Friday, June 24, 2011

Midsummer nightmare (not really) - Stockholm June 24 2011

Looks like a mob - on the outside is
people on bleachers - inside a group is
dancing around the Maypole
We received a list of Midsummer events from the TI this morning on a scale of completely touristy to traditional to wildly alternative hosted by "Miss Inga" (Martin Johansson) - we went somewhere down the middle. The events at Vitabergsparken were super cute, from the town aldermen raising the maypole (which was almost certainly made by the town women) to the music (an oompah band with Swedish singing - we haven't heard much Swedish this trip as everyone seems to try English first) to the ring-around-the-rosey type dance with hand motions of playing violins, laughing, and clapping. We're not sure exactly what was going on, but it was adorable.

Celebrating Midsummer with
 jordb√¶rret (local Swedish stawberries)
It's interesting to be celebrating an overtly Pagan holiday. Kids make garlands (crowns of flowers) and everybody eats fresh local strawberries. A lot of the Judo-Christian traditions follow along Pagan lines, but going to a nationalized overly Pagan ritual is amusing.

Went to Vapiano for lunch. It's described as a pizza/pasta/salad bar where you can add your own toppings and make whatever you want. You carry around a sort of library card and check out when you leave. The problem was - I selected a fairly plain pizza and tried to ask to add a few toppings - plus Olga and I were planning to share one pizza so we were finding out what toppings they have, negotiating with each other, and trying to get the chef to sprinkle it onto the pizza on the spot. It was really complicated! Olga sat down and I surprised her with what I could figure out for pizza toppings and salad ingredients. It all turned out well, although quite stressful.

Stockholm's Karlaplan metro station
 The restroom at Vapiano is confusing as well. There is a common area shared by men and women for washing hands, and there are two doors that are marked for women. There is also a urinal area a corner and a couple of unmarked doors - presumably for men. An older woman wandered into one of the unlabeled doors and then through the urinal area - I didn't mind but she seemed embarassed. Later I saw her again while washing up. Using rusty English as a second or third language, she clearly said "I didn't see it". Does it refer to the signage? Or something specific she didn't see while in the urinal area? We'll never know!

The monstrosity Vasa
Headed over to Djurgården island for a visit to the Vasa museum. The museum is dedicated to one thing: the fully-preserved gigantic Swedish warship from the early 17th century they recovered in the 1960s. They have countless period accoutrement, a handful of skeletons, and several sails recovered from the ship - and a number of films depicting the recovery and preservation. It's really overwhelming as you walk around it - very close in dimensions to a Boeing 747. It's ornately decorated and have they recently have performed in-depth tests to determine which colors of paint were used - now they have detailed models showing what it looked like originally, colors and all.

Belgian ales in Stockholm
As Midsummer Eve was rapidly approaching, and everything on our contingency list turned out to be closed, we started walking different corners of the city trying to find an open restaurant. We'd walk a hotspot area, hop on the tram with our all-day-unlimited transit pass, walk around another restaurant we'd read about, hop on the subway, repeat. Eventually tried the touristy area of Gamla Stan because, hey, a tourist's gotta eat, right? We consider ourselves travelers rather than tourists, but we were getting desperate. Walked around in circles a couple of times until we found Hermitage vegetarian buffet. It's a perfect place for our last dinner because (1) it's open (2) it's inexpensive (3) it's heathy, tasty, and bottomless. It’s a family-run place, self-proclaimed “30-80% organic” – smorgasbord of lentil soup, barley salad, homemade hummus, a well-loaded potato salad.

Capped off the night at Belgobaren (Belgian bar). I ordered the Helcule Stout, which claims it is the only Belgian Stout. Although they have no competition, it's a really smooth stout, dark brown in color, with a very smokey aftertaste. I made the mistake of ordering Westmalle Dubbel for Olga, which she claims is reminiscent of sawdust and horse pee. Perhaps not the best way to end the trip.


The other Olga said...

The problem with Miss Inga was that her show was listed as 11:00 to 3:00, which we assumed was 3 am, but turned out to be 15:00..

mizzkg said...

Please explain what "30-80% organic" means. And how does Olga know what sawdust and horse pee would taste like? Does it taste anything like say dust and dog pee?

The other Olga said...

Heh. It really was a decent beer :)