Special Six: Stockholm Art

One of my favourite cities in the world has been Stockholm, ever since I first visited it in 2000. Since that first visit, I have lived there for three years working and studying and my last visit there was in 2010. While there are many places and things I like about the city, this post is about the six places of art in this city that are special to me.

  1. Waldemarsudde

Prins Eugen, who was himself a landscape artist, left his home Waldemarsudde and his collection to the Swedish state in his will. Therefore, since 1948, the place has been open to the public. The building was built in early 20th century as a residence for the prince. He soon added a gallery as an extension to the house, as he needed space for his expanding art collection. At the time of his death, his collection included 3,200 of Prins Eugen’s work and around 3,500 works by other artists.

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Prins Eugen’s home

I first visited the lovely home and art museum in Djurgården on a lovely excursion organized by my university, KTH. I fell in love with the house and its park overlooking the lake so much so that I brought my mother here for her birthday. The aesthetically pleasing landscaped gardens has several famous sculptures including Carl Milles’ Archer and an Alexis Rudier cast of Rodin’s The Thinker.

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My mother on her birthday, Waldemarsudde, 2003

This beautiful art museum is a not-to-be-missed gem by the visitor to Stockholm city. There is a restaurant and cafe, the Prince’s Kitchen, within its premises.

2. Millesgården

Nearly around the same time that Prins Eugen moved into his newly built home, Waldemarsudde in Djurgården, the artist couple Carl and Olga Milles bought their property on the island of  Lidingö. Over the next several decades, Carl Milles designed his gardens and added his fascinating sculptures to the landscape.

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Fountain of the Muses

The visit to Millesgården was also a special treat organized by my university.

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God on the rainbow

More than the house itself, I liked the gardens and my favourite was this little piece of sculpture on a low wall. A tiny stone carving of a wooden bench on which a couple are huddled together from the the cold. If you peeped across the bench, you would see a man sleeping on the other side. The sleeping man is supposed to be the artist, Carl Milles himself, and represented his time in Paris as a struggling artist.

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A la belle étoile

3. Monument honouring Raoul Wallenberg

During my initial months in Stockholm, my parents and I stayed in Lidingö for a short while. While walking with my mother across the city hall park, I came across a monument which called out to me from the first time I saw it. It was that of a man handing out documents, with his hands clasped at the back, and hands reaching out from the ground for those documents. Seeing that sculpture by Willy Gordon began my fascination with the story of Raoul Wallenberg‘s life. As a Swedish diplomat in Budapest during World War II, he is credited with saving the lives of about 100,000 Hungarian Jews, before he disappeared in January 1945. I admired his initiative, courage and commitment, despite knowing that he would be targeted eventually.

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Source: Lidingo.se

4. Kungliga Tekniska Hogskolan

Not just because it was one of the universities I studied at, I also like it very much because it is aesthetically pleasing. The main campus building in Ostermalm was built in the early 20th century and features work by prominent Swedish sculptors such as Carl Milles and Ivar Johnsson. The borggården (courtyard) is particularly lovely during summer.

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KTH Courtyard

5. National Museum

The museum was built in 1866 and is currently closed for renovation. For one of my mother’s birthdays, I had planned a day trip to this national museum. My mother used to enjoy painting a lot but at some point, had stopped her painting. After her visit here, she was re-inspired so much so that she not only resumed her painting, our apartment and my sisters’ houses were soon filled with her artwork.

6. University of Stockholm 

The campus at Frescati is located within a beautiful area and includes the Bergius Botanical gardens. Walking around the campus, taking in the sculptures by Marianne and Sivert Lindblom among others, is a treat.

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Photo credit: Jan Oqvist at sivertlindblom.se

Which of these special six places would you want to visit? If you have already visited some or all of them, how was your experience?

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[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday , City Tripping #51 and The Weekly Postcard]

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A few hours in Vatican City

Continued from Firenze

While I had planned to visit Vatican while in Rome, I had not thought of getting a ticket in advance to go for the sunday service at St. Peter’s Basilica. Looking at the long queue, I knew that I would not be able to get a ticket on that morning.

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However, with the queuing people intent on getting inside the church, the square was becoming less crowded. So, I decided to sit outside in the square and take in the atmosphere, while watching the service on the giant screens set up in the square.

After an hour or so, I was ready to visit the Sistine chapel and only the chapel, as I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with all the artwork at the Vatican museum even before I had visited the chapel. I made my way into the chapel, which was packed, but I managed to find a seat on one of the benches lining the edges so that I could take in the artwork on the walls and ceiling of the chapel.

After the visit to the Sistine chapel, I felt like I needed to get out of the crowded museum so started walking away from Vatican city, till I reached Castel Sant’Angelo on its outskirts. The castle had been commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. I loved the views from the top of the castle.

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How was your experience of visiting Vatican city?

[Linking this post to City Tripping #46 , hosted by Mummy Travels and Wander Mum]

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Special Six: Manhattan highlights

While returning home, after completing my APLP fellowship residency in Hawai’i, I had chosen to fly back to Colombo via New York. A close friend of mine had asked her sister working in NYC to host me at her apartment so I had a great base in midtown Manhattan to explore the city from.

Besides seeing iconic Manhattan landmarks such as the Empire State, Chrysler building, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, UN headquarters and spending hours at the Met and Guggenheim museum, these were my special six experiences from my first visit to Manhattan.

  1. Home-stay at an apartment with an amazing view

I enjoyed staying at my friend’s sister’s apartment and experiencing views of amazing sunrises and sunsets over the East river.

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I think I was actually quite content staying indoors, comfortably warm, enjoying the amazing view as well as reading the books I had brought for my NYC trip. I also enjoyed getting to know my friend’s favourite sister better.

2. Walking around the neighbourhood

It was quite frustrating that while I was staying in midtown Manhattan very close to so many landmarks that I had previously only seen in movies or online, the pain in my leg aggravated by the cold winter meant that I could only walk for very short distances with the help of a walking aid and I needed to take lots of breaks. This was highly inconvenient because walking around is the best way to explore Manhattan. While I did manage to enjoy a few short walks, I did not take any photos during these walks because it was a hassle to have to remove my gloves and juggle my walking stick and camera. A walking route that I particularly enjoyed was a short loop walk, between 1st avenue 34th street and 5th avenue 35th street, which meant passing by two places I grew quite fond of – St Vartan Armenian Cathedral and the Empire State building. St Vartan Cathedral drew me in several times and I really liked the peaceful atmosphere within the cathedral, especially as I was at an emotional low point during this visit.

3. Experiencing a Broadway show

The only thing that I had pre-planned and booked well in advance for my visit to New York City was a Broadway show. I had to treat myself to one show while there and my choice for my first visit to NYC was Phantom of the Opera at Majestic Theatre. The theatre district is packed during evenings and is a sight in itself. It was especially difficult getting a cab after the musical and I had to walk a block or two before I could get a cab to stop.

4. Enjoying a mojito at Havana Alma de Cuba and exploring Christopher Street

A friend and I had made plans to meet up for coffee, after Christmas, at her favourite neighbourhood in Manhattan. I enjoyed exploring Christopher Street with her trying out some of her favourite places. We started with coffee at the now closed Mojo café, then visited McNulty’s Tea and Coffee shop where I bought some Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee for home.

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I had to walk into Sockerbit, a Swedish candy store, as soon as I saw the displays of godis, and it brought me back an edible piece of a country I consider my second home. The highlight of our walk though was enjoying a mojito at Havana Alma de Cuba, where we had popped into on an impromptu impulse.

We made a final stop at the Fat Cat jazz club. The place had not yet opened for visitors for the day but they let us walk around and see the venue. Since I was leaving the next day, I did not actually get to revisit the place and experience some live jazz music. However, I really liked the vibe of West Village, at least of the street that I explored.

5. Taking the Staten island ferry to see the Lady

I was meeting up with a former colleague living on Staten Island and was delighted to learn of the Staten Island ferry service, which gave me my boat fix for this trip, together with the pleasure of seeing the Statue of Liberty against the night sky.

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6. Eating out in Manhattan

With my kind host leaving me freshly cooked lunches daily before going to work, despite my repeated requests not to bother about it, I had no choice but to eat in most of the time. I did try out a few cafes occasionally though. Of the few that I tried, I very much enjoyed The Wright restaurant at Guggenheim museum, a museum I also enjoyed very much.

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Source: The Wright

What is your favourite Manhattan experience?

[I am linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday, hosted by Lauren on Location, Snow in TromsoThe Sunny Side of This and What a Wonderful World; and

Faraway Files #2, hosted by Suitcases and Sandcastles, Untold Morsels, Oregon Girl]

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Swedish Food I miss

A Swedish friend once asked me what typical Swedish food I missed. This post is about all the food that I miss from my years in Stockholm.

  1. Kanelbulle

My favourite Swedish food is kanelbulle (cinnamon buns). The smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns and the texture and taste of the bun is unique to Sweden and I have loved it since I first tried it out. I have tried making my own kanelbulle as I started enjoying baking in recent years, but have not been able to get it quite right yet. As you can see from the photo below, courtesy of Visit Sweden, a perfect kanelbulle is a wonderful treat for all ages.

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Credits: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

2. Vetebröd

Fika is a ritual in Sweden. I loved the fika breaks, chats over cups of Swedish coffee, like Gevalia, and a baked treat. One of my favourite fika treats, besides kanelbulle, is vetebröd. This is a lightly sweetened cardamom bread, that is perfect with coffee. I have tried making vetebröd at home several times using this recipe, which has turned out quite well.

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Source: Tasteline

3. Semla

This is a Swedish seasonal treat that makes its appearance in Stockholm bakeries during winter months and particularly for Shrove Tuesday. Semla is basically cardamom buns with an almond paste and whipped cream filling. What I like most about this tasty treat, besides the delicious combination of flavours, is that the cream is just a touch sweet without being too much.

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Credits: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

4. Lusekatter

These saffron buns are made typically for St Lucia’s day on December 13. I was first introduced to it at work, during my teaching year at the International School of Stockholm. It is a lovely Scandinavian tradition, with children participating in a singing procession led by one girl dressed as St. Lucy, wearing a white dress and a red sash and a crown of candles on her head. The kids would share these saffron buns or cookies with others.

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Source: Swedish food

5. Glögg och pepparkakor

Something served during the Christmas season, Glögg (mulled wine) and Pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) are a delicious treat during the cold winter days. In Sweden, there was also a non-alcoholic version of glögg called julmust, which was what my mother used to serve at home to visitors in December. My favourite memory of this combination of glögg and pepparkakor was at the ice-hotel in Kiruna, when after hours of waiting on the frozen river to see the northern lights, the warm spiced wine and cookies tasted delicious and wonderful.

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Credits: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

6. Pannkakor och sylt

I have always been a huge fan of pancakes since I was a kid and sundays at home generally mean a pancake breakfast. So, it automatically followed that during my year of teaching in Stockholm, my favourite school lunch was the same as that of the kids – Swedish pancakes and sylt (jam or preserve), mostly lingonberry.

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Source: Swedish food

7. Pytt i Panna

After seeing many adverts on TV on this dish, we tried out the store bought pytt i panna (Swedish hash) and it soon started appearing on a regular basis at meal times at home. I like the vegetarian hash, with carrots, turnips, radish etc. more.

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Source: Swedish Food

8. Räksmörgås 

The Swedish open prawn sandwich makes for a delicious lunch. If you are able to get hold of a Toast Skagen, you are in for a bigger treat. I missed this so much so that I went to a Scandinavian Christmas fair in London, for this sandwich and a kanelbulle.

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Source: Swedish food

9. Salmon with new potatoes and dill sauce

This is a typical combination in a Swedish meal – new potatoes and dill sauce with poached salmon or gravlax (dill cured salmon). We didn’t make it at home but I often chose it, when eating out in Stockholm.

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Source: Swedish Food

10. Ris à la Malta

I am a huge fan of Swedish rice pudding. One of my friends, Inna, and I used to play badminton at Frescatihallen at Stockholm University once or twice a week and we always treated ourselves to risifrutti (which is basically packaged store-bought ris a la malta) or mannafrutti, after our game.

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Source: Swedish Food

Which is your favourite Swedish food? Or, which of the above would you love to try out during your visit to Sweden?

[I had drafted this post a while back but had not got around to finishing it, when I saw that the #travellinkup theme for September was memorable meals so I decided to share this post on food that make me nostalgic about my years in Stockholm, with the monthly link up, hosted by Angie, Emma, Jessi and Tanja

I am also linking it up to :
Wanderful Wednesday, hosted by Snow in Tromso, Lauren on Location, The Sunny Side of This and What a Wonderful World]
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