Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

At first blush, Stockholm was a pleasant place to spend a week. I began in its medieval Old Town, known locally as Gamla Stan, where I visited the Royal Palace and Stortorget, the oldest square in Stockholm. I toured the spectacular City Hall. Built of eight million bricks, this remarkable building is the venue for the Nobel Peace Prizes each year. I toured free museums, ate picnic lunches in the city’s attractive parks, and took boat tours around the 14 islands that make up the city. But it was when I went underground that Stockholm morphed from pleasant to astonishing.

One of the most startling examples of art in the Stockholm Metro are these silhouettes of the workers who built the station

One of the most startling examples of art in the Stockholm Metro are these silhouettes of the workers who built the station

The three Metro lines beneath the Swedish capital stretch for 68 miles and include 100 stations. Nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is that more than ninety of these stations feature massive art installations. I began my exploration of art in the Stockholm Metro at T-Centralen, the system’s main hub. It was here that the idea to use the Stockholm subway to bring art to the public was born. I had to look hard to find art at T-Centralen’s ground level entrance. Eventually I spotted the trunk of a birch tree engraved on one of the glass panels, branches laden with oak leaves cascading down another, and a couple of hiking boots marching kitty-whompus up the glass. Read More

Golden Hall at Stockholm City Hall

The stunning Golden Hall at Stockholm City Hall is one of the highlights on the tour of the city’s municipal center. However, it is just one of many things that make this building so famous. The 348-foot tall structure, built entirely of brick, was completed in 1923. Nearly eight million bricks were used in its construction. The three golden crowns atop the central tower are a reflection of the Swedish Coat of Arms. Read More

Old Town in Stockholm, Sweden (Gamla Stan), as seen from the bridge leading to City Hall

Old Town in Stockholm, locally known as Gamla Stan, is located on the site of the city’s original 13th century settlement. This photo was taken from the bridge leading to Stockholm City Hall, which is located on the eastern tip of Kungsholmen island, looking back at Gamla Stan. Today Old Town spreads across the three islands of Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg, which separate the Baltic Sea from Lake Mälaren, the third-largest freshwater lake in Sweden. During Viking times the lake was a huge bay on the Baltic Sea, and vessels could sail directly up it into the center of the country. By 1200 the lake had silted up and Old Town in Stockholm became the closest access to the Baltic. Read More

Copenhagen designer Nicolas Nicolaou has always had a rule: a design must have at least three improvements over similar products before he will consider producing it. And just being prettier doesn’t quality as a reason.

I met Nico on a gloomy afternoon in Copenhagen, Denmark, after wandering for several hours around the city’s magnificent King’s Garden. My feet were sore and I’d skipped lunch; I wanted only to rest for a while over coffee and a sandwich. My GPS map told me the Blue Bike Café was just across the street. Intriguing name, I thought. Five minutes later I was perusing the cafe’s organic menu when Nico poked his head through the French doors at the rear of the cafe. “Hello!” he boomed. “Welcome.” I knew instantly that I was going to like this middle-aged bundle of energy, with his bald pate, twinkling black eyes, and broad smile. Moments later he joined me and, after recommending certain dishes, began telling me about his more than 30 years in the industrial design business.

Copenhagen designer Nicolas (Nico) Nicolaou at Blue Bike Cafe with his D-time insulin delivery device

Copenhagen designer Nicolas (Nico) Nicolaou at Blue Bike Cafe with his D-time insulin delivery device

Shortly after graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Nico opened Nicodesign. “This entire space used to be my design firm,” he explained, sweeping his arms out to indicate the cafe. “A few months ago I decided turn the front part into a place where interesting people can meet, share ideas, and enjoy good food and coffee.” Read More

The famous Little Mermaid statue in the harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark

Like the Belgian capital of Brussels, with it’s iconic Mannekin Piss statue, Copenhagen is perhaps most associated with its Little Mermaid sculpture. The demure bronze girl, which sits atop a boulder along the city’s Langelinie promenade, was created by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen as a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen. The Danish author wrote a number of popular children’s fairy tales, including The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, and The Little Mermaid. Read More

Boulevard of trees in King's Garden in Copenhagen, Denmark

During my visit to Denmark, I spent an entire day at King’s Garden in Copenhagen. The moment I set foot within the park I knew it was different. Just steps from the gate was the Punch and Judy Theatre, where families can attend free puppet shows. Further into the park I found an enormous children’s playground with a variety of courses designed to help kids develop dexterity and balance. Enclaves surrounded by perfectly manicured hedgerows held outdoor sculptures of famous Danes like Hans Christian Andersen and roses trailed from trellis in the Rose Garden. Read More