Stockholm has been so much fun!
I was staying with friends and on the first day, was taken out for a liberating skinny dip in a lake, then whisked off for a traditional Swedish crayfish party. We dined by the light of crayfish fairy lights whilst wearing crayfish party hats. I was briefed in the art of sucking out salt juice from the hard and spiky crayfish stomach (it tastes like pond water, in case you’re wondering!) and introduced to the concept of ‘crayfish butter’ (just a nice name for a dark yellow substance oozing out of the brain). It was a rather messy affair reminiscent of when you prick a tomato with your fork and a shot of liquid spurts in your face or up your arm and so forth. I tried my best to enjoy it and judging by the way everyone was chugging back wine I suspect this tradition isn’t so much about crayfish as just an excuse to get blind drunk. Of course, I embraced this cultural aspect and discovered that crayfish become more palatable if you consume a whole glass of wine for every crustacean you crack your way into.
Naturally, the party descended into a drunken singalong of ’schnapps songs’ – songs traditionally sung to mark total inebriation and characterized by bizarre and rude lyrics. From what I understood, one of the most popular ditties concerns an old woman sitting on a fence and defecating whilst a group of children watch her. Maybe it got lost in translation, but I gave up questioning and just accepted there’s never any logic to these things.
We had an awful lot of crayfish left over and so we decided to take it as a housewarming gift to the new neighbours. Well, technically, we knew the neighbours were having a housewarming party and we wanted to gatecrash but didn’t want to turn up empty-handed. So we laid out the remaining crayfish carefully on a silver platter, decorated it with flowers then carried it proudly upstairs. We knocked on the door and a man with blue hair and his face painted like a mouse answered. Ignoring this unusual fashion choice we introduced ourselves as the downstairs neighbours and presented our masterpiece. But he looked at us blankly and told us “But we are vegan!”. Demoralised, we turned away and threw the pièce de résistance in the bin. There was some heated discussion along the lines of “The new neighbours suck! But we don’t care! We’ll have our own party!”, followed by some energetic leaping around to Darude Sandstorm. Eventually, curiosity got the better of us and we went back upstairs to join the vegan party.
I have vague recollections of talking to a beautiful young man whose face was painted as a tiger. Actually, he may not have been as handsome as I remember, it’s just that he was a terrible conversationalist and I got bored enough to spend the time imagining what he must look like under all those stripes. I guess it was a glass half full kind of thing because, at least in my mind, he was a right stunner. He introduced me to his sister who was painting henna tattoos onto anyone who would sit still long enough. I requested an octopus but she looked at me rather coldly and said “That’s very complicated. You have to realise I’m just a drunk with a henna pen.”. And so she tattooed a tree on me instead.
The rest of the trip was less eventful.
Of course, the Swedish elections were happening and so, despite a hangover we made sure to go down to the polling station. We went apple picking and drove around the rich neighbourhoods where people have helipads in their back gardens and celebrities like Bjorn from Abba and Marie from Roxette live. We drove around a massive Unesco listed cemetery which features a giant black cross featured on many a death metal album cover. And I spent a happy morning riding the underground checking out the underground art project. Every station has been decorated by a different artist and it’s incredible to see.
I’m always sad to wave goodbye to Stockholm, but this time particularly so. Now I’m on a cruise ship sailing to Helsinki. Watch out Finland… I’ll be with you soon!
All other photos are my own