A Weekend in Stockholm (2 of 2)



On Anna-Christine’s recommendation, I spent Saturday evening at Stampen, a jazz club in Gamla Stan. The club was built like a rabbit warren on two floors of an 18th century building. It had two stages, one on each floor. The upstairs band played real I-know-jazz kind of jazz, while the downstairs bar had a dance floor and attracted a younger, funkier crowd. The club was popular enough despite it’s Kr 120 entrance fee. The doors opened promptly at eight and the place was packed by nine. Beers were not outrageously expensive, but enough so that locals tended to use their credit cards, and not cash when buying a round.

Generally speaking, I found the prices in Stockholm comparable with those in London. Which is to say a lot less expensive than I was lead to believe by friends who had visited Sweden more than a decade ago. The fact is that Sweden is not doing so well as it was ten or fifteen years ago. National debt is about the same as the annual Gross Domestic Product, income tax is the highest in the world, and the Kronor has taken some hits in recent years. In spite of this the Swedish still manage to maintain one of the world’s few working socialist economies with free education, free health, free day-care, a feasible pension system and no unemployment to speak of.

Back in the downstairs bar at Stampen I ran into a group of young mothers on a girl’s night out. One of the women stumbled drunkenly over to me, looked me up and down and asked me if I came from Inger-land.

“Well, yes, sort of. I live in London.” I answered, piqued at having been so easily exposed. “Why, what makes you say that?” She smiled wanly, shrugged her shoulders and pointed at my chest.

“I see you are wearing Marks and Spencer’s.”

In Sweden it seems, there can be no greater crime than having bad taste. I am sure the policemen, and women – women generate 48% of the GDP, more than in any other country – scour the streets at night arresting anyone wearing last year’s fashions. Around Sergels Torg in the town centre, the interior design shops and department stores outnumber all other enterprises by about two to one. In the estates on the outskirts of Stockholm, the tower blocks have been built without windowsills. I am told that the residents believe this was done to prevent them putting ugly things on their windowsills.

On Sunday morning I packed up, said good-bye to Anna-Christine, put my backpack in storage at the Central Station Terminal and spent the rest of the morning exploring the eastern end of town, or Östermalm, Djurgården and the Vasa Museum.

Autumn is an excellent time to visit the National City Park and the island of Djurgården. This one time royal hunting ground with its expansive lawns and 300 year old oak trees sporting their seasonal colours make it the perfect setting for a Sunday morning stroll.

Stockholm’s most popular tourist attraction by some way is the Vasamuseet. In 1628, the Vasa was potentially the world’s baddest ship. It had 64 awesome guns and enough space for 300 soldiers. Unfortunately it capsized in calm weather, 1300 metres into its maiden voyage. In 1956 it was rediscovered, then later salvaged and restored to it’s former, if short-lived, glory. It is now housed in a strange looking building on Djurgården Island, less than a nautical mile from where it sank.

After a quick lunch of hot chocolate and Danish pastries, I returned to the Station Terminal just in time to catch the one and a half-hour bus to Skavsta Airport. Our flight home was somewhat slower than the flight out. I wondered if our first pilot might have inadvertently swallowed some jet fuel, but our Irish airhostess denied this emphatically and drew large circles in the air to demonstrate holding patterns.

Facts

  • Stockholm is on Central European Time (GMT+1).
  • The national currency is the Swedish Kronor, pronounced ‘crown’ or ‘crowns.’
  • 1 Pound Sterling = 14 Swedish Kronor (check exchange).
  • A bed in af Chapman Hostel costs Kr 110-210 depending on season and the
    number of beds in your room.

  • A single room in a bed and breakfast costs Kr 300-350 depending on season, facilities and location.
  • A beer in a pub in the centre of Stockholm costs Kr 47.
  • At 65° North, Stockholm is further north than the Orkney Islands and only 500 miles from the Arctic Circle.
  • The total population of Sweden is 9 million, of which 1 million live in
    Stockholm.

  • Stockholm hosted the 1912 Olympics, the last one before the First World War.
  • Sweden’s most famous citizen, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and lived from 1833 to 1896.
  • Every year Nobel Prizes are awarded for physics, medicine, literature, peace, chemistry and economics.
  • The 2000 Nobel Prize for peace was awarded to Kim Dae Jung, President of South Korea.
  • In 1985, 96% of the Swedish workforce belonged to a Labour Union.

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