Monday, July 28, 2014

Impressions of Sweden: Växjö och Museer, del två (Växjö and Museums, Part 2)

In Växjö, there is a complex near downtown called the Kulturparken that included the Smålands Museum, the Swedish Glass Museum and the House of Emigrants.

After we all arrived in Växjö on Friday, July 4, my sister and I took a walk down there to take a look around.

We located the museum buildings, and also saw some other interesting things.

Some buildings with lawns for roofs.

Apparently, this is a traditional type of roof, and does not mean that the building is neglected and derelict. Unlike the house across the street and down a couple houses, when we moved into our house back in 2009. The elderly lady who had formerly resided there had been unable to properly maintain it. Consequently, various types of vegetation had decided to make their home on her roof. We called it the Hobbit House. It was demolished one week in October when we just happened to be out of town on vacation. The lot sat vacant for a good two years or more, until it was finally cleared and a new home constructed last year.

But I digress.

The other fun and cool thing we saw was a disco ball on Växjösjön (Växjö Lake). 

The thing it most immediately brought to mind for both of us was some Christmas ornaments our parents gave us one year when we were kids.

It also revolved, as seen in this video.

On Sunday, Palma and I visited the museums in the Kulturparken.

At the House of Emigrants, the emphasis was on the experience of Swedish emigrants arriving in America and their experiences there -- rather than on the political, economic, and cultural climate in Sweden that might have prompted them to leave, which would have been of more interest to us, personally.

There was also this kind of strange and weirdly creepy and off-putting exhibit of photographs called "Purity." Here is the description from the website: "Photographer David Magnusson has photographed and interviewed participants in 'Purity balls' in the United States. These balls are a ceremonial rite that leads many to raise their eyebrows. At the prom the daughters promise their fathers 'purity' and that they will remain chaste until they marry. Fathers promise in turn to protect their daughters."

Yeah, I definitely raised my eyebrows. I'm sorry, but those photos look like some sort of incestuous bridal photographs.

In an interesting juxtaposition, there was another exhibit in the Smålands Museum called "Secret Love," described thusly: "In Secret Love more than 150 works of art by 24 contemporary artists are presented. They are united in the desire to give visual expression to taboo love, and by the interest in subjects that in China and many other parts of the world are loaded, such as sexual orientation, lust, and gender identity."

However, the Glass Museum was awesome!

Again, it was a little too dim inside to take good photographs. But I did manage to get one.

Coming from an area of the planet that is dominated by Dale Chihuly and his style of glass art, it was refreshing to see other representations of the art form.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Impressions of Sweden: Museums, Part 1

There are A LOT of museums in Stockholm.

During our time there, we managed to visit several of them.

Our trip to Sweden had three parts to it. Not including travel days, we spent two days in Stockholm, two days in Växjö, and then about two-and-a-half more days in Stockholm.

The first stay in Stockholm, we were kind of getting a sense of the city and how to navigate around in it. Stockholm has an excellent, well-integrated public transit system of trains, subways, trams, and buses. In Stockholm, the center of this activity is the Central Station. We bought an Access card to use on the subway, or T-bana (short for Tunnelbana).

The first museum we visited was the Vasa Museum, devoted to everything archeologists had learned from the excavation of this ship called the Vasa that had sunk on its maiden voyage ion 1628, after sailing only 1300 meters. Its location at the bottom of Stockholm harbor was unknown for about 300 years. In 1956, it was rediscovered and salvage efforts began. A major reason it was so well preserved is because there are no shipworms in the brackish water where it sank.

There were two things I noticed about the Vasa Museum, two features it had in common with other museums we visited: (1) the Swedes like their skeletons, and (2) Swedish museums are thorough and inclusive. In the course of excavating the Vasa, the remains of many of the people who died when the ship sank were recovered, and several of these skeletons were duly exhibited with what information could be gleaned about their lives and places in society.

It was hard to take pictures inside the museum, because it was so dark. I'm not sure what their policy on flash photography was — it seems like I did see some flash, mostly from smartphones — but I tried not to use flash on my camera. I did manage to get a couple of decent pictures, though.

In addition to all the interesting stuff to be seen inside, the building itself is really cool, and very distinctive, as you can see in this picture from Wikipedia.

Our second day in Stockholm, we visited the History Museum and toured Parliament.

Like the Vasa Museum, the History Museum also had a fair number of skeletons on display, with explanatory text, and also included *a lot* of things to look at in their exhibits. Their main exhibit during our visit was about the Vikings. What I found most interesting was how the exhibit examined how the popular concept of "the Viking" has changed, depending on the cultural and political climate of the time.

(A side note: pretty much all the museums included English translations of the exhibit text.)

The tour of the Riksdag (Parliament building) was interesting for a couple of reasons. For one, we had toured the provincial Parliament building in Victoria, B.C., a few years ago, and also, we had recently finished watching all three seasons of a Danish show called "Borgen," that revolved around Danish politics, sort of like a Danish version of "The West Wing."

(You can take a virtual tour here.)

Sweden used to have a bicameral legislature, but in 1971 changed it to a unicameral body. The tour guide (a young woman who spoke very good English) described the various political parties, discussed proportional representation, and outlined the process by which bills get passed.

Tim asked her if the Swedish king was allowed to come to Parliament whenever he wanted. When we were in Victoria, they made a big thing about how the English king isn't allowed to visit Parliament without an invitation, because of the shenanigans of Charles I which resulted in the English Civil War.

Also of particular note was where she told us about how the chamber for the unicameral body was built over the Bank Hall and how the structural beams were left exposed to illustrate how the new was build on top of the old.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Impressions of Sweden: They Like Their Statues

Maybe this goes along with being an older, European city. But there were lots of statues in Stockholm.

Also sculptural details on buildings, as well as more more modern-type public art. What's represented here is not everything that I saw — there were a number of pieces that I, regrettably, did not photograph.

I also didn't do the best job of documenting the names, locations, and other details. Some I did take a picture of the plaque detailing such information; others, not. Some I was able to locate relevant web pages; others, not, such as this one.

If I ever go back to Stockholm, I'd like to visit the sculpture garden for this artist, Carl Milles.

Orpheus Group by Carl Milles

This next one, I saw during a boat tour of Stockholm.

At The Opera House

At the Nordiska Museet.

In honor of Astrid Lindgren, author of the "Pippi Longstocking" books.

Two different fountains.

How to strangle a fish

How to kill a dragon

Seen as we were leaving the Royal Palace after our tour.

Also at the Royal Palace, near the front promenade.

In a more modern vein, there was La Mano.

And "Sjaan" (1987) by Sigurdur Gudmundsson (b. 1942).

And in a lighter vein . . . Bananas in Trees . . .

 . . . and Plastic Balls in Trees.

Little Dancing Man by the Water.

In Växjö, "Durus och Mollis" (2008)  by Monika Gora.

And last, but certainly not least . . . because it's all about the yarn . . .

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Impressions of Stockholm: Architecture

One of the first things I noticed about Stockholm was that none of the buildings were more than 6 or 7 stories, at least in the downtown core.

A Google search turned up this, but it is located several miles from downtown.

In the area of the city we were in — Gamla Stan (literally "Old Town") Sodermalm, Ostermalm, Norrmalm, Djurgarden — the tallest buildings, by and large, were the churches.

Tyska Kyrkan (German Church)
Stora Kyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral)
Not much in the way of modern architecture. In the course of visiting several museums, it was mentioned several times that Stockholm's history goes back about 1000 years. Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the city, had a particularly medieval quality to its narrow streets and alleys.

As seen in the above photo, many of Gamla Stan's streets and paths are paved in brick, often in an appealing, fan-like pattern.

There was also this star in the middle of the central courtyard at the Royal Palace.

Sweden is known for its runestones, several of which we saw at the Historiska Museet (History Museum). I spotted this one at a corner in Gamla Stan.