Written By Jono Cusack
For in Stockholm lie the beautiful people. The blondes and brunettes with their pearl white skin who stand above the rest of us, beyond six feet tall. Men dominate the scene with the bodies of triathletes and women take to the streets with the grace of cat-walk models. Indeed the centrum at Normalm is not a shopping district, but an enormous fashion show. Sweden is certainly the land of ABBA, Ikea and Vikings. But it’s also the nation of perfect evolution.
The only way to reach Stockholm from Finland is by cruise ship. Well, it’s the cheapest, and anyone with a backpack is always looking for the cheapest way out. There are two options for fun. First, a quiet evening in a cabin to gaze upon the scenery as the ship weaves in and out of the frozen archipelago. The second is the one most punters choose; abuse the tax free zone and board the ‘Party Ship’. The unwritten law is that you must purchase and consume your bodyweight in alcohol, take to the dance floor, and sing your favourite Scandinavian pop song from the 70s. If you’ve proved yourself worthy of the task, then it’s on to a celebratory feast in the restaurant. The buffet menu is, in a word, epic. And, the opportunity to sample the entire Scandinavian cuisine. Leaving the table is tough, especially with the waiter placing a new bottle of complimentary wine on your table as soon as you finish the last.
I knew what I was getting into. Stockholm, for the battlers, is one of the toughest places to visit. A cup of coffee can mean the difference between a meal and not eating. You need to go in with a plan. Bakeries can quite often give away free bread at the end of the day, fridges near store exits can provide a ready source of gatorade, if you’re quick enough. I was more subtle than aggressive. I played the slight of hand by placing soup packets inside a box of cereal – breakfast and dinner covered. However thieving is always a risk, especially in winter. The ground is unsteady and covered in ice and you can never make it five metres before crashing into the pavement.
I hadn’t reached those depths yet. My plan included calling in old favours until they ran out. I met a friend from London, who was now in Stockholm studying something with lasers. Stockholm had changed him, his hair short and stylish, his clothes beyond what I could afford and his swagger one of confidence. We left my hostel, a decommissioned 747, and returned to his Ikea built home. The company and the crowd of five were, of course, much taller and more stunning than I ever had a chance to be. But it was New Year’s Eve, there was much love to share and I wanted every part of it. I tried to catch the eye of a young medical student standing by the sound system, but caught nothing more than repulsion. We took our places at the table and consumed the incredibly non-traditional feast of lobster, steak and oysters. None of which I had to pickpocket. With a bottle of champagne, we left and made our way out to midnight.
The venue was Debaser Slussen under the southern bridge linking Gamla Stan, the old town, and the island of Södermalm, the Bohemian district. Stockholm’s music scene is one of the strongest in Northern Europe and this was the city’s foremost rock venues. By the time we arrived, the huge, cavernous dance floor was pumping. The cocktails were all named after Pixies‘ songs. So we went to the bar for a ‘Where is My Mind’ cocktail and proceeded to lose everything it described.
Regardless of how much money a young traveller has, there is always enough for the next drink. I thought Stockholm would change or improve me in the last final moments of the year. But I was clearly beyond help in the land of the pretty ones. My dance moves, clownish and my chat, unfavourable. So I was left to welcome in the New Year much later, in a tunnel somewhere, with a small German girl. Still, given enough time there would always be hope.
‘Gott Nytt År!’
Where do the most beautiful people in the world live?
- Shopping Stockholm: Gamla Stan Christmas Market, a Real Life Swedish fairy tale (souvenirfinder.com)
- Reader this is Stockholm, Stockholm this is Reader (thestockholmlife.wordpress.com)
- Stylish Traveler: Stockholm (blogthestylist.blogspot.com)
- Stockholm – Stockholm, Sweden (travelpod.com)