In the late 1970’s, it was decided that the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) in Stockholm, needed a bit of rebuilding. Part of that project involved the addition of an underground car park. The car park would be underneath the front of the existing parliament building. The digging started and with the digging came the archaeologists. The archaeologists found the beginnings of Stockholm. The digging stopped and the car park was cancelled.

Rather than cars, the underground chamber is now full of various visitors as they explore the Swedish Middle Ages.

The centrepiece of the Medeltidsmuseet (Medieval Museum) is a section of the wall which once upon a time, surrounded the young city.

We visited the museum today as part of my final day in Stockholm. The plan was to go for fika at the chocolate café, visit the museum then dine at the Hairy Pig. Things didn’t quite work out that way but, even so, we had a wonderful, if somewhat hot, day.

The chocolate café is, apparently, a must see when visiting Gamla Stan. The cinnamon buns which are really cinnamon swirls, and Mirinda’s white, hot chocolate made an excellent start to the day however, I think one of the big pluses for the chocolate café is the fact that it’s within sight of the Nobelmuseet (Nobel Museum).

The Nobel has been closed since some time last year because of the plague, and it remains closed until August 21. It also remains somewhere to see another time, after we return to Sweden. As we always say (and successfully do) it’s always good to save something for our next visit. Like the Watermelon Museum in Beijing. For instance.

Of course, it being gone beer o’clock, I had to forego any pleasure inherent in a hot chocolate. Not that I’m that enraptured with hot chocolate of a morning. It always puts me to sleep. My mind thinks it’s a bedtime drink and my eyes agree, slowly closing following ingestion.

Or that might be the crash following the inevitable sugar rush I guess.

We then returned to the blazing sun (it was remarkably hot today) and headed for the museum.

We figured we could walk around the parliament building but didn’t consider the inevitable building works which meant we had to leave the small island of Helgeandsholmen, and head back across another bridge to find the entrance of the museum. Not that it mattered. I’ve found, in Stockholm, that there’s always new bridges to experience. And this little side trip gave us two.

One of the most brilliant things about the Medieval Museum, on a hot and sweltering day in July anyway, is the fact that it’s delightfully cold inside. You walk down to the base level of the archaeological site and the relief at the drop in temperature is indescribably pleasant.

We stayed in the museum for a long time, absorbing both the history and the cold. Both were plentiful.

I can just imagine the delight that the archaeologists felt when they started unearthing the ancient ruins. A previously undiscovered city under the present. How amazing would that be? I remember the times I discovered something in the ground at an excavation and the thrill of knowing I was touching something that had been touched so long ago by someone else. The dig on Helgeandsholmen must have been like that every hour.

But enough archaeology talk and on to the history that was uncovered by it. First up is Earl Birger Magnusson. He was ruler of Sweden (never the king) in the 1200’s and, in 1252, founded Stockholm. He greets the visitor as you head down to the main chamber of the museum.

Earl Birger Magnusson head by Oscar Nilsson

Once you pass across the drawbridge and into the medieval city, there’s a lot to see, from how they built things to shoes and a small church with frescoes. In fact, there’s a lovely little model of the interior of a church and the walls are covered in frescoes showing just how bright and cheery churches once were.

There’s even a massive boat. Or the remains of a massive boat, the war ship Riddarholmsskeppet. Alongside it are a few beautiful ship models including an excellent example of a Hanseatic League cog being built. The display cleverly uses a mirror in the base to show the wonderful clinker built hull.

There was also a special exhibition on the Stockholm Bloodbath. This was a pivotal moment in Swedish history. In the smallest of nutshells, it is the story of a King and the slaughter of 100 people in Stockholm following a banquet. It is a story with many, many threads and even more consequences. It’s the sort of story which has so many parts to it that historians can pick it apart for centuries.

There are many books on the Stockholm Bloodbath – I first heard about it when Mirinda was reading her book on Swedish history late last year – and this exhibition added to them by presenting a foundation. I particularly liked the models meant to represent some of the main people involved.

The small statues are by Karl-Olov Björk (1936-2013) and are carved from a Malaysian softwood called jelutong. They are remarkably cartoon like. The chap above is Didrik Slagheck, advisor to the then king Kristian II. He organised the executions.

Having had a couple of bishops executed, Didrik ran away but was eventually found and executed in turn. The pope had made it a crime to kill high ranking Catholic church officials so, obviously, he had to die. Though I’m surprised that their god had allowed such a thing to happen in the first place.

Suffice it to say, the whole Stockholm Bloodbath was horrendous from so many angles and continues to intrigue people 500 years later. It certainly intrigues me and I do wonder whether the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones was inspired by it.

Eventually, we were all museum-ed out and had to return to the outside world of heat and brilliant sunshine. It was time to visit Joseph at the Hairy Pig.

It’s a sad thing when you plan to visit somewhere which turns out to be closed. I know because the Hairy Pig Restaurant doesn’t open until 4pm on a Wednesday. We’ve only ever visited on the weekend in the past. Fortunately though, we arrived as the man came to clean out the beer taps.

We sat outside, chatting to Joseph over a beer (me) and cocktail (Mirinda) while batting away customers who thought that maybe the place was open. We had a lovely time discussing various things like how Joseph’s mother had her DNA tested and discovered she was 6% Nigerian and how some of her ancestors had come from the same area of Sweden that Joseph had accidentally found himself settling in.

We then decided that we had to return to Stockholm one more time and eat at the Hairy Pig Restaurant. Because we can’t get a dog minder for next weekend, we’re going to bring the dogs and have a stroll around Gamla Stan before enjoying our final meal. Which, of course, makes the title of this post a lie. Still…

And the meal we did have was excellent. We popped into the Trotzig, a restaurant we’ve passed a few times and thought looked interesting but, naturally, we always go to the Hairy Pig. This made it possible to try somewhere different.

And that was my (probably not) final trip into Stockholm, a city I have come to love. That we both have come to love. Though Mirinda prefers it when the sun is out.

And, not forgetting to wish a very happy birthday to crown princess Victoria, who turned 44 today. I’m surprised there wasn’t a bit of bunting around the palace but, perhaps there was at Drottningholm. Who knows.

This entry was posted in Gary's Posts, Museums & Galleries, Sweden 2021. Bookmark the permalink.

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