a new record.

February 10, 2007

to quote a letter to a friend, “today has been weird: stockholm seems cold and oppressive instead of new and exciting. granted, it could be because everything tends to be going wrong right now…”

still, i harbour no ill will toward this city, not in the least. how could i hate a place that is built with the same stuff of dreams? venice is magical, legendary, but an impossible city. this place is founded on a base of perseverance and custody, fuelled by ambition and gently led by a spirit of idealism.


stockholm, self-proclaimed capital of scandinavia, is situated in an archipelago in the gulf of bothnia, an adjunct to the baltic sea. the city itself is spread across a number of islands, linked by bridges and railroads. the urban area is more or less centred on gamla stan, the old town, surrounded by östermalm and norrmalm to the north, kungsholmen to the west and södermalm to the south.

city life is unbelievable in stockholm. motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are all accommodated, not in the simplistic north american method of segregation, but by combining the three, resulting in a complicated but intuitive dance involving consensus and power sharing (as it would be, this power sharing is essential to public safety, as ambling stockholmers will – more often than not – cross against the traffic signal.

the tunnelbana, or metro, is key to the city’s identity. not only does it move people with shocking efficiency and speed, but it exemplifies the scandinavian way of life, subconsciously blending style and function. stations are largely left raw and unfinished, a geological testament to the harsh, nordic environment from which this civilization was hewn. truly, one marvels at scandinavia by wondering why, a thousand years ago, anyone would ever settle here, frozen half the year, instead of sunny iberia or mild normandy.

time stands still here. architecture ranges from baroque to neo-gothic, particularly in establishment districts, to brutalist and neo-modernist, notably in the southern periphery of the city, near the recently-developed hammarby sjöstad neighbourhood. everything is done with utmost regard to the physical landscape, from the brick estates on the hillsides to the this could well be the most respectful city in the world


on tuesday evening, a kind soul from flanders called me “een spook in mijn hoofd.” as my stubborn interpretation refuses to let me entirely accept the correct translation of the word “spook” – even though i know that i’m in the wrong – i figure that the meaning i exert from the phrase is slightly different from what was originally meant by it. still, the words remain on my mind, as the honour denoted by such a phrase is simply humbling.

my response to it was a translation of a lyric from a favourite song: “…por un segundo, más feliz.” while this would prove to be surprisingly accurate, maybe a few lines from a different song would be more apropos:

“…it’s the last day of summer, and you know you’re not supposed,
but you’re still trying to mine for memories in a ghost…”


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