12 Apr 2010

What about Stockholm?

There is a special relationship between Norway and Sweden. Sweet brothers or rather arch enemies? When I spoke to my Norwegian they answered me very similarly. They mentioned about Union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 in which Sweden treated Norway as its tributary and during this time there was the strongest Norwegian national movement. What is holy truth, Swedes are portrayed as the dumb ones, especially in jokes. I know one blunt joke:

Swedes are on holiday with a Norwegian guy who for some reason went missing. In the police office the two Swedes are asked to describe the Norwegian. The two Swedes think long and hard, then one of them says:
- "yeah I know - he's got two holes in his ass!"
The policeman, who thinks that was a somewhat unusual description ask:
- "and how do you know that then?!"
- "Because everytime we go somewhere, people are saying: There's that Norwegian with the two assholes!"

That’s obviously the Swedish stereotype in Norway. But I wonder to know why Norwegian make Swedes idiots, hence Danes should be ones to make out to be the stupid ones. As fa as I know period under Danish yoke was the worst for Norway, even called ‘400-Year Night’. Danes are not portrayed as dumb, but still not quite up to Norwegian intellectual level. Yes, Norwegians think they are the best nation on over the world. I think Swedes presence in Norwegian jokes is because of jealousy. Sweden in twice the size Norway, it was regional superpower in Vasa-era (1521-1654) and more successful in their industry e.g. IKEA, Saab, Ericsson, Scania and recently Volvo (now is Chinese, sic!). Let’s look inside the Swedish city, which is a home of 22% of Sweden’s population, I mean Stockholm!

This city is another Scandinavian spirit unveiling. I could have touched the difference on every corner of the street in Stockholm. First of all, city is built on 14 islands (Stockholm archipelago where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea) connected by 57 bridges and on the land there are steep rocky hills just next to the beautiful, full of ships coasts. Second, Swedes are more serious, elegant and polite than Norwegians. Third, rules. In Sweden you are obliged to restrict rules even more. There is no crazy and dangerous customs to cross the street even if it is red light! You can’t buy a normal 5% alcohol beer in shop, only light 3,5%, so if you want to go drink some normal alcohol you have to be over 21 and visit rare Systembolaget in restricted hours. However, Sweden is the next vodka-drinking country and even much drinking. Stockholm is supposed to be safety city, citizens really respect police and I haven’t seen druggies and dealers on the street as I used to do in Oslo. Still, there are many immigrants, the majority of them are Croats, Albanians, Arabic, Iraqi, Assyrians, Turks, Persians, Indians, Kurdians, Africans and of course Polish (as everywhere). One of the reason such huge diversity of immigrants in this country is fact, that Sweden has a history of providing refuge to asylum seekers.

Moving back to Stockholm, over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways and another 30% is made up of parks and green spaces; in 2009, Stockholm was awarded title of first European Green Capital by the European Commission. They landscape is forcing joggers to make use of these breathtaking areas. If you ask me what was the most impressing place in Stockholm it will take much time to mentions many places. The top of the list is absolutely the Old Town (Gamla Stan) with mysterious and narrow streets, and colorful walls of old tenement houses and enormous Royal Palace. Second place is reserved for Vasa Museum. Vasa as I have been taught is not only a crunchy bread or royal Swedish dynasty, but also the only preserved seventeenth-century warship in the world! The story of this ship is ridiculous, because this was the biggest ship in the world during these times (69 meter-long) and real proud of Sweden, but it sank on its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628. What a pity! But for Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania this history forecast a mercy during the ‘Swedish flood’ (1655-1660), because Swedish fleet was weaken by one really huge warship. So, City Hall, with its spire featuring the golden Three Crowns, is one of the most famous silhouettes in Stockholm. Every year the great Nobel banquet is also held there and this summer there will a royal wedding, Crown Princess Victoria and Mr. Daniel Westling are getting married. What is interesting, Westling is a personal trainer of the Princess and gym owner, he runs a company called Balance Training, which has three gyms in central Stockholm. Lucky guy! What is more in Stockholm that it is worth to take a boat sightseeing, visit rich museums (I recommend Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan) and taste an unique night life in one of crowded street in the city centre.

To sum up, even though Norwegians make all kind of joke about Swedes, the relationship between two nations is harmonious and friendly, greatly helped by cultural and linguistic similarities. Below my favourite Swedish commercial ;)

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