Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"The Girl With The Sensible Shoes"

Not many people are aware that the title of this post served as the working title of Stieg Larsson's last book, the story of Lisbeth Salander's long lost Aunt Laura, who came to Stockholm with her Chuck Taylors, a Volvo and a dream. That's because I just made that up. Hard to believe, I know. But the truth is I did pack my Chuck Taylors at the last minute and wore them constantly in Stockholm, with great comfort and confidence as Converse were de rigueur there. I talk like I know who Chuck Taylor is. I don't, or didn't, until Darrell told me that the shoes were named for him. I'm assuming Chuck had something to do with basketball. And yes, I said "de rigueur."

Enough about shoes and more about beautiful Stockholm, a city situated on 14 islands, connected by 57 bridges, infused and embraced by Lake Malaren and the Baltic Sea. We stayed in the Columbus Hotell (http://www.columbushotell.se/eng/info.htm) in the heart of Sodermalm, a gentrified "cool 'hood" full of boutiques, galleries, cafes, clubs and restaurants. Lisbeth's apartment was in Sodermalm. The Columbus Hotell is a mid-priced hotel for (expensive) Stockholm. I think our room was around $200/night, which included a full breakfast. I expected a tiny room with just enough space for us and our luggage - like we had in London. But when we opened our door we were delighted to find a sitting room with a couch and TV, then a sizable bedroom and bath. Really nice and quiet and comfortable. The quiet part might have had something to do with the cemetery outside our window. We recommended the Columbus Hotell to other friends who were making a Finland/Sweden trip and they loved it, too. So it wasn't a fluke.

We stayed in Stockholm for three days and made great use of The Stockholm Card, which we bought online while still in the states. Just load up the card with money and number of days and then use it for just about every museum, church, palace, gallery and all public transportation, including groovy little water taxis. Very convenient and a lot better than digging around for cash all the time.

We toured the Royal Palace, which was decorated in early gaud. Yikes there was a lot of chunky, clumsy, gold and silver regalia all over the place. And portraits galore of the royal family. We were surprised to learn that Gene Wilder was a descendant.

Another notable stop was the Royal Opera House where we encountered crabby Lars and Budapest cake at a nearby cafe (see earlier post). I think Lars and the Real Cake was more memorable than the Opera House, which was nice but can't touch Cleveland's theaters for beauty and splendor.

The Fotografiska Museet was also very cool and we were struck by a fantastic showing of Canadian photographer Ed Burtynksy's manufactured landscapes.

We also visited the Vasa Museet. They built a museum to house this ship that was built in 1628 and sank on its maiden voyage because of the dumb design. But some archeologist dug it up in the 1950s and it was restored and put on display. A monument to stupidity, I guess.

I think our favorite stop was The Tiel Gallery in Djurgarden - not far from the Museum of the Stupid Ship.

The Tiel Gallery was a house built by this Swedish banker, Ernest Thiel, designed for the display of his fantastic art collection, including works by Munch, Vuillard, Toulouse-Lautrec. We arrived 15 minutes before closing so had to zippidy-do-dah through, but it really made an impression. And Djurgarden is a beautiful park of an island, perfect for the Sunday stroll that we took after the Tiel.

Let's see, what else about Stockholm? More than I can cover here, it's a terrific city, full of young people and young families. Babies everywhere, but they're well maintained. Lots of young, lots of old, like Gamla Stan, The Old Town, full of narrow, cobbled streets, lined with shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants and dogs that bear a striking resemblance to Winston Churchill. And Koh Phangan, this nutty Thai restaurant, packed with people, kitsch, and cricket and tropical thunder sound effects.

And while this isn't particular to Stockholm, but rather the Swedish language in general, it was mind-numbing to try to match the spelling of a word to its pronunciation. For example, on the Metro, you'd think the Malarhojden stop should sound something close to "malar" and "hoden." You would be wrong. It sounds more like "yourmotherwearshulahoops." Just ask the New Zealand bartender in Goteburg, he'll corroborate this phenomenon. Next.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, man. There is so much to love about this post. I was especially drawn to the stupid ship and the Churchill dog, but I'm commenting fast so I can go look up those awesome shoes. I have two photos of those shoes -- with your actual feet inside them as a bonus. I don't want to be a copy cat, but in a different shade....