Catching up: Food Halls, Gamla Stan, and Dala Horses

Saturday January 13, 2018

On the first day, after settling in and getting more or less acclimated the time change, we began with a visit of the city. To learn about the general culture of Stockholm, we visited the Östermalms saluhall (Östermalmshallen Food Hall), a Swedish cultural tradition dating back to 1888. The Food Hall hosts over 30 small family-run vendors, several of which have sold their wares in the same location for generation. After eating hearty lunches, we set out to explore the surrounding Gamla Stan, a neighborhood in central Stockholm with beautiful views of the river. This was followed by a formal tour of “Old Town,” which notably showed us the Royal Palace and the Parliament building.

Sunday January 14, 2018

Today we continued our introduction to Swedish culture with a visit to the Skansen and Vasa Museums. The former is a large outdoor “living history” museum detailing early Scandinavian traditional living and housing. We learned about the history of “Dala Horses” and the ways a society and culture can adapt itself to living in the cold! Dalecarlian or Dala Horses are a typical Swedish wood carving that is intricately painted red (or blue). Although it was historically toys for children, it has become a widely-accepted symbol of Sweden. In gift shops and even on street signs, the Dala horse is hard to miss!

The Vasa museum detailed ill-fated Vasa Swedish warship, which sank in the harbor of Stockholm in 1627 due to severe design flaws. The ship was fitted with two rows of canons, but it was originally conceived as a standard ship with only one row of canon. The design change was apparently sprung on the architects at the last minute by the King, which caused a rushed production of the ship and ultimately its demise. Luckily for us but unfortunate for the crew of the Vasa, the ship was preserved for over 300 years in the muddy waters around Stockholm until the boat was salvaged in impressive condition. The preservation was so successful even some of the Vasa’s sails remained to this day!

A Dala Horse play structure in the living history museum!
The Vasa, a 300-year-old Swedish warship, on display at the Vasamuseet in Stockholm.