Every city that has waterfronts should treasure them like Stockholm does. It was one of my favourite things to sit by the waterfront, watching the boats pass by while drinking coffee. Water bodies like these are indeed gigantic unwalkable public squares. Inside a city, your eyes rarely focus beyond a certain close distance, except in large squares, canals or the sea. In such places you feel less compressed, less constrained, and you have the opportunity to appreciate the city at a distance, grasping the general picture or browsing for details you don’t notice while walking the streets. The waterfront by Fotografiska offers a swell view of the eastern side of Gamla Stan and the narrow streets that lead from the harbour to its core.
Södermalm is the hip part of town. The park at Nytorget gave us the chance of observing the transition from working hours to dining hours in Stockholm. People start to swarm the area late in the afternoon. Youngsters picnic in the park, complete with plates, forks and knives and glasses filled often with the popular rosé wine. Woollen caps, long beards and vintage strollers reign supreme here! In the streets around the park, restaurant terraces are legion, occupied mostly by older or more well-off people. The key concept here is to hang out. To take advantage of the summer long evenings.
The easter holidays gave us a few days off to visit old friends and family in Lisboa. Dinner parties become so much cheaper in the local joints, and you can wash the food down with abundant wine without the need for declaring bankruptcy. Of course then you have to dissolve the thin film of oil that coats your oesophagus with aguardente, but by then, your senses have been numbed enough that you tolerate it quite well.
Lisboa has a knack of surprising us with semi-secret places such as Park, a lounge bar sitting on the terrace atop a multi-story parking lot, right in the middle of the night action. The elevator was broken, so a 5-story climb up the emergency stairs was just the thing we needed to digest all the greasiness from the dinner.
The price of the booze was above average, still, it was a privileged view over Lisboa by night coupled with some fine music. I was beat after 15 minutes, but the girls they just kept going for what seemed to be hours.
Taxi rides home in Lisboa are a lottery. You get all sorts of taxi drivers: grumpy, happy, drowsy, political, racist, eloquent, nonsensical, you name it. Very few are women, and this was one of them. She regaled us with stories and anecdotes of her years as a taxi driver and as a Lisboeta. The most impressive memory was of the fire in Chiado in the 80s, where she was working back then. Something I was not around to witness, but was indeed one of those dramatic events that determine a turning point in a place.
About a year after our first visit to Göteborg and to our favourite persian family, we were back again, and again for just one weekend.
Persians host people like the portuguese do: welcoming booze, loads of food and that warm familiar feeling of organized chaos.
Our persian/swedish/portuguese guide and friend took us to an iranian pastry shop, but it had little to do with Iran these days, except maybe for the staff. It was gleaming with those rich coloured pastry that Sweden has gotten us used to. Lots of berries, lots of sugar, lots of cream, yumminess in a slice.
Gothemburgians, like most swedes, lie under the sun as much as they possibly can. Here, they do it in the sloped shores of the canal, in a park where the city walls once stood, with warm coffee, food and drinks.
The sunny sunday took us to the house of a couple in the family in Lerums Kommun. Alsjö lake lies just by it. There, the neighbourhood is organized around the lake instead of a network of roads. The neighbours must agree on any construction or action that might compromise the neatness and the health of the lake. It’s the commons, an old kind of appropriation that still has a lot of significance around these parts. After a delicious bolognese we were on our way back to the south.