On a warm, late July day in central Stockholm I arrived in the city brimming with anticipation for my trip. After departing with my rucksack at the hostel I took my map, compass and guidebook to head out into the mid-afternoon sun and do some sightseeing. Still feeling groggy from my journey I decided to head east to a local church to find some peace and quiet. Before long, I found The Church of Adolf Fredrick named after the king who laid the foundation stone. I walked slowly through the well-kept gardens, observing the trendy Swedes relaxing in the shade before heading into the church. Silence; it was wonderful. The interior was very bright inside as light poured in through the clear round arched windows and bounced off the white interior. It struck me how different this space is to other protestant churches I had been in; a central dome is suspended by relatively shallow tunnel vaults and the church is built in the shape of a Greek cross. I put 10SEK in a box and lit a candle; I prayed for a safe trip in Sweden.
After admiring the large, dominant altarpiece by Sergel which depicts Christ rising from the tomb on Easter morning I headed back out into the city bustling with many cyclists and overly cautious pedestrians waiting patiently at every crossing. I had read about Gamla Stan the old town that dates back to the 13th century, defined by its medieval alleyways and cobbled streets, so I walked south over two clean waterways to the tourist hotspot of the city.
I was welcomed by sweet smells floating through the air from quaint patisseries and corner cafes and a Medieval or lap harpist creating a beautiful sound. Making my way through the narrow streets in awe of the archaic architecture and absorbing the atmosphere, I found myself wondering into the second church of the day; Tyska Kyrkan or “German Church” named for standing in the centre of a neighbourhood that in the Middle Ages was dominated by Germans. The contrast could not have been more striking. Dark, ornate and smelling of solid wood wormed pews this Catholic place of worship was built and adapted over four centuries. Tyska Kyrkan is dedicated to the Saint Gertrude (626- 659) and was founded on location for the present church in the 14th century. I took a minute to seat myself on an empty pew and watched as other tourists sauntered in, wide-eyed and open mouthed to gawp at the incredibly colourful interior before them. In my eyes, the Kings Gallery stole the show with vibrant gold used in every crevice, illuminating the corner of the church. The pulpit was also beautiful, but somewhat more discreet using largely black so as not to impose on His Majesties gallery.
The brick steeple and copper covered spire of The German Church help create the iconic Stockholm skyline featured on many postcards and travel guides. Before long I was ready to walk back to the hostel to relax in the sauna and have a cold shower in true Swedish fashion.
Writen : August 2012