Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Secret Rooms - the Oxenstierna Palace & the Beijer House

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On May 24th 2008, for the second time ever - the first time was in 2004 - the National Property Board opened the doors to some houses, rooms and spaces that aren't usually public. These so called Secret Rooms could be found across the country, as well as the Swedish embassy in Finland. The places in the Stockholm vicinity were 12, and I doubt that even if you were very quick and had a car there was just no way you could managed to visit them all during those five hours of free entrance glasnost.

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Not surprisingly of all the buildings revealing their secrets that day, we choose to visit some of the palaces. First stop - and not much of a queue when we arrived about 20 minutes before they opened - was the now conjoined buildings of the Oxenstierna Palace and the Beijer House, neighbour to the Royal Palace in Old Town.

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Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna - the tall man in the picture above, and even if you perhaps think it's an actor I suspect he just might be the real one, he striked me as rather well-preserved in spirits so to say - was one of Sweden's most influential and distinguished statesmen during the 17th century. In 1653 he ordered that a palace should be built at the prestigious site next to the Royal Palace.

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The architect was Jean de la Vallée, a french-born man also the architect behind other great buildings in Stockholm and other parts of Sweden. Like Skokloster castle, Ekolsund castle, Hässleby castle and Karlberg palace. The Oxenstierna palace was meant to be grand in many ways, but was never finished since the chancellor died in 1654. The only part finished was this wing, now called the Oxenstierna Palace.

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At the same time, in the mid 17th century, the post-master-general Beijer purchased the two neighbouring buildings which at that time served as the only post office in Stockholm. With an inner courtyard that's unique since being preserved intact for over 350 years.

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The Swedish state purchased the Beijer House in 1918 and linked it's interior with that of the Oxenstierna Palace. The state has ever since used the conjoined buildings as offices for for example the State bank and the Treasury Department. To me the place looked quite empty, I have no idea as to what exactly is lodged there nowadays.

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And to be honest, neither being a major architecture buff nor immensely enjoying the rigged-out-in-costumes-of-that-time-people, of which some were overacting in a major way - one being really zeleous in telling the details of her husbands nasty VD-problems. A fact which I chatted happily about later while in a café, was misinterpreted by the guests at the table next to us. They looked completely horrified and left in a swooshy hurry, poor guys, what if something had rubbed off - I found the whole secret-rooms-hullabaloo of this particular place (apart from some nice well-preserved wall- and cealing-paintings) to be rather overrated indeed.

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Glad we got there early though, the queue when we finally found our way out into the light once again - the exit was befittingly by steep stairs from the cellar - was rather... unappealing.

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Although admittedly, just past the neighbouring Royal Palace was a longish queue to the next stop on our day of most secret revelations, another palace. This one with a magic garden though, which certainly makes one stand a bit of queueing, don't you agree?

2 comments:

Holler said...

We have something similar here each year called 'open doors day'. Isn't is great having a good snoop about?

Pia K said...

I've always found the entrance fee to all those amazing castles and mansions in England and Scotland to be on the rather pricey side of things, so after a while we selected the ones we visited properly very carefully. I do like the National Trust idea, it would probably be a wise thing to become a member before visiting next time:)

Oh yes, snooping can definitely be great fun!

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