Stockholm Notes

2013-08-29

Another note to self post of just random thoughts while in Stockholm.

Fikas

There are a bazillon cafes. I love it! Apparently Swedes (and other Scandinavians) drink 2x to 3x more coffee than Americans. According to my friend Maia who is Swedish it's a cultural requirement to have a fika (a coffee break) at 11am and 3pm. She lived in America for 25 years and got used to skipping breaks thinking she was too busy. When she got back here her co−workers said she was not allowed to skip breaks with them. Her boyfriend, Hans, said at his company only Friday's at 3pm has mandatory fikas. I'm not sure what conclusions to draw but apparently fikas is pretty important in Sweden. I'm curious if they carry it through the winter when it's much less nice to be outside. I noticed lots of cafes have a pile of blankets so that's one clue.

I noticed the majority of stuff is pre−made. Pre−made smoothies, pre−made sandwiches (to be heated), pre−made salads. That certainly helps in ordering as I can just point 😛

Bakfiskan

I went to this restaurant called Bakfiskan. It's like the "back" bar to a fancier restaurant, Operakatten. I went there specifically because it has a large bar style area for seating and so seemed good to go solo. I asked what to order, the waitress said I should get the herring platter as a starter and the swedish meatballs as my main. I mentioned the swedish meatballs seemed kind of plain but she said they're the best in Sweden so I had them.

The herring platter was a plate with 10 small pieces of herring, with 5 different sauces, some cheese, some roe (herring?), and a couple of potatoes. I guess you could call this swedish sashimi except the sauces are already on. As for the meatballs, well, they came with lingonberries and pickles which is new for me but otherwise they tasted no different than any other swedish meatballs I've ever had. I don't know if that means my Swedish meatball taste is not refined enough or if it's hard to mess them up. They were good. Just not .. special.

A few things that were curious though. (1) it took like 15 minutes to get seated even though there were plenty of seats. Long enough that I worried maybe they didn't think I wanted to be seated even though I was standing at the "Please wait to be seated sign" (2) I watched them clean up the places next to me. They have cloth placemats. I would have thought they'd take the used placemats and replace them with clean ones but nope, the guy just flapped them toward the floor, I guess to get the crumbs off, and put them back in place. Maybe that's supposed to be environmentally friendly but it seems unsanitary. Whoever used that space previously could have had dirty hands, could have sneezed, could have put whatever on those placemats. I would think they'd put up clean ones and put the old ones in some laundry bin.

But, it gets stranger. I had a bread (side) plate and a separate butter dish but they never offered me any bread. I saw them offer the people next to me some bread while they were eating their main dish and since I was on my starter I thought maybe they'd offer during my main as well. But, after I finished my starter they took my unused bread plate and the butter so I never got any bread. But then, they then served my butter to someone else. I guess they figured it was unused but again, how do they know I didn't sneeze on it? Yuck.

I saw them do the same with a bread basket. For people outside they'd provide a basket with 2 or 3 kinds of breads. I saw them bring in a basket they'd pick up off another table, take the remaining bread out of that basket and put it in another basket, add a few more pieces and then serve it to someone else. Yea, I guess it's nice they aren't throwing bread away but they're also likely spreading germs and infections.

I have no idea if I'm being silly about that or not. I just know I didn't want to see it.

Candy Stores

It seems like there's a ton of candy stores. The stores are full of bins of candy with scoops. It's possible that's a tourist thing but even most convenience stores have candy bins on top of the usual stuff.

Swedish Burritos

You can get what is easiest described as Swedish burritos all over. They're made with a kind of flatbread, usually stuffed with mashed potatoes and some kind of meat or fish. Fried herring is common as is steak, hamburger, sausage, ...

Jackets

It's possible it's just fall clothing but I swear there are about 3x more winter jackets in most clothing stores than I'm used to. Stockholm is pretty cold in the winter so that seems to make sense. No idea if it's just the season or if I'm seeing things.

Moderna Museet

I checked out the Moderna Museet (Modern Art Museum). They had an awesome Pop−Art museum, a large percentage of which was Andy Warhol. I liked that part a lot. I don't know my art history that well but it certainly seems like those guys really pushed the boundaries of what was considered art. Now a days that stuff seems obviously art but I'm sure back in the day there was lots of controversy.

I saw one piece by Marcel Duchamp that I guess inspired me to make this.

They also had the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit which I missed when in was at the DeYoung in San Francisco. It was nice. A little different than I expected as they had projectors on many of the mankins kind of like The Haunted Mansion.

One thing Maia claimed and so far I have no reason to doubt her, museums in Stockholm have awesome cafes. The Moderna Museet was no exception and actually had 4 cafes, all very good. The Fotografiska (Photography Museum) which I hit up on another day also had 2 awesome cafes.

Child Friendly

I guess Scandinavia in general is supposed to be very child friendly. Overtime is supposedly frowned on so you can have time for your family. Friday nights are considering "family night" according to Hans. Many theaters apparently have space for strollers. Also it seemed like nearly all staircases have rails for strollers. I saw severals strollers on the subway. I don't remember seeing that on Tokyo subways though maybe I wasn't paying attention.

Dog Friendly

I saw several dogs on busses and trains and no, not seeing eye dogs.

PDAs

I saw quite a few couples making out in public. That didn't bother me or anything it's just something I noticed here and there. Not tons or anything but it's just something I don't think I've seen much in other places or maybe I just haven't noticed.

Laundromats

Apparently there is only one Laundromat in all of Stockholm. The reason being the locals don't need them. My understanding is pretty much all residential buildings have a shared basement laundry area. Apparently they're often organized with schedules so you can book them in advance and not have to worry about planning to do laundry only to find someone else is already using it.

Crosswalks and Walking Signals

The crosswalks have walking signals and they have button to press for pedestrians. They also have sounds for deaf people. At least that's what I assume the sounds are for. They tick slowly when it's not time to cross and fast when it is. The thing I found interesting though is, depending on the intersection, there is almost no warning between "walk" and "don't walk". Sometimes zero warning. Sometimes around 2−3 second. I'm used to the USA and other places where it's "walk" followed by flashing "don't walk" for a while followed by solid "don't walk". In Stockholm it's just green "walk" and then maybe 2 blinks and suddenly red "don't walk" and the opposing traffic has the green immediately, no warning. The bad part is you can get to an intersection, think to cross because it's green, and find 1/4 way through that it turns red and you're blocking traffic. On the other hand most people in any country are self absorbed assholes and ignore the lights anyway not caring who they're blocking or whose turn they're taking so maybe the flashing "don't walk" in other parts of the world is pointless 😞

I don't know why I find these buttons so interesting. I guess I'm curious about the design choices. Why is the box so big? I'm guessing it's got the ticker in it. Why there no "button" just a flat smooth middle strip? Why do you specifically have to press the center of the printed button rather than anywhere on the entire strip? Who knows? Maybe none of that was even considered and it's just whatever someone designed.

Computer stores

Being a geek I found El Giganten, an electronics store but more interesting I went to Webhallen and Kjell & Company. Both basically just had a ticket machine for taking a number. When your number is called someone at the counter helps you but very little of the merchandise is on display. It's all in their storage room or something. Kind of makes it hard to browse. I suppose you're supposed to read about what you want online then come to the store to get it. Seems kind of strange. When you take a ticket you pick "already ordered" or "have not already ordered" so I guess you can look at it as a way to order something and then come pick it up which can be useful. Still, often I want to touch something before I buy it like a mouse or a keyboard or a camera or a laptop.

Biking

Lots of bikes. It's not like China level or anything but there are specialized bike lanes everywhere. Way more than Helsinki. I have no idea what the traffic laws are here but so far as far as I can tell bicyclist are just as big a−holes here as SF. They'll plow right through a bunch of pedestrians crossing the intersection on their green when the bikes have a red.

Stores are HOT!

I doubt anyone here notices but most small stores are hot. Few places have air conditioning since most of the year it's not needed. That means any small store with people and/or machines that generate heat like a coffee machine or a grill get hot inside in the summer. The buildings are designed to keep heat in in the winter and so they keep it in in the summer too. Several times I've wanted to sit down and take a break, walked into a store, noticed it felt above 80f and decided to leave and go somewhere else.

On the opposite side, not having been in Scandinavia in the winter I see buildings have TONS of radiators. My hotel room has them along the entire wall. I'm sure to people living here that's like common sense but I guess I've never lived anywhere that cold.

Restrooms

I've ranted before about how messed up American men's restrooms are. Well, so far Sweden has the best restrooms I've ever seen. On the one hand they often cost money. At several shopping centers and the subway the price was 10kr ($1.50). On the other hand every stall was clean and completely private with a door that goes all the way to the floor and even a private sink. Many are co−ed.

Liquor, Wine, Beer

Al Liquor, Wine, and Beer is only sold in government run stores (and of course restaurants and bars). The stores are open till 8pm on weekdays but only 3pm on Saturdays and they are not open on Sundays so if you want to have company over Saturday night and you forgot to get wine you are S.O.L. I checked one out and the selection was pretty small. Smaller than your average California supermarket and way smaller than something like BevMo. They're also very expensive.

I'm mixed on this. Several states in the USA have similar laws where only the government sells liquor. California of course does not. You can get liquor at any supermarket 24/7. Whether it actually helps anything is up in the air. On the one hand maybe it stops some alcohol related issues. On the other hand in Japan you can buy alcohol 24/7 and they don't seem to have a problem with it. There do seem to be a lot of bars and restaurants in Stockholm so maybe it helps them by nearly requiring you to go out but again Japan has even more places to go out and yet you can buy liquor from vending machines there so that kind of argues against that particular point.

Subway Prices

Are both cheap and expensive. It's 44kr or ($6.60) for single ticket to ride the subway at the station. If you get the ticket from one of the 3rd party vendors (7/11, Pressbryan) then it's 36kr ($5.10). On the other hand a week pass is 300kr ($45) an a month pass is 800kr ($120). Assuming 1 round trip ride a day on the week pass that would be $3.20 per ride. On the month pass assuming 30 days that's $2 per ride. I guess that's actually still pretty expensive. $2 a ride is SF prices but Tokyo is as little as $1 a ride and South Korea is even cheaper.

Spiders

No idea why but at night every bridge I crossed has TONS OF SPIDERS!

Nearly every arch of that rail had a spider building a web at night.

Scary! Maybe they eat mosquitos. If so "Yea Spiders!"

Comments
Stockhom Subways
The Ubiquitous Swedish Chokladboll