Monday, August 08, 2005

DAY 18 - a castle, a herd of japanese and - finally - an älg!

the best thing about getting up, if you ask sepp, is the breakfast buffet. after we have enjoyed that, we take the train into the city centre where we walk down to the wharf where several companies offer short and long boat trips, either in stockholm or out among the islands on lake mälaren. we had thought about going to to gripsholm castle, but that would take up a whole day, so we are now looking for a short trip somewhere. the one we want to do, however, turns out to have been cancelled - problems with the boat. we have a look at the beautiful stadshuset (ctiy hall) opposite the quays before we hop on the boat to drottningholm for a look at the palace and a walk in the park there.

while we are on the boat, the rain sets in. and it'll be a while before it stops again. we do leave the boat for a walk around though, but it's slightly less pleasant than it probably is when it's not pouring down.

drottningholm palace is the home of the swedish royal family and a UNESCO world heritage site. it dates from the late 17th century. we do not actually go inside the palace, instead we quickly walk to the chinese pavilion which is quite pretty, but once again, we do not go inside, because we are quite determined to catch the next boat back to stockholm - shame the weather isn't better.

chinese pavilion, drottningholm

we do make it to the next boat - as do approximately 5000 japanese. the boat is packed - and nobody wants to stay outside on the deck, not in this weather. so all these fast-talking, slightly hectic, mainly middle-aged japanese pile into the boat. they can be quite ... trying, those japanese, and quite odd.

team-work, however, seems to come naturally to them. they start carrying benches and chairs into the interior, while others run off to fetch toilet paper to wipte the seats dry, and others start looking for more seats and people to sit on them. the only problem is that now the doors are blocked which the staff does not consider such a brilliant idea. so what to do? apparently they decide to follow me as i climb the stairs to check out what's on the middle deck. there's a restaurant, so i quickly turn around to go back downstairs. only, that's impossible. dozens of japanese seem to file past me, all uttering the same surprised "aaahhh! resutoran!" as soon as they have advanced far enough to see. as they all smile happily upon this discovery, i assume that they have found what they were looking for. but i am very much mistaken. japanese no., say, 73 does as all the others have done before: she smiles, says "aaahhh! resutoran!" but then she, inexplicably, she pauses. and then she does what the others have not done - she shakes her head and vehemently flaps her hands, indicating that, contrary to common japanese belief, the restaurant is not what they all wanted. "ie!" she says. "no!"

so what happens next? yes. exactly. approximately 72 japanese start filing past me - in the other direction, all repeating "resutoran" in quite a different tone than before and shaking their heads as if they'd known it all along: the restaurant is not the place to be.

wet wet wet

another episode from the boat involves a german woman. i'd noticed her before, on the trip to drottningholm. she seemed to complain about just about everything, and her husband seemed to be another such joyful character. now she is waiting to be served at the "bar" where hot and cold drinks and snacks are sold. she wants coffee. but not just any kind of coffee, she wants the perfect coffee, and that involves 5 minute instructions. first she says she wants a coffee. fine. then it's a coffee with a lot of milk. then it's a coffee with lots of hot milk. then she complains about having to wait - when she can clearly see that the poor guy behind the counter has to make a few other coffees etc before he can start making hers. bad luck for him that she is watching him. "what's that you are making there?" he tells her that it's caffè latte. she decides she wants one instead of what she ordered before. fine. but then, as the waiter is making her coffee, she keeps shouting out orders, and i must admit i would have been confused, and i feel like kicking her shins from where i am standing, right beside her. suddenly she cries out: "but that's much too much coffee!" the guy finishes making her coffee, and tells her that the machine is programmed like that, and there is nothing he can do about it. "but you could have pushed it away", she says in an insolent way. yeah right. and i assume she would have cleaned it up.

but that's not all - she now says "i need more hot milk!" so the waiter gets milk from the fridge, and before he can do anything, she snaps at him: "but i wanted hot milk!" he replies, very politely, that he will have to heat it first. and so he does. not that she actually thanks him for it, stupid bitch. some people, honestly.

back in the city, we walk around gamla stan, the old town, for quite a while. it stops raining, and occasionally the sun peeps out. gamla stan is lovely with its narrow lanes and colourful old buildings. of course there are a few streets that are crowded, where people are shopping for souvenirs. but you can easily get away from them. the light is adorable when the sun manages to break through the clouds.

one of gamla stan's narrow lanes

we have something to eat at a kebap/pizza place. very nice, and not expensive at all. as we walk towards norrmalmstorget, there is more rain, but fortunately it doesn't last long. we take the old tram to skansen, the oldest open-air museum in the world. it's got historic buildings from all parts of sweden, but also a zoo, and since a few years ago also the "akvariet" with snakes, spiders, primates, fish and a few other species.

we visit the akvariet first, and the baboons entertain us very well for quite a while. they're fun. their red bottoms are amazing, though to human eyes not as attractive as to their fellow baboons. there a few rather young ones, and their faces look incredibly human, if not exactly young - they remind us of the wrinkled faces of some old humans.

hello baby

we also get to see lemures who seem to simply love cuddles, crocodiles, colourful birds, impressive snakes, tropical fish, furry spiders and other animals. we both like the place, it's so nicely done, with lots of nice details.

group cuddling - lemures at skansen akvariet

it is so late that the buildings in skansen are all closed when we leave the aquarium, but sepp wants to - finally! - see a moose, so we decide to stay and walk around for a while. the good thing about being there so late in the day (as good as being there on an october afternoon, like i was in 1998) is that it is very quiet - hardly any people strolling around, no noise.

sepp riding a dalahäst

we make our way to the zoo (swedish wild animals)section. there are wolves - but we don't get to see them. what we do see is wolverines, lynxes, bisons, bears, reindeer and the moose. one of the bears, mother of a few young ones, has the most pathetic and sad look on her face. she looks about to commit suicide any minute. in a way comical, but then again ... but perhaps it's just one of those days; a bad fur day, so to speak. her kids are a lot more vivacious - which they demonstrate by having an apparently neverending fight. but that is one thing they have in common with all the other young animals: the lynxes and primates, the shoats and others. they're all playfully fighting, trying to outrun one another, playing hide and seek, tussling on the ground.

sepp's happy when he finally gets to see real älgar (moose), even though they seem to be having a quiet evening and they cannot be tempted to come closer.

a real moose!

we spend ages around the animals, then return to the city and walk to the central station where we catch the train back to barkarby.

day 18 photos

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