Monday, November 17, 2008

Ice Skating in the Shadows of Kings in Stockholm

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.

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  1. Yes, it's really beautiful there, lions and all. Sometimes there's someone selling grilled sausages. It's such a small circle though, better change the skating direction every once in a while :)

  2. I remember you telling me this story in Sweden, and your retelling of the tale only reinforces my belief that you would make/made a fantastic tour guide.

    Dr. David Knightfish

  3. @smek - it's true... it could definitely stand to be a bit bigger.

    @the sign factory - thanks, maybe I missed my calling somewhere along the line.

  4. That sounds so interesting. Was it Karl XIII that couldn't have children so he adopted a kid from France?? I can't remember, there are too many Karl's.

  5. He adopted one of Napoleons generals (the first of our current dynasty.)

  6. yep, that was what i was called when I didn't want to jump into the deep swimming pool because I couldn't swim when I was a kid... "Badkruka"... By the teacher, mind you... scarred for life

  7. I have nice memories of both the Kungsträdgården skating rink in winter and the garden in summer, snoggling with some guy on a bench I met the same day... Usch, hoiw could I? But I could, we all could and you all could if you were in my place. That is what exchange programmes are for, don´t tell me it is to get the insight into the Swedish educational system. The guy wasn´t Swedish by the way.

    I meant to ask, how do you get this page format on blogspot? Mine is with the margins on both sides and I have no idea how to change it. Yeah, I am blond but it has nothing to do. About the format, I am serious - to prove this I am subscribing to comments to this entry.

  8. @jessica – Jimmy answered this one well. A rich general from Napoleon’s army is the head of the family.

    @jimmy – I have a question about this actually. Its something that Ive never understood. Why didn’t the Swedes take someone from their nobility. When I think of a king I would want someone from the country they are going to lead. Sweden had a solid noble class at the time. Why not pull a count from one of the leading families in Sweden and put him on the throne instead of bringing in a Frenchman?

    @peter – that is scarring. That’s messed up. Especially because it came from the teacher.

    @costarossa – oh exchange programs are glorious aren’t they?

    The format I use for this is just called Minima Lefty Stretch

    Go to customize, then click on layout, then on pick new template. There you can pick all kinds of templates. Hopefully that helps a bit.

  9. Hairy Swede, they most certainly are. :)

  10. I did mine in Uppsala and it was amazing.

    Good times indeed...

  11. I don't know if you still are intrested in why, but here it is:

    Karl XIII didn't adopt Bernadotte. He adopted the Danish Prince Christian August of Augustenborg. However, he died within a year after suffering a stroke. When the public in Stockholm saw the coffin they assaulted Lieutenant General Count Hans Axel von Fersen. He died from the injuries. Apparently people believed that he had poisoned Christian August.

    Now there was many candidates to the throne, but because of the Napoleonic Empire it was practical to have a king which Napoleon accepted. So a high ranking military officer went to Paris and convinced Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte to come to Stockholm and try to become the king. The Riksdag voted in his favour and you know the rest.

    Excuse my English if you something is unclear. This is quite complicated even in Swedish :)