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AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 17 April 2008 | Views [550] | Comments [3]

OK, I'd better write something or it'll all pile up and get harder and harder to start, so get ready for a random brain dump.  Also, apologies in advance if this little character "ä" pops up where it shouldn't.  Because of the extra letters in the Swedish alphabet, the ä is in the space normally occupied by ' in Australian keyboards, so you might find a few words ainät quite right.

OK, well, we're in Stockholm and it's gorgeous.  The architecture in Sweden in general is really attractive.  Most of the houses in the country are like Anders and Agnete's in the photo - wood with red paint with white trimming.  Apparently the red paint is a byproduct of iron mining and is called Falunröd, after the old mining town of Falun.  I've also read that it was also used so that people could pretend to be building our of bricks, as was fashionable in Europe.  But Sweden has a plentiful supply of trees so timber is more sensible to use.  Anyway, it looks great and probably protects the wood too.  The odd house is painted a lovely pastel yellow and even fewer go for other pastel colours.  The town houses tend also to be painted pastel colours, with yellows and oranges most popular.  All houses seem to highlight the windows by painting the trimming in a complimentary colour (white with the Falunröd and other colours, dark with really light colours) and the roofs are usually a dark slate tile.  The windows also have that + sign type cross in  them that also gets painted with the other trimming.  The effect is to highlight the interior in a welcoming way, so that the houses look like inviting, living parts of the landscape, rather than cold piles of building materials.  Plus there's the sense of practical Swedish style, with the windows all lining up at regular intervals and not a lot of flourishes, just a practical, but still incredibly pleasing aesthetic.  Anyway, I'll try and dig up some photos to show you what I mean, though that might take some time.  Oh, one last thing, the rows of townhouses really make great use of the space.  Whereas in Australia we'd build back from the street and have lots of enpty space, so that we have to build huge tower blocks to actually house everyone, the rows of townhouses in Stockholm are built at a fairly uniform 5 storey height (probably because thatäs as far as anyone wants to climb the stairs) straight up from the street, presenting a multicoloured facade along the street but still leaving plenty of sky visible.  The lack of shop awnings completely covering the footpath also helps and is great - except when it's raining.

Anyway, Stockholm.  Beautiful city.  Great big harbour not unlike Sydney, but with European townhouses and that great mix of boulevards, squares and alleys that Melbourne does pretty well.  Gamla Stan is the old town on an island in the middle of the harbour.  Itäs actually the point where lake Mälaren meets the Baltic, with a continuous rushing flow out under one of the bridges (most of the other bridges have locks).  People fish for salmon trout in this flow, right in the middle of town.

The churches (kyrka) are quite evident here too, and for a very non-religious chap like myself they surprisingly present no problem.  They're freaking gorgeous.  I can possibly justify it by thinking of them as community centres or just landmark monuments, filling the same role as any secular landmark.  But the way they build the spires up so that they can be seem from far around is terriffic, aided by the lack of desire to dwarf them with skyscrapers.  Clara Kyrkan is my favourite building in the city.  It's fairly near our hotel near Segels Torg and has THE prefect colour combination of dark red brick and a copper roof that has (presumably deliberately) been allowed to corrode to a bright, yet delicate, azure blue.  And you can see it from so many places around the city, adding a touch of magic to so many views.  Riddarholms Kyrkan is also striking with its light stone and black iron spire.  Once again, you'll have to wait for photos.  And you might be waiting a while since we're only back home for a day before heading off to Madrid to start our tour.

Tonight we're off to dance at Chicago, the swing dance venue run by the world famous (to swing dancers) Harlem Hotshots.  Hopefully my knee will make it through.  The hotel lends out bikes and I've been riding aound like a mad eegiot (think Irish accent there) all day.  It's the best way I've found yet to see a city.  And my knees's a bit sore, to finish off that somewhat anticlimactic paragraph.

My Swedish is coming along as well as can be expected.  I'm still tuning in my hearing and speaking - most of the practice I've done in Australia was with written Swedish.  I just had my first fully Swedish conversation with my barber while I was getting my hair cut.  He was an old gentleman who didn't speak much English - which was perfect since Swedes often switch to English at the first sign of difficulty (and to hurry me along).  And he did a pretty good job on the haircut too.  He confirmed what I suspected, which is that I have a pretty thick accent.  I suspected that after the blank looks I have been getting when I open up with a bit o' the old svenska on an unsuspecting local, before embarrassedly switching back to English.  But it's all just a learning process and I've been watching the Swedish news and generally listening to as much Swedish as possible (the kids show Bollibompa is great for this).  I think once I start understanding the spoken word better (they speak so damn fast) I'll be able to better mimick the pronounciation.

Anyway, better get ready for dancing now.  There's about 3 times as much that I could say, but thistle have to do (as the goat said when he only had thistles to eat).  It'd be easier if I posted more frequently, but then I wouldn't have as much time to actually do the things I'd be talking about.  So there's got to be a happy medium (probably the one that can channel tomorrow's lotto numbers - did I mention I was tired?).  Possibly won't be so many posts from the road in Europe, we'll see how we go finding internet access.  The hotel has free access.

One last thing, I got an SMS saying I have voice mail.  I won't be accessing my voicemail while OS since it costs a shirtload, so whoever it was, send me a text instead.  Sorry about that.


UPDATE:  The social dancing at Chicago was a little underwhelming, but I'll make allowances because:

  • We were both really tired
  • It is the midweek spot, the main dance is on Saturday
  • They probably get way more out of towners than Brisbane
  • I think the DJ was a bit flat - but that could be related to point 1
  • Swing dancers are pretty cliquey at the best of times and it was just their social gig, not an exchange

As Emma said, we didn't expect a brass band to welcome us (that's on Saturdays), but it'd be nice for a few people to ask for a dance.  Moral:  Be nice to your out of towners!  But it's all a learning experience.



Lovely to höra that ni uppskattar the arkitektur:).
Kul att läsa om sverige från nån annans håll, och ja, stockholm är väldigt fint! Lite stressigt bara, jag är mer för göteborg.
Nu kan ni i alla fall förstå varför jag saknade den svenska arkitekturen medan jag var i australien.

Såg att ni fick lite snö med, själv ska jag till norska fjällen imorgon.. 170 cm snö! Jag som inte ens gillar vinter.

Glöm inte komma förbi malmö/lund!

  Lovisa Apr 17, 2008 4:19 AM


If it's any consolation, the worst swing dancing night of my life was at Jessie's Jazzclub, the old Chicago. I walked away convinced that I had no idea what I was doing. Though to be honest, that was probably right.

Sounds like you are having a right old time...and you said you were all talk! Now you have blasted that myth off the face of the earth you can confidently tell people that you are MOSTLY talk.

  Mark B Apr 22, 2008 4:27 PM


Hej hej!
Välkomna till Sverige! Kul att läsa om era upplevelser! Jag hoppas verkligen att ni hinner med att komma ner till Lund och hälsa på. Jag lovar att vi ska ta bra hand om er om ni kommer och dansar hos oss i Lund/Malmö!!! Jag guidar er gärna runt i Skåne! Hoppas ni får en fantastisk resa genom Europa!

  Maria D Apr 23, 2008 3:27 AM

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