I crisscrossed through Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla Stan) at least ten times, each time finding new hidden gems. Gamla Stan’s medieval feel is well-preserved. The traffic is mostly pedestrians, tourists, though some cars braved the crowded cobblestone streets.
As the center of medieval culture and history, there are a number of interesting museums in Gamla Stan.
Stockholm’s royal palace is massive, even in comparison to other palaces in Europe.
Everyday, there is a changing of the guard ceremony for the tourists. Guards and the royal band march through the city on feet or on horseback, across the bridge, then to an inner courtyard of the palace. Though, once I saw the band arrive by coach bus. The band and guards have a choreographed routine as they play traditional songs as well as pop songs like “Hooked on a Feeling.” One instrument that stood out to me was a portable xylophone with the skeleton of a harp.
Parliament wanted to build an underground parking garage on one of the smaller islands adjacent to the royal palace. But as they were excavating, they unearthed medieval walls and artifacts. I don’t know how they were so surprised by their finds. People have been living in Stockholm continuously, how could they forget that people used to live there? So instead of a parking garage, they built an underground museum dedicated to Stockholm’s medieval history.
In the museum, I learned that Stockholm got its name from the wooden stocks that were placed in the surrounding water for defensive purposes.
In medieval times, Gamla Stan had limited housing stock. So Stockholm widows were a hot commodity, because by marrying one, you were able to move into her residence and live in the city. Women did not have much power or property rights. As a widow, a woman could work independently for 5 years, then by law she had to marry again.
There are Nordic runes in Gamla Stan, museums, and nearby islands. These vibrant stone carvings painted in red were typically commissioned by family members in remembrance of a deceased loved one.
The Nobel Museum is tucked in the most popular square of Gamla Stan. The small museum details the history of the Nobel prize. There are electronic kiosks that discussed past winners and the significance of their contributions. The temporary exhibit featured replicas of equipment used by the winners in their experiments. There was an exhibit on the life of Alfred Nobel and his invention of dynamite. And finally, there was a display of random trinkets from past Nobel laureates, such as a letter Albert Einstein wrote advising his son to use the Nobel prize money to buy a house.