Here are a few scenes of cherry blossoms in bloom at Kungsträdgården (the King’s Tree Garden), a long open plaza lined with trees in central Stockholm.
The garden dates back to the 1400’s and although it has been modified for private purposes over the centuries, it is now a public space about a quarter-mile in length. It hosts ice skating in the winter, concerts in the summer, and is dotted with fountains, restaurants, and outdoor cafés.
Here’s a satellite view of it so you can get an idea of how far the rows of trees stretch through the city.
This reeeeal old timey image is how it looked in 1716. Seems like just yesterday. There is now a TGIFriday’s at the north end, where all those people are standing in the front of the picture. That’s just America’s way of giving the place a little class. You’re welcome, Sweden.
Long days where the sun never goes down are the type of thing that you just don’t believe until you see them. It’s something that people from Kentucky read about in books or see in movies. This summer will be my first experience with such extended sunlight and it is already beginning.
Wednesday night, I was up pretty late working on some stuff. When I was shutting everything down to go to sleep at about 3:40 AM, something outside caught my eye. The photo here is the sunrise over Haninge at about quarter ’til four in the morning.
Today is the warmest day since I arrived in February, a sunny, gorgeous 15° (59°F). Read it and weep, cold darkness!
When the weather changes, the weather changes everything. I love being outside on a pretty day and so do so many other people here in Sweden.
I recently had a personal picnic in Östermalm (the east island) in a park called Humlegården (um, I think that means “the hopping farm” but I haven’t verified that). This photo is my view of the park. It’s remarkable that at about 2:00 in the afternoon on a Monday you can see almost twenty groups of people hanging out in this direction. This is actually two side-by-side photos that I stitched together.
The sun here is really intense. I’m always faced with a problem every summer. I love the sun, but my skin burns easily, and I just can’t stand the feeling of anything on my skin. Chapstick, sunscreen, lotion – all that stuff makes me crazy. It’s only early April and just a handful of days of sunshine have noticeably had an effect. I can already tell this will quickly become a problem. I’ll have to take some steps if I don’t want to be burned and red every day this summer.
After my picnic, I went in search of some sunscreen. I recently noticed there is a Kiehl’s store in Stockholm. I thought that might be a good place to find something that could give me sun protection without being oily or greasy.
Noticing Kiehl’s and choosing it for a visit goes back to what I was saying last week about how I would never listen to a band whose album cover looks stupid. The design aesthetic at Kiehl’s is very old-timey and has an antique apothecary or pharmacy feel. Old timey is one of my general interests.
My visit to Kiehl’s was what you would hope a visit to every store should be like. I was made comfortable even though the idea of using any of the stuff makes me feel uncomfortable. The friendly woman helping me, Helena, listened to what I needed, talked about a few different options, and wasn’t actively trying to sell me something. She was just talking about the various products with me. Kiehl’s stuff isn’t particularly cheap – especially for someone like myself who tries to never buy anything of the sort – so this kind of assistance was beneficial. She was also a fine example of why it is so hard to learn and speak Swedish. Her English was shamelessly perfect – not even a trace of an accent.
When I left the store, I hadn’t bought anything, but rather, was sent off with three samples of different sunscreens to try out and a business card if I had any questions.
Finally today, it has occurred to me that from reading this blog it may sound like my life here consists only going to concerts and stores, listening to music, discovering new beverages, sitting on balconies, having picnics, and drinking coffee outside. Behind the scenes, though, there is some actual work paying for all this. I’m keeping busy with a lot of design during the mornings and late nights, mostly for half a dozen clients in America. It’s not all strawberries and sunshine here. I do enjoy the work I’m doing and the people I’m working for are mostly friends, so it’s maybe it’s about 85% jordgubbar och solen. I guess I don’t have too many complaints.
Last night there was a dagens party on the balcony at Iida and Erik’s in Haninge. Dagens, as you may know from an earlier episode, is a delicious beverage made of white wine, frozen berries, and Sprite. Very easy to drink, if not a bit girlie. (A bit girlie? Jesus, man, how many spritzers are you gonna have tonight?)
After a few hours, I switched to beer because I was excited to try a couple different varieties I found at the Systembolaget on Friday. The Swedes are certainly not famous for the variety and quality of their beers, but I found one that I really loved. It is a dark, rich porter called Oppigårds Starkporter. The brewery appears to have only been around since 2003. I highly recommend it if you can find it and if you’re into that sort of thing.
The day after the party is another beautiful one. The sun is shining and the temperature is almost at 15° (that’s almost 60°F). Above is a collection of balcony views from where I’ve been doing my design and writing work lately. Not too shabby as an office. This was taken with the MoloPix app I was talking about yesterday. I love taking pictures, so this app has the risk of becoming dangerous in my hands, since it allows me to take up to six photos at once.
While Iida and Erik were cleaning out their extra room for me to move into on May 1st, this old newspaper surfaced. I had never seen this before. This is an article from the paper in Trollhättan – Iida’s hometown – where Metroschifter played on November 12, 1999. Trollhättan is where they make the beautiful Saab automobiles and the city is quickly becoming a mecca for movie making, hence the nickname Trollywood.
Back in 1999, Iida was playing guitar in a band called The Sorted who played that night, along with Division of Laura Lee, a great Swedish band that I just saw here again a couple weeks ago. They were still fantastic and still super nice guys. All their stuff has a distinct design aesthetic which is always important. Their drummer, Håkan, has a design blog that I’ve been visiting regularly. I was just talking with my friend Stan the other day (also a designer who played drums on the 2008 Metroschifter tour) about how we never gave some bands a chance because their record covers looked like shit. Lots of my friends were into the Descendents and Bad Brains, but I’m still convinced they both suck because their records look stupid. Anyway, the Trans Megetti from New Jersey was on tour with us in 1999 and they played that night as well. Good times!
The article says the usual stuff about Metroschifter; that the band has been around since 1994, our first tour was booked before we had met up to practice for the first time, and we have several records out. It says this is our third European tour, we’re playing only four shows in Sweden, and we have our own label, I Can’t Believe It’s a Record Company.
Friday afternoon, I finished the poster for our new record that’s coming out next month on Louisville’s Noise Pollution label. It’s dark and scary like the record cover, and has the same menacing picture of Stockholm.
Luckily, the weather is not at all like that today, so I’m off to buy my A Camp ticket and to enjoy the sunshine. Hejdå, bitches!
At the risk of jinxing it, the weather the past few days has been simply gorgeous. We broke double-digit temperatures (Celcius, of course) which means it has been up in the 50° Fahrenheit range.
When the weather changes, the people change. I know I do. People on the street are talking more, laughing, and there are more people about. It’s great.
In the picture above, you can notice the supply of candles. Swedes love putting candles or little lights in their windows and I’m trying to fit in. Also, check out how thick the windows are. This is a triple-pane window built for the cold winters and the blinds are built into the middle, so they don’t need to be dusted.
The nice weather is especially helpful since my Dutch roommate has turned the apartment into a construction zone. In preparation for selling the place, he has begun painting everything. He is using oil-based paints which stink like crazy. We’re on the fourth floor and I can smell the paint as soon as I walk into the building on the ground floor. Of course, he’s a construction worker and chain-smoker, so he can’t smell it and he thinks I’m joking. Yesterday I got home and had to pee so bad, only to find that there was no door on the bathroom. Great! So I’ve spent a couple recent nights at Iida and Erik’s. When I have been home, the window in my room has been open or I’ve been camped out on the balcony.
This is near Slussen (the locks) and you can see some of the same buildings that are in the Metroschifter cover photo, but with much different conditions in the sky. Although it was very cold – right around freezing – I sat here and soaked up some sun for a few minutes. One of the Tunnelbana trains is going across the bridge.
While walking and enjoying a sunny (but cold) day near Skanstull on Södermalm, a snow storm breezed through. It lasted just a few minutes and some parts of the sky were still blue while it was happening. It was very surreal.
All my talk about spring colors and the melting of the snow was a bit premature. I guess that shows what I know about living in Sweden. I sat down on my bed to do some design work Monday evening and was there for a few hours. When I got up to get some food, I looked out the window and the world had been covered in white again. This is that scene from my bedroom window.
The sun. It is the closest star to earth, that’s why it seems so bright, but it is really just a medium-sized star. It doesn’t get as high in the sky since we’re higher up on the curve of the earth, so there are lots of extra long long shadows and golden light during the mornings and evenings.
Night view of a frozen park and forest seen from Iida and Erik’s kitchen window. They live on the eighth floor, which Swedes call the seventh floor. The ground level is always zero. You can’t really see it in the photo but there are some people out there cross-country skiing.
A quiet scene of the courtyard between the apartment buildings. I thought this looked kind of scary and reminded me of the awesome Swedish vampire movie “Låt den Rätte Komma In” (trailer).
When I first arrived in Stockholm, I stayed with my friends Iida and Erik in a suburb called Haninge. This is the Handen station of the Pendeltåg (commuter train) near their house in Haninge. I was greeted with several days of heavy snow. Welcome to Sweden!
This is an attempt at a self portrait in the swirling wind and snow.