It was a day of many contrasting experiences.
On the sight-seeing front, I had two “royal experiences”. Although I’d been to see the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace the last time I was in Stockholm, it was one of those busy summer tourist experiences that happens every day. In the middle of winter, it’s a far different experience. First, it only happens twice a week, and second, the crowds are much, much smaller. Also, the crowd was much more heavily made up of Swedes, unlike summer where there were a lot of people from elsewhere. I don’t remember it being as long was it was today. And frankly, I got a little bored and left after a while.
My second “royal experience” was much more interesting and enjoyable. It was a visit to the palace where the royal family actually lives, Drottningholm. To get there, you need to catch a train to Brommaplan, and then a bus to Drottningholm. I missed the stop, of course, and ended up at the turn-off to Ekero (the place where one of the other Swedish princesses, Agnetha Faltskog lives). Although the palace itself was closed except on the weekends during the winter months, the grounds remained open, and for me that was the main attraction. There were just a handful of people walking around the grounds this afternoon, and thus it was a wonderful, peaceful experience for me. The soft sunlight, the snow, the colours, all made for a magical experience. And unlike the changing of the guard at the royal palace in town which I had to share with others, I had my own personal changing of the guards (or something like that), late in the afternoon at Drottningholm. It was fabulous watching, especially as I was the only one there to experience it. The poor kids, all of whom are doing their annual military training I understand, looked so cold as they went about their duties guarding the royal family.
Late in the afternoon I went for another swim, as is my want on this holiday. As I mentioned last time, I love having the time to go for a swim while on holiday, both for fitness and relaxation. Unfortunately, it’s a discipline I’ve been unable to maintain during my life back in Sydney. The swim was made even more exciting with a bit of celebrity-spotting. I spotted Alexander Bard, who was/is a member of a number of famous Swedish pop groups including BWO and Army Of Lovers having a swim in the nearby lane. I also spotted him naked in the changing room afterwards. Now I’m sure he’s a lovely man, but if there was to be a member of BWO I would have liked to have seen naked in a swimming pool change room, it was only ever going to be Martin Rolinski. Follow the links to spot the difference. You know you want to.
Later in the night, I went for a drink and got chatting to a few guys at Sidetrack Bar at Mariatorget. One bloke, in particular, was quite interesting. He thought it was intriguing that I was learning Swedish, though you could also possibly see on his face the underlying thought that I was some kind of freak for doing so. He was a musician and teacher, and we got into a really interesting discussion about language. He told me young people in Sweden have recently – the last five or six years – begun to “mangle their vowels”. He went on to explain an “open mouth” style of speaking which has appeared on television advertising in particular, which makes all of the vowels sound remarkably similar. Although he illustrated it for me with the Swedish word for butterfly, it wasn’t something my ears were sophisticated enough to pick up, unfortunately. It was a good conversation, though, and he seemed like a nice enough bloke.