Swedish Beer and Relaxation

I thought I was going to die the morning after the last time I drank starköl (strong beer). I had a fantastic time the night before at the now-closed, but legendary Stockholm disco, Lino. But the morning after I had the worst hang-over I’ve ever had in my life.

At this point, I should tell you Swedish beer comes in three standard strengths: the aforementioned starköl (strong), mellaöl (medium, pretty standard full strength beer in Australia) and lättöl (low alcohol) which is readily sold in supermarkets.

In contrast to supermarket sales, the sale of alcohol is heavily regulated in Sweden with a state-run bottleshop, Systembolaget. It is said the Swedes like a drink or two, and so the state has regulated alcohol sales with just one chain of shops and with heavily regulated opening hours.

I, too, am trying to regulate my alcohol intake on this trip. Shock! Horror! In contrast to my usual lushness, today was the first day on this trip that I’ve had any alcohol, and I decided to restrict myself to only two beers. But which to choose? As I wandered around Systembolaget late this afternoon I found myself spoiled for choice. In the end I settled on a beer called “7,2”. Like “Spray & Wipe”, “7,2” tells you exactly what you’re buying as that’s also the alcohol volume. The label goes on to tell me it was made with Malt & Corn, so it will be interesting to see how it tastes.

Swedish beer
Swedish beer

I think the couple I saw on the bus ealier may also have been to Systembolaget today. I can’t remember exactly what bus stop they got on at, but from the moment they were on the bus I was completely transfixed. In fact, I completely missed my own stop because I became so enthralled in what was going on.

They were an older couple. I heard him say he was 70 years old. They certainly both looked it, or maybe a little more. They also both reeked of booze. She also had a single cigarette in her hand, as she made her way onto the bus. Like Moses and The Red Sea, she cut a swathe through the commuters as she came on fag in hand and with an apparently much-needed walking frame. She plonked herself down next to a young woman, while he plonked himself down next to a young man, though far apart.

Ice skating at Medborgarplatsen
Ice skating at Medborgarplatsen

While the people they sat next to tried to remain oblivious to the drunken ramblings coming from their mouths, another young man who was standing close by began to engage the older man in a conversation. “Är du bra?” he asked at first. They chatted for a while, and I since it was a simple enough conversation (they spoke pretty slowly) I was able to listen in and follow most of what was said. It wasn’t that interesting, to be honest, but it was interesting enough for me to be able to follow, and to become completely distracted by it, and miss my stop altogether.

In addition to my bottle-shop visit, since arriving in my apartment yesterday, I’ve also done a bit of supermarket shopping. I’m lucky enough to be in the vicinity of three supermarkets, as well as a few nearby convenience stores. It was a bit of a struggle for a while as I tried to make sense of some of the different products, and then translate them into Australian dollars to work out if they were good value or not. The navel oranges I bought were an excellent price, whereas the mandarins I didn’t purchase were outrageously expensive. I also struggled a bit with the enormous variety of fruit juices, as I struggled to work out what all of the different names and varieties were. I was looking for some peppermint tea, but interestingly enough, it wasn’t to be found, and so I settled for a Strawberry and Raspberry infusion. But in the midst of it, I found some good things, including my favourite purchase which was a block of a really tasty, mild, creamy cheese called Carolineost. I’ve had it before on many occasions and it never fails to disappoint.

Hopefully I haven’t bored you with my shopping list, but for me it’s relatively important to settle down for a regularish routine, as I contemplate the next two months of travel.

Gamla Stan, the old town in Stockholm
Gamla Stan, the old town in Stockholm

Also, it’s Day 3 of this holiday and I’m yet to really relax. I’ve been a little tired and stressed (and pretty grumpy for a few months now, so I haven’t really chilled out yet. But the beautiful sunny days (though cold nights) are helping with the relaxation. Having a place to call “home” without the stress of moving has really helped. Hopefully the “holiday” will really kick in this weekend with Melodifestivalen. So apologies if you’ve been wishing and hoping for some amazing tales and excitement. I’m on the road for two months, and I’m sure they’ll eventuate. Who knows what will happen after I finish this starkol…

6 responses to “Swedish Beer and Relaxation”

  1. carolbaby Avatar

    Call me a massive weirdo, but one of my absolute favourite things to do when travelling is visit the supermarket (or preferably, multiple supermarkets) – so I loved your shopping list!

    1. James O'Brien Avatar

      Thanks Carol. I’ll take some pics at some point during this trip, as like you, I love it too.

  2. M-H Avatar

    Loving your travelogue. It’s the ordinary stuff that’s interesting when you’re travelling, for sure. Visiting supermarkets is one of my favourite things to do in new places. I struggle with fruit juices too, but I don’t drink beer.

  3. elephantwoman Avatar

    It’ll take at least a week to properly relax, as I’m assuming you went straight from Sydney to there. So glad you are settled into a place in Stockholm. Next time you go to a supermarket just buy some snus and that disgusting salty licorice and you would’ve made the full transition :-)

    1. James O'Brien Avatar

      Snus? Disgusting! But I really love the salt licorice. Hopefully your trip went really well also? :)

      1. elephantwoman Avatar

        Ugh, you like that stuff?! Yes, had a great trip thanks. TEDActive was an amazing experience. Finally had some headspace to blog about it. Hope you are keeping warm :)

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