Denmark Sweden

Stockholm och Copenhagen


The definition of pretty, as in a pretty woman, has to be that she is pretty from all angles, in all seasons, in any light. The same goes for pretty cities, if one is going to apply such an adjective to a man-made complex.

pretty from all angles

Stockholm is pretty from all angles but Copenhagen is showing some grey whiskers and wrinkles around the eyes. Linda said – about Stockholm – “I thought London was good but this is beautiful!”

Stockholm is built on a magnificent network of waterways, on an island in the Swedish archipelago. There are more than a thousand islands, islets and rocks in the Baltic Sea on this coastline. The water is brackish rather than saline since it is fed by runoff more than mixture with the open ocean. We have had some cool weather here in Skandinavia and no-one seems keen to swim in the water, even though it looks inviting and clean.


 We are investigating some of Stockholm’s history at the Vasa Museum. Gustav Vasa was king in Sweden in 1628 when he commissioned four ships to be built in his name.

Vasa inside the museum – raised from the bottom after 333 years

The Vasa was 70 metres long and boasted some magnificent ornamentation on the stern (mermaids, crowns, shields, shells, masks, lions and some Roman gods carved in timber) as well as dozens of powerful guns on both sides. We know this because Vasa sank on its maiden voyage – in Stockholm harbour. 50 sailors were drowned. The wreck was raised 333 years later and is now preserved in permanent dry dock in the Vasamuseet (translation not required). The carvings were apparently vividly painted. The sinking of the eponymous ship was a terrible embarrassment for the king so he instituted an investigation at which the shipwrights and the king were implicated (but no official finding has been found).

from the Vasa’s stern
women in Sweden

The women of Stockholm are out and about exercising their right to participate in society. They are very visible, cycling, driving boats, jogging, wearing shorts and not afraid to be seen in public when pregnant. I mention this because of the contrast with Dhaka where none of these things occur. Some of the men in Dhaka would have trouble coping with the sights.

Copenhagen is also on an extensive waterway. Denmark is a very flat land and the water is mostly in canals with low bridges. Perhaps one of the striking things about both cities is the number of people who are cycling. Most are commuting rather than recreating and the cycleways are constantly full of cyclists making their way to and fro. Much of Copenhagen has extensive cycle roads, with their own traffic lights and their own requirement to signal at intersections and turnings. There seems to be no need to lock up one’s bike and a very large proportion of the population, especially in Copenhagen, possess one. Perhaps this accounts for the smaller percentage of the population in both cities who are overweight.

If we build it, people will come.

The city of Stockholm is currently redesigning many centrum streets to increase access to cyclists. They are clearly working on the principle that if you build it, the people will come. Copenhagen has shown the way on this score.


Contrary to the prediction from the blokes in ‘Mental as Anything‘, not everyone is blonde here. There seems to be an even spread of hair colours, including lots of redheads in Denmark. (“All that blonde hair ..  . .  for them to share . . .”)

unfair comparison?

All cities are at their best in bright sunshine, of course. The overcast weather is not perhaps doing justice to Copenhagen but there are some signs of wear and tear here. In Stockholm, everything is perfectly clean and ordered. The pretty woman looks pretty from any angle and the pretty city hides its unsavoury elements. Stockholm does that slightly better than Copenhagen. Unfair comparison?


Other photos from hereabouts

Houses of Parliament, Stockholm
foundations of the original city preserved
changing of the guard, The Royal Palace of Stockholm
café, Stockholm

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