Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Old Town ~ Gamla Stan

Theme ~ Swedish Rhapsody

Prast Gatan ~ Priest Street (A favorite picture from my visit in 2005)

View of Old Town from the South side cliffs. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Old Town dates back to the mid-13th century when Stockholm was founded on this island. The center of the island is on a hill and was in medieval times surrounded by a wall. The original buildings were wood and the original walkways are now buried under cobblestone streets and alleyways. The present buildings date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, but some are thought to be as much as 300 years older. 
Old Town is home to the Royal Palace, which dates from the 18th century, the Stock Exchange, the Nobel Museum,  and on Riddarholmen, the Knights' Isle, the beautiful church Riddarholms kyrkan, where Swedish royals and nobility are buried.
Stortorget is the central Great Square with Storkyrkan ~ Stockholm's Cathedral as its center piece. Inside the church is a famous statue of St. George and the Dragon. Osterlanggatan and Vasterlonggatan ~ East and West Long Streets, run on each side below the hilly middle of the island. There are many cobbled alleys, a small park, another great church, Tyska kyrkan ~ the German church, and the buildings have great old cellars that were, and probably still are, made into clubs where you can go and enjoy music. 

Courtesy Wikipedia
Storkyrkan ~ Stockholm's Cathedral is in the background, the Royal Palace to the right with the palace guard standing watch. This is the Great Square ~ Stortorget where in medieval times a horrific event, called the Stockholm bloodbath, took place. But let's not get into that here. 

Courtesy Wikipedia
Instead, this picture, shows the Christmas Market that I have talked about in my Christmas posts. They have all these booths with wonderful things for the holiday: Food, cakes, Christmas decorations,  many made of straw and yarn, and much more.

Vasterlanggatan - Courtesy Wikipedia
There were few tourists here when I was young. That has changed, and now this street in particular, Vasterlanggatan, is a heaven of small shops selling textiles, handcrafted items, pewter, and silver. If you venture off the beaten path to explore the ancient alleys, you will find lovely antique shops and better yet, old bookstores full of old, old books......

Gamla Stans Fisk - Old Town Fish Market
and even a fish market.

Marten Trotzigs Grand ~ At 90 cm wide, it is the narrowest alley in Stockholm

A view from the air. 
The beautiful ship in the background is called the af Chapman. The church you see is the German church. As a small child, I used to be so scared of this Gothic church that would suddenly appear from a narrow, cobbled alley, high above. We used to go to the Christmas Market in Old Town, so it would be dark and scary to begin with, walking on those narrow old streets, then, all of a sudden, this huge church would appear as if out of  nowhere. I still remember how scared I felt.
But then I grew up, put away my fears, and began to spend a lot of time in Old Town. When I was 15- 16 or so, I fell in love with New Orleans jazz, as did all the kids in Stockholm that went to the better schools and considered ourselves, intellectuals. We were called Dixie snubbar and were thought of as spoiled upper class kids by our nemesis, the Bikers. There would be run-ins at times, but Bikers didn't hang out in Old Town. Dixie guys and Bikers even had an ice hockey match, to settle differences, all in good fun. We won and were in all the papers. (Stockholm was such a small town then that we often ended up in the newspapers. I cut the articles and photos out and have them to this day.) 

There were many bands, made up of highschool boys, playing Dixieland jazz in Stockholm at the time. Some of them were pretty good. They would play at school dances and at Gazell Club in Old Town.  
The bands had the coolest names, straight out of New Orleans: The Storyville Creepers, The King Porter Stompers, Whiskey Bottle Slickers, Midnight Stompers, and so on. I always had a crush on the clarinet player(s) and my favorite tune was High Society, because it has a such long, great, clarinet solo, allowing the guy(s) to shine. 

Gazell was located in a medieval cellar with exposed stone walls and vaulted ceilings. I must have been 15 or so when I started to go there because I remember my fake I.D. So, between 15 and 17, my highschool years, dixieland jazz was my music and a medieval cellar in Old Town was where I could be found on a Saturday night. 

Orkie and Kjerstin celebrating the club's 15-year anniversary.
The club was pretty innocent, no liquor was served, and it was run by a very strict Finn, named Orkie and his wife Kjerstin. They ran the club for over 20 years and they cared a great deal about young people and ensured that order was kept. We all loved Orkie. 

I remember the sax player well -- his name was Hans. You can see the exposed walls in this picture. And I have always wondered why the dancing dude looks so pained. Maybe he didn't like to have his picture taken or maybe he didn't even like to dance.
Den Gyldene Freden, a restaurant in business since 1722, and the oldest restaurant in the world with an unaltered interior, according to Guinness Book of World Records, is located on Osterlanggatan, just down the street from Gazell, past another statue of St. George and the Dragon. This is where Sweden's most beloved troubadour, Evert Taube, used to hang out. An old man in my youth, he was such an icon, you would just look at him in awe as he walked down the street. I met his son though, a singer of the songs by Bellman, at the time. Imagine my surprise when he showed up as the old man who thought his niece had been murdered in the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Not surprised that he was in the movie, but surprised at how old he was, as I am too, of course. But when you don't see someone for, like 50 years, you get surprised, believe me.......

It has been fun for me to look back on all this and I hope you feel even more inspired to visit my hometown of Stockholm, Sweden after seeing the oldest part of town here.


  1. I love old European cities! So much flair!

  2. Oh, now you've done it! I really, really have to go there. Funny how some places just seem to beckon. I've been called by Sweden for a long time. Your photos are so interesting and beautiful.

    Yes, it's true that seeing people after many years is a shock. Somehow,in our minds, they stay the same age as when we last saw them.

  3. If I could, I'd jump on a plane this afternoon and be there in the morning!! I have a photo of that alley! And I wondered about the dancing dude, too, LOL. Oh, Inger, your trips down Memory Lane are such a treasure. Thank you so much for sharing. Hey, why don't you put these posts in an e-pub? Believe there's a way on Amazon.

  4. Thanks for the history tour Inger! What an amazing city. The narrow streets. Some great shots. Loved the first shot.

    Enjoy your week!

  5. You're a better history teacher than any I've ever had!!!

  6. Hi Inger,
    I love Gamla Stan, every time I'm in Stockholm I have to take a stroll there. You've described the place so well.
    Have a fantastic week!


  7. I love your descriptions of Stockholm. :) And those are great pictures!

    The Golden Eagle
    The Eagle's Aerial Perspective

  8. Inger, the first photo is awesome! I love seeing what your country looks like and all the places you've been!...:)JP

  9. Love your pictures, Inger. Great post!

  10. I am in love with this place Inger!! What great memories... and that Photo... that first photo is one I would proudly hang on my wall and dream of being there and riding down the alley on that red bicycle. What a quaint and beautiful town. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. That 90cm lane is unbelievable. All of the pictures so nicely gathered and make a very nice tourist type of travel blog. Thanks for sharing.

  12. What a wonderful post. I love your pictures and your memories.

  13. Yes, Inger! I'm inspired again and simply must start planning to go...

  14. More amazing photos. Glad you posted up one of the Christmas Market rather than the massacre! Those alleys are sooo narrow!

  15. Hej Inger!
    Har läst din kommentar på Tinas blogg (@LifeisGood).
    Du har visst namnsdag! I min almanacka för 2012 står det att den 9 oktober har två namn: "Ingrid" och "Inger"!

    Hjärtliga hälsningar,

    Hi Inger,
    I read your comment on Tina's blog (@LifeisGood) and would like to herlp you out:
    You do indeed have a names-day! In my pocket calender it says that October 9th has two names: 'Ingrid' och 'Inger'.

    Best wishes,
    Anna of Anna's Adornments

  16. Vackra bilder och bra text!
    Beautiful photos and interesting article.


  17. I wonder sometimes how you managed to assimilate to the U.S. after living in such a sense-iful country. Love the photos and memories, Inger.

  18. Seems like I am becoming an ambassador for Swedish tourism here. How fun is that? If just one of you guys were to go, it would make me feel really good. I didn't know I had a namesday! I have to make a note of that. They change the days I read, in the old days, I didn't.

  19. Dixieland Jazz?! Really?? I find that most interesting.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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