Taking stock

And thus concludes day two of Stockholm.

'Wait', I imagine you saying, 'what about day one? Did I forget to read yesterday's post because I was busy, I dunno, getting my shoes waxed or whatever it is I do,' you continue. 'You say,' you say, 'I wasn't paying attention, but I think you think you can get away with not doing a blog yesterday by deflecting so that I think I was in the wrong, rather than you,' I imagine you accusing me. Well, give it a rest, imaginary you, because I say the you I am picturing you as is a bit of a needy prick.

So I got distracted reading TVTropes.org. Sue me. Don't go there, by the way. It's worse than heroin. And anyway, yesterday was just a travel day. We left Copenhagen very early, sat around in the airport, got on a plane to Stockholm and arrived here at midday. The efficient public transport got us into the hotel easily and we were feeling a good vibe when we checked in. Free breakfast in the morning, self-serve coffee and tea in reception, hotel wide free Wi-Fi, fantastic central city location. We were cruising until we opened the door to our room.

Now, look. Scandinavia is expensive. When booking I am sure that it seemed sensible to get the cheap room with bunk beds rather than paying double for a twin. And honestly, the beds are good and the amenities extensive. But our room is tiny. We've had our share of small rooms. Berlin's hostel was a small double with about half a metre around the sides and a metre at the base. Copenhagen, from whence we came, was a bit of a shoebox but held two singles and had a table and mini fridge too. But this, in a hotel of all places, is the smallest we've had.

The room is exactly the length of the bed as the bunkbeds are built in. The width of the room is exactly the width of the bed plus the width of the door. In other words, there's about two and half square metres of floor space. The room is taller than it is wide. It's not far off from a Japanese pod hotel. Off that one metre of floor space and parallel to the bed is a door that leads to a one metre wide bathroom. With both our suitcases on the floor you cannot move. To open the bathroom door you have to push Sam's bag aside. There is no permament ladder to my top bunk - it hangs on the wall to save space. There is no air conditioning or windows and thus no air flow. The whole thing is tiny. It feels rather like being in a rather nice prison.

Yesterday, after playing Tetris in an attempt to fit our luggage into the room, we both wandered off to get a sense of the town. I headed south, intending to head to the tourist information centre to ask about watches and laundry before realising halfway there that it was probably just easier to enquire at reception when I got back. So I meandered instead, doing in the first day what I normally do, barring food poisoning, in getting a feel for the place. I made it down through the city, around the harbour area and back around to the hotel. We are rather marvellously placed, with almost everything in walking distance and a subway nearby for the things that are not.

I must admit, despite loathing any overly simplistic attempt to equate a city with another on the barest of commonalities, that I feel tempted to compare it to Sydney. Gentle hills in the city centre, curved roads that sit awkwardly atop grid streets, and grid suburbs that intersect at odd angles to each other. 7-11 stores on every corner, moderate street and block sizes, with a spattering of parks and footpaths with trees keeping a feel of vague greenery. It feels inhabited, unlike the rather transitory Copenhagen in which everyone was en route elsewhere, but it's that kind of unsatisfying city living where even at home you don't feel entirely detached from the bustle.

Today was still grey and rainy, so I made it an errands day. Washing done for the first time since Utrecht (I have too many clothes now since I had to buy essentials when they lost my bag). Watch in for quote and repair. With that complete I wandered through an open air food market and noticed the Stockholm Music Hall had a Banksy art exhibition. Now, really it was just twenty album art covers he'd done hanging in the foyer, with a slideshow of his large scale real world work lifted from Flickr users photos. It wasn't anything particularly special, which was disappointing given what an interesting artist he is, but in the other end of the entrance hall a string quarter was playing Shostakovich. It was a rather marvellous accompaniment.

Since I was there, I paid a small fee for a tour of the music hall itself. The tour group was small - one guide and four visitors - and it was only meant to be half an hour, but because of the size and our host's willingness to answer questions, it stretched out to forty-five minutes. A lovely building, with an interesting history tied to Sweden's longstanding beliefs in democracy and equality. All patrons enter through the same doors - it was a hall for the people, not just the aristocrats - and they put on cheaper concerts so that working class citizens could enjoy the space too. It's also where the Nobel Prizes are handed out, and the tour was actually focussed mostly on Nobel himself, rather than the music.

The reason Nobel was able to leave the 31 million Swedish kronor ($4.4m) for the establishment of the Nobel Peace Prize and other awards was because he made so much money from inventing dynamite. He also stipulated that the prizes be given only from the interest on the donation, not the donation itself. In the time since its establishment in 1895, the interest has grown to something like 3 billion kronor ($425m). In fact, it was because a newspaper mistakenly published his obituary early, which described him as a profiteer of death, that he felt obliged to leave a better legacy.

I like that a glimpse of external perspective can change one's actions. The idea that we have the ability to shape how people remember us is appealing too, but after a moment it becomes vaguely uncomfortable. What tragedies throughout history have been forgotten through good PR? What icons do we revere through their own engineering, rather than their true nature or accomplishments? Truthfully, probably all of them. We all have the power to warp our own reality. Don't click that link.