The sound of summer

 

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When my mother said she would want to visit me this year in Sweden to experience what she had only seen on the blog so far, one of the things that immediately went up on the list of items of “real Stockholm summer experience” was Allsång på Skansen. It was my fourth or fifth time but I felt like a true Allsång Ambassador because I brought six people there that had never been before: my mother, my friend Linus, Lil’ Pesto and Amalia, his girlfriend, his mother and Amalia’s parents. Everyone had great fun, and my mom’s summary was very to the point: It’s a intergenerational fun evening with a broad variety of artists, but the hostess “sounds so strange” (i.e. Southern Swedish).

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Strolling around beautiful Skansen

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Four things I loved about Stockholm today

It is understood, I believe, that my heart overflows with (sometimes non-logical) affection for Stockholm and its surroundings, maybe even large parts of the entire country. Today, I noticed four especially loveable things that make my soul go out to this place.

Beware of the Vikings

Beware of the Vikings

1. The ground-breaking journalism

I was picked up from my early-morning flight by Malin who had made a lovely sign and even brought balloons. I think I must always ask for escorts to the city from now on because this is just too wonderful. (Side note: Now, they have taken down the entire Stockholm Hall of Fame and replaced it by uninspiring Ericsson ads. I am not amused.) When my feet hit Swedish soil, I usually fall into Stockholm-everyday-life-mode and that is not that strange given the fact that Evelina says, “It kind of feels like you commute between Hamburg and Stockholm”. Part of the every day routine of millions of people here is that you pick up the free newspaper Metro. In PR terms, if you want your client to be featured somewhere, it is there. Everyone reads and talks about Metro. That’s obviously because of its pioneering journalism – we witnessed that once more today. The front page headline read “If you sleep with an open window, there are higher risks that burglars will break into your house”. Wow. I am so glad they exposed this largely unknown connection between open access to your home and thieves. You might think this is a result of the so-called Sommerloch (“summer hole”) or nyhetstorka (“news dryness”) but let me tell you: Sweden was in the U21 soccer final tonight (and won! Something that never happens and if I say never I mean that their last success was coming in third 1994) and the most important political event Almedalen is currently going on. But Metro focuses on open windows. I love it!

2. The singing culture

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After parks (Haga) and recreation (fika), Malin and I met Franziska to go to the open-air museum Skansen. I love everything about that place and in particular their summer singing shows. The Swedes describe their “live broadcasted national heritage” as follows: “Allsång på Skansen (Sing-along at Skansen) is a Swedish show held at Skansen, Stockholm, every summer on Tuesdays between 8pm and 9pm. The audience is supposed to sing-along with musical guests to well-known Swedish songs. The show started in 1935 on a small scale; about 50 people in the audience. Today about 10,000–25,500 people come to each performance.”

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I have been there several times before and it is quite a special sight with hundreds, thousands of people picknicking and waiting for the show to begin. The show is such a clear indicator of summer that only the start of the radio show Sommar i P1 can make summer more summery. 

So we bought a song book and sang along. Time and again, this is such great fun. At least if you like Swedish pop-schlageresque music – and we all know I do. We got to sing about a grandpa who feels taken back to his youth by his granddaughter dancing, about Sensual Isabella who is asked to dance on her lover’s belly, and some Pippi Longstocking songs. Afterwards, we discussed whether a show like this would be possible in Germany. And we had to conclude that no, because singing together is not something that is currently a cultural German practice. Actually, people would probably be weirded out.

3. The old elevators

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If you are lucky to live in an old house in the inner city like Malin’s brother does, you stand a good chance of having an old elevator. Not the Paternoster kind that German politicians wanted to introduce a obligatory ‘riding license’ for , but a normal old elevator with two doors. I don’t know why but I love the sound of the inner door closing. It sounds like a magnetic connection, a graceful click. This might be the weirdest fondness for something I have, but I love those elevators and I find them here regularily.

4. The light

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I claim that there is a special light in Stockholm. Sunsets in Hamburg are certainly beautiful, but the light is different. The Stockholm summer sun pours light over all of town and reflects it in the windows of the houses, The city becomes a romantic postcard. Also, of course, the light remains with us until 11 p.m., making sure one really feels the summer.

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Hamburg singing

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You must regard this blog as a time machine for the next posts. One day, I will tell you of last week’s adventures, the next day, I will suddenly report about what happened tonight. Didn’t you always want to timetravel?

A few weeks ago I heard about “Hamburg singt” (Hamburg singing). It’s like an open choir where anyone can join anytime. There is a band playing, lyrics on large screens, easy, well-known songs and no notes. Basically, it’s the Swedish Allsång på Skansen just that it’s inside a dark church instead of a open-air museum overlooking Stockholm’s skyline in the summer. And then, there might be some more differences, but both events are on Tuesday nights (is this some kind of unwritten rule, by the way? All my choirs always rehearse on Tuesdays and both Hamburg singing and Allsång på Skansen are on Tuesdays. Suspicious!).

I decided that my colleagues at work would benefit from a team building event and, the self-appointed feel good manager that I am, I asked everyone to come to Hamburg singing. Because humans love to sing even if they keep saying they have a bad voice and cannot sing, everyone joined. So tonight, I found myself in a Free Protestant Church (there were three churches within 300 metres which is also suspicious) with about 350 other singers. Three hundred fifty! The choir leader was quite a bit of an entertainer and the band surely created a party atmosphere. I must say, however, that the sounds of the bands and the clapping were so loud no one ever managed to hold the second voice, and – also due to the choice of songs – a lot was just bellowing. At least they played ABBA in the end, . “But I have a talent, a wonderful thing, cause everyone listens when I start to sing”.