Skansen: Sweden's King of Folk Parks
In November of 1963, my mother joined my father in Stockholm while he was here on business. She told me stories of the grand hotels, the beautiful city harbor, and the friendliness of the people. In fact she was here when JFK was assassinated and told me about how people stopped them on the streets, asked if they were American, and told them how sorry they were about what had happened. She often wondered aloud if we in America would do the same for someone from another country under the same circumstances. Today as we toured Stockholm, I wondered if I was seeing some of the same places she had seen.
This morning we got an early start to our day. About a five minute walk from our accommodation, Hotel Parlan, is Saluhall. It opened in 1888, and is the most beautifully appointed indoor market I have ever seen.
Fruits, vegetables, meats, pastries, and cheese were all displayed in glass cases which they were busily polishing like fine crystal when we were there. The fruit was displayed as if in a museum and the potatoes were so fresh, the earth still clung to them. Water in pitchers at the cafe came with slices of lemon, lime, cucumbers, and sprigs of mint.
Skansen is Europe's oldest folk park. After paying for our tickets, they explained it was on a mountain so we should take the funicular to the top.
At the upper station, the view was beautiful, but as we suspected, it was not on a mountain at all.
Skansen has something for everyone. We learned that the reindeer lving there have been extinct in the wild in Sweden since the 19th century and both males and females have a full set of antlers. Children squealed with delight when they saw baby animals and were allowed to pet many of them.
The nice thing about Skansen is you really feel as if you are in the countryside when you are actually in the city. Many of the historic houses had people inside dressed in period costume, but unlike Plimoth Plantation where they pretend they are in the 17th century, these people are only there to tell you about the history. I like it that way best.
My favorite place at Skansen had two allotment huts. To me they looked like quaint tiny wooden houses with pretty gardens, but the true story is that during World War 1, fruits and vegetables were so scare in the city that people were given tiny plots of land in the country to grow a garden and the families lived in these houses in the summer not much bigger than a garden shed.
Other activities at Skansen included a horse and carriage ride, vintage rides for children, and walks through beautiful gardens. Craft studios and bakeries offered old fashioned treats.
On the way back to our hotel we peeked into Junibacken which is a place where story book characters come to life. I love the Pippi Longstocking books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's and probably read each book 20 times as a child.
Dinner tonight was at Ortagarden where they serve a primarily vegetarian buffet. It was okay, but a little like eating at a church supper.
After dinner we walked down to the modern shopping district in town. Nothing was open, but it was fun to see the stores. Stockholm has swift modern subways and trams, but in the shopping district we spotted an old tram, probably from the 1950s which is still in use. All around it people were snapping photos.
Heading down to the shore, the setting sun cast a glow on all of the buildings. I could have sat down there for hours admiring the scenery. I wonder if my parents once enjoyed the same view.