Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for June, 2011

Stockholm Summer: Hot in the city

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Stockholm is sweltering and dusk & dawn are blurred. Summer is here, there’s no denying it.

summer stockholm

The city has begun to empty as evidenced by SL (the public transport system of Stockholm Region) having shifted to its summer schedule.

Next week you’ll be able to see sagebrush and tumbleweed blow through town.

While “real” Stockholm and its inhabitants are on hiatus, sailing in the archipelago or fiddling with their red cottages in picturesque scenery (or towing around the camper van), Stockholm is despite the exodus, alive and vibrant.

Those of us who are left behind (or come and go between adventures and restocking) have turned the city into a capital playground for children of all ages. Pleasure boats drag wake boarders around the inner city, people swim, sunbathe, picnic, play boules, play kubb and lounge in any way, shape or form. Even while working.

While most people want to get away on official holidays, those still stuck at the office enjoy silent phones, empty inboxes and lunch walks in the sunshine. And since the sun doesn’t set until it’s past bedtime, most people still get in a full day of outdoor enjoyment after they clock out.

July is a bewitching month as if summer casts a spell on any who enter or dwell.

If you haven’t heard Peps or his classic song, Oh Boy, take a happy listen to this, it is certainly on many a Stockholmer’s mind on a day like today.

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Midsummer in Stockholm: Stuck in the city

Friday, June 24th, 2011

‘Tis the night before the night before midsummer and instead of swatting mosquitoes on an archipelago island, we’re home in our ‘burb just north of Stockholm.

There are surely some relieved varpa champion hopefuls (see 2009 misummer blog entry ) knowing the Swede will not challenge them for the trophy this year. He still hasn’t won it, but he got close again last year.  In fact, I nearly took home the women’s trophy last year. I seem to be some sort of Viking rock tossing natural. We have  year to gear up for next year.

Tomorrow is Midsummer’s Eve and while it’s not an official public holiday (also known as a “red day” in Sweden), it is THE day to celebrate midsummer. Schools , preschools and most businesses are closed and everyone and anyone with a summer cottage to escape to has left the city.

The major highways leading away from Stockholm were bumper-to-bumper already at 4pm. Eerily enough the streets around Stockholm are nearly deserted  in the twilight.

One midsummer eve six years ago we drove home to our condo on Södermalm after the day’s dancing around the maypole. Normally finding a parking spot outside our front door is on par with winning the lottery. That night we had the entire street of parking options to chose from.

This year we have guests from the US visiting us and we’re still unsure where we shall dance like ducks around the midsommar pole.

Skansen is always an option, though I think we’re going to try to find somewhere closer to home.

At least I’m certain we won’t eat our midsummer lunch at McDonalds as we did 3 years ago.

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Right on Red in Sweden: Right on!

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

I never thought I would see the day that turning right on red while driving would ever come to Sweden, even if only as a discussion. Dagens Nyheter had it as a front cover story in yesterday’s newspaper. (The Local’s article in English)

right on red

The story came on the heels of the previous day’s news about the Stockholm government’s proposal (or at least discussion opener) to allow bicyclists to drive through red lights in certain circumstances. The idea is that many bicyclists already do this and that it would make traffic flow better. Not sure if I agree with that.

On the other hand, coming from Boston, no one would be surprised if it were suggested that I might (not admitting anything here) regularly, daily even, already partake (purely for scientific purposes) in both activities.

Right on red is the driving rule that I miss terribly from driving in N. America and in Boston. I sort of miss the ability to pass on the right when on a highway too, but I can adjust to that one easily enough since cars don’t hog the travel lane like they do on Yankee Division Highway ( old Rt. 128 –NO one knows it as Yankee Division Highway) or anywhere on I-95 or the Pike.

But I digress (no stop sign posted.)

I doubt this traffic law will ever be enacted in Sweden, but I would really love it if it did.

Though the arguments against all point to greater chaos on Stockholm’s streets. I doubt that. As much as it should be admirable that Swedes are highly law abiding, the pedantic sticking to what a motorist or bicyclists “thinks” the rules are or ought to be (that’s worse) causes heaps of chaos.

I still subscribe to the Bostonian mentality of driving/biking…communicate, work it out and flip ’em off (if need be;) but just get out of the way!

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School closing ceremony. No church please.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Our 6-year old will celebrate his school term close this afternoon. The ceremony (which is just the kids choir-singing, or at least that’s what I gather) will take place in the schoolyard and look a bit like this
school end

instead of the nearby church and look like this.

church school close

Our children’s school always has the June closing ceremony in the schoolyard. However, many school closing ceremonies around Sweden still regularly take place in the local Swedish church.

The reasons are:
a. That’s the only place big enough to have the full school + parents/family
b. Tradition.

The Swedish school advisory stipulates that the ceremony, if held at the church, must be non-religious. However, from personal experience I know that this is a gray zone in a minefield.

Our school had a end of autumn term event at the local church. It was beautiful to observe the torch procession in the December darkness. The priest was the master of ceremonies and his “message” centered around Christmas via the Jesus-in-Bethlehem nativity story. We were all handed religious psalm books (technically that’s redundant as psalm books are religious by definition) so that we could join in for 3 psalms. I’m not the atheist in the family and I was aghast in disbelief.

I can’t see how a ceremony headed by a priest in a church could ever pass as non-religious. Though, of course if you stretch it and dissect it and pick it apart you could get away with it falling within the “non-religious” guidelines. There was no Eucharist given and no non-sung prayers (psalms aren’t technically prayers) and recounting the Jesus/Nativity story is like recounting a popular legend.

The atheist in the family, the Swede, wrote a very kind letter to the school pointing out that school ceremonies should not be religious-lite ceremonies. Gratefully, the school agreed.

After all. Our school’s normal summer close ceremony is in the schoolyard. And that’s where I am off to now. Swedish summer is rather glorious in and of itself. No religion required.

(though with the weather in Stockholm right now, it might end up looking like this)

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