This past week I have found myself back in the warm embrace of everybody’s favourite overpriced Stockholm café, Muggen (d) – http://www.muggen.se/#/#index. The café where, ‘no sandwich is too expensive and no tea too bland’… and yet, and yet, it is still far and away the place I’ve visited most since moving here. So regular are my visits that I now have my own ‘window spot’ from which I have observed numerous Stockholm events over the past six months,
And it was whilst sat in my spot that I got chatting to backpacker doing a gap year round Europe. Poor girl, all she did was agree to keep an eye on my lap top whilst I went to toilet and in return she got a (technically not requested) twenty-five minute guide to the city,
- Must visit: Vasa Museum – you have to, have to go
- Must do: Boat trip on the archipelago. Doesn’t really matter where but Birka for Vikings, Grinda for swimming
- Best Museum that isn’t the Vasa which you need to stop banging on about Fraser, it’s a bloody ship for crying out loud: Skansen – which is technically a bit of a cheat and I’d really just go the Va…
- Best restaurant if you are paying and want authentic Swedish cuisine: Meatballs for the People
- Best restaurant if someone else is paying and want authentic Swedish cuisine: Fem Små Hus
- Should be better than it is and I personally wouldn’t bother: Nobel Museum – sorry Sweden
- Not sure if it was good or bad, it’s very weird: Nordiska Museum – a weird, weird place
- I can’t believe it that was actually really good! Stockholm bus tour – you heard it here first, the bus tour is excellent… what have I become?
- Best thing that’s free: Walking through and around Gamla Stan or specifically along Söder Mälarstrand, anywhere ‘on the water’ basically, it is a stunning city.
Poor girl, by the time I’d finished her fold out map was covered in so many lines and notes it looked like a WWII invasion plan, “We attack at dawn!”
Slightly shell shocked she slowly backed out of the café, having only initially asked where she could buy a cheap raincoat (Ahlens department store in case you were wondering).
Anyhow, it got me thinking,
- If things don’t work out on the job front I could always start my own Stockholm Tour Guide company
- Intake at the Vasa Museum would sky rocket
- I’m spending too much time on my own during the day and as a result have lost the ability to conduct basic conversations – ‘when their eyes start rolling back inside their heads, stop talking!’
Now one thing I admire about the Swedes is the commitment that they have to their festivals, cultural events and traditions. However there is one currently taking place which I will never understand. One which for once I am able to share with you in exactly the same way the majority of Swedes experience it.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls I give you ‘Allsång’,
Allsång is hosted every year at Skansen and is basically an open air concert where a host of Swedish pop stars lead a sing-a-long of classic Swedish folk songs – or for English readers, think Songs of Praise with less Catholicism.
And dear reader it is huge over here. Broadcast on primetime TV on one of the major TV channels (SVT1 – think BBC1), for the majority Swedes it is experienced in the comfort of their living room and is a real family event,
However, the best part of Allsång has to be the host. The frankly terrifying Petra Marklund. The best way to describe Petra is to think of what would happen if you crossed an Apple store employee who REALLY believes in the brand with an overly enthusiastic puppy dog. That should give you a good idea of the psychotic devotion Petra has to audience participation. With mic in hand like some sort of ‘fun battering ram’, she charges through the crowd bludgeoning people into submission,
“Are you enjoying yourself!?! ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!?!”
“No because you’re scaring the s**t out of me!”
Poor Petra, I do feel for her and her complete incomprehension when she meets someone who doesn’t share her raw enthusiasm for singing down a microphone on live television in front of millions of people at home.
But without doubt the best part is when she or one of the Swedish singing stars, all of whom can hold a tune, meet someone as enthusiastic as they are (though no one is as enthusiastic as Petra) but who is completely tone deaf. The funniest part of the broadcast on Sunday came when this guest singer put his mic in front of this woman,
Good Lord, it was like an elephant trying to sing Nessun Dorma underwater with a cold.
Now the poor celeb of course, having brought this on himself, had to give her at least a few seconds of camera time whilst she didn’t so much murder the song, as take it outside, beat it with a metal bar, dip it in acid and throw it off a cliff… And the look of blind panic on his face was priceless when he slowly started to pull away the mic, only for her to start chasing after it! Poor guy, the harder he pulled, the harder she pulled back! In the end they had to just cut to good old enthusiasm machine Petra who had snagged her latest ‘fun victim’.
Of course there is one huge hole in my Stockholm knowledge: where to go out late at night. The need to fill said hole was prompted by news that Alex’s brother Chris (23) might be coming out to visit before the baby came. Now given our current situation, what with Alex being nine months pregnant and all, it might not come as a huge surprise to hear that we haven’t exactly been ‘tearing it up’ at the weekend in Stockholm and as such don’t really know where ‘the kids’ go out at night.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about pubs and bars, I mean the places that stay open to the low numbers. Remember those? 3? 4?…5! The places too busy to breath, so loud you can feel years been vibrated off hearing lifespan… And when did a couple of pints down the old dog and bone suddenly become infinitely more appealing than 4 hours in a ‘disco sauna’?
Anyhow, thankfully I was able to reach out to a friend of mine over here who provided an extensive list of where young guns in Stockholm head out. So fear not future visitors of a more youthful persuasion, when that point in the evening comes and you want to go ‘throw a few shapes/spin a few lyrics’ – if indeed that is how you still refer to such things – we will be able to point you in the right general direction.
Talking of preparation, everybody (not least me and Alex) will be glad to hear that preparation for our latest addition has stepped up immeasurably over the past week. We even have something for the baby to sleep in now – I know! Apparently just putting them on that old towel you use when you can’t find the kitchen towel at night isn’t recommended. Who knew?
Anyway, as is typical, last Saturday we went to buy a load of stuff for the baby and really didn’t think through the practicalities of getting it all back to our flat… But don’t you have a car over there? Yes of course we do, but we thought, ‘um, surely it makes more sense just to buy more stuff than we can really carry and bring it back on the tube’…
Now it might look like we are having fun there in a kind of, ‘ha ha ha, wasn’t that fun carrying all this stuff home when the car is round the corner, ha ha ha ha…’ – But let me tell you, that pic was taken through gritted teeth. Still, the main thing is that everything is coming together and we are finally in a position where if the baby came tomorrow we’d be all set. Well I say all set, we have stuff like nappies, not sure we are all set to have a baby, but that’s another story!
Today Alex is full term so technically the ‘big drop’ could come anytime now, though hopefully we’ll get a little closer to the official launch date, 29th July.
Picture of week
The bowls tournament is STILL going on. I can only assume that myself and Alex are the only people in Stockholm yet to throw. Actually, maybe that’s it, in typical Swedish ‘inclusive’ fashion everybody gets a go and until that’s happened they stay put… I’ll be back in a minute… err yea, that’s not it. Not it at all…
Track of the week
Allsång 2015 trailer, ‘go on Petra you enthusiasm fruit cake!’
Fraser ‘Stockholm tours with added enthusiasm’ Hynes