Thursday, December 10, 2015

Stockholm diary

December 10,2015: up at 8:15, after false start at 7:15. Looks like weather as yesterday. At breakfast (sk170) set agenda: for me, Medieval Museum; Fotografiska; Moderna Museet; concert at Berwaldhall. After breakfast in hotel, took tram, then Metro, then bus to Fotografika, walking wrong way at first up interesting path, then down to the museum. Moving refugee children; interesting huge portraits; nostalgic re-surrealist fashion photography. Then to Master Andre for late lunch; to Central Station to get train tickets to Umea; to Berwaldshallen for tickets to tomorrow night's concert; then back to hotel for the evening. A fine, sober, silver-grey day, most of it indoors, with much use of public transportation. (I'm getting the hang of the apps.)

A thought-provoking set of inputs. The photos, and accompanying captions, and a short accompanying film interviewing a young girl, all centered on the emotional damage done to these poor refugee children, left me holding my head between my hands on a chair in the lobby. Then a 40-minute documentary, Two Hungry Horses, about ex-methheads in Montana, and the isolated but strongly communitarian life they need. Then of course the excesses of the fashion industry.

In the evening we watched live coverage of the Nobel dinner, on tonight, trying to understand the thread of the Swedish commentary and thankful for occasional English when a guest might be being interviewed; and then I watched an hour-long documentary on the history of Swedish armament and defense during the Cold War and afterward — also in Swedish, of course, but some of it understood. Sweden's had a major arms industry for centuries, and faces a crisis of conscience economics, as well as an uncertain place between NATO and Russia. I think the Gun Problem in the US is a parallel of the larger War Problem of the human race, and I increasingly believe it true that you cannot simultaneously work for peace and prepare for war.

Sweden, or Stockholm at any rate, is quite different. The Swedish mentality (I have no right to have any impressions of it) seems to be thoughtful but fatalistic, educated and informed but detached, optimistic but a little tense. The commute hour on the metro is stressful.

And I continue to have trouble dealing with the modernity of technology, the ubiquity of consumer items, the mindlessness of the pop culture, and the complexity of finding my way. I feel older here than I do at home. I look forward to smaller cities and to countryside next week.

I stopped a couple on the street to ask directions today (in fact I've stopped scores of people to ask directions), beginning as I always do with the apologetic "I'm sorry, I don't speak Swedish": "Neither do we," the wife answered with a pronounced accent. Why not, I asked; you seem to live here. Yes, we live here, but we're Finns.

They helped us find our way. Our first Swedish Finns. This is a cosmopolitan city; lots of asians, a few muslims, a few gypsies even. No Sami yet that I've been able to identify, but I've perhaps missed them. Virtually everyone I've talked to speaks English, and good English; only one bus driver today didn't.

1 comment:

John Whiting said...

A quarter century ago I loved touring the Scandinavian countries with Electric Phoenix. The natives were always apologizing for their countries being so boring. At dinner after a Stockholm concert I replied:

"Yes indeed! Last night before I went to bed I went out for a stroll. I walked down small side streets and back alleys. I met a few people and none of them attacked me or even so much as demanded my wallet."