Thursday, 31 July 2008

at the end of the road.

First impressions: jaywalking, cars that stop at zebra crossing, pedestrian crossing signals with sound effects, Volvo policecars, coffee with real milk, a language that sounds half German half Greek, a population with perfect (and I do mean perfect) English.

How to look Swedish and 18-25:
Step 1: Be young & hot, blonde, tanned and lithe.
Step 2: Have an attitue that of course you are fabulous, why would you even ask? And no, I don't try.
Step 3: Wear (super) short shorts, huge baggy tshirt, flat shoes (either basic black or white 1920s tennis shoes, roman sandals or 80s inspired hi-tops). You may substitute (super) tight jeans or a (super) short tight skirt.
Step 4: You must have floppy hair
Step 5: (Optional). Wear giant glasses. GIANT, preferably ugly glasses. Find some aviator-shape wire rimmed ones that your Dad wore in the early 80s.
Step 6: Aim for a look which is a mix of early 20th century fop, early 1980s punk, and trenchcoat wearing serial killer.
Step 7: Look vaguely ridiculous. It doesn't matter if you've sucessfuly completed Steps 1 & 2.

...and the rest.
I arrived on Sunday and on the plane sat next to a Queenslander living further north in Sweden. Funny how that happens. The girl on my other side offered me a ride to my hotel. I politely declined, remembering the rule about not accepting rides from strangers, but later regretted it, when the train from the airport to the train station cost $70 return.

My hotel room is in the basement which means I'm getting good quality sleep since I'm not being woken up by the light. When I arrived I was feeling nasty after having been in transit for 7 hours (only 1.5 of which was actually in the air...oh how I love flying). I discovered that the hotel has a gym, and decided that a run on the treadmill would make me feel better. Went for a run in jeans and socks, since I didn't bring any exercise gear. I did feel better, but the next day I felt worse. I definitely do not recommend using a treadmill with no shoes - it will bugger up your legs and feet good and proper.

On my first day proper I visited some beautiful markets and then went for a walk around the island which is the old part of town, 'Gamla Stan'. It was very pretty and quaint, and I had a coffee at a place where i sat beside some painfully cool locals. Although it took me about 15 minutes into their conversation to realise they were locals - they were speaking English so perfectly I only eventually figured it out by their too uniform television accents. I bought some green glass 70s teacups and tried some Daim icecream. Despite sunburn cream, I got vaguely burnt, something that hasn't happened for a while.

On day 2 I took a cruise around the archipelago in the morning. It was quite nice and relaxing, if a little cold. I didn't realise that Stockholm was built on a series of islands - you are literally never more than a few minutes walk to the sea. I went and had a delicious vegetarian smorgasbord lunch at a place called Herman's on the Sodermalm island, with a beautiful view of the 'city' island. I stayed on Sodermalm and went 'shopping' in the trendy district there (in quotation marks becuase I didn't actually buy anything). Saw lots of bright young things kitted out according to the instructions above. Got back to the hotel and worked out I walked over 15kms that day.

On day 3 I enjoyed a coffee by the water, until a (very) old Swedish man decided I looked in need of company and sat himself at my table. He was dressed according to the instructions above. (Ok, no, not really, but he was blonde and tanned, and definitely had step 2 down). Decided it was time to get moving for the day, so I went to the National museum and saw their design collection (they have my glasses!), the Wasa museum which is all about a 17th century warship that sank in the harbour and has been rediscovered, and the Skansen open air museum, which is like a Swedish Sovereign Hill. All were very cool.

As Nick said, Stockholm is very nice. It's clean and safe and everyone seems happy and relaxed. It's right on the water, and the weather was fortunately beautiful. There's lots of things to do, but if you're feeling lazy, there's also lots of nice spots to just stop and have a coffee.

And now: back to blighty.


Elsie said...

Following on from the don't take rides with strangers... When I was in downtown Chicago recently I was needing a taxi to get to Andrew's office. It was about 5:30 on a Tuesday night and there were literally no empty taxis in sight. As I was waiting at a designated taxi rank the guy in front of me came up and asked where I was going, I told him vaguely and he offered to share a taxi, since he was going the same way. I thought it was pretty nice considering that after he got in a taxi I was going to have to wait a long time for the next one. After waiting for another 5 mins with no luck I ended up chickening out and walking, but I always wonder what might have happened... I got lovely sore feet walking in my high heels!

a4annie said...

I don't stick hard and fast to that rule about not taking lifts from strangers. It always depends on the situation. Not that long ago hitching was really normal, and actually meeting the other human before you decide to share a ride with them (or not) has to improve your chances of remaining safe significantly!

The other day in Melbourne I asked a random stranger if she wanted to share a cab with me -- no problem!

GeekMonkey said...

Du tyker om Sverige. Vi också tycker om Sverige. Du köpt någon av vår favorit söt saker!!!

After having a look at your photos and picies and profile I thought I'd come and have a look at your blog - and you tease me by putting up photos of Stockholm!! Erica and I spent about 5 days in Stockholm and it was fantastic fun. The photo that you have taken of the cafe in Kungtåget with the red brick has a weird story behind it that a local guide Erica knew gave to us.

Apparently the Danes would come around with their navy (which can actually float unlike the Vasa) and kick seven different shades of heck through the Swedes; on one occasion the Danes came around and said "look we just want to be friends; lets have a feast." They did, all the Swedish nobles got liquored up and the Danes herded them into that square and beheaded them. The lane way down past the left ran w river of red from the blood. The stones that you see in contrast to the red brick - each one is for a head that was chopped off.

Weird - bit nice coffee.