The Stockholm Sunshine Effect, Navy Hat Wearing Party Trucks and National Day

If you were wandering round the streets of Stockholm in the last couple of weeks, I suspect that on at least one occasion you would have stood, open mouthed, as what looked like members of the Swedish Navy on shore drove past in the back of a truck, music blasting, booze flowing, screams and shouts raining down at random passers-by…

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Well fear not, things are not so bad for the Swedish Navy that they have resorted to using trucks – not ideal in a water based conflict to be honest. No, this is how Swede’s celebrate their graduation from high school (secondary school).

Now the hat doesn’t actually have anything to do with navy and is called a studentmössa (Swedish student cap),

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Apparently they’ve been around since the mid-18th century. Normally they have a white crown, a black or dark blue band and black peak. At the front is a cockade (a knot of ribbons – do keep it clean!) of blue and yellow to represent the Swedish flag.

Now in terms of the whole truck thing (tractors are commonly used as well), apparently groups of students club together and hire these ‘floats’ for the day which they deck out with balloons and birch twigs (no really). These trucks then go on the rampage through the streets of Stockholm, the graduates fuelled by as much champagne as they can drink in the quickest time possible.

I say rampage. This is all done with complete cooperation of the city and does have a very slight hum of ‘organised fun’… But still, let me ask you this? Would you have preferred being on the back of a float, sailors hat in hand, champagne on tap, sun in the sky when you left school? Or like me, sat in a dingy pub (Bulls Head in Hale Barns for me) trying to figure out what the hell you were going to do with the rest of your life? I think the answer is simple. It might not always happen, but when the Swedes get it right, they get it right.

Of course, this type of thing would never have worked in my home city Manchester anyway. For starters champagne falls under the category of ‘cocktail’, floats are something you get at a swimming pool and there isn’t a huge call for sailor’s hats in a landlocked city. Most obviously though, when it comes to Manchester I’ll be honest, the sun can’t exactly be relied upon to do its bit.

Which leads me nicely (see what I did there?) to perhaps the most staggering revelation I have had about Stockholm since I moved here. It is quite simply a different city when the sun comes out. And my word did the sun come out last weekend.

We were fortunate enough to welcome our very good friends Sophie and Matt (Shella) over for a visit. Now I would say that they brought the sunshine with them but as they came over from Manchester, that would have been a stretch. Soph is originally from Kent, which describes itself as ‘The Garden of England’ and is admittedly an extremely beautiful place Matt however is Manchester born and bred, which described itself as ‘A City in the North West of England’…

God love him, it had been so long since he seen genuine sunshine that he felt compelled to point it out at every opportunity,

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Look at the smile on that face of his, like a kid on Christmas day.

Anyhow, my point is that Sweden and The Swedes love the sunshine. Love it. Back in February when we arrived, bars such as this on in Medborgarplatsen  (a square in the centre of Södermalm where we live) weren’t even open, let alone doing any business. As this picture shows, taken at around 3pm last Friday, every single bar and café was absolutely heaving. Now admittedly just to the right of where I took this picture is spot that was still being used as an open access ice-skating rink back in February, but you get the idea.

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All throughout the city, along its downtown waterfronts through the cobbled streets of Gamla Stan, cafes bustle with life. The smell of freshly ground coffee and melting ice-cream floats through the air, carried along by a soft gentle breeze. Legs and arms stretch out of every chair, faces hidden behind giant sunglasses point towards the golden orb in the sky. A thawed city basks in beautiful sunlight.

Last Saturday was National Day in Sweden. Part of the celebration included the ‘Taste of Stockholm Festival’ (http://www.smakapastockholm.se/english/). Held in Kungsträdgården (the Kings Garden) just outside the King’s Palace (funny that) it features food and beer from Sweden and around the World. Over the course of three days it’s visited by hundreds of thousands of people and is clearly a very popular event,

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Alex and Soph here tucking into some pregnancy friendly chicken Ramen whilst myself and Shella destroyed a pulled pork burger.

I would be lying however if I said it was a complete success. Back when I was a student I used to help run a play scheme at the local sports centre in the summer holidays. 60/70 children running around all over the place, it was bedlam. Anyhow, the odd occasion we could get them settled down we used to like to conduct a little social experiment (anyone at University, feel free to nick this). Basically we would tell them that they couldn’t kick the football we were about to throw out in front of them. Well you can guess the rest, that ball would bounce across the hard wooden floor of the sports hall 2 times before some kid ran up and welled it…

Well we encountered our bouncing football at the food festival.

Now be honest, who amongst you could say that upon seeing this sign you wouldn’t have got out your money?

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Hawaiian. Ice Cream. Think about that for a moment. Hawaiian… Ice Cream. Now whilst I’d love to say that this has opened an entirely new world of ice cream flavoured delight, it did not go well – the outer casing you can see in the picture tasted like flavoured rubber . Then again, what did we expect? It’s a bit like suddenly discovering ‘Nigeria Eccles Cakes’ or ‘New Zealand Croissants’ – perfectly fine I’m sure but not exactly what you expect …. still, you’d DEFINITELY try either of those wouldn’t you? I know I would!

Of course what weekend of visitors would be complete without the obligatory visitors photo – and you thought (hoped) I’d forgotten!

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And yes, myself and Shella are wearing the same make and model of sunglasses – we’ve know each other a long time, these things tend to happen from time to time.

Over the weekend myself and Alex did also try out a new museum, The Nordiska Museet http://www.nordiskamuseet.se/. To be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment, especially because at the same time we’d packed Soph and Shella off to the Vasa Museum (http://www.vasamuseet.se/en/) which should, in my opinion, be the top of any visitors list.

The Nordiska Museet as the title suggests, looks at the cultural history of the Nordics, its people, its changing cultures and is housed in a truly stunning building. However once inside it’s a bit of a disappointment, a kind of poor man’s V&A. I mean when a section dedicated to the importance of ‘chairs’ is about the only thing I can remember from walking around the place for an hour, all is not well.

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Chairs. Interesting.

That all said, there was some interesting stuff about the cultural heritage of Sweden, the festivals and people and if you have an interest in old artefacts, customs and ways of life, then it may well be worth a visit.

Bump Watch

A direct quote from Alex, “I can’t believe it still has 7 plus weeks to go!” Which I think just about sums where we are up to.

Picture of week

Three pics for the price of one this week and depending on your view of the world, something for everyone,

  1. A beautiful shot from Sophie of Stockholm’s skyline at night (10pm)
  2. A crane painted like a giraffe.
  3. A statue of four multicolour women in a bath with water shooting out of their nipples… Like you do.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Fraser ‘I want a hat!’ Hynes

*BREAKING NEWS* BREAKING NEWS* BREAKING NEWS* BREAKING NEWS*

**Cheap pint update**

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve made it my mission to find the cheapest pint (well, ¾ pint) in Stockholm. The current record is held by the Hellströms Bar & Restaurant at 28 Krona. Despite our very best efforts myself and Shella were only able to find this,

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Defeated, I took Shella to ‘enjoy’ the current record holder and get a 2nd (or rather 3rd) opinion. Shella didn’t actually mind it. Please note this may NOT be a good thing, I thought it still tasted like swill, though he did point out I’ve made him drink MUCH worse things. However we were able to get the name of the beer manufacture so that if you do ever happening to be unfortunate enough to stumble upon it you’ll know to give it the wide birth it deservers!

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