A park afloat
Djurgården (= "Animal Garden" in Swedish, approximate Swedish pronunciation "yeur-gaur-dehn") is one of the many islands that the city of Stockholm actually consists of. It can be seen as a large city park, floating on the Baltic Sea. Officially Djurgården is called Kungliga Djurgården (= Royal Djurgården). In this case the official epithet "Royal" is not just a quaint reminder of bygone days, like the "Royal" in the institutional names of the "Royal Dramatic Theatre" or the "Royal Opera". Djurgården is in fact directly owned by the King of Sweden and is managed in the same manner as the King's Royal Palaces, by a special Royal Office (Kungliga Djurgårdens Förvaltning).
The King's official ownership of Djurgården is hardly noticeable to the inhabitants of Stockholm – you are as free to stroll among the ancient oaks (some are over a thousand years old) of Djurgården as in any of the city-owned parks of Stockholm. However, there is a small group of beautifully set old rental houses in Djurgården. If you want to become a tenant of such a house, then you have to apply to the King (through Kungliga Djurgårdens Förvaltning –- don't bother, if you are not looking for a place to live for your grand-grand-children, the waiting list is very, very long) and pay the rent to Him.
The dimensions of the Djurgården island are approx. 5 x 2 km. Besides the large English-style park, there are a large number of museums, galleries, mansions, palaces, restaurants and other places worth visiting in Djurgården. A short list:
Skansen The first open-air museum in the world
Tivoli Gröna Lund Amusement park
Vasa museum Exhibits the warship Wasa from 1628
Waldemarsudde Gallery of the Painter Prince Eugen
Thielska Galleriet Art gallery for 19th century art
Biologiska Museet Old museum of Nordic flora and fauna
Rosendals Slott A 19th century Royal summer Palace
Liljevalchs Art gallery for periodic art exhibitions
Nordiska Museet National Museum of Cultural History
Keeping the wolves out
Djurgården has been a Royal possession since 1452, when King Karl Knutsson Bonde swapped it against some other real estate of his. In the 1600's it became a Royal hunting park, where the renegade Queen Kristina (who unexpectedly converted to Catholicism, abdicated the throne of Sweden and moved to Rome) loved to hunt. At the time the Crown even built a 20 km long wooden fence in order to keep the game in place and protect it against wolves and bears.
Over the centuries Djurgården has developed into the beautiful and many-faceted island of recreation and amusement that it is today. In the summertime there are so many people with their sights set on Djurgården, that automobile traffic is banned. You have to walk (5-10 min from the city centre), take a bus or board a historic tram line, operated by tram-history enthusiasts, using vintage models of old trams. You could also take a nice little ferry from the quay below the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Nybroplan square). In any case, the old oaks and fields of grass in secluded parts of Djurgården are perfect spots for summertime romance and love-making.
e2 Geography Quest