More Stockholm

Hi everyone,

I should add that one reason spirits were so high at The Nobel Museum was that all that week the Nobel Committee had been announcing the winners of the various Nobel prize winners for 2010, one a day. The day of the opening the Nobel Committee in Oslo announced the winner of the Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese human rights activist, now imprisoned in China and serving a term of 11 years. Liu Xiaobo has been an activist in China since at least Tiananmen Square; he seems to have always been nonviolent and seems to be a very courageous, moral and well-deserving person, really a hero. So wonderful that he and the dissident human rights movement in China have been given this recognition.

I saw an interview with Geir Lundestad, Secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. When asked, he stated that the Chinese government did try to pressure the Nobel Committee to choose a different winner other than Liu Xiaobo. He also said that they are an independent committee and it would be wrong of China to try to punish the Norwegian government for the Committee's choice. He stated that China is now a world power and can be expected to be under increasing scrutiny, as is the US, and that this is only right. He also said that they are very proud of their record of Peace Prize winners. I should say so; with good reason.

We went back to Gamla Stan (Stockholm's old town) to get a better, more complete picture of the Nobel Museum. It's a beautiful building, and we just didn't feel right about having only a small section of it to show you. Don ended up taking a panorama of 3 sides of the small square. The red banner hanging in the front is advertising The Missing Peace. The image is from Spanish artist Salustiano's piece in the show.

A group of us stayed at The Diplomat Hotel in Stockholm, very posh but snug rooms, especially after our roomy apartments in Florence. When we took a tour by ferry the recorded tour guide called the street The Diplomat is on the most posh address in Stockholm. I doubt that, but it is a great location, central and on the water.

The Diplomat is the one with the orange awnings.

I love their elevator.

We arrived in the afternoon before the opening and went to dinner with Gary and Squeak. Gary and Squeak had been in Stockholm for almost a week. They took us to a seafood place which had been recommended to them by Stockholmers (actually, collectors of Squeak) and which Squeak and Gary had tried and liked. It had been open for only 3 weeks. The owner was very friendly and spent quite a bit of time with each table, making pleasantries and telling us about the specials. We had some green oysters, which were a rare delicacy, with a price tag to match, and some more normal oysters. All delicious. Squeak and I had monk fish, Gary had duck, and Don has mussels and frites. Don and I always split everything. We had a very nice dinner, catching up on what everyone was up to, and S & G's recommendations of what we should do and see in Stockholm.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we noticed the owner having a sumptuous feast at a table alone. He had crab, lobster, a huge pile of shrimp, and a large crouton with what looked like a paté spread with slivers of roasted red peppers set on the table alongside his plate. He urged us all to try one of his shrimp, and they did look delicious, but we were all too full, with the exception of Don, who accepted a shrimp held up at arm's length from the seated proprietor - and popped it in his mouth. Don didn't have his glasses on and hadn't realized that the shrimp still had their shells. So he had the dual problem of a mouth full of shells, which he was doing his best to masticate, and a shrimp head which he was holding in his hand. Much to my horror, he carefully and delicately dropped the severed shrimp head onto the restauranteur's crouton; not right on top, to the side, but unfortunately touching it. I gasped "Don!" but quickly turned my back as I started laughing, fairly hysterically and almost silently. I couldn't stop. Realizing his faux pas, Don delicately removed the severed head from the crouton and - squinting the proprietor's plate into focus - found the actual pile of shrimp shells which the proprietor had mounded on the same plate he was eating from. A conversation ensued and Don kept eyeing the door, thinking he could slip out and extricate the masticated shell unobserved, but due to the length of the exit conversation (something about Squeak's lost hat) Don was forced to swallow the rich calcium purée, choking it down, slowly, in six swallows. Mr. Bean could not have done it better... Don later explained that he thought he was dropping his shrimp head onto a pile of discarded shrimp shells off the plate piled on the table, not the delicious-looking crouton. He didn't realize anything was wrong until he noticed me bouncing up and down with suppressed laughter.

Fortunately, the restauranteur was a casual type; wearing a cowboy hat and boots (so I guess he wasn't totally averse to Americans, at least not up to this point). Don said after the man's intial wide-eyed shock, he made a quick recovery and didn't appear very put out. In Don's defense, he wasn't wearing his glasses, the large crouton was on the table, not on the restauranteur's overloaded plate, and it did have those little slices of red pepper on it. This episode gave me the giggles for days afterward, whenever I thought of it. Don initially begged me not to put this into the travel blog, but later relented as it lost its sting and he began to see the humor of it.

Don standing in front of a schooner which has been converted into a youth hostel. He and his brother, Roger, stayed there when Don was 15. As he relates, David Tunick, now a famous old masters graphics dealer, slept on the upper bunk.

The Vasa Museum, a reconstructed highly ornate ship from the 17th century. The pride of Sweden. It took its maiden voyage out of the harbor, and after several minutes, in full view of the admiring crowd, tipped over and sank. It turned out it was too top-heavy. It was buried in the cold Swedish waters for over 300 years, discovered in the '60's, if I recall correctly. It's an ongoing project of fishing out all the pieces, cleaning and preserving them and fitting them together.

An exhibit of Chinese terra cotta warriors was showing at the Stockholm Asian Museum. The exhibit was presented very dramatically in caves under the Museum. The caves had been used for military purposes during WWII, and this was the first time they had been used for a major exhibition. It did give one some small sense of how it might have felt to uncover these sculptures from their tomb beneath the earth. It must have been just awesome.

We saw a video which accompanied the exhibition which said that the Qin Dynasty, the people who were more or less responsible for unifying China, and who gave their name to China, were at war for 500 years. Let's hope generations to come won't be able to say this about us, the American experiment.

Much love,

Era and Don