Monday, 25 October 2010

Only my friends provided Swedish warmth

The cold of sunshine

The journey to Stockholm was quite pleasant, as we flew over the Southern parts of Sweden from Denmark unto Arlanda airport the countryside was a white-out with snow.

Winter had arrived in Sweden just when we were thinking autumn had come early in the Netherlands, it was getting cold at home but I had not yet resorted to the almost Eskimo look.

Amazingly, in Stockholm even though it was cold, the sun was at its radiant best as I hailed a taxi-cab from the airport to my hotel which was supposedly in down-town Stockholm. The taxi driver said he knew the place but I began to have my concerns when he started typing every variation of the tonal representation of Radisson except the right spelling.

Putting the s before t in hotel

When I offered advice about the spelling he obstinately refused to accept that he might not be aware of where he had to go, I just prayed I would not be doing an unexpected tourist trip round Stockholm before I was ready to be a tourist.

In the meantime, Waffy had arrived at my hotel waiting for me as we hit a bit of traffic and soon we were at our destination without any real sign of our having gone round the town – thankfully.

For a supposedly 5-star hotel, I have been in 4-star hotels that would make an assessor grudgingly award Radisson Blu Strand Hotel a charitable 3-star rating at the best of times; I have seen better service and attention to customer service.

My room with an enlarged version of cubicle and the bathtub just about long enough for me to stretch my legs. I thought cathode ray tube televisions were so last century in hotels, not in this vintage hotel if one were to put a finer point on the detail.

It leaks milder than it’s broke

I ran a bath and found I could not drain it as big puddles of water formed from the leaking tub, that did get fixed when we went out on Saturday though expressing the fault in English did not seem to convey the severity of the situation until Waffy said it in Swedish.

Apparently, the Swedes cannot bear to think of something as broken, a sense of unease and shock seems to take over the face when told of faults.

If I thought there was a sense of indifference about others on the streets as people bump into you without apology in Amsterdam, in Stockholm it is a veritable art of calumny, they are completely oblivious and unconcerned at remonstration – you get a look from the offenders as if – What is your problem, I was just taking my space regardless of where you are?

Their way in your way

After breakfast in a converted church building of about 7 floors where the African equivalent of Pentecostalism appears to thrive for meeting places, we went to the Far Eastern Antiquities Museum where exhibits from the Chinese Terracotta army were on display.

There a man in a wheelchair ran over my foot and cared for nothing as if being in a wheelchair gave him that right and though I used a cane, my foot was a pathway, an inconsequential bump on the way to his intended destination.

You got to the point where it did not seem to matter anymore, you just walked and hoped and prayed.

Foods and palates

Whilst the further north you go from the Mediterranean food loses vivid colour, palate and taste, we did find appealing restaurants with Swedish fare on the Friday night and a Lebanese restaurant in the company of another friend from the Saturday night.

I thought giving a Lebanese restaurant the name Sahara was a bit of a misnomer, Lebanon is hardly near the Sahara except if Sahara means something else entirely.

There was quite a variety of cold and warm small dishes called mezes along with the wonderful company of people who I have befriended through my blogs – there is something in blogging and it does have the value of establishing friendships.

We did not get to do much else of Stockholm, our mornings were quite late in starting but it was a very worthwhile visit, the received wisdom is to do this in summer, it is cold days like the ones I had that makes one a helio-phile.

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