Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Stockholm is in many ways like Copenhagen. It's more multicultural, the 19th century buildings are grander and the landscape on which it is built is more exciting – a scattering of hilly islands separated by channels of rushing water – but it has a similar feel, with a focus on the ocean and a fetish for good design. And more Volvos than is usually considered decent.

However I saw no sign of ABBA while I was there. Frankly I felt cheated.

We started on the Old City island, full of charming narrow cobbled streets and a nice mix of tourist shops and real stores for actual Swedes. Like Copenhagen it's very human scaled, designed to allow human beings rather than cars to move from one place to another. The pedestrian is very much in charge, which creates a sense of empowerment for the individual; we're no longer just things that get in the way of the flow of traffic.

The island is dominated by the royal palace, which had a particularly pale, blonde, blue-eyed symbol of the nation standing guard in an impressive uniform. Some of the tourists assumed that he was one of those immobile living ornaments that stand outside Buckingham Palace, and tried to take photographs with him, until he loudly chased them away, because he was an actual palace sentry, and he clearly took his job seriously.

Then, as part of the design-junkie agenda of this holiday, we were off to the Architecture Museum, an institution entirely populated by slim young men with wispy beards and women with assertive haircuts, all wearing black. The museum was full of dry, rather intense displays about the history and ethos of Scandinavian architecture, but it was certainly informative, and it had plenty of Admiral Ackbar-scaled models for him to explore.

And even some scaled to allow him to act out his Godzilla fantasies.

There was also a special exhibition of the weird, probably drug-induced Age of Aquarius freakiness that typified cutting edge design in the 70s. Lots of beardy design fascism envisaging a future of people forced into plastic living pods, eating food pills and wearing matching jumpsuits.

After touring the museum I spent almost as much time in the gift shop, where I bought a fake moose head (as you do, or at least as I do), and a photo mobile. Then I bought a very designer coffee from a particularly slender and wispy young man and took some arty photos.


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