Tourism for weirdos: Stockholm Syndrome

When we were kids, my parents used to encourage my sister and I to keep a travel diary when we went on holiday. They bought us both cameras, and paid to have our photos developed (ask your grandparents), which means there are now albums full of blurry shots of kittens.

I used to think they did it just to keep us from annoying them. But now I see it was more than that. They were trying to foster an interest in other places and experiences, and a way of keeping those experiences alive. Or keep us from annoying them.

Ugh, listen to me. Wipe away your tears of nostalgia, ‘cos I just got back from four days of dancing till 4am with drag queens in Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm’s a beautiful city. We stayed in the old town, Gamla Stan, which is full of tall townhouses in rusty, ochre-y colours.

 photo gamlastan_zps72f05660.jpgWe explored, we drank coffee, we ate at the most incredible restaurant, Pellikan. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It’s traditional Swedish fare, and every mouthful was wonderful. We met a musician called Rolf who played us some songs on the guitar and kissed our hands as we left. A great, great night.

We were also punched in the stomach by how expensive everything is. My goodness, Stockholm is the priciest city I’ve ever visited. Add a few of whatever currency you’re working in to whatever it is you’re thinking of buying.

And then this happened:

 photo Stockholm008_zpse5e8d886.jpg

Yeah, that’s right – Abba: The Museum. This place opened last year, and whether you like the band or not, it’s a great museum. Also, expensive. And doesn’t take cash, anywhere, so if you’re planning to visit, be sure to have a credit card to hand, or you’re not getting in.

As a brand new museum, this place has all sorts of tricks up its sleeve. You can play all sorts of games, like recording new vocals for an Abba song, or appearing in one of their videos – then when you get home, put a code into your computer, and it’s all up there for you to cringe at later. Plus, it has the most incredible collection of memorabilia, every single costume, instrument, gold disc, you could ever hope to see.

But let’s cut to the chase, because the main reason we were in town was for the final of Melodifestivalen 2014. This is Sweden’s song contest – every year, songwriters and singers compete to be crowned the nation’s best, with the winner going on to represent Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest. (I’m going to be posting again about Eurovision in the run-up to the show in May, don’t worry – suffice to say it’s gonna be fun)

Ten artists have made it through to the final, including Helena Paparizou, who is half-Swedish half-Greek, and actually won Eurovision for Greece back in 2005.
 photo Helena-Paparizou-Melodifestivalen-600x337_zpse0e2a194.jpg

There’s also Alcazar, a Swedish dance group who have, terrifyingly, sold 12m records around Europe. Here they are giving it their all:
 photo Melodifestivalen003_zps936ea0e8.jpg

But the show was eventually won by Sanna Nielsen, with a song called ‘Undo’, about getting over a wrong ‘un. We look forward to seeing her compete in Copenhagen in May.

We were pretty overexcited by this point, so we got our ears to the ground and headed for the after-party. You do not want to know how much it cost to get into this club. Sweden is expensive, you guys. But! Excitement! Because on the bill after midnight are a number of Melodifestivalen artists, performing ‘live’! Listen to this, but imagine you’re in a sweaty Swedish nightclub and your feet are stuck to the floor:

Never made it to the bedroom? Hahahaha. What a guy! This guy should have won.

The next day’s a bit of a recovery day, obviously… I did also eat something called an Oreo Dream Cake, and I’m not sure I can talk to you about it yet. Words do not do it justice. We explored the food markets, we explored the cool districts, we narrowly avoided having a bird poop on our heads. But come on, look at this sunset.

 photo Stockholm012_zps4623c74d.jpg

If it’s weird to travel to a city to sing and dance a lot, then I don’t want to be normal. Stockholm, it was a pleasure.

About gnidrah

Television, books, music, sports, cooking. I only get paid for one of them. (Update: two of them!)
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18 Responses to Tourism for weirdos: Stockholm Syndrome

  1. collin0truckasaurus says:

    I always thought keeping a travel journal was dumb, but now I think about how many trips I’ve taken and how little I remember of the trips (what, like I’m NOT gonna drink bottles of wine at every meal in Italy??) and now I think I will keep something like a travel journal. I do take a lot of pictures but I always forget the titles of things. I do buy postcards just to keep perfect shots of things with the title on the back.

    • gnidrah says:

      I think it’s nice to keep little things like tickets, rather than writing out an exhaustive account of your day (because when do you have time to do that on holiday?) but there are some really lovely travel journals you can get now…

    • Sota says:

      I also take photos of signs and things so that I can rewrite the correct spelling/titles of things later on and remember what they were called.

  2. FRQ says:

    I’m 100% jealous. Sweden is one of my top 3 travel destinations, and this just further heightens my interest. The prices are kind of daunting, but I also want to go Japan, so I’ll just deal with it.

    I’m also looking forward to your coverage of Eurovision Song Contest. I went to a viewing of the 2012 competition and it was a lot of fun. The only thing I remember is that Engelbert Humperdinck represented the UK, which I found odd.

    • gnidrah says:

      We stayed in a self-catering apartment, which really helped on the money front, and really, there were things we could have avoided (like that nightclub) if we’d been being truly frugal. I am sure you can do the trip on a budget.

      AND WE DON’T TALK ABOUT ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK 😉

      Have a listen to this year’s UK number and see what you think though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wFUPCkmlOo

      • FRQ says:

        Hahahaha yeah, I understand. I looked up his song to refresh my memory and I’ve been listening to Slowdive for the past 30 minutes trying to wash it out of my head. This year’s entry is definitely a step up.

  3. “You can play all sorts of games, like recording new vocals for an Abba song, or appearing in one of their videos – then when you get home, put a code into your computer, and it’s all up there for you to cringe at later.”

    Finally, I understand my purpose in life. Now I just need to save up for plane tickets.

  4. Sota says:

    I have never been to Stockholm specifically, but I did travel through other parts of Sweden last summer, and then up to Oslo, Norway. Let me tell you, Sweden is pricey, Oslo is unreal. I kid you not when I say we ate slices of pizza and cokes from 7-11 for a couple meals because it was so expensive in Oslo. But really a slice of pizza and a coke sitting overlooking a gorgeous Norwegian sea is still better than just about anything else.

    This summer the plan is a trip in Italy. Road trip along the western coast Milan down to Rome. I would appreciate any and all suggestions you monsters may have! 🙂

  5. I just want to hear more about this cake

  6. hotspur says:

    I have always pictured everyone in Sweden looking like ABBA, no exceptions. Even when I read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was pretty much picturing ABBA throughout, with the hacker girl being the lone dark-haired, short, skinny person in the entire country.

  7. whatisabadger says:

    So jealous. As far as Melodifestivalen goes, I wish Ace Wilder had beaten out Sanna, but I can see how everyone decided to go with dubstep ballad instead. Also important: DID YOU SEE ERIC SAADE ANYWHERE?? I have something to give him (a marriage proposal).

    • gnidrah says:

      A friend of mine described Ace as “Avril Lavigne Mk II”, which I thought was pretty close to the truth. It was OK. Tbh I didn’t have a favourite once Alvaro Estrella was out of the running. And is Sanna really dubstep? I’ll listen again but I think it’s just a standard 4/4 ballad. Last year’s Moldovan entry, now that’s dubstep 😉

      No Saade, but Robin Stjernberg was part of the interval act, and Danny Saucedo is currently advertising glasses on giant billboards right round town!!

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