"I'm a man on the move," I quote Sir Les Patterson as saying at the start of my latest piece for Mostly Film. That piece was actually published one week ago. I know I normally let you know about these things a little sooner than that, but I really have been a man on the move for the past couple of weeks, and haven't had time to do much on the site. Followers of my Twatfeed will know what I'm alluding to: the rest of you will hear about it in far too much detail soon enough, I promise you.
In the meantime, that Mostly Film piece is the latest one in the ongoing Monoglot Movie Club series. Stockholm Syndrome is my second roundup of contemporary Swedish cinema this year, after The Guldbagge Variations last winter. This one actually draws on two separate visits I made to Stockholm in August: one on my own for work, and one with The Belated Birthday Girl for some birthday or other that I was having. As is traditional, I'll use this piece on my own site to promote its companion on Mostly Film, and throw in some bonus travel tips for Stockholm along the way.
Regular readers will have already guessed what tip number one is going to be.
BrewDog Stockholm - the first overseas bar opened by the brewery, and the tenth one we've visited in our ongoing quest to do them all this year - was still under construction when I was there in January. Still, because The BBG was curious, I took a photo of the former tanning salon they were converting. In April or thereabouts, it finally opened: and in August, we got to see it for ourselves.
Stockholm isn't short of bars, but it seems from a cursory examination that craft beer is mostly limited to a small number of bars and restaurants. Generic strong lagers - or in the local lingo, stor stark - seem to be more the norm, hence the surreal funeral service that launched BrewDog Stockholm back in the spring. A few months into its life, the bar certainly seems to be popular enough on a Friday night. There was a mix of passing trade and bedded-in drinkers, one of whom appeared to be working his way up the beer range by ascending ABV, asking at one point "what's the next one up from Cocoa Psycho?"
Still, there's a major culture shock to come for any British BrewDog regular. When you look at the price boards at the back and mentally convert them from krona to sterling, you initially wince a bit, but appreciate that beer's going to be a tad more expensive in a country that taxes alcohol so heavily. And then you discover those prices aren't for pints like you expected: they're for halves. Thus a small glass of their basic session ale Dead Pony Club ends up costing well over a fiver, and as you work up the ABV scale the prices go through the roof. By the time you hit the 32% fun of Tactical Nuclear Penguin, you're pretty much anesthetised to the revelation that they only sell it in 1 cl measures to keep the price within Swedish levels of acceptability.
Get yourself over that hurdle - either by nursing drinks for longer than usual, or sticking to 0.5% Nanny State - and there's a lot to like about the Stockholm bar. The staff are typically friendly, the decor is typically quirky. But the real USP is upstairs, because this - I think - is the only BrewDog establishment with a dedicated restaurant attached. The menu's not displayed that clearly, but it's worth asking for as there's some fine stuff on it. On the night, I had a decent sloppy burger, while The BBG had rimmad lax, a variation on a Swedish dish involving salmon served with things that rhyme with it. And, of course, you can drink beer with your food, as long as you've got enough money left over to pay for it. You can book for the restaurant on their Facebook page, or get lucky with a walk-in like we did.
Not in the mood for hyperpriced beer? No problem, Stockholm has plenty of other stuff available for you. Let's go bulletpointy.
- Hotels: The work trip was once again out in Solna, which I've been treating as a mere suburb of Stockholm when it's actually a separate city in its own right. Oops. Anyway, the Ibis Styles in Järva Krog is decent enough for the price, and nicely positioned for the bus to the airport, but they really need to sort out the feebleness of their wifi. For the trip with The BBG, we needed some central Stockholm glamour, and found it at the Hotel Rival. Owned by none other than Benny From Abba himself, it has lovely rooms, a fun cocktail bar and is just seconds away from Mariatorget station.
- Sightseeing: Plenty of traditional options are available, from hopping around on a three day SL tourist pass to pottering aound the main island on a canal cruise. The best one has to be Upplev Mer, a guided walk around the rooftops of a block in the old town area of Gamla Stan. Like similar walks we've done on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the O2, there are comprehensive safety features in place, but unlike those two there's still a genuine sense of danger involved. Frequently you find yourself walking along a narrow set of tiles with nothing but a sharply angled drop either side, and a safety cable that wouldn't actually stop you falling through a roof if you slipped, just leave you hanging from the ceiling of someone's office. Also, be warned they do it in virtually all weathers, including the pissing rain of our particular jaunt. Get over those caveats, and the views to be had are staggering.
- Food: If you're like The BBG, and enjoy wandering round food markets when you're on holiday, then you'll be like a pig in excrement when you find the Saluhall. As well as fresh ingredients for sale, you can get a full meal from many of the stalls. We managed to pick up a great smørrebrød lunch there from Nybroe, only marred by my roast beef open sandwich apparently coming with 'fried unions'. Later on we had an even better seafood dinner at B.A.R.: The BBG got to choose her own victim from a fish counter, while I settled for a decent deal offering fish and chips with the restaurant's own craft beer for 200 SEK.
- Museums: Stockholm has plenty of them, most of which I can't account for. But the Vasa Museum is staggering, a whole building dedicated to one of the greatest nautical disasters in Swedish history. The excavated boat itself is a 7 storey wonder, but the museum built round it is just as impressive: the surrounding exhibitions include a forensic study of the corpses (with some creepy reconstructions of their faces), displays of the sailors' clothes and gear, and a short film combining a reconstruction of the disaster and newsreel of the Vasa's recovery in the 1960s. We also took in the Fotografiska photo museum, which has a regularly changing series of temporary exhibitions. The worthy political work of South African Pieter Hugo and the documentary approach of Marcus Bleasdale are all well and good, but it's nice to have the wit and sleaze of Helmut Newton to balance them out. Great lunch in the grill restaurant outside afterwards, too: we visited on September 1st, and they were celebrating the onset of autumn with a harvest festival of fresh veg.
- Movies: Well, you should have read about the actual films by now. Both of them were viewed at cinemas in the SF chain: Känn Ingen Sorg was at the Sergel, while Snabba Cash: Livet Deluxe was at the Rigoletto. If you ever visit the latter, be sure to go to the toilets in the basement, and check out the fascinatingly accessible digital projection units for cinemas 2-4 - you can see their display screens clearly behind the metallic doors next to the cinema entrances. No fiddling with them, though.