There are benefits to having the middle of the day free sometimes. Especially when the sun is shining. So today I went ice skating in Kungsträdgården. Because that’s just how I roll. Or glide.
Every winter there is an ice skating rink set up in Kungsträdgården, one of Stockholm’s many parks. This one has statues of two of Sweden’s historical kings. Both named Karl of course. Karl XII and Karl XIII. And, this being Sweden and full of history, there is a story tied to the two statues. Lucky for me the old man knows his Swedish stuff. And lucky for him, I listen to him.
Karl XII is probably second to only Gustav II Adolf as Sweden’s most well-known warrior kings. He led the Swedes through years of battle as King of Sweden from 1697 to 1718. He was an excellent military tactician, leader, and some even say a decent politician. On just about all these accounts there is controversy for various reasons. But, under his rule, Sweden reached its pinnacle of power. And would eventually fall from it under his rule as well.
Karl XII was not a fan of making peace. And so Sweden found itself in a succession of wars, which would eventually lead to the downfall of the Swedish empire. He eventually died in Norway. Under some questionable circumstances. Some say he was killed by the Norwegian side. Others, by the Swedish side. In recent years, after a couple of exhumations, most people are coming around to the idea that he died from a Norwegian bullet. His statue stands on the south end facing the castle and is surrounded by four large decorative pots.
Karl XIII on the other hand, just didn’t do much. He was only King of Sweden from 1809 to 1818. He tended to hand power and decisions over to others; he was a strong believer in the occult and seemed to be intrigued by mysticism. He was also a Freemason for those of you big on the whole mystic conspiracy stuff attached to Freemasonry. In the end though, Karl XIII can be described as simply a weak-willed king. His statue stands on the north end facing and is surrounded by four large lions.
So Kungsträdgården is home to the statue of Karl XII, one of Sweden’s greatest warrior kings, and Karl XIII, one of, well, Sweden’s kings. And now, finally, back to the old man, who told me that the statues demonstrate “ett lejon omgiven av krukor och en kruka omgiven av lejon.” Krukor has a bit of a double entendre meaning both “pot” and “coward,” so: A lion surrounded by cowards and a coward surrounded by lions. I love it.
The ice skating rink in Kungsträdgården surrounds Karl XIII's statue. It’s open from October 30th to the 28th of February. The last couple of years or so I have taken up hockey. But left all of my stuff back in the US, including my skates. So I had to rent skates, but for 40 SEK I got skates for an hour’s worth of skating. Well worth it. And with the sun shining and the cold weather settling in, ice skating in the middle of Stockholm is hard to beat.
Welcome to Sweden, where you can go ice skating in the middle of town, and cowardly kings are taunted long after death.