It is true: "The world is a book, and he who stays at home reads only one page." We just returned from two weeks in Scandinavia which let us read chapters on Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. We concluded with a day-long survey of St. Petersburg, Russia. I give God's magnum opus five stars!
The trip gave me material for many blog posts illustrating and describing our very interesting world, but let me begin with a teaser, highlighting gracious interiors and exteriors found in each of these countries.
The bachelor author of "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Little Mermaid" just to mention two, never owned his own home, but lived with various families who befriended him. Here is a glimpse into the sitting room he inhabited near the end of his life. (And, we thought our gallery walls were the latest in design!)
Look, too, at the chevron pattern on this door from 1631.
Leaving Denmark, we flew to Bergen, Norway where we began our tour of the gorgeous fjords by bus, boat, and train.
These islands of the midnight sun provided me with plenty of inspiration, inside and out...
from the famous Scandinavian interior design in restaurants (Don't you love the tile backsplash, hanging pots, and shiny heating pendants?)
to public garden design. (The pleasing combination of purple and green must be universal; I saw it in window boxes, sidewalk planters, and gardens all over Scandinavia.)
From Norway we went by a bus to Sweden where we visited life-long friends. (Believe it or not, this motor coach trip was nearly the most pleasant transportation of our entire trip.)
In Gothenburg (Goteborg on the map), our friend's home gave us a glimpse into private Scandinavian design. (I will blog on our special weekend in Gothenburg in a later post, including photos of a Swedish wedding!)
Leaving Gothenburg, we spent several days in Stockholm. Besides the palace and the Nobel Prize museum, a highlight for me was seeing the fantastic design store, Svenski Tenn, the collaboration of a designer/art teacher (Estrid Ericson) and a well-known architect, urban planner and designer (Josef Frank).
Providentially, the beautiful store displaying their exuberant design work was only steps from our hotel! Saving the best for last, Bill let me leisurely enjoy the store's every vignette on our last morning in Sweden's capital. (A whole blog on the design center to come!)
From there we took an overnight cruise east to Helsinki, Finland.
The most memorable interior in Helsinki had to be the Temple Square Church, often called Rock Church. Begun in 1930 and completed in 1969, the cavernous sanctuary was hewn out of bedrock, with slender windows circling the space.
The light leads the eye upward to the copper wire ceiling.
The combination of rough stone walls and copper dome produce unbelievable acoustics; consequently, conservatory students perform here each day at noon.
After touring, shopping, and drinking tea in Helsinki, we took another cruise ship to our final destination, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
We went Saint-Petersburg primarily to see a single painting, Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Return of the Prodigal Son". The canvas is housed in The Hermitage, which is the museum/palace of Peter the Great and Catherine. The opulence of these buildings literally drops your jaw. I do believe Versailles pales in comparison. However, my interior was humbled by the message of the painting. Rembrandt visualized for us the Father's warm, forgiving embrace of his filthy, tattered prodigal son who had come home from wallowing in a distant country's party-scene.
Thus, our journey opened fresh pages of the world's book to us, but let me conclude this first travelog by suggesting you open the pages of The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. The short, profound book by the Dutch-born Catholic priest, who gave up his teaching post at Harvard to be a care-giver for the profoundly handicapped, tells the meaning of Christ's parable as revealed through the details in Rembrandt's painting. Nouwen saw himself in both the prodigal son and the elder brother, but was moved to accept the Father's loving forgiveness. He invites us to do the same, and then to extend the same heart to others.