Stockholm Syndrome

Curiosities, musings, and general miscellany from the demented mind of an expat Canuck…

Ö is for Östermalm

The 29-Day Blogging Challenge: Ö is for Östermalm (A special blog contribution from my semi-Swedish wife)

Östermalm takes up an area of 2.56 km² in the eastern end of Stockholm. It is one of the most populous districts in the city, and one of the richest.  It historically has the highest housing prices within the city of Stockholm, and maybe even in all of Sweden.

The area has really moved up in the world.  It was first known as Ladugårdslandet, which is translated to cow-house land, since king Erik of Pomerania started keeping his cows there in the 15th century.  Apparently a village called Vädla had been on the site before this, but there is no mention in the historical record of the fate of the poor people of this village who were displaced for the benefit of the royal bovines.

In the 17th century, the king generously allowed the proletariat to keep their cows on this land as well, but as you can probably imagine, the sound and stench of these animals drew many complaints from the neighbours.  Eventually the area was converted to a military exercise field, which may be in fact the origin of the name of the shopping centre located at Karlaplan, Fältöversten, which is translated to the Field Colonel.

The rich folks moved in starting around 1880, when a new town plan resulted in shady tree-lined streets, boulevards, fountains and fancy 4-6 storey apartment buildings.  Today it’s still a pretty high-brow area with a lots of chi-chi boutiques and cafés.  It’s definitely not the area of town I thought I’d be living in when I moved here.  In fact, one of my professors at McMaster who had lived in Stockholm many years back joked with me once about how I’d never find an affordable apartment in Östermalm, so I shouldn’t even bother looking.

The story of how we came to live here is pretty funny.  As many of you probably know, finding an apartment in Stockholm can be difficult to say the least.  My biggest problem after I accepted my job at the Karolinska Institute was that I still lived in Canada.  Trust me, trying to rent out a second hand apartment while you’re overseas and don’t speak any Swedish is not the recommended way to go about it! But in any case, I persisted and kept sending emails to people who had advertised their flats on Böstad Direkt. Eventually I got a reply from a guy renting out his apartment at Hornstull for the first two months of my sojourn in Stockholm.  In a strange twist of fate, he happened to be the cousin of my supervisor’s wife, so I was given the apartment without even meeting the guy.  It seemed meant to be that I live in Stockholm.

However, that left me to find alternate accommodations for the remaining 22 months of my contract.  In another strange twist of fate, I met upon my arrival a researcher in the group who was about to move to New York city for a job.  We became friends, and since she needed someone to live in her apartment whilst she was abroad and I was soon to be homeless, it was a perfect situation for us both.  So here we are in Östermalm, close to Karlaplan, in a lovely second-floor apartment with marble floors, painted ceilings and an awesome treasure room. We’re happy living here amongst the fur coat-clad ladies and diplomats until my friend moves back from NYC, whereupon we will begin the search for a home afresh.  Next stop Strandvägen, perhaps?

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