City Hall, Old Town & Farewell Dinner – 28/5

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Saturday 28th May

We began the day at Stadshuset – Stockholm’s City Hall – with a reunion of sorts.  Steve Gunnarson, the Governor of Rotary District 2350 here in Sweden, had returned from the Rotary International Conference in New Orleans, bringing with him two guests from Australia – our own District 9520 Governor Malcolm Lindquist and his wife Antoinette.  It was great – although strange – to hear some Aussie accents again, and we had fun sharing stories about our respective trips.

We were shown through the City Hall by guide EwaVictoria Westman.  The City Hall has a number of purposes – as a political building where the Council sits, as the offices for the city administration of 200-300 staff, as a representative building for the King, and as a symbol of Stockholm.  It is also famous for holding the Nobel Prize banquet on December 10th each year.

We heard an interesting story about the construction of the staircase.  Apparently, the architect built a number of wooden test staircases and made his wife walk up and down them in a long dress and heels, before reconstructing the best version in marble.  They later divorced – this may have been the reason why!

The other amazing room in Stadshuset was the Golden Hall, which has walls lined with 8 million tiles coated in 23.5 carat gold leaf from Italy and Germany.  There are many amazing mosaic images throughout the room; the highlight being the Peace Queen, who represents the East and West.  Holding the City Hall in her lap, she sits between the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower on one side, and elephants, camels and mosques on the other.

We then walked through Gamla Stan – the Old Town, and EwaVictoria pointed out many interesting sites, including old churches, Marten Trotzigs Gränd – the narrowest street in Sweden – and a square called “Burnt Square,” which exists because the corner house on the street burnt down.  It was then decided to leave the space as a turning point for carriages.

We ate lunch at a restaurant in the Old Town named Zum Franziskaner, which was established in 1421.  Malcolm and Antoinette both chose the reindeer from a range of traditional Swedish dishes, and we all enjoyed the meal.  It was especially interesting to see all of the runners in the Stockholm Marathon passing by the restaurant during our lunch.  There were 20,000 competitors, and the pack of runners seemed endless!

After lunch, we had a few hours free before our Farewell Dinner.  None of us could believe that it was already the day of our farewell, and only a couple of days before we finish our Group Study Exchange and leave Sweden.

We met on the rooftop of a building in the Old Town for drinks and nibbles from 5pm-7pm.  It was great to see some members of our host families from previous towns, and we were especially impressed that Michelle’s first host father Mats from Uppsala made the effort, after completing the marathon earlier in the day.  David’s wife Lyn also arrived from Australia, as they will be touring Europe together after the GSE.

After drinks and a few speeches, we made our way to Järnet Matsal & Bar in Gamla Stan, where we had a fantastic dinner.  We really enjoyed spending time with so many of the people who have contributed to our amazing month in Sweden.  It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to this wonderful country.

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