National Geographic : 1928 Oct
THE GRANITE CITY OF THE NORTH Austere Stockholm, Sweden's Prosperous Capital, Presents a Smiling Aspect in Summer BY RALPH A. GRAVES AUTHOR OF "MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA SIXTY YEARS AFTER," "A SHORT VISIT TO WALES," "THE NEW MAP OF EUROPE," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE « -I- HIS city fairly shines. Has it Just had its morning bath?" Asked my companion as we walked along freshly swept cobbled side walks past innumerable flower-studded squares. We were returning from a stroll of miles along the broad, curving quays of Sweden's seaport capital, so different in their spotless orderliness from other metropolitan water fronts throughout the world. Stockholm's quays are her front doors, with steps always freshly scrubbed. Un der a brilliant summer sun, even the car goes of many of the harbor's sailing craft, moored in front of Royal Palace, Town Hall, and House of Parliament, glisten, for they are laden with countless cords of silver birch, the city's fuel. TEDIOUS OF ACCESS BY RAIL In gorgeous midsummer floral regalia, Stockholm stands faultlessly groomed to receive only a few score American visi tors, while other continental capitals, in cluded in customary tourist itineraries, are athrong with thousands from Western shores. The average traveler does not decide casually upon a trip to Stockholm, nor, unless he comes directly from New York by ocean route, does the American always arrive in the most amiable frame of mind. It is a long, hard journey from Western or Southern Europe to the historic city founded seven centuries ago as a fortress to resist the forays of Baltic pirates. From Paris, for example, unless one selects the speedy and exhilarating air plane mode of travel, the major part of one day must be spent on the train to Amsterdam; thence there is an all-night journey to Hamburg, then another full clay on the train to Copenhagen, and finally, by train, ferry, and train again, a second night is required to reach one's destination. If the visitor is fortunate in having friends in Stockholm, they will have pur chased for 20 ore each (about 5 cents) tickets admitting them to the train plat form, so that they can greet their guest as he steps from his sleeping car. The stranger unfamiliar with the ways of this northern world may leave the sta tion concourse by the door leading to the taxi driveway, and there hail in vain cab after cab, with every driver seemingly oblivious to his existence. He must first obtain from a functionary inside a metal tag giving the order in which his taxi re quirements are to be met with respect to all other travelers. The taxicabs of Stockholm, referred to always as "bils" (automobiles), are legion, and the rates are extremely reasonable; so there would seem to be no necessity for such regulations, except for the significant fact that there is no hit-or-miss service in Sweden. A CITY OF GRANITE BLASTED FROM ITS FOUNDATIONS Stockholm's prosperity, like that of the entire country, is founded in large meas ure on forests-the city's name, Isle of the Log, suggests it-but there is no evi dence of this in external appearances. There was a time when the metropolis was built of wood, and it required six disas trous conflagrations, recurring over a pe riod of two and a half centuries, to con vince its citizens that their safest insurance against flames lay beneath their feet. Stockholm to-day is built of granite. upon granite foundations. A landowner blasts his building material from the site of his proposed structure, and by the same operation makes his cellar. The result is a city of somber, unadorned gray-stone apartments and business buildings, con veying the impression of having been erected for eternity.