Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Skansen - All of Sweden, Then & Now, Just Around the Corner

One of the most impressive and often perplexing nuances about Swedish society is the seamless marriage of the old and the modern. At the same time that the Swedes lead the world on progressive social policies, they are also attributed with the world’s first outdoor museum, one dedicated to history and tradition.

In 1891, in an effort to preserve their heritage as older times started to become new, Swedish officials created Skansen, an outdoor cultural heritage museum (an idea that would eventually catch on throughout Europe) that no trip to Stockholm is complete without. Skansen is made up of a 1700s/1800s collection of actual shops, schools, churches, farmhouses and cafes which were laboriously transported, piece by piece, from their original locations throughout Sweden to their current location at Stockholm’s Skansen.

Perched on a hill overlooking the rest of the city, Skansen’s geographical layout reflects that of Sweden’s: Northern Sweden cultural sites in the upper part of Skansen, Central Sweden artifacts in the middle of Skansen, etc. Helpful guides, shopkeepers, farmers and homemakers, all dressed in period-attire, answer questions, make presentations and welcome visitors in three and sometimes four or five different languages. Add to this the animals from various parts of Sweden (moose, reindeer, seals, bears, wolverines) as well as wood-carving, glass-blowing, pottery-making, baking and other traditional Swedish handcrafting examples, and the essence of Sweden is suddenly at your fingertips.

For the wide-eyed, romanticizing American, Skansen is a jewel of Europe.

In typical Swedish fashion, Skansen, with all of its historical merriment and traditional feel, is also a popular destination for current culture and excitement. Arguably the most popular place of attendance in Sweden during all of the festivals and holidays, Skansen also hosts the summertime weekly musical show, broadcasted live and always the most-watched program of the week throughout Sweden, Allsang På Skansen (or "All Sing at Skansen"), of which there is a picture above.

Skansen is a part of the natural island of Djurgården on the east side of Stockholm’s inner city. With my slew of visitors over the past year, it’s been my privilege to roam about Skansen seven times, in all four seasons of the year – you just can’t host travelers to Stockholm and overlook Skansen in good conscience. Nothing beats the summertime at Skansen, but a delicate winter’s snow and low crowds gives the winter at Skansen an appeal all its own.

When you come to Sweden, if you can’t quite make it throughout this entire country, a visit to Skansen can give you a pretty good impression of the Swedes and their history. A successful mix of old and modern - Sweden in a thimble - Skansen is well worth the trip. Yes, even seven times in one year (my first year in Seattle I went up the Space Needle 11 times while hosting visitors...).

And save your “Sean, you should work for the Skansen marketing team” comments!


Todd said...

Where are all the comments? I'm the only one that's allowed to bruise Sean's ego!

Todd said...

Here's another comment just to mkae you feel better