“Absolutely.”

Stockholm

I made eye contact with the Princess of Sweden! (Bright green jacket, big grin? That was me!)

It was a few days ago; I’m slow blogging…we had just stopped by the Stockholm Town Square. I commented on how small it is compared with those in Brussels and Antwerp, and more plain – the buildings are functional, clean, not ostentatious. Augustus thought we had enough time to walk around to see the Palace Courtyard, so we headed that way…there was police tape across the road but the Police Officer wasn’t stopping people from crossing under it, so we did. Huh – what had we stumbled upon? There was a contingent of soldiers – the Royal Guard? – dressed in bright blue with helmets adorned with . . . blonde horsehair? Oh for a camera!
So we dallied. It took a while for the whole show to get organized, and we did already have plans, but the novelty of having stumbled upon preparations for the start of the royal parade for Sweden’s National Day was too much to pass up. This peak moment competed with many others during this two-day respite from the otherwise persistent whirlwind of activity composing my last month in Europe.
I snuck out of the conference a bit early to run around the city with some Italians. As I told them, I haven’t met that many but all the ones I know are special. ­čśë Then I rendezvoused with a previously unmet friend of a friend….
After getting plenty of sleep (ahhhhh), we rode into Old Town, walked the groovy yellow-and-stainless-steel pedestrian tunnel, then hopped tram #7 to Djurgarden. He was just explaining to me about this really old tram they still use, all made of wood, when we turned the corner and there it was! Vagn No. 113, with 24 sittplatse. We watched everyone grin as they boarded, nearly half also took pictures. Folks had their cameras because of the holiday – and there were flags around (contrary to a critique offered by a Swede a few days earlier that Swedes won’t wave flags in order not to disturb anyone) – but not in overwhelming numbers. The tram traveled at half-speed, which fitted our pace.
The park is quite lovely, we walked around, stopped for carrot cake and tea, peeked in the Astrid Lundgren Museum – and were totally disturbed by a woman who literally freaked out when her husband told her (calmly) that he couldn’t find their daughter. She started calling, then yelling, then screeching… it was truly uncomfortable. We were both unsettled for awhile after that. (They found the little girl in no more than two minutes.) I could understand the mom’s fear but not how fast she escalated; that seemed potentially traumatizing for her daughter – it was such a contrast to the pervasive mood of calm pleasure. :-/ Even the kids at the carnival were peaceful in their expressions of exuberance!
We did our best to shake it off, hopping the ferry back to Old Town where we stumbled onto preparations for the Royal Parade. We mused about the lives of soldiers – so much time standing around! and I thought they might look bored but I bet everyone of them was thinking about what happened during Holland’s Queen’s Day a few weeks ago. Augustas – peering over the crowd – kept me posted on developments as we waited: “There’s some action inside.”

“They’re doing a circle.”

Folks asked what was going on. As if we knew! Some arcane ritual in which the horse-drawn carriages must be circled seven times to ward off bad fortune?

“They’ve stopped walking now, maybe there is some other action.”

“They’re still going in circles.”

Eventually – after we’d watched the navy-blue uniformed troops join the bright blue uniformed squad, and the horse patrols had arrived, and everyone had duly established positions and perimeters – finally right on the dot of 18:30 the procession began. “It’s the Queen!” The King was not smiling. “Do you think we should wave?” After all that anticipation? You bet!
Then we had to sprint across town to snarf dinner before dashing to catch Peterson Toscano’s Transfigurations. From one spectacle to another! I especially enjoyed the Q&A afterwards, because Peterson explained the background of each character and how he had come to recognize the non-normative gender qualities of these historical figures in scripture.
Dinner (what was that exquisite Indian dish?) was calm, scented with flowers popular during someone’s relatively recent (!) childhood in Lithuania. All in all, a lovely day full of surprises – and it was merely prelude!
The next day, after Augustas voted in the European Elections, we went to the nature reserve at Akeshov’s slott, where I had a peak experience walking the trails in search of De Geer’s Moraines. (I need a geologist to disambiguate the type of moraine: visually it didn’t seem so impressive – assuming we actually laid eyeballs on one of the actual formations!) At any rate, the combination of birdsong and frog croaks, fresh mountain tree-smells, and warm sun struck me with visceral force; I felt the power of embodiment, of being a mere tourist on this earth.
The grounds of Drottingham were next, where I purchased souvenirs and told my fantabulous tour guide,

“I want to ask the Royal Guard some questions.”
“No! That’s so American!”
­čÖé

“Can you talk with us?”
“Yes.”
“What do you think about, standing there for such a long time?”
“I have to.”
“Do you daydream, think about your life?”
“Nothing, really.”
“How long is the shift?”
“Two hours.”
“Long enough to get bored, but not so long as to go crazy.”
“It’s not so bad.” (grinning)

I agree. Not bad at all!

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