• Sweden's news in English
My humiliating experience hunting Pokémon in Sweden
The Local's Lee Roden playing Pokémon Go in Stockholm – guaranteed to embarrass. Photo: Lee Roden

My humiliating experience hunting Pokémon in Sweden

Lee Roden · 18 Jul 2016, 18:03

Published: 18 Jul 2016 13:56 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Jul 2016 18:03 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It caused a stampede in New York’s Central Park, led to Japanese tourists being stranded in a Barcelona motorway tunnel, and now, Pokémon Go is finally out in Sweden.

The app launched in the Scandinavian country last weekend, so The Local’s Lee Roden thought it was only appropriate to give it a try. The result was an occasionally bizarre, often frustrating, and at times humiliating weekend hunting Pokémon in Stockholm.

1.  The journey begins at Mosebacke

For those not already aware, Pokémon Go hides fictional creatures on a map of your local area, then uses GPS to track your movement around the map as you attempt to hunt the animals in question.

Once a Pokémon is found, the game then uses your phone’s camera to reveal it in the real world, at which point the goal is to try and catch the creature and add it to your collection.

All users see the same Pokémon in the same area, meaning the appearance of rarer types can lead to mass congregation in one spot, like what happened at Central Park. There is also the possibility of user v user battles, where caught Pokémon square-off against one another in order to score points for their owners, so unlike most computer games, interaction with the real world and other users around you is key.

My quest started just around the corner from The Local’s office on Södermalm, southern Stockholm, at Mosebacke Torg. An iconic square with a beautiful terrace that fills up quickly in the summer, as well as one of the city’s best-known nightclubs, Södra Teatern, it's a busy spot.

It was here that my first Pokémon appeared, the fire-tailed Charmander. Phone out, Poké Balls thrown, and after a few minutes getting to grip with the somewhat confusing interface, the beast was tamed. One down, 150 to go. Easy, or so I thought.

Pokémon number one, caught. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SvD/TT & Lee Roden

2. Up to Västerbron… and downhill from there

My foray into the game had started well enough, and as Saturday progressed and more creatures were added to my collection, I started to get confident – and notably less aware of my environment.

At Hornstulls Strand on the other end of Södermalm I was so thrilled to have caught a Squirtle that I almost forgot the embarrassment of having actively crossed a main road that was in no way part of my journey to the supermarket in order to do so. A latter success in netting weird fish creature Magikarp on Östermalm meanwhile was almost satisfying enough to offset the oddness of holding my phone up and flicking away madly while standing in the middle of a huge crowd of tourists on a busy Saturday morning.

It provoked strange looks from passers-by, but catching these two was worth it. Photo: Lee Roden

My self-respect was eroding fast, but my level in the game was rising, so I soon decided to test myself in my first ever player v player gym battle. Unfortunately for me, the nearest gym (these too have to be reached physically in the real world) was at the top of Västerbron, a 600m long bridge in the south of the city that involves a fairly steep hike.

I duly grabbed a bike and cycled to the top, stopping at the point where lovers leave padlocks attached to the bridge in a tradition you've probably seen in other cities. More importantly for me, it was there that the gym was located, and my battle got under way.

Forget the dramatic view of Stockholm, there's a Pokémon gym here! Photo: Lee Roden

In less than a minute I was comprehensively humiliated, each of my Pokémon beaten without even reducing my opponent’s first to half of its health. As if to add insult to injury, the game promptly displayed “YOU LOSE!” in capital letters, just in case I hadn't noticed.

So off I cycled into the distance, and it was all downhill from there – in more ways than one.

The app adds insult to injury. Photo: Lee Roden

3. Server issues at Stadshuset

After regaining some confidence, I decided to try my luck again and headed for the next area of potential Pokémon activity: the garden outside of Stockholm’s City Hall (Stadshuset).

The venue of the Nobel Prize banquet and also a major tourist attraction, the latter fact led me to believe that the sheer mass of people bound to be present on a sunny July afternoon would give me the chance to meet at least one person worse at the game than I was.

Stockholm City Hall: home of the Nobel Prize banquet, and Pokémon. Photo: Lee Roden

I never got the chance to test my theory. Perhaps the number of people passing by, phone in hand, saying things like “it’s not working” should have given it away, but it was only when I got to my destination that I discovered the game’s servers were down.

The City Hall gym was a write-off, but the server did come briefly back online for a few minutes. That was at least enough time for me to re-stock on Poké Balls, courtesy of one of the hall's statues, which I learned from my app is called “The Boy With the Fish” (Pojken Med Fisken).

One of the better quirks of the app is that it brings points of interest like the statue to your attention. In order to catch Pokémon you need Poké Balls, and in order to stock up on the balls, you need to travel to and look at landmarks and artwork in your city. Who said gaming isn’t for cultured types?

The servers briefly came online long enough to take in this statue. Photo: Lee Roden

4. Princes, politicians and Pokémon

With the server troubles continuing I decided to get back on my bike and head to another location, hoping the issues would be fixed by the time I arrived. When I dismounted right in the middle of Stockholm, the game had indeed come back to life, promptly informing me of several potential minions in the nearby area. I focused on one – the cat Pokémon Meowth – and started to follow its trail.

There's a Pokémon behind here, in theory. Photo: Lee Roden

Unfortunately, the app decided to place the beast in question in a location that was very much off-limits: beyond the security gates behind the Swedish Parliament House. After much contemplation I decided that breaking and entering at one of the most heavily-guarded buildings in the country probably wasn’t worth it, even for Meowth, and instead followed the map to a second nearby location, on the other side of the government offices.

It was there – at the Riksplan park – that I became truly aware of just how many people were playing this thing. Everyone in my vicinity had their phone in hand, and the majority were either making the tell-tale swiping motion, or had the sound of the game’s theme music emanating from their devices.

Guess what all of these people were doing? Photo: Lee Roden

After getting over the sensation that I may have been trapped in Nintendo’s own version of The Truman Show, I seized my opportunity to make a couple of catches. There was something surreal about throwing fictional balls at fictional creatures against the backdrop of Stockholm’s Royal Palace. Perhaps the King was in there trying to catch Pikachu from his window.

Story continues below…

Catching Pokémon with Stockholm's Royal Palace in the background. Photo: Lee Roden

5. Highs and lows at the Katarina Elevator

Originally built in the 1800s, the top of the Katarina Elevator on Södermalm provides one of the best views in Stockholm, delivering a panorama of the Old Town sandwiched between Kungsholmen and the Mälaren lake on the left, and Djurgården and the beginnings of the Baltic Sea inlet on the right.

Arguably the best view in Stockholm, and theoretically the sight of a Pokémon gym. Photo: Lee Roden 

It wasn’t for the view that I hiked up there on Sunday however, it was for the gym. With my pride somewhat restored from Saturday’s humiliation, I climbed up the hill behind the viewpoint (the elevator is currently out of use) and walked out onto the always rickety-feeling platform until I reached my destination.

I needn’t have bothered: as soon as I had initiated my battle, the server once again crashed, seemingly still buckling under the weight of Sweden’s Pokémon enthusiasts.

About as much as I got to see of the Katarina Elevator gym (left) before the servers crashed (right). Photo: Lee Roden 

By now a broken man, I decided to head home and end my hunt – or so I thought. After doing an entire circle of most of central Stockholm over the course of the weekend, which involved taking in Södermalm, Kungsholmen, Östermalm and Gamla Stan, I finally came across the most famous Pokémon of all, right outside my own apartment.

Pikachu looking smug. Photo: Lee Roden

It was almost as if Pikachu was mocking me and my pointless journey, so I responded in the only way I could: by throwing red and white balls at his head until I eventually caught him.

After wasting three days on his app I’m not sure who the real winner was, but I claimed victory regardless.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available