I swear there must be a secret plan for Stockholm to put in a bid to host the Olympic Games. That, or they’re expecting a Swedish economic crisis, so they’re doing as much now as they possibly can. How else could you explain the amount of building activity going on around Stockholm at the moment?
From the Royal Palace to Sergel’s Torg, the city is awash with scaffolding. Major buildings are either being given an external clean or a major renovation. In the case of Sergel’s Torg, the glass tower in the middle of Stockholm, the accompanying signs tell you it’s so this iconic Stockholm monument can live on well into the future. Personally, I think it’s ugly in a Blues Point Tower kind of way, and I can’t see what they could possibly do to make it look better.
Of course, the major work underway is the re-development of Slussen, the transport hub, and the creation of a tunnel which is supposed to alleviate traffic problems in the city, and hopefully, make it a far more friendly place for pedestrians and cyclists. There’s certainly some opposition to this development. Benny Andersson from ABBA has been one of the most vocal critics. In fact, he demanded the poster of ABBA at Stockholm Airport welcoming people to Stockholm be taken down. Interestingly that poster has been replaced by many others promoting the forthcoming opening of the ABBA Museum.
As I walked around today, I could begin to imagine how Stockholm, which is already a very beautiful city, could become so much more beautiful if it became more of a place for pedestrians and cyclists. Combined with all of the renovation work going on around the city, you can begin to imagine how the city might look in five to ten years. But hey, I’m just a tourist who visits from time to time, with little idea of the practicalities of what’s underway.
Speaking of Benny from ABBA. Do you know how I mentioned I inadvertently booked a hotel room that looked directly onto his business, Mono Music? Well, guess who I saw this morning as I walked back to my hotel room? He was chatting with a woman with an English accent as I walked past by. Ten years ago I might have been interested in stopping and asking politely for a photograph. But that’s not where my head-space is, these days. My interest in Sweden started all those years ago with ABBA, but meeting a member of ABBA is not something I really want to do these days. OK, maybe Frida.
I also saw the former presenter of the Swedish TV program, Allsang pa Skansen, Anders Lundin at T-Centralen, and that was mildly exciting too.
But aside from celebrity-spotting, it was a day of practicality. I booked out of the hotel I was staying and met one of the two guys who I’m renting an apartment from. He works as an IT systems developer for a major world company based in Stockholm. He was the loveliest guy. He showed me around the apartment, apologised the wifi hadn’t been installed as quickly as they’d hoped, and told he had bought a dongle so I could use the internet. He also gave me some great tips, including the one a colleague back in Sydney had also told me about, the famous Stockholm cafe, Sirup, which is directly across the road from where I’m staying. The apartment’s great and I’m looking forward to it being my home base for the next ten days, before I head off to Berlin.
The other practical thing I did today was getting a Swedish SIM card which has given me a local number (so I can avoid those international charges) and 2 gigabytes of data. One of the guys in the shop was really helpful in helping me decide which pre-paid plan to go on. I think the other guy thought I was a bit of an idiot when I asked for some help setting it up. “I just don’t want to stuff this up, and my Swedish isn’t good enough to guarantee I won’t”, I told him. I’ll be here for most of the next two months, so it made a lot of sense to do so.
Aside from those very practical things, I had a terrific day reacquainting myself with inner-city Stockholm. I got lost for a little while, as I struggled to remember the difference between North, South, East and West. It also took a moment to remember which way the traffic travelled. Thankfully there were no near accidents for this boy from the Southern Hemisphere.
The day was stunning. After arriving in cold conditions last night, there were times today when I even thought it was a little warm. Just before sunset, it was 6 degrees and clear. Shock! Horror! That said, I also went past a playground where children were playing ice hockey and skiing just metres from my door. And on Saturday night, the temperature’s forecast to reach minus twelve, so I’m not ready yet to hand back the warm jacket Damien loaned to me for this trip.