Thursday, 17 August 2017

Stockholm and Uppsala – in the footsteps of Vikings

This summer, we visited Sweden – Stockholm and Uppsala, to be more precise. I have already blogged about the 17th century part of our trip, and here’s a little look at the Viking and Iron Age side.

First up was the Historical Museum. I’d wanted to visit the place for years now, having heard that they have an impressive Viking Age collection. And indeed it was that, a very large exhibition with many fascinating items - a must-see for Viking fans.

Some Viking bling:

Swords, of course:

Miniature Birka:

On the courtyard of the museum building were some Viking age style tents, a small boat and activities, such as archery, for children.

The museum is a huge building that houses several collections. In addition to the Viking Age section, we took a closer look at Prehistory...

...and raced through the general Swedish history, but, somewhat to our disappointment, found nearly nothing about the 17th century. Not to worry, though – we knew where to go for that! 😊 We decided to skip other sections, since there simply was no time for everything. I do want to point out, though, that there was no entry fee to the museum – you could see all this and more entirely for free! (Although we made up for that by spending money in the museum shop and the café, but the chocolate cake was totally worth it! 😉)

We concluded the day in an appropriate note: a dinner at Viking restaurant Aifur. The food was good and the mead was tasty. The atmosphere was rather boisterous (i.e. loud; a conversation would have required us to shout), but isn’t that the Viking way? It was definitely an interesting experience!

Near our hotel in Upplands Väsby was a place called Gunnes Gård: a reproduction of a Viking settlement with houses and outbuildings constructed in Viking Age style. There were also sheep, some cattle and pigs; chicken and goats that roamed free around the area. Our daughter quickly made friends with the goats who followed her around!

We also visited Gamla Uppsala (“Old Uppsala”), an important place in Iron Age Sweden – possibly the location of the legendary temple of Uppsala and famous for the royal mounds. Long have I desired to look upon the kings of old… um, I mean, at least their burial mounds. The mounds date back to the 5th and 6th century and were once believed to be resting places of gods and later thought to be burial mounds of the legendary Ynglinga kings (and queens, quite possibly). Rich grave goods and the sheer majestic size of them indicate that they are indeed royal burial places. You could actually climb the mounds, and although my crippled old leg did not think it a good idea, it is not every day you get to ascend the graves of bygone kings, so up we went. And it was worth it! The view from the top was lovely, and one - if one is inclined to indulge in such romantic fantasies - could feel oneself surrounded by something very ancient.

Right next to the mounds is Gamla Uppsala museum with a fascinating exhibition about the history of the place and the burial mounds (the grave finds, how the barrows were constructed etc.).

Gamla Uppsala also features Odinsborg, a restaurant/café where we had some ice-cream but where you can also drink mead from a proper drinking horn.

Finally, I want to mention a small but very interesting section dedicated to the Vendel period and Viking Age in the Gustavianum building of the University of Uppsala. As far as I understand, this exhibition concentrates on objects from a nearby excavation site (more about Gustavianum in my earlier post).

 Above, beautiful pattern (textile fragment)

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Stockholm and Uppsala – in the footsteps of Gustavus Adolphus

This summer, we visited Sweden – Stockholm and Uppsala, to be more precise. Since the 17th century happens to feature strongly in our current interests, there were a couple of places that we particularly wanted to see.

One that I recommend to anyone interested in history is the Royal Armoury, Livrustkammaren, the oldest museum in Sweden (established by Gustavus Adolphus himself). Their collection features dazzling suits of armour (from various centuries)...

...gorgeous weapons...

(Above, Gustavus Adolphus' rapier)

...splendid suits and gowns, literally fit for kings and queens...


 (and their servants)

 (and their horses)

...and fairy-tale carriages.

I must also note that there was no entry fee – you could see all this and much more for free!

One cannot truly claim to be a 17th century enthusiast and not see the Vasa ship – the grand ship commissioned by Gustavus Adolphus that, unfortunately, sank as soon as it launched on its first voyage in 1628. The entire ship is housed in the Vasa Museum. There it hulks, this enormous, dark thing. The smell of old wood is everywhere. Although the museum also features a large exhibition with various other, related items, I couldn’t help it: my gaze was always drawn to the ship, and even when it wasn’t, I could just feel its presence. However, the rest of the exhibition is very interesting indeed, and it took us hours to tour the whole place.
(A more detailed post has appeared in my DH's blog; to see that, go here.)


(Our hero playing... um... not quite sure what... the role of an ancient Roman hero, I suppose. 😁)

Last but not least on our list was Uppsala and the university museum Gustavianum, built in the 1620s (and named after our hero, of course, whose donation helped construct the building).

Right across the street, Uppsala Cathedral, the coronation site of Gustavus Adolphus:

Gustavianum itself was a very pleasant surprise: I expected something in much smaller scale, but the museum had a nice little section about Egypt and ancient world. Ancient Egypt being one of my interests, this was a particularly lovely surprise – and our daughter, who had always wanted to see sarcophagi, was thrilled! A mummy that was also on display both terrified and fascinated her.

There were sections about the history of the university and, of course, a whole room dedicated to the time of Gustavus Adolphus, where the main attraction was the cabinet of curiosities he received only a little before his death. The enormous cabinet has various parts, some of them detachable, and houses a great number of all sorts of strange objects.

But there was more! I especially loved the old anatomical theater dating back to the 1660s, the kind you see in movies (but more beautiful):


In addition, there was a small but interesting Vendel and Viking Age section, but I will return to that in a later post.

The museum shops were all worth a visit as well, and thanks to this trip, our book collection grew quite a bit...