Cruising Lake Malaren to visit Drottningholm Palace, oh and walking 5km to do some laundry!
For our last day in Stockholm we decided to catch a ferry into Lake Malaren to see Drottningholm Palace and its gardens. Stockholm sits at the mouth of Lake Malaren, where it drains into the Baltic Sea. This freshwater lake is huge (it covers an area of 1,140 square kilometres) and contains numerous islands, including Lovon Island – home to Sweden’s royal family. We cruised past the central part of Stockholm on the way out to Lovon Island, watching as 18th and 19th century buildings gave way to more modern 20th century apartment buildings, and then to free-standing houses. Within an hour even the houses disappeared and the islands we passed were forested and wild. We saw heaps of people swimming, sunbathing, boating, fishing and kayaking around the lake; it must be wonderful for Stockholmers to have such easy access to so much natural beauty, especially in summer when you can really make the most of it.
Out in the middle of Lake Malaren, on an island all of its own, sits Drottningholm Palace. This pretty castle, modelled on Versailles in France, was first built in 1580 by King Jon III as a summer retreat for his queen. It was used as such for the next 3 centuries, until 1981 when it became the permanent home of the current King and Queen (Carl Gustaf XVI and Silvia), and their family. The Swedish royal family lives in the Southern wing of the castle, but lets people visit the rest of the palace and its gardens, which is very nice of them I think. We love a good palace and it was a gorgeous day (again!), so off we went to see if we could find a Swedish royal or two to wave at.
*Note: Apparently Sweden has had a monarchy since prehistoric times, with records found from as far back as the 1st century confirming this. The kingship was originally an elected role, but has been an inherited one since the 16th century when King Gustav I led the Swedish war againt the Danes, ending Dannish rule in Sweden; instigated national religious, political and industrial reform in Sweden (he nationalised all the wealth from the Roman Catholic Church – clever man!); and set the Vasa family as the rulers of Sweden. Since 1974 the role of the King in Sweden has been mainly of a ceremonial nature, but the Swedes seem to still love their royal family. For example, a few of the locals we spoke to recalled fondly the 2010 wedding of the current heir to the throne Crown Princess Vistoria to American Daniel Westling, her former personal trainer. The whole concept of royalty seems so irrelevant these days, but I guess it’s a like to the past and to a national heritage that people still value.
Alas we saw no royals at Drottningholm Palace, but plenty of grand palatial rooms, old paintings, tapestries and old furniture. The castle had about it an air of fading grandeur that left us a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fairly well maintained, but certainly not in a “as it would have been back then” state; it was quite dusty and dark, and though there were a few rooms that had been beautifully restored, many obviously need some TLC. The gardens themselves were better maintained, with lots of fountains, grass and trees for people to enjoy (the gardens are free for anyone to enjoy – it’s a giant parkland basically). It’s essentially a Baroque style garden, complete with 7 fountains, woodlands, and a man-made lake built to attract water birds to the garden. We spent a good part of our day exploring the grounds of Drottningholm Palace, working on our tans a bit more. Seriously – who comes to Scandanavia and get sunburnt? We do apparently!
Within the palace gardens we found the rather unique Chinese Pavilion. This tiny palace is decorated inside and out in a Chinese motif. It was built in 1753 by Swedish King Fredrick for his wife, Queen Ulrika, as a surprise 33rd birthday present. It seems Chinese themed decoration and fashion were all the rage in Europe at the time, and the Kinna Slott was not only built to look Chinese-ish (they didn’t quite get it completely right, but an iteresting interpretation of the Asian building style none-the-less), its interiors were furnished with goods imported all the way from China. I can’t imagine how expensive all those Chinese furnishings, statues and knick-knacks must have been; no wonder the Chinese Pavillion was considered such a unique, exotic marvel!
Following our not-so-strenuous walk around Drottningholm Gardens we had some lunch ($20AUD for 2 sandwhiches and some water – man this place is expensive!), then cruised back to town for an afternoon of chores. First challenge of the day: to do some laundry. Not as easy as we might have hoped: turns out laundromats are not at all common in Sweden. We saw quite a few dry cleaners and places offering laundering services (i.e. they do it for you), but for $15AUD a shirt, that was way beyond our budgetary comfort zone. After utilising our Google-fu (i.e. like kung fu, but more internet-based), we discovered that in the whole of Stockholm there is in fact only one “self service laundry”. Just the one. And it’s about 2.5km from our hotel. *SIGH*
Not wanting to be stinky backpackers, we packed our dirty clothes into a bag and trudged across Stockholm. You’ll be hapy to know we found the laundromat and got our clothes washed and dried. It took almost 2 hours (lots of almost-stinky backpackers waiting for machines) and cost $15AUD to wash and dry a single load. Yikes! We knew Scandanavia was going to be expensive, but sometimes it’s frightening how much the simplest things cost here.
After walking 2.5km back to our hotel we were exhausted and barely had enough energy to drag ourselves up to the top deck of our boat/hotel to sit and relax in the sun. *GRINS* And this is where you currently find me, dear people, sitting at my “desk” on the top deck of the SS Malardrottning enjoying another sunny Stockholm afternoon. We’re going to go out for dinner soon – pizza me thinks (apparently pizza in Sweden is amazing, so amazing we have to try it!). Tomorrow we leave this fantastic city and head North to the small town of Ostersund. We have really loved Stockholm and can only hope we’ll be back some day for more sun, sea and Swedish meatballs.