Desperately Seeking Sweden

Christine Demsteader embarks on a journey around Sweden in 56 and a half days

Day 57

August 26th, 2009

Welcome to Örebro (summer is over)

August 25th, 2009

I could sum this post up in the following sentence; in Örebro I had a beer in a big mushroom. But then I suppose I have some explaining to do.

Despite it being a glorious day I found summer officially over – according to the word of Örebro. I spotted a poster for daily guided tours at the castle as well as a theatre performance in English at two o’clock. I’d have time to make it.

No tourists please, you're in Örebro

No tourists please, you’re in Örebro

 I did but only to find the tours had been downsized to weekends only and I was too late for the theatre performance which ran until mid-August. After walking around aimlessly for a while I decided to give the castle the finger, like the floating piece of artwork in the moat.


The finger: I didn't mean the index

The finger: I didn't mean the index

It seemed Örebro wasn’t in the mood for tourists, backed by the fact that the information office is at the opposite end of the city to where you arrive. Still, I expected to be welcomed with open arms and offered endless fun and interesting things to do for the day. 

”It’s off season now,” I was told. It’s not even the end of August and Örebro has already started preparations for winter hibernation. Boats trips were a no-no although the Volkswagen museum was still open for business – but only the first Sunday of every month.

I saw a poster for a church coffee evening and was getting desperate. ”You could always go to Svampen.”  

Svampen: If you're bothered

Svampen: If you're bothered


Tall, but not what you’d call high culture, Svampen (meaning ’the mushroom’) is Örebro’s fungi-shaped working water tower which stands 58 metres high, complete with a cafe at the top.

So I trundled off there, back to the other side of the city where I started, and most of the way I wondered why I was bothering. But I did to get this view.img_08641

I took out my guide book and began to reminisce a little, recalling my tracks and suddenly it dawned on me that I’d missed out Värmland. I’d have to live without making it to Dalsland but Värmland simply had to be crossed off. I still had one day to go and it made for a valid excused to leave Örebro behind.

Karlstad was my last port of call – the city of sun they say – and the fine weather was out to welcome me. I was glad for the sense of serenity in the city as I was running out of steam due to an incident the night before. 

I’d checked into a bit of luxury and a single room at the spanking new youth hostel. I had the most comfortable bed of the trip so far, even equipped with a remote control, and took great pleasure in contorting it into its most extreme positions. I fancied a cuppa before bedtime only to return to find myself locked out of my room due to a dodgy key card. 

It was midnight, the reception had closed, I didn’t have my phone nor purse with me and was faced with the prospect of kipping on the kitchen floor.

You may read what you want into the following; it sounds like an anecdote but it’s no joke. In the kitchen, there was a Swede with a laptop, a German drinking milk and a three Dutch friends drinking Grolsch.

I explained my predicament to them as a group. The Swede looked up and then went back to his computer, the German went into overdrive looking for emergency numbers to call and the Dutch threesome handed me a beer and offered me the spare bed in their room. 

A night spent dreaming of electric mattress and lying on one seemingly made of concrete didn’t bode well and I barely slept. So I was happy to take it as easy as the Karlstad busboat which chugged along a short tour of Klarälven, Sweden’s longest river. I took it too easy perhaps and I slept most of the way.

Still, it was important to conserve my energy for my final evening. And to celebrate the ex-pat contingency of the local Aussie Rules football club have invited me to join them for post-training refreshments. My summer isn’t over just yet. 


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And then there was a light. Hallelujah!

August 24th, 2009

Sweden has a pretty impressive list of inventions that have impacted the world. I visited the home of the safety match, a story which makes Jönköping very proud.

The ”only matchstick museum in the world” (of course) tells the story of the local Lundström brothers, Johan and Carl, who started the first matchstick factory in 1845.

The philanthropic siblings built new housing for their workers whose jaws dropped off from the poisonous white phosphorus. A nice new home is all well and good but they would have probably preferred to keep their faces intact.

But that all changed in 1853 when Norrköping chemist Gustav Erik Pasch came up with the sensible idea to use a non-poisonous phosphorus instead.

The Lundströms patented his work, essentially robbing Pasch’s glory and Norrköping of the chance of hosting the “only matchstick museum in the world.”

Norrköping shouldn’t worry too much. There was only so much enthusiam I could muster for the safety match, unlike a German family who were videoing and documenting every exhibit in a rather conspicous manner.

I would have brought it to the attention of the receptionist had Jönköping not nicked the invention from another town. But if the ”world’s second matchstick museum” opens in Baden-Baden next year we now know why.

Jönköping is also known for being at the heart of Sweden’s bible belt and is sometimes called Sweden’s Jerusalem with its veritable number of Pentecostal Churches but no Wailing Wall in sight.

It was Sunday. I was in Jönköping. And when in Rome, or even Jönköping on a Sunday…I went to church. 

Now while the Swedish Church laments low congregation numbers and the many who choose to opt out of membership, the pews were full of worshipers that spanned the generations.

As to be expected there was some token waving of hands in the air and impromptu ”praise the lord’s” but I was a little bit disappointed in the nature of the sermon.

I suppose I was hoping for an uplifting scripture about a spiritual journey to see me through to the end. But instead it was a passage from John 12 about preparing for death, which I chose to interpret as gearing up for the final hours, or at least days, of my trip.

Still, I received a very warm welcome and, after a few quick introductions, I know that a there are people in Jönköping praying for my safe return home and the healing of my hairline fracture. Amen to that.  

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Where ideas become reality

August 23rd, 2009

I was always planning a visit to Linköping. So a couple of weeks ago I had an idea to contact fellow countryman and TL blogger Ben Kersley.

Unknowingly, he’d already told me so much about the place. I’d met him once before after a 110% LAGOM performance where I heckled that I’d rather go back to Hull than, like him, live in Linköping.

As it was, he contacted me first but the initial idea to meet up again still came to fruition. You see that that’s what happens in Linköping, as the city slogan states: ”Where ideas become reality.”

Ben had a couple of great ideas for evenings spent at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. They became reality. 

The first was a few beers at some local haunts; a canal-side cafebar, the main square, a Belgian beer lovers pub and we unexpectedly finished up at Linköping’s underground drum ’n’ bass club. It took us both back to the early 90s – probably around the time most of the club’s clientele were being born.

The second was a tribute to Tage Danielsson – author, poet, comic and much-loved son of the city. It was a show of slapstick sketches, satirical monologues and a of bit of a song thrown in. We maybe didn’t get all of the jokes, or humour, but that old Swedish style of variety entertainment was a bit of a novelty for us two Brits abroad. And here we could be deemed young again.

The venue was Gamla Linköping – the city within a city depicting the streets of the early 1900s. There I made Ben join me in an opportune photo moment, next to a sign which someone had modified for fun. It wasn’t us. We would have gone for something more daring like Gamla Funk Pig which I certainly think is do-able.

We aren't that amused really

We aren't that amused really

I didn’t have much of an idea what I was going to do the next day as I walked into town by the Kinda Canal. There must have was a treasure hunt in progress because kids kept stopping me to ask things I didn’t know like what is the biggest tree/smallest bird/most poisonous flower.

After a while, the subject area must have changed from ’The great outdoors’ to ’Sweden today’ and one group were having particularly difficulty over the name of the Swedish King. I told them smuggly it was Carl Gustaf and that they were cheating by asking passers-by.

But, all would be forgiven if they could direct me to the statue of Folke Filbyter. I hadn’t yet seen it in daylight, only of an evening under the influence of Belgian beer when I mistook it for a sculpture of Yoda.

Folke Filbyter from afar

Folke Filbyter from afar

Folke Filbyter close up: aka Yoda

Folke Filbyter close up: aka Yoda


On the way, I took in the Cathedral which was as big and impressive as they usually are. But it was the underground workings of St Lars’ Church which proved morbidly fascinating. During building work in the 50’s around 40 coffins were discovered as well as remnants of the medieval foundations. It’s fairly dark and dingy and not a place you want to be on your own for too long, especially in the company of skeletons in glass coffins.

Been to one too many drum 'n' bass nights in Linköping

Been to one too many drum 'n' bass nights in Linköping


So I plodded on to Stora Torget and the statue of Folke Filbyter that I had heard so much but knew so little about. Despite Ben’s worthy effort of living here, and my cross-examination at the tourist office, we still didn’t have the definitive answer as to who he really was.


Posing with Lars Folke Lundquist: Now he knows a lot about Folke Filbyter

Posing with Lars Folke Lundquist: Now he knows a lot about Folke Filbyter - have a listen

So I had another idea. To take a microphone along to ask the good people of Linköping themselves. That became reality here.

I have one last idea; to return the favour and show Ben around Hull sometime. Could require a reality check.


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Imprisoned (and infirmed) in a medieval wonderland

August 20th, 2009

The toilet paper selection process didn’t stand much of a chance. It was a Baltic island toss up between Öland and Gotland and, on the basis I had previously been to a barn dance near Borgholm, had never been to Visby and was on my way to Oskarshamn, it was destination by default.

I boarded the boat to Sweden’s so-called Majorca with the end-of-season crowd – like the couple I met on the sundeck who were disproportionately enthusiastic, I thought, about their holiday visiting all of Gotland’s 94 churches.

The view coming into shore is pretty spectacular; an enchanted fairyland scene with Sleeping Beauty spires which my photo doesn’t do justice.

Hello Visby, you look like a nice place

Hello Visby, you look like a nice place

Now, if you recall my overnight stay in the disused train in Lund, the novelty accomodation concept gets better. On arrival at the imposing-looking youth hostel, I was told I had a sea view. Brilliant. Unfortunately, it was hampered by bars and barbed wire.

Here, you don’t have a room. You have a cell. You’re not a guest. You’re an inmate. In theory anyway. This was Visby’s prison until 1996 and the fittings remain intact.

Cell with a view

Cell with a view

Just like one-time residents etched on the walls to claim their territory or waste a bit of time, these days it seems customary for inmates to let their successors know they ’woz here’ on the bunk bed.

Among others to have served time in my cell were Amanda and Madde from Falun, Marie and Peter from Mjölby and Tessan, who was even kind enough to leave her phone number.

There was a nice greeting from a criminal Nordic cousin: ”Have a good day = Rass I Bala (In Icelandic).” And some poetic words of wisdom from an anonymous inmate who must have been sentenced to life: ”You on a balcony with a shiny smile, not of this world.”

Visby, tourist photo I: "The Arch"

Visby, tourist photo I: "The Arch"

I allowed myself a good few days in Gotland which started with an afteroon wandering the streets within the fortress walls, visiting the Cathedral (only 93 to go now) and happily getting lost. I visited the ancient ruins and the morning after I felt like one after taking up a invitation to join some teenage Stockholmers for a night on the town.

Once recovered, I planned activities to explore the island; a dare-devil abseil, a speedy motorbike safari, creepy cave adventures and the like. But I opted for a gentle start and, whilst here on the breeding ground of the Gotland Pony, a pleasant trek in the country was on the cards.

Visby, tourist photo II. "The wall"

Visby, tourist photo II. "The wall"

Now I’m not an experienced horsewoman so I took a cart ride with a driver in tow. Trotting away it was all going so well until a lorry decided to drive past in a manner fitting to Formula One.

The horse didn’t take kindly to the trucker’s speed and took a swift right into a ditch, out of a ditch, into someone’s garden and I thought it was going to try and clear the upcoming fence.

I wasn’t hanging around to wait and see so I jumped out of the cart in a exceptionally convincing Miami Vice manouevre, complete with a roll. I considered continuing in character, checking round the bushes for armed criminals with my hands shaped like a 45-calibre.

Instead. I brushed myself down and rolled my sleeves up in a fashion that would have made Sonny Crockett proud. And then I limped home.

The day ended with a trip to Visby A&E in the company of a kid with a broken thumb and a bloke with a swollen toe. The X-ray results came back with a hairline fracture so at least the hospital trip, and the 400 crowns, was worth the effort.

Now the hills of Visby are not easy to navigate for the hobbling tourist and cructhes on cobbles are never a good combination. So imprisoned I really was, on the advice to take it easy. Resting makes me restless but then I thought about the couple on their church-conquering quest and realised where I would rather be.

I’m semi-way back on my feet again thanks to a snug-fitting support stocking and am currently accepting messages of condolences and contributions to scribble on it. Later I will auction it off to raise funds for a new flowerbed and donate it to the home-owner whose front lawn we crashed.

Not as swollen as it looks, I've just got fat legs

Not as swollen as it looks, I've just got fat legs

You’re very welcome to leave a message below – anything from contemporary poetry, Icelandic phrases or a simple ’woz here’ will do.

And, by the way, the horse never jumped.

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The five K’s and Captain Kent

August 18th, 2009

I always knew there would be compromises to be made. Eight weeks was never going to be enough time to visit all the places I wanted and I still remain in mourning after missing out on Luleå.

So with decisions to be made I turned to a practice made famous by 70s cult fiction. In the book The Dice Man the central character made pretty crazy life choices on the roll of a dice. I only had the options of Kivik, Kristianstad, Karlshamn, Karlskrona and Kalmar to contend with.

But I was faced with two problems.
1. I had only five choices for a six-sided object
2. I didn’t have any dice

So I improvised and wrote numbers on toilet paper, 1 to 6, having thrown in Luleå as a last-minute joker. I scrumpled them up, closed my eyes and prayed I would pick a place beginning with K. 

It was a four. Karlskrona. The capital town of Blekinge that has been the base of royal fleets for over four centuries and is home to the Swedish Navy today.

The big daddy of the Swedish Navy

The big daddy of the Swedish Navy

As luck would have it, the town was hosting its annual sailing festival on my arrival. So, equipped with a big friendly smile, I ventured down early to the waterside to find someone willing to take me out to sea.

I got a couple of shakes of heads in the wrong direction, a few mumbled maybes and come back laters as well as a big laugh from the cadet manning HMS Halland, the Navy’s 60-metre submarine.

Then I found a bloke who could. Captain Kent came to my rescue and was offering free trips to willing passengers anyway.

Bananaman superhero sailor: Captain Kent and I

Bananaman superhero sailor: Captain Kent and I

A life-long sailor, he spent years voyaging to the Carribean and back on vessels full of bananas so I trusted he could take whip me around the archipelago and back without too much of a problem.

The conditions were perfect; the sun was shining, the winds were up and Captain K entertained his non-fruit cargo with tales of his days at sea. This was wonderful old-time sailing in a boat from the 19th century and it was pretty impressive to watch how CK brought us back into shore with only the aid of the light winds.

A submarine it ain't, but a smooth voyage it was

A submarine it ain't, but a smooth voyage it was

Five minutes later, the heavens opened so I found dry sanctuary in the Admiralty Church, the biggest wooden church in Sweden, and thanked God for not having to go all the way to Luleå.

That was before heading back to collect my bags and see which direction the toilet paper, rather than the wind, was going to take me next.  

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Who’s afraid of big bad Malmö?

August 16th, 2009

I’m in a cafe chatting to a local musician who tells me: ”Twenty years ago, just the name Malmö would scare young children. Now it’s kind of hip.”

Sweden’s third largest city was buzzing from the minute I arrived. From the heavy banging of building a new rail-link at the station to the fabulous sounds of a Romanian jazz trio in Stortorget, everywhere I walked there was a different beat and a sense that things were happening.

They were. The Malmö Festival was heading to town. This week long event, which has been running for 25 years, takes over the city’s streets, parks and venues with music, performance, art, turning trees into giant red condoms, and a lot of complaints about the noise.

The red condom: you either love it or hate it

The red condom: you either love it or hate it

Indeed, with the battle won for women to bathe topless here, the locals now had a different axe to grind. It seems the festival is either loved or hated by the people . And so having listened to the frustrations and divided opinions, the marketeers came up with a novel campaign slogan this year: ”Malmöfestivalen: Du kanske hatar mig men jag älskar alltid dig.” (Maybe you hate me, but I will always love you)

Personally, I have a love-hate thing for guided tours. I’ve taken a fair few on this trip because there’s always a bit of trivia to be had and tips to explore further without following the crowd. But I don’t find it a pleasant experience; being herded around in pursuit of a lofty umbrella and even worse if you have to wear a sticky blue dot on your chest.

In Malmö I took one of the boat tours, a voyage of not-much-discovery under the city’s 21 bridges. The guide was obviously as bored as she sounded, reeling off her scripted sentences from paper in Swedish, English and German without really understanding the puns, written in earnest but lost without the right delivery.

”And the building to the right is called the …errr…Slaughter House, because it used to…errr…be one – now it’s a nightclub so you could say it’s ….errr….still a meat market.”

I switched off and instead turned my attention to the views. It was obvious to see how redevelopment has helped to colourfully transform the city’s image from industrial grey. Admittedly, before coming here, I had the old-school reputation in mind and put Malmö up there with Mogadishu on my list of places not to visit.

The Turning Torso: it's a good picture isn't it?

The Turning Torso: it's a good picture isn't it?

It remains very much a working city and, like any other, has its challenges to address but there’s a new look to Malmö. It’s not only about the modern coastal skyline of the Western Harbour and Turning Torso; young people are no longer afraid of the place but rather moving here in numbers. And when you ask what there is to do in Malmö nowadays the answer need not be go across the bridge to Copenhagen.

Another love-hate entry in my top ten goes out to the sisterhood of feminist overkill. Bravo for equal rights I say but if you’re going to make a big deal of being able to get your boobs out in public then make sure you do it.

Exploit it. En masse. Get them out, bounce them around in victorious celebration and rub it in. I kept my eyes peeled as I walked by the beach but it seemed no one wanted to rub their breasts in my face.

So I went Ribersborg bathhouse where nudist bathers can let it all hang out, take a sauna and a dip in the sea. As a first-time nudist, I shelved both British prudishness and my bikini to spend a few sunny hours in ’natural’ surroundings.

Ribersborg bathhouse: the naked people are round the back

Ribersborg bathhouse: the naked people are round the back

So with a subtle tan and no white marks I leave Malmö with neither love nor hate for the place but a recommendation to others to visit where they may have once feared to tread.

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Stationed in Bland

August 13th, 2009

I once took an overnight train from Stockholm to Åre; didn’t sleep a wink in the toilet-sized rooms with their made-for-goblin beds and vowed never to do it again.

I did, however, arrive in Lund on the 8.31 from Halmstad all bright-eyed after a king-sized power nap. I’d been here before. For about 20 minutes. So was curious to see more of the place competing with Umeå for the title of European Capital of Culture 2014.

Home to one of the largest and oldest universities in Scandinavia, it’s leaning on its academic and intellectual heritage to win over the jury and market itself as a place of ideas.

I have an idea. Change your name. Lund. Might as well be called Bland. Just doesn’t have that ”must-see” ring about it to me. My mum would agree. No offence to any Paul, Dave, Lars or Hans, but she’s not a fan of the one-syllable moniker and I’ve picked up this line of thought in some kind of Freudian manner.

It also takes me ages to carefully inspect and select fruit and vegetables to find the most symetrically pleasing pepper or perfectly round red onion. I learnt that from mum too.

Back to Bland then and being a student town means lots of bikes to dodge but the cycle hire shop near the station has the right idea when it comes to names. Lundahoj – I like it. With a hat-trick of syllables, now that’s not what I call bland.

All aboard to Lundahoj - better than Bland

All aboard to Lundahoj - better than Bland

My first stop was a tour of the magnificent twelfth century cathedral with a Swedish guide whose impecable Queen’s English put my harsh northern tones to shame. At 3pm daily, the giant church clock puts on a holy Punch-and-Judy-like show. The mechanical Magi figures stutter out of their music box, bowing to Mary and child, rather than bashing them over the head.

I’d already signed up for a city tour, advertised both Swedish and English, and there was no lower age limit. But on turning up I was the only non-Swede and person under the age of 60.

One-syllable guide Lars came out to greet us: ”We have a foreigner with us today,” he said. ”So we’ll have to do the tour in English – who is it and can they put their hands up?”

I felt the intensity of 17 pairs of wincing eyes staring in my direction. I timidly raised my hand half-way and told him it was fine in Swedish before my fellow tourees were all smiles again.

Lars, with the unofficial title of ’strongest Skåne accent in Skåne’ really put my Swedish to the test. And his presentation style was rather unique; asking a question before telling us the answer.

”Do you know why the Archbishop’s wife wanted to knock the wall down? Well, because she wanted to. And what did the academics say to that? Well, they weren’t very happy. And then what do you think happened to the Botanical Gardens? Well, they were moved. And do you know why? Well….”

”And do you know what building this is?” (No Lars I don’t, but why don’t you just tell us) ”And can you guess where we are going next?” (No Lars, I can’t because this is your tour of your town so how the hell should I and why don’t you just take us there).

One thing about Lund that’s certainly unusual is its youth hostel. The disused train makes for a novelty stay but the no-sleep nightmare of Stockholm to Åre was about to relive itself.


A first class ticket to a bad night's sleep

A first class ticket to a bad night's sleep

At least I had a room to myself so my bags could be stored on the bunks above, giving me room to breathe but not move. That was until a Canadian girl turned up late with her five bags in tow making me, with my lonesome rucksack, feel like an international traveller of substance. She kept pulling things out of those bags like Mary Poppins. A pillow. She brought her own pillow.

On leaving Lund I’ll borrow the words of August Strindberg if I may: ”Lund, the secretive little town, that you never get wise to; closed, impenetrable; friendly, but not with open arms; serious and laborious like a convent, that you don’t enter willingly, and yet leave with regret; that you think you can flee, but which you nonetheless return to.

Lund isn’t really that bland. It is a pleasant medieval town, enjoyable to wander around. And students must feel rather important to attend lectures in a building that looks like the White House.

As to Mr Strindberg’s quote, I really couldn’t have fled even if I had wanted to thanks to Mary P’s luggage hindering my exit. I may well return but if I do I won’t be staying in carriage number 34. 

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It’s just not normal

August 11th, 2009

These days I think it completely normal to have a party in the honour of fish. Tis’ the kräftskiva season in Sweden – the crayfish party. No August would be complete without it and the complementary attire of crayfish hats and crayfish table regalia on sale.


Look at the nipples on that

Look at the nipples on that

And where better to find some of these tasty little blighters than the west coast? I went on the hunt in Halmstad where everyone seemed to be drawn to Stortorget. It was as if a magnetic force from the large nipples of Carl Milles’ Europa and the Bull statue, in the middle of the square, was pulling them in. So I followed suit. But rather they were there for dinner and a few pints at the Wärdhus accompanied by a Per Gessle lookalike and his guitar.  

The other eaterie I frequented was the Chinese across the street so, I’m afraid to say, the nearest I came to this sumptuous seafood was a baked potato with tinned tuna mayo and deep fried sweet ’n’ sour prawns. 

Normally, I would have chilled out at the beach at Tylösand or hung out at the bar of the hotel owned by the real Per Gessle (one half of Roxette fame for non-Roxette fans).

But Halmstad has a varied smörgåsbord of artistic points of interest and I had a healthy appetite to see them. The most interesting of which is the work of the Halmstad group; six local fellows who bonded through surrealism and cubism in the 1920s. Their paintings, with chopped off heads and the likes of red squares on white squares on black squares with a yellow triangle, are on display at the Halmstad Museum.

Big head

Big head


They had been inspired by the likes of Picasso and his 14 metre high sculpture ”Woman’s Head” stands on the banks of the river – based on the model of the original figure.

Close by is the confusing artwork which commemorates Halmstad’s 700th year in 2007. Democratically chosen by the locals, it is a tad strange when you think about it. Named 0+0=8. it’s a big zero bouncing on the river using the reflection to create a figure of eight. Better served I thought to celebrate an 800th anniversary in 2008 but I wasn’t involved in the vote.

And I navigated a busy dual-carriageway to see the Martin Luther Church which was made entirely out of steel, It aims to be a house of God for the forward-thinking man but looked more like a holy power plant to me.

Do the math

Do the math


Heading back to the centre and Storatorg was again bustling. A large crowd had formed and I could hear the sounds of African drums. Is this what happens on a normal afternoon in Halmstad? Turns out it was the final day of the town’s annual street theatre festival. Little did I know I was going to be performing in it.

Off went the dancer from Congo and on to the stage came a bloke labelled ”British variety entertainer – Max Normal.” Obviously he was anything but, not only by virtue of his name, but the content of his act, his bad jokes and sexual innuendoes. What was funny though was how he had the Swedes in side-splitting hysterics.

He and his nipple ring climbed through a wire coat hanger much to the amazement of onlookers who couldn’t contain themselves when he put a rubber glove on his head and started prancing round like a chicken. That’s not normal, surely?

On went his English radar when looking for a female assistant and I was the lucky lady hand-picked from the audience. I through him off scent slightly when he asked ”What’s your name and where are you from?” But I received an appreciative round of applause for ”coming all the way from England especially.” I didn’t come clean.


Max Normal. Oh no he isn't

Max Normal. Oh no he isn't

Max being Max told everyone he didn’t want a ”normal” assistant. He wanted a bit of flair and charisma; and demonstrated a little dance he wanted me to perform when passing him his juggling knives.

Now unfortunately I have no pictorial evidence of this event as the woman I entrusted to capture the moment on my camera confused the off button with the one she should have pressed. So you’ll just have to take my word for it, or ask anyone who knows me and can vouch for the fact I’m rather partial to a performance.

On command, I danced, cheered, sang and built up the suspense for Max’s grand finale – where he strips of to his pants, climbs inside a big balloon and rolls around a bit. Max proclaimed I was one his all-time best assistants and I thoroughly enjoyed myself – just another normal afternoon out really.

Now forgive me for stooping as low as Max’s humour for this but it raised a smile for me, like the first time I heard about crayfish parties.

As many of us know, normally the Swedes’ command of the English language is shockingly good. But the folks at Halmstad Youth Hostel are either having serious spellcheck issues or just having a laugh with their kitchen notice to guests as follows.

– Door has to be close when you are cocking or when using the microwave and/or toaster

– Accidental fire alarm due to cocking, use of microwave or toaster will be charged on deposits from each corridor

– Always make sure someone is in the kitchen when cocking dinner


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Lock, dock and some smoking waterfalls

August 9th, 2009

Twice married Hollywood actress Lauren Becall is believed to have once said: ”A woman isn’t complete without a man. But where do you find a man – a real man – these days?” Perhaps she should Sweden for size – apparently they make the best husbands if a real man means being able to cook, clean and do the washing up.

But Bacall didn’t find a Swedish suitor during her stay in Trollhättan, filming the movie Dogville in 2003. The city has been affectionately dubbed Trollywood thanks to Film i Väst, a film fund and studio whose facilities are famously used by mad-cap Danish director Lars Von Trier and the home-grown talent of Swedish movie-maker Josef Fares.

Bacall, along with Dogville’s leading lady Nicole Kidman and a selection of random Swedish actors, now tread the boards of the city’s walk of fame on Storgatan. I wonder if the actresses perhaps had the pleasure of visiting the Saab car museum during their stay?

Nicole was also hereTrollhättan awaits her return someday never

 The tourist office fervently tried selling me a ticket and factory tour – perhaps to aid more funds for the the crisis-ridden car-maker whose primary production plant is here. But they did flog me a ride on the Saab-engineered cable car to get a fabulous view of the Göta Canal and the beautiful surroundings that neighbour an otherwise drab city centre.

Aside from the folklore trolls that legend says once lived on the islands in the river, Trollhättan was historically isolated due to the natural waterfalls which stopped boats navigating the inland waterway. That was until 1800 when the first locks were built and the last completed in 1916. You can tour the whole lock system on foot if you care, but rather than looking at them, it’s what they do that I thought more impressive.

Not a big fan of Cable Cars but went on to get this view

Not a big fan of Cable Cars but braced the ride to get this view

At 3pm every day in July and August the sluice gates are opened and the sight of masses of water rushing into the river is quite a spectacle, with visitors queuing to get the best bridge view long before opening time.

The impact is pretty impressive and not worthy of words alone. Photographs too can’t quite capture the moment. So inspired by being in Trollywood, I made a short but masterful film of the event which is currently being premiered here

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