Travel: Insider's guide to... Stockholm
Sunday 26 December 1999
Currently hovering around -5C. We are now in the freezing middle of winter when temperatures are consistently below zero, sometimes down as far as -20C. Rivers and lakes freeze over to become ice rinks, footpaths and skating routes for the hardy Swedes. This is also the darkest time of the year when the pale winter sun never really makes it beyond the horizon.
What are locals complaining about?
Taxes and the current socialist government. People are sick of the endless controls and the very high cost of living, although you wouldn't guess it from the younger generation's extravagance when it comes to sartorial statements. The population lives from month to month, happy when it's pay day and sad when it's not. They haven't figured out the elementary rules of personal economics yet - but they do look good.
Who's the talk of the town?
Thomas DiLeva, a cross-dressing singer who sings in falsetto and wears skirts around Sodermalm, where he hangs out. He has cut some big CDs and is on the cover of several magazines, but no one will admit to liking him. Another is Thomas Brolin, the Swedish international footballer who failed to make an impact at Leeds United. He quit football, and subsequently made a large impact on his waistline; he has just opened a clothing store selling a range of BIG clothes.
What's the cool drink to order?
Something totally unpronounceable made by squashing five limes into a glass of crushed ice and adding a drop or two of vodka. Sucks the cheeks on to the teeth so hard that strangers can count your fillings. Still cool are Vodka RedBulls, which come in two models, VR4 or VR6 (4cl or 6cl). Generally speaking the Swedes love their shots, especially sweet- flavoured vodka, such as Blue Fish & Turkish Pepper.
What are people eating?
Traditional Swedish foods such as meatballs, pancakes and artsoppa (pea and ham soup)are basic but popular. Anyone with sense will avoid the rotting fish which is a supposed delicacy. As for international cuisine, Stockholm is surprisingly well served with a wide variety, most of which has been influenced to some extent by Swedish taste - ie, there'll be cranberries on the side. For some reason the Swedes are big on McDonald's, and there seems to be an endless supply of kebab shops, which has even resulted in a kebab price war in Sodermalm, which can only be good news for the consumer.
What's the latest outrageous stuff on TV?
Swedes would probably say Friends, but new shows with names such as Y- Front and Silicon take some beating. In Silicon, blindfolded men fondle the breasts of women to determine which one has implants. In truth, though, nothing really outrages the Swedes on television as they're used to a staple diet of hard porn, which is broadcast every evening on some Swedish channels.
Where won't the locals dream of going?
Amal, a dead-end town where there is apparently nothing to do. (It inspired the film Fucking Amal, reputed to be a Swedish cinema classic.) The same is probably true of many small Swedish towns.
Where are locals going that tourists don't know about?
The Stockholm lakes (Malaren), and the archipelago of thousands and thousands of islands in the sea right outside Stockholm. Beautiful, largely uninhabited and peaceful.
Where are the chic doing their shopping?
Stockholm is a chic shoppers' paradise, with oodles of choice. The place to be seen shopping or at least carrying the designer bags is still Biblioteksgatan in Stureplan.
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